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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

PILATE AGAIN SEEKS TO RELEASE JESUS

John 19:4-7 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find no fault in Him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God. (Also see John 19:8-16)

Matthew and Mark go into much more detail describing the scourging, mocking, and derisive humiliation of Jesus at the hands of the Roman soldiers. These incidents are omitted by Luke, and John mentioned them in the three short verses preceding the lesson text. Although Pilate had already consented to Jesus' crucifixion and had Him scourged, he remained convinced that Jesus was innocent and undeserving of being put to death. Only John's gospel continues to discuss these reservations of Pilate and his desire to find reasons to have Him exonerated and set free.

One might imagine that Pilate, having scourged Jesus, thought that act may have been sufficient to appease the accusers of Jesus. Therefore, he, again, goes before the riotous Jewish mob, seeking mercy for Jesus from them, and said, almost pleadingly, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him. Hoping that the demonstrations of contempt and the humiliating punishment already inflicted on Jesus would alter the minds of these Jews, Jesus was brought out for them to witness, still wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man!

Although Pilate sought compassion from the Jews, he hoped that they would agree to declare Jesus innocent of all charges. However, his request fell on the deaf, biased ears of the Jewish leadership, who had failed to understand and accept God's Old Testament prophecies. Had they accurately read and interpreted these scriptures, they would have believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah, and Son of God. However, when they saw Him come before them again, their hearts remained hardened and they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. Still wanting to dismiss himself from the guilt of this unjust lynching, Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find no fault in Him. According to Pilate's judgment, their claim that Jesus declared Himself to be a King, and His admission to this fact, did not violate any Roman law. Therefore he tells Jesus' accusers that, if He is to be punished, it should be under Jewish law.

This accusation having failed, the Jewish leaders returned to their original charge of blasphemy. This was their reply to Pilate, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God. Indeed, the law they quoted assuredly states that if any man blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death (Lev. 24:16). First of all, their accusation was untrue; He was the Messiah, the Son of God. The second problem that existed was that authority to execute the death penalty had been taken from the Jews; it could only be administered under Roman law. The Jews could not put Jesus, or any other person, to death, even had they been rightly convicted of blasphemy.

Hearing their accusation, Pilate became extremely afraid. Convinced of Jesus' innocence, Pilate feared the execution of one that, in his mind, could possibly be sent from God. Yet he also feared the vengeance of the Jews who demanded Jesus' death, and the civil unrest that would occur if He was set free. Desiring to hear more from Jesus, Pilate asked Him, Whence are thou? Pilate already knew Jesus was a Galilean, therefore this question was asked to determine if He was a mere man or if He did indeed, come from God. When Jesus gave him no answer, Pilate, in a threatening manner, asked Jesus, knowest thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee? Assuring Pilate of the power of His deity, Jesus replied, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin. Not only was Judas Iscariot guilty of delivering Jesus to His death, but also the high priest and the Jewish Sanhedrin were just as guilty of this great sin.

Not being fully convinced that the acts of Jesus were worthy of death, Pilate continued to find reason to release Him. Each time he attempted to do so, he was met with riotous outcries from the people. Since blasphemy was not recognized as a crime under Roman law, Jesus' accusers again condemned Him of a crime that would result in the death penalty. Once again they accused Jesus of rebellious conduct against the Roman government and its leadership. They cried out saying that Pilate was not Caesar's friend if he released Jesus, contending that Jesus, by declaring Himself a king, was an act of treason against Caesar.

With that accusation, Pilate brought Jesus and seated Him in a place called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. This was a separate area of the judgment hall containing the seat where the accused sat and received the pronouncement of his or her sentence. Gabbatha, in Hebrew, means an elevated place, and was probably a raised platform within this hall of Roman justice, designed for the one being sentenced to be seen by all people attending this judicial event. Therefore, as the Passover lamb was being prepared to celebrate this event, at about the sixth hour, and with Jesus seated in full view of His accusers, Pilate saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! Immediately they cried out, Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him. Spoken with words denoting extreme malice and disdain, these Jews completely disowned Jesus as a fellow Israelite, and requested a death sentence reserved for the most openly violent criminals known to mankind.

Pilate, with one last attempt to redeem Jesus from any guilt that deserved death, which the Jews had requested, turned to them and asked, Shall I crucify your King? This reply came from the chief priest, who answered for the entire membership of the Sanhedrin: We have no king but Caesar. Rejecting the Messiah, the Son of God, and their divine King, these rebellious Jews chose to place their allegiance with the monarch of the Roman kingdom, known as Caesar. Their choice at this time sealed their future. By renouncing Jesus as the Savior, they gave up all hope of eternal life. Instead, they chose to follow Caesar, who a few years later destroyed Jerusalem and most of its Jewish population. This being their final choice, Pilate delivered Jesus unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away.