John 19:1-16 | Jesus is the Abused Son of God | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 19:1–19:16
Open your Bibles to John 19. The Psalmist said—he really prayed—to the Lord; he said, “Let the nations be glad.” And really we just sang about the nations being glad, and Jesus said if people reject him, then even these stones and rocks will cry out. The idea is the Lord is so glorious that something is going to praise him. People may reject him, but the rocks and the stones—they will cry out. They point to his glory. He is that amazing, that majestic, and that glorious.
That’s one of the reasons why we’re in Nicaragua. We are eager for the gospel to be proclaimed in Prescott, in our town, in our area, and we focus on that quite a bit. But we also focus on the idea that the glory of God is to be seen among the nations, and it’s good for a people, a people in any local body, to not only focus on what the Lord’s doing around them but to focus on other nations of the world as well. Why? Because Jesus is worthy of the worship of all the nations of the world and all the people groups of the world.
John 19:1-16 is our text for the morning, and the title of the message is “Jesus is the Abused Son of God.” Reading through John 19:1-16 doesn’t seem right. In a sense, there’s a lot wrong in John 19:1-16. Cries of the Jews to crucify Jesus. A Roman governor that finds no fault with him but still condemns him to death. There’s a lot wrong here.
But if you step back and look at the overall plan of God, every single thing about this is exactly right. And I want to uncover that as we go through these verses. I’m going to read them as I go through and explain them; it’s a rather lengthy section, but John 19:1-16 is our text for the morning.
Harry Ironside, who’s a well-known preacher, was at a pastor’s meeting, a synod meeting in the Free Church of Scotland back in the day, and it’s kind of like many pastoral meetings or conferences—other pastors will preach to pastors and encourage them and try to strengthen them in their ministry.
So Ironside was at this meeting, and he talks about two sermons that were given on one Sunday. The first was given one Sunday morning by a man, and he spoke on the beauty of virtue. The beauty of virtue, Sunday morning. And people raved about this sermon. People walked out of the sermon saying, wasn’t that an amazing message?
Here’s one of the things that this preacher said on that Sunday morning: “Oh my dear friends, if virtue incarnate could only appear on earth, men would be so ravished with her beauty that they would fall down and worship her.”
Well, that evening another preacher got up to preach, and he preached on Jesus Christ and him crucified. And in his conclusion, he said these words: “My friends, virtue incarnate has appeared on earth, and men, instead of being ravished with his beauty and falling down and worshiping him, cried out, away with him! Crucify him! We will not have this man to rule over us.”
He was exactly right. That’s what happened two thousand years ago when the perfect son of God—the holy Son of God, the person who’s never wronged anyone, the person who displayed the love and mercy and justice of God—when that person came to earth two thousand years ago, men from a number of nations and a number of areas cried for his head, called for him to be executed on a cross. This is what the world does with Jesus.
A lot of times I want to, as a pastor, preach from the Scriptures to you and exhort you to live our walk faithfully based on what you’ve heard. I believe that the Bible is designed to be preached and proclaimed and to exhort you to keep on, to keep on trusting the Lord. And so a lot of times at the end of my messages I will give you some implications. What does this mean for our life?
And this morning I’m not going to do that. For me to go through and say, okay, let’s look at all the ways Jesus was abused by all different sorts of people, and then to kind of step aside and say, so don’t be like Pilate. Don’t be like the Jews. I think it kind of trivializes the weight of this passage. This is all about the glory of Jesus Christ.
So here’s our application—I’ll give it to you at the beginning: Behold your King. Behold your God.
I know this is a busy time of year, but let’s take forty-five minutes or so to behold our King. This is why he was born, to go through this.
So I’m not going to give you an outline at the beginning. I’m going to walk through verses 1 through 16, and then at the end I will draw out four big picture understandings for you. I’ll kind of explain this from a full Biblical perspective just to kind of give you some context here. But let me just walk through these verses and explain them.
Verse 1 begins with these words: “Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.” Now most people think that Pilate was the one who stood in charge of the flogging, that he himself didn’t do this. You can say that this way. You can say that Pilate presided over the flogging and therefore he took and flogged Jesus, but either way Jesus was flogged.
To be flogged was to be whipped with a large leather whip, but to make it worse, they would put pieces of sharp bone and even metal into this whip so that as it grabbed the back, it would rip open the flesh—and not just rip open the flesh, but it would dig down deep into the back. And this is what Pilate had done to Jesus.
This flogging actually killed many prisoners before they even went to the cross. They didn’t even have the chance to be crucified because prior to that the flogging would kill most of them—or many of them, I should say. This is why many people think that Jesus died so quickly on the cross, because of this severe flogging.
Eusebius, one of the church fathers, said this about this practice: “The martyrs were torn by scourges down to deep-seated veins and arteries, so that the hidden contents of the recesses of their bodies, their entrails and their organs, were exposed to sight.” This is not just a spanking with something leather. This is the ripping open of flesh so that even arteries and veins are severed.
Verse 2: “And the soldiers”—the ones presiding over this flogging, or doing this flogging, I should say—“the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.”
Now, this is away from the chief priests and scribes and the officers, the security guard of Israel. This is away from those people. This is in the soldiers’ quarters. Jesus has a crown of thorns placed on his head. It would have been thorns that were attached to a vine that were sharp enough and dry enough to hurt but bendable enough to be twisted into a crown in a circular fashion.
The crown of thorns wasn’t so much about pain as it was mockery. The pain came in the flogging. And certainly there was pain with the crown, but that was really minimal compared to the amount of mockery that went along with that crown of thorns.
They “put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.” Why purple? Because purple was the color of royalty. And so these men are mocking Jesus. He’s given a crown; he’s given a robe because he calls himself a king. So think here, mockery more than pain. Yes, pain in the flogging, but mockery here in the crown and the robe.
Verse 3: “They came up to him,” and the tense of the verb is they continued to come up to him. This is a repeated coming up to him. One after the other, they came up to him, “saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands.” So I don’t know if he was sitting or standing, but he’s there with the crown, bleeding, with a robe put on his back. And men keep coming up to him, one after the other, “Hail, King of the Jews,” striking him on the face, “Hail, King of the Jews,” striking him on the face.
The other writers of the synoptic gospels say that they struck him with the reeds that they gave him to act like a scepter. So they would strike him with what they gave him to be his own scepter. Here, John tells us they struck him with their hands. And they keep coming up to him, they keep doing this. One guy after another does it, and the rest probably laugh. And then another guy wants his chance, and he comes and strikes Jesus—who had never done anything wrong to them. Not even close.
This was done, as I said, away from the Jews, and then in verse 4, Pilate brings him out. Now Pilate’s probably doing this because remember, the whole time Pilate thinks that Jesus is innocent. He hasn’t done anything worthy of execution. But he thinks if he beats him and treats him like a prisoner at this point, when he brings him out the Jews will see, good, he got justice. End of story.
We read over and over again in all four gospels that Pilate thought he was innocent. Pilate didn’t think he did anything wrong. But we also know that Pilate was a fearful man. He didn’t want anything to do with this trial, but it was thrust upon him, and he was going to try to get out of it in every single way. So this, in a sense, is kind of the last resort. That I’m going to go after him, beat him, and then show him to the people, and hopefully they’ll accept that.
Verse 4: “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.’” Verse 5: “So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.” So Jesus comes out in front of the largely Jewish crowd, the chief priests and the officers, wearing the thorn of crowns and the purple robe. “Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’”
Behold the man. And the idea behind the statement is, look at this pathetic man. This is the one you’re saying is the King. This is the one that you want crucified. Look at how pathetic he is. It’s a way of telling the Jews, come on. Enough already. And Jesus certainly was a pathetic spectacle at this time. He’s paraded as a pathetic man, the Nazarene, who was hopefully to be freed. But the Jews wouldn’t have it.
Verse 6: “When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’” The scourging, the blood, the mockery, the crown, the robe—that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted him dead.
“They cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.’” Here again, Pilate trying to get out of this. He doesn’t want to be the one that presides over this. He doesn’t want to be the one that sentences him to death. So he says, fine, then you take him and kill him.
And then we hear about the self-righteous Jews again. Verse 7: “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law’”—now all of a sudden, again, they’re law keepers. They’re law breakers when it suits their pleasure—and Jesus was constantly telling them things like this—and then when they want something done, they’ll break the law in order to get it done. Because it’s right. You can be wrong about how you are right.
“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.’” Notice by the way in verse 6, who cries out “Crucify him, crucify him!” The chief priests and officers. These are the leaders of the people. And notice what leaders of the people do. They get people to follow them. Verse 7—it’s not the chief priests and offers that cry out; it’s the Jews that cry out. The leaders lead the people into desiring the execution of the Son of God.
“We have a law”—they’re probably referring to Leviticus 24:16, which says, “Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death.” They believe that Jesus is a blasphemer. Why? Because, verse 7 says, he made himself to be the Son of God. He made himself the Son of God.
Now, regardless of what people in other religions will tell you, Jesus did claim to be God. Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was his claim to be one with God. And his enemies knew that.
Listen to John 10—we went through this back in the day. John 10 says this: “’I and the Father are one [Jesus speaking].’ The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. [They were going to kill him in their own way.] Jesus answered them ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?’” (John 10:30-32). So, you’re obviously going to stone me because I did something. Maybe it’s because I healed a man on the Sabbath. Why are you going to stone me?
Verse 33: “The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” The enemies of Jesus, at the time of Jesus, knew that Jesus claimed to be God.
Jesus claims to be God, and that’s why ultimately they want him dead. They’ve tried to throw many accusations at him, even in front of Pilate. None of them stuck. But then they say this, and this claim troubles Pilate.
Verse 8: “When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.” Why would Pilate be afraid that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God? Because if you were a Roman citizen at that time, you worshiped gods—little g. You worshipped many gods. And some of those gods came and reproduced with humans and had human offspring, like Hercules. And you did not want to get sideways with one of those man-gods.
And so Pilate hears that this man claimed to be the Son of God, and he’s concerned based on what he knows about the Roman system of god worship. So Pilate is troubled, because to him, what the gods think of him is everything. That’s why, verse 9, he goes back in. He goes away from the crowd, away from the chief priests and the officers.
He goes away from them and goes back in with Jesus and says this: “He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’” (John 19:9). And I don’t think here he’s talking, are you from Galilee, Judea? I think he’s talking about, which planet are you from? Which gods are you from? Where are you from? “But Jesus gave him no answer.”
Now, pretend that you are Pilate. You’re a fearful man; you don’t want any part of this trial. You care very much about what Caesar thinks of you; you’re trying to work your way up in the political system. You don’t want anything to happen on your watch because you want to advance to the next stage of Roman leadership. You’re afraid of the Jews. Evidently Matthew tells us that Pilate’s wife was pressuring him to free Jesus because in a dream she was very tormented by Jesus.
So Pilate’s got all these pressures on him; he’s a fearful man. Ryle said that Pilate should have been leading the crowd, but he was being led by the crowd. He’s a horrible leader, not standing on conviction. This is you. This is you, and you hear that Jesus may be part god, and you know that if you get sideways with a god, you’ll be in severe trouble.
So Pilate’s afraid, and he goes to Jesus and says, where are you from? The worst thing that could come back from Jesus to Pilate is silence. Talk to me. I’m afraid. Where are you from? I need answers here. His whole life, his whole career, hangs in the balance. Where are you from? Jesus doesn’t say a word. Jesus has already said plenty of words and Pilate hasn’t listened.
“But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him [and I’m picturing like in the cartoons the red going up his face, the blood boiling], “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’” (John 19:9-10). Your life hangs in my hands. You don’t answer me?
See, Pilate was mistaken. Pilate thought that he was superior to Jesus the whole time. He’s never been superior to Jesus. Pilate’s never been superior to God the Father. That’s why Jesus says this: “Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above’” (John 19:11). Any authority, humanly speaking, that you have over me has been given to you by God.
We know that that’s true of all human governments, placed there by God according to Romans 13. And Jesus is just saying, the authority you have over me right now is because it’s been given to you by God. You wouldn’t have any of it if it weren’t for God.
But then Jesus says this: “Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). So there are two sins—the sin of Pilate and the sin of the nation, the Jews, the chief priests, the scribes, the officers, the people. But one is more severe. See, the Jews are sinning against all the knowledge and all that they’ve been given by God himself. Pilate doesn’t know very much about this Yahweh, about the God of the Old Testament. The amount that Pilate knows about the coming Messiah is very minimal compared to all that the Jewish people know. And Jesus has been going to his own people, and as John told us earlier, his own people rejected him. And Jesus is saying, both are bad, but there’s a greater sin from the people that are delivering me over to you, Pilate.
And we know that this is a truth from Scripture. The more access to truth you have, if you reject that truth, the more severe the punishment. Luke 12:47-48. Jesus taught a parable, and he said this: “And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.” Verse 48: “But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating [so didn’t know the master’s will but still did wrong—deserved a beating], that one will receive a light beating.” Degrees of punishment based on knowledge of the master’s will. “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand more.” So the Jews in that sense have the greater sin here, is what Jesus is telling Pilate.
Verse 12: “From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out”—I mean, haven’t we read this before? Pilate wants to release him, finds him innocent, nothing wrong, wants to release him; but the Jews won’t let him. They pressure him. They keep the pressure on Pilate.
“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.’” Pilate wants to release Jesus, but the Jews are in a sense threatening Pilate. You can see here that they’re saying, if you release him, you evidently don’t care about being Caesar’s friend. They’re probably going to go tell on Pilate. They’re probably going to go seek an audience with Caesar, who probably wasn’t in Jerusalem at the time, but they were going to see to it that Caesar got the message, Pilate would not stop a rebellion against you, Caesar.
“Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” This man has made himself King of the Jews; therefore he opposes Caesar. And notice how much they care about Caesar all of a sudden. Do you remember earlier in the gospels when they tried to bait Jesus by asking him about paying taxes to Caesar? I believe that they thought Jesus would say, no, no, no, I’m the king; I’m the important one; no, no, no, Israel is God’s chosen people; you don’t need to pay taxes to Caesar. And Jesus basically teaches them, pay taxes to Caesar.
So, in a sense, Jesus is the one that submits to Caesar. He comes and lives the life of a perfect man, lives the life that a perfect woman should. Submit to the government. Submit to the authority over you. It was placed there by God. Jesus is there to submit, and now during his trial at the end they’re telling Pilate, this man is an enemy of Caesar. Jesus, again, has never demonstrated that. They have! Jesus hasn’t.
But here, they turn the tables. They are the friend of Caesar. Pilate better be the friend of Caesar. Jesus isn’t the friend of Caesar. One of the worst things that you could say—even today, in today’s day and age—one of the worst insults you can give someone is to say that they are unpatriotic. You evidently don’t care about America.
People don’t like to receive that insult. You evidently don’t care about Rome. You don’t care about Caesar. You don’t care about being loyal to him. That’s what they tell Pilate, this prideful, fearful man. And it works. It works.
Verse 13: “So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.” Now, we don’t know exactly for sure what part of Jerusalem this was in; most think this was at the fortress Antonia that would have been on a rocky ridge. Most people think that that’s where this was. It probably was; we don’t know for sure.
So Pilate sits down on this judgment seat, on The Stone Pavement, and verse 14 tells us, “Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’”
Pilate is about to condemn Jesus to death, give him over to the Jews. He takes his seat at his judge’s bench, and we find out in verse 14 that it was the Preparation of the Passover. Now, you’re going from Roman trial to all of a sudden this insertion from John about the Passover. He goes back to Jewish culture. Why? Because it’s important to know that Jesus died when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered. John wants us to know that.
Earlier on in John 1, in 29 and verse 36, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Behold, the Lamb of God! What happens to lambs in the Jewish culture? They get slaughtered for the sin of the people.
So John mentions that it was the day of Preparation. So you can really think about it, this is the morning where they’re preparing the Passover meal. And later on when they start to slaughter the lambs, that’s when Jesus would be executed on the cross.
And then John tells us it was about the sixth hour. It was about the sixth hour. And Pilate said to the Jews, “Behold your King.” Now, just to talk about some timing. Because if you go home and you read Mark and you think, I’m gonna read Mark’s account of what happened here. And Mark said it was the third hour. And then you think, see, the Bible’s not true; the Bible lies. There are discrepancies. I’m just not going to believe any of this stuff. No, don’t do that, because if you do that you’re thinking like a twenty-first century Westerner. Think about someone in the first century culture.
I can tell you what didn’t happen. John didn’t see all of this taking place and look at his watch and go, ah. I’m going to note the time here. Why? Because John didn’t have a watch. No watches at that time. So let me talk to you for a moment about time just so you know that this fits perfectly.
He says it was about the sixth hour. John’s probably referring to six hours past sunrise which is what they would have called the sixth hour, sunrise being around 6:00 a.m., six hours later being around noon, 12:00. Good. So John says this was about the sixth hour.
Mark says the third hour, which would be 9:00. So is it 9:00 or noon? Did the Holy Spirit mess up? Is this whole thing wrong? No. And no. Mark says the third hour; John says the sixth hour.
What you wouldn’t normally hear at that time was, oh, hi Henry, how are you doing? What time is it? Oh, it’s around the fourth hour. You didn’t normally hear about the fourth and fifth hour, or the seventh and eighth hour. They talked about the hours in terms of four parts of the day—third hour, sixth hour. They would go by threes. Every three hours was a time period to them.
So when Mark says the third hour, it could have been any time between 9:00 and 12:00. When John says, it was the sixth hour, it could have been any time between 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. So Mark says third hour, which could have meant it would have been around even late in the third hour, so 11:30, 11:45 a.m., in our way of thinking. And John says it was about the sixth hour. So maybe a little bit before, maybe a little bit after. If you take the beginning of that time period, that could be around 11:45, 12:15, 12:30.
So Mark is referring to the later part of the third hour, and John is referring to the earlier part of the sixth hour—same time period. This is late morning. We know it had to be late morning because the Sanhedrin did their final stage of the Jewish trial at daybreak. They had to do it at daybreak. They had to wait until morning to do it. Because remember, they were all about following the laws. Sometimes.
So they have to do their trial at daybreak, and then there are three stages to the Roman trial. And to have Jesus crucified in just a span of three hours after he is brought from the Sanhedrin to Pilate, then over to Herod—which John doesn’t talk about; the other writers do—then over to Herod, then back to Pilate for another questioning, and then outside the city to be executed, that’s going to take more than just a few hours when everyone’s walking and when the crowds are in Jerusalem.
And so this is around noon. John and Mark agree in that sense.
Verse 15. I’m sorry, verse 14—I don’t want to miss this. Pilate says to them at this time, “Behold your King!” And this was Pilate’s way of sticking it to the Jews, rubbing their noses in it. Here’s your King. Remember, Pilate thought he was innocent. He hated that the Jews dragged him into this trial. He hated that they were threatening him before Caesar. He hated these people. The Roman soldiers would have hated this Jewish crowd. They hated each other.
So Pilate says, here’s your King, knowing that they’d gnash their teeth at that. Again, remember what the other writers later tell us when he puts the sign over Jesus on the cross, “King of the Jews,” and they said, don’t write King of the Jews; say that he said he was King of the Jews. And Pilate says, “What I have written I have written.” This is how Pilate feels about the Jews.
Verse 15: “They cried out ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’” Oh, to do a sermon on that statement. We have no king but Caesar.
You go back all the way to the people of Israel after the time of the judges—we want a king, we want a king, we want a king just like the other nations. And God’s saying, I’m your King. God sent his own Son to be their King. And they want to follow God; they’re God’s chosen people; they believe the Old Testament; they’ll even have their children memorize Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. They are God’s people. But when God sends his King, they say, we’ll worship the pagan god Caesar, who by the way considered himself to be a god.
And they say, we have no king but Caesar. It’s similar to saying, we have no king but Satan. This is Satanic. He’s not our king; Caesar’s our king.
Verse 16: “So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.” It’s an interesting statement. The Jewish people don’t crucify prisoners; they stone prisoners. So it says Pilate delivered him over to them. They never took possession of Jesus.
The idea here is that he delivered Jesus over to the Jews in theory. He never went over to them; they never put him on a cross. The Romans did all of this. He was never out of Roman custody at this point. But in crucifying Jesus, it was as if Pilate was delivering him over to the Jews, and they were the ones, in theory, seeing to it that this man died. That’s what this is saying. The Jews got their way. They are the ones ultimately that decided that Jesus would die. And Pilate carries out their will, carries out their wishes, as do the Roman soldiers, the Gentiles.
One writer said that this was one of the most amazing spectacles that ever existed under the sun, this spectacle. Do you remember in 1 Peter when Peter tells us that the angels long to look into the things that we know and experience? The angels are just sitting up there looking at all of human history going, can you believe this? Gabriel, didn’t you pronounce praise and adoration to Jesus when he was born in a manger? And now look what’s happening thirty-three years later. Look at how they’re treating our Jesus. Look at how they’re treating our God. Look at how they’re treating the one that we’ve been worshiping forever. Look at what’s happening! He created them! He came to save them! They hate him!
Think of what the angels in heaven are seeing at this moment. The Creator of the world being beaten by men that he created, that he came to save, that he came to rule over perfectly and to care for.
Up to this point, this is the most amazing spectacle that’s ever occurred under the sun. Jesus is going to die, and next week we’re going to see that. He’s going to be put on a cross and executed. By Rome? Yes. By the Jewish people? Yes. And in a sense, he’s put on the cross by us. Because he died for our sin.
Now, the Bible before this account and after this account talks more about the meaning behind all of this. See, you can get a lot out of reading this. But when you read what comes before and what comes after, you start to make more and more sense of all that’s happening here.
So I want to just briefly, in a few minutes, show you four theological truths found in the Roman trial of Jesus. Four theological truths found in the Roman trial of Jesus.
I remember seeing the movie The Wizard of Oz as a little kid. Many of you have probably seen that movie. And then I remember being older and finding out that evidently that was written as a commentary on society in America in the nineteenth century. And evidently Dorothy was the vulnerable, naïve picture of the American people. And the tin man represented the steel industry and the trouble that the steel industry was about to go through or was going through. When you start to read all that the writer intended behind The Wizard of Oz, I mean, total mindblower. You’re like, oh my goodness.
What’s behind all of this? What’s behind this scene?
1. God is sovereign over the injustices done to Jesus.
Here’s the first theological truth: God is sovereign over the injustices done to Jesus. God is sovereign over the injustices done to Jesus. Didn’t we read there in verse 11, Pilate saying, “’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 to you from above.’” Saying it another way, the only reason you have authority is because it’s been given to you from above, from the Father.
Turn to Acts 2. After Jesus went back up to heaven following his resurrection, he ascends to heaven. His Holy Spirit comes upon his followers, comes upon people like Peter, his apostles. And they start preaching. As soon as the Holy Spirit comes upon them, they start preaching and proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ. How did they interpret what Israel had done, what Rome was doing? How did they interpret all that? How did they view all that?
Acts 2, verse 22. Peter says this: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus [notice this], delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:22-23).
We’ve read a lot about delivering Jesus into human hands. The Jews delivered him to Pilate. And then what happened in verse 16? He delivered them back over to Israel. But the big picture over all that is that Jesus was delivered up by the plan of God. That’s what Acts 2 says. God is sovereign over the injustices done to Jesus. God’s plan was not foiled. It was fulfilled. This was his plan.
And by the way, we can say the same thing about any injustice or any difficulty done to us. If you are in Christ, you know that all things work together for your good and the glory of God. Anything wrong done to you, you can know God is sovereign over it, and he’s going to make sense of all this in the future and I can trust that. He made sense about his own Son’s scourging, flogging, mockery. He made sense of all that later on, did he not? Yes he did. It’s why we’re all here. God is sovereign over the injustices done to Jesus.
2. Man is responsible for the injustices done to Jesus.
Secondly—and this is not contrary to what I just said; it fits—number two: Man is responsible for the injustices done to Jesus. Hold on a second! Is God sovereign over this whole thing, or is man responsible? You know the answer: Yes. Yes.
God is never blamed for the punishment that a rejecter of Christ receives. They are blamed for rejecting Christ. God is always given the credit for people who come to Christ. Both are true. Man is responsible for the injustices done to Jesus.
You see this in Acts 2 still. Verse 23, the second part: “…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified”—God’s plan; you’re sinful too—“you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,” referring to the Romans. He said, men of Israel, you crucified him by the hands of lawless men—the Gentiles, the Romans.
Turn over to Acts 4. Acts 4, verse 8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit [so this is truth here], said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man”—and by the way, the context is they’ve healed a crippled man, and the rulers of Israel are upset about this. We thought we got rid of the healer. No, no, no, no. His apostles are doing miracles as well. And so the apostles are in a sense in trial, this informal trial.
And Peter says, “[I]f we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified”—okay, yes, God’s plan (Acts 2), but you crucified him! You are to blame. “…whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you” (Acts 4:8-11). Man is responsible for rejecting Christ.
It’s not either or—either God is sovereign or man is responsible. We do not teach that the sovereignty of God over all things means that man is a robot, man is a puppet. Man has a will and determines to do what he will, but somehow and someway God is sovereign over all of that. Both are true according to the Scriptures.
Well, how is that true? I don’t know. I’m not God. All I know is what he reveals, and he reveals both. The worst thing to do is to say that God isn’t sovereign over all of this, and man has some sovereignty apart from God. You don’t want to live in a world like that. You do not. Both are true.
And the reason I bring this up here is because the Scriptures afterward—this is the first thing the disciples start talking about when they refer back to the crucifixion. They’re the ones that bring this up. They’re making sense of all that happened.
3. Jesus was abused in the place of his followers.
Theological truth number three: Jesus was abused in the place of his followers. And I’ll ask you to turn to one more place—Isaiah 53. Jesus was abused in the place of his followers.
Isaiah 53, picking up in verse 4. Hear these words as if you’re hearing them for the first time. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” By the way, notice who does the smiting of Jesus. It’s not the hands of the Roman soldiers in this verse.
Verse 5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds [with his wounds that came as a result of bone and metal ripping through his flesh and exposing his arteries, severing his arteries, with his wounds that bled all over the place, with his wounds] we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:5-7).
Why didn’t he open his mouth? Why didn’t he defend himself? Because he loved the Father and he saw the Father’s plan as good, and because he loved each one of us. He went through it for us, and he went through it for the Father. Not a word. “[H]e opened not his mouth; like a lamb [You think this is all coincidence? Like a lamb] that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
Why did Jesus go through all of this? Because of his great love for you and his mercy toward you. He would rather die a horrible death and suffer the wrath of God than for you to experience that. And you and I deserve it. Jesus was abused in the place of his followers.
Leviticus 16 teaches about Aaron laying his hands on a goat and representing the people of Israel before God, and when he lays his hands on the goat, when he laid his hands on the goat, he would start confessing the sins of the people of Israel. And that goat would be sent away to show the people of Israel, your sins are being placed on another, and he’s being sent away. There’s freedom for you. You don’t deserve it; there’s freedom for you. There’s no punishment for you, if you trust in the picture that God is showing you in this goat.
The question I would ask you: The Lamb of God had the sins of all of his followers placed on him, and he was slaughtered. Have you ever placed your hands on the Lamb? Have you ever told Jesus, I need you to take all of my sins?
I think that today, especially in America and Western nations, people think about salvation from God as just, God’s gonna be my personal genie. He’s going to save me from all the bad things that people do to me. God’s going to give me heaven and make me comfortable, give me a job, and people talk about salvation as if it’s God’s way of being a genie for us.
Salvation is about God saving us from ourselves, from the consequences of our sin. Have you ever actually told Jesus, I need you to take all my sin away? God the Father, I need you to treat me as if I lived the life of your Son. I need you to treat him like he committed by sin. That’s the message of the gospel. That’s what Jesus came to do. Jesus was abused in the place of his followers.
4. Jesus is either accepted or rejected as the Son of God.
Number four: Jesus is either accepted or rejected as the Son of God. Jesus is either accepted or rejected as the Son of God. Listen, there is no neutral. Nobody can say, I never did to Jesus what the Jews did; I never did to Jesus what the Romans did. But I’m also not one of those crazy followers of his. There’s no neutral.
You’re either one of those crazy followers, or you’ve rejected him. Because if he is the Creator of the world, the sustainer of the world, the one who’s returning to right all wrongs that are ever done in the world—if he is that person, that God, then he deserves complete allegiance. There’s only one way to follow Jesus. That’s entirely. I’m yours. You’re my Lord; you’re my King. Anything short of that is rejection.
Jesus made this clear. Read the gospels. He made this clear all throughout when people wanted to follow him superficially. You either reject or embrace. Reject or accept.
The Jews were hostile to him. Pilate thought he was innocent but still would not align himself to Jesus no matter what it cost him. Pilate thought about his own security and comfort more than he thought about following Jesus, and by the way, he didn’t get either. He didn’t get a relationship with Jesus, and he didn’t get security and comfort. History teaches us that Pilate’s career did not go well after this.
So you think you’re making a tradeoff for not following Jesus. I want to live the way I want to live. I don’t want his rules over me; I want to do what I want with anybody I want. I want to treat people however I want. I’m all about me, and if I follow Jesus I’m no longer about me; I’m about him, so I’m not making that tradeoff. That will not go well for you. Either you accept or you reject Christ. Either you accept and are rewarded by him, or you reject and suffer the wrath of him.
John 20—this whole book is about coming to this conclusion. John 20:31—I’ve said this to you over and over because I want you to remember why John’s writing—“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” John wants us to know that Jesus is the Son of God. Why did the Jews want Jesus dead? What was the final accusation they levied against Jesus to Pilate? He makes himself to be the Son of God. And guess what? They were right.
These things “are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Trust Jesus. When everybody around you mocks him and beats him and criticizes him, you stand with him. Because he stood for you.
Before you look—before you believe, I should say—before you believe about Jesus, you must behold him. You must think about all that he went through. You must think about why he went through this. You have to consider this passage. You have to consider the passages coming up. You have to consider why Jesus did all of this.
I want to close by taking you back to John 19. And I want you to look at John 19:5 one more time. “So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’”
Pilate brings Jesus out; Jesus is standing in front of the people. Jesus this morning has been placed before you. The pathetic, abused Son of God stands before all of us as we go through this passage. The pathetic, abused Son of God would have been standing there, needing who knows how many stitches, needing bandages, bleeding all over that robe, probably with the robe sticking to his back which would have had to have been torn off, crown of thorns, probably marks on his face—we read elsewhere that his beard was plucked out—standing there, looking pathetic. And to us, glorious at the same time because he’s literally in our place.
He needed bandages, he needed stitches, he needed justice. Was there ever a time Jesus needed his mother more than this? Was there ever a time Jesus needed his father more than this? He received no comfort, no care, no celebration. Instead, he received criticism, he was made the object of a comedy, and ultimately he was condemned to die on a cross.
Philip Bliss, the hymn writer, wrote these words in 1875:
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned he stood;
Sealed my pardon with his blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
My friends, behold your King. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, we speak to you now. We just studied you, and now you hear us. You went through all of that. For us. I wonder if you had us in your mind when you were hunched over being whipped. I’m sure you did.
We wonder what all that would have felt like. What was worse, the pain or the mockery? Were you bending over, not even thinking about that because you knew the wrath of God was coming? What were you thinking? What were you going through? We’ll never know. Those of us who trust you will never know.
So Lord Jesus Christ, I think collectively we all say to you in a way that seems so trite and trivial, thank you. Thank you for standing in our place. Thank you for bleeding in our place. Thank you for suffering the wrath of God in our place. Thank you for being treated as if you committed every single sin we’ll ever commit.
I’m reminded of the hymn, “What language shall we borrow to thank you, dearest friend?” We can’t say enough. And so my prayer for us, your brothers and sisters, my prayer for us is that we would live in a manner worthy of the gospel, that we would live to please you, to adore you, to make much of you. Lord, continue to be amazing to us and continue to allow us to serve you, our King. We pray this in your name. Amen.
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