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The Weight of Glory [2-9-20]

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

The arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ isn't a story we usually tell in February. But here we are, at John 19, so these are the facts and details we're going to explore. For the next three weeks, we're going to see what the cross of Christ means in our lives, every day of our lives.

For the next three weeks, we're going to look at the last earthly day in the life of Jesus. This is a picture of the most important day in human history. We will look at some of the pictures that the Gospel of John gives us.

Besides telling a story, John paints a picture. John has some things that he wants us to see in these last hours of Jesus' earthly life. He doesn't include everything. For example, when Luke wrote his gospel {some 30 years before John}, he put as much about Jesus' last day as he could. But since John already knew what Luke had written, and read Matthew and Mark as well, there were some pictures from that last day he needed to include.

Here's something we need to keep in mind when looking at these pictures.

John 19:35 says:

He who saw it has born witness - his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth - that you also may believe.

There are two big things for us to understand that will bring added clarity to what we're looking at:

  1. The person who is doing the writing.

  2. The purpose it was written.

What's the first thing John says? "The man who saw this has given testimony." John was an eyewitness. So he wants us to know he's not making anything up. He was close to the cross. Peter could have been close, but he denied Jesus and ran away. John stayed and witnessed. He was there at the cross.

John was there. Matthew wrote about these things, too. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus. But he wasn't there. He wrote from the testimony of those who saw and heard what happened. Matthew was an eyewitness of the resurrection. Matthew didn't see with his own two eyes was happened on the cross. But John did. John was there.

Here we are, 2,000 years later, and we're reading something from someone who was there for the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. The man whose words we are reading saw everything he wrote about. With his own two eyes he saw Jesus give his life for us.

The second thing John tells us is the purpose for what he is writing. It's not for fame or fortune or to push some product. He's sharing the truth with us so we might believe. That's it. That's the reason. John isn't showing us the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus so we'll pity him. John is writing so that we will trust our lives with the One who loves us the most. That's what the cross does in our lives. John shows us what his eyes have seen so we would trust Christ more and more.

For the next three weeks, we're going to look at what happened on the cross. These are pictures John doesn't want us to forget.

The first picture is from verse 1:

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.

When John thinks of that day, he doesn't want us to forget that they took Jesus and they whipped him. While John doesn't get too graphic, and so I don't want to get too graphic, we need to understand the brutality. The whipping. The flogging. It was done with a whip with nine lashes. Pieces of bone and lead were tied onto the lashes. It was designed to bruise and cut.

Jesus was tortured before he even went to the cross. Usually prisoners were either flogged or crucified. Not both. But Jesus endured two brutal forms of punishment.

Do you ever wonder why?

It was politics. It wasn't that Pilate hated Jesus. Pilate really didn't see much of a national or religious threat in Jesus. It wasn't even that Pilate was afraid of Jesus. Why would he be? It was a political calculation. If the beating was severe enough, then the crowd would say it was enough and Pilate would be free of his problem. What was Pilate going to do with

Jesus? That's the question behind the first picture. Maybe the flogging would end Pilate's Jesus problem.

Our next picture is in the following verses - verses 2-3:

And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

Luke 22:63-65 adds this detail:

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?" And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.

Romans soldiers did that with prisoners. They were always getting bossed around and pushed around, so when they got a prisoner, it was their turn to make someone's life miserable. They would taunt their prisoners. What they did here was called "The King's Game." They would take a waist length robe and put it on the one they wanted to ridicule. Then they'd put some kind of crown on his head. After that, they would strike him and beat him, telling him to command them to stop. In Jesus' case, they added a special twist. If Jesus had the special powers he claimed to have, then he could identify who hit him while blindfolded. How cruel. So they made Jesus part of their game.

There's an important point in verse 3 that gets lost in translation. When it says, "they struck him with their hands," the Greek sentence structure indicates repetitive action. In other words, they struck him again and again and again.

That's another of the pictures John remembers.

After the taunting comes another picture. John 19:4-12 says:

Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

We need to pay attention to verse 5. A casual reading of verse 5 might lead one to think, "Wow, Pilate is very respectful of Jesus. 'Behold the man!'" We might think Pilate is saying, "Here is the most amazing man ever."

But we know that's not correct. Pilate brought Jesus out with the little purple robe with the blood on his back and blood streaming down his face, and he said, "Look. He's just a man." What's there to be afraid of? Pilate's exclamation emphasizes the ridiculousness of taking such a hapless figure so seriously. Pilate is goading the crowd to be so dismissive of Jesus that they demand his release. Pilate's problem solved.

What a picture. Can you imagine John sitting down, toward the end of his life, writing those words of that day? Can you imagine the actions of everyone involved still playing out in his mind? Can you imagine John remembering the pitiful king's robe and people ridiculing Jesus and Pilate shouting, "Behold the man!" After all those years, John felt the weight of it. And we feel it, too.

When you compare Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and their accounts of this day, you find that Pilate pronounced Jesus guiltless seven times. Seven times. Seven times Pilate said he's done nothing wrong…I find no guilt in him…he's not the one…we should let him go. Pilate finds all kinds of ways to convince the crowd of Jesus' innocence. So why didn't he simply release Jesus?

Again, it was politics. Again, Pilate didn't care one way or another about Jesus. Pilate was ruthless. It wasn't Jesus' guilt or innocence that Pilate cared about. Pilate cared about Pilate. And the cost was too high for Pilate to release Jesus. As long as it didn't cost him anything, Pilate would have been glad to release Jesus. But he didn't because the cost was too high. The crowd was about to turn on him. A negative report would get back to Tiberius Caesar, and Pilate's position was already hanging by a thread. The cost to release Jesus was too high.

Here's what I want to leave us with. It's something we need to be honest with ourselves about as we prepare to get deeper into the story next week.

It's so easy to look at all the characters in the story of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus and distance ourselves from their attitudes and behavior. The one I'm sure with full confidence I can say none of us would be like is Judas. But I think when we're honest with ourselves, we can say, if we were put in their situation, we'd have acted in the same or similar way. Are you with me on that? I could have denied Jesus like Peter. I could have done the most expedient thing for me, like Pilate. I could have been like the soldiers, just doing my job, and having a little fun in the process. I could have gotten caught up with the crowd, fearful and ignorant in the moment. Have you ever been hesitant to let people know you were a devoted follower of Jesus Christ? Have you ever not done the right thing, the Christian thing, because you counted the cost and weren't willing to make that kind of sacrifice?

Make no mistake. I don't see it as a case of they were evil people and we're not. I think we're more like them than we are different from them. And so we have to look at these hours with humble hearts. We all share a human disposition to badness.

Here's something you might want to write down:

It's only when we face the true brokenness of our humanity that we'll feel the full weight of the glory of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.

Next week, we'll pick things up where Jesus goes one-on-one with Pilate.

It's an amazing scene. Jesus has been mocked and ridiculed. His back has been torn open by a beating. The crowd has been shouting for his crucifixion. So Pilate continues to interrogate Jesus. And then Jesus looks him in the eyes and says, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin."

Jesus is not angry or vindictive. He simply reminds Pilate who is in charge. Jesus has full confidence in the grace and mercy of God. We'll see where that leads next week.

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