“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 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. 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.”” (John 19:1–6, ESV)
As I read these verses again I thought of one of the arguments for Jesus being Lord that I learned while in college. Josh McDowell in his book, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” built upon a quote of C.S. Lewis, providing substantiating arguments for what C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, “Mere Christianity.”
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
What is described in these verses about what followed after the Jews chose to have Barabbas freed and Jesus put to death screams of the truth that Jesus believed fully in the Father who sent Him and that He knew who He was and what He came to do. The intensity of what happens in these verses and what follows C.S. Lewis appropriately describes as that which would be allowed by someone who really was who He said He was or someone who was an absolute lunatic. The option of liar goes by the wayside, for what liar would follow his lie through to this degree unless he was off his rocker—a lunatic. And if He were a lunatic He definitely would not be a great moral teacher. The evidence stands that Jesus lived, His testimony was consistent without wavering, and His logic was sound. There can be no legitimate patronizing about Him being a great human teacher because so much of what He said would have to be thrown out for someone not to accept Him as Lord as well. Jesus was sent by the Father and He was faithful to do exactly as the Father intended to the very end. This included being mocked, tortured, beaten, and then nailed to a cross where He would lay down His life for us.
First Jesus was flogged or scourged. The amazing thing about this was that it was not done to punish Him for what He had done, but to try to gain the sympathy of the Jews such that they would recant of their demand that He be put to death. Luke records, “I will therefore punish and release him.” (Luke 23:16, ESV) But this did not happen. The Jews held firm their demand. John MacArthur wrote in his study Bible, “Scourging was a horribly cruel act in which the victim was stripped, tied to a post and beaten by several torturers, i.e., soldiers who alternated when exhausted. For victims who were not Roman citizens, the preferred instrument was a short wooden handle to which several leather thongs were attached. Each leather thong had pieces of bones or metal on the end. The beatings were so savage that sometimes victims died. The body could be torn or lacerated to such an extent that muscles, veins or bones were exposed. Such flogging often preceded execution in order to weaken and dehumanize the victim (Is. 53:5).” This is what Pilate had done to Jesus hoping that by this He might be saved.
Next we read that his soldiers wove together a crown of thorns and put it on His head. John MacArthur continued, “This “crown” was made from the long spikes (up to 12 inches) of a date palm formed into an imitation of the radiating crowns which oriental kings wore. The long thorns would have cut deeply into Jesus’ head, adding to the pain and bleeding.” Adding to the pain and the humiliation, Pilate’s soldiers continued to pile on and still Jesus did not respond or recant. Following this we read that they put on him a purple robe as a symbol or royalty again mocking Him as “King of the Jews.” Having done all of this his soldiers then took turns hailing Him as King of the Jews and then beating him with their hands. Most people would have been greatly humiliated and broken by this, but still Jesus took their abuse without wavering.
Clearly Pilate went to great length to break Jesus down and make Him a pitiful and powerless man to be released by His accusers, and having done this he brought Jesus back out ravaged, bruised, and covered in blood wearing the purple robe and the crown of thorns. As he did this he told the gathered crowd, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” But their hearts were not turned and they did not budge. Even the sarcasm of Pilate would have no effect. When Pilate said, “Behold the man!” in his attempt to humanize and humiliate Jesus, the crowd responded, “Crucify him, crucify him! Again, Pilate stated that he found no fault in Jesus, and rather than using his authority to save Him, Pilate turned to the chief priests and said, “Take him yourselves and crucify him….”
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21–25, ESV)
The Jews refused Him and Pilate mocked Him, but one day the world will know Him for who He truly is. Some of these who were His enemies will have received Him as their Savior and inherited eternal life while others will have remained in darkness, judged and eternally separated. Jesus prayed on the cross for those who crucified Him and today we are to stand firm praying for those who persecute us as well.
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