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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Exo 17; Num 20; Jhn 18-19; The Verdict

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Portraits of Christ
“The Verdict” (Exodus 17; Numbers 20; John 18 and John 19).

  1. A famous painting by Antonio Ciseri entitled Ecce Homo hangs in the Palazzo Pitti Gallery in Florence, Italy.
    • Ciseri captured on canvas a scene from the Apostle John’s Gospel.
    • He portrayed Pontus Pilate leaning over a second story railing looking down with consternation at an unruly howling mob.
    • While playing to the crowd, Pilate also points to a tragic figure of a man standing in the shadows behind him.
    • This man’s arms are bound, He is stripped to the waist yet a purple robe hangs from His hips and a crown of thorns is plaited on His head.
    • Two Latin words describe this moment, Ecce Homo which mean, “Behold the Man.”
    • These are the words of Pontius Pilot sarcastically announcing the arrival of the man scorned by His nation.
    • Pilot’s reference to Jesus as “The Man” seems to call out for a verdict.
    • Who is this Carpenter from Galilee?
    • Is He just a self-deluded man or is He God in flesh, as He claimed?
    • Why does He stand silent before His accusers?
    • Will justice be carried out or will the inhumanity of the crowd persuade the court?
  2. Never has there been a greater miscarriage of justice than the trial of Jesus Christ.
    • He endured six trials from midnight until six in the morning.
    • They were unfair, biased, fallacious and in every way illegal.
    • The first three trials were hastily conducted by Jewish religious leaders, who were envious of Christ’s popularity and angry for His public denouncements against them.
    • They accused Him of blasphemy and pronounced Him guilty.
    • Under Jewish law, this was a capital offense punishable by stoning.
    • But since they were under Roman law, another charge had to be manufactured.
    • So they dragged Jesus before Roman authorities and switched the charge to treason.
    • They hoped to manipulate Roman officials to do their dirty work.
    • If convicted of treason, He would be executed by crucifixion.
    • In the three Roman trials, He was passed from Pilate to Herod and then back again to Pilate.
    • Due process of law was denied to Christ for the following reasons:
      • Jesus was tried at night—a capital offence had to be tried at day.
      • He was brutally abused by court officials without cause.
      • He was not given a defense attorney and was asked to bear witness against Himself.
      • He was knowingly accused by false witnesses, who had been subpoenaed by the court.
      • He was tried on a feast day, which was contrary to the law.
      • He was kept under arrest and assumed guilty before evidentiary charges were presented.
      • He was convicted by religious authorities in three hours, when their law required at least one day to arrive at a verdict in a capital offense.
      • He was unanimously pronounced guilty by seventy men assembled in the Sanhedrin.
      • The legal procedures in the Sanhedrin traditionally maintained that a unanimous verdict in a capital offense was a mistrial. If there wasn’t one objector, they didn’t believe justice was served.
      • Jesus was then delivered into the hands of Pontus Pilate, the Govenor of Judea.

Two rulers of two kingdoms stood alone in the palace chambers. (John 18:29-38)

  1. Pontus Pilot heard Israel’s religious leaders make their case against Jesus. (John 18:29-32)
    • Pilot was a harsh ruler with a history of diverting funds for pet projects and brutalizing any who even slightly defied his authority. (Luke 13:1; 19:8)
    • He was later banished to Gaul and there committed suicide.
    • But as he looked at this Rabbi from Nazareth, he asked the chief priests and Sanhedrin, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” (Matthew 26:61; 27:18; Luke 23:2; Leviticus 24:16)
    • Here were religious hypocrites who wouldn’t even enter the courts of a gentile governor for fear of ceremonial defilement that would keep them from taking Passover, yet they seemed not the least fearful of moral defilement in gathering false witnesses to testify against Christ.
    • The chief priests indignantly shot back, “If we didn’t think this man were guilty we wouldn’t have brought him to you.”
    • They leveled charges of blasphemy and treason against Jesus.
    • Their law spelled out in Leviticus 24, whoever blasphemed the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death.
    • If a man had committed a sin deserving of death, this man was to be hanged on a tree.
    • Every man who was hanged from a tree was considered cursed by God. (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13)
    • This is what these desperate men, filled with enmity, wanted done to the Christ.
    • But knowing blasphemy was not a crime recognized by Rome, they accused Jesus of perverting the nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar.
    • They also reported hearing Him claim, “He Himself is Christ, a King.”
    • Pilate, however, realized they handed Jesus over to him because of envy.
    • Unimpressed by the evidence of their charges, Pilate told the Jews to judge Him themselves.
    • But they knew they had no authority to sentence Jesus to death—only Rome could do that.
  2. Then Pilate withdrew to his private quarters to directly question Jesus about the accusations made against Him. (John 18:33-38)
    • He was curious about this silent, resolute man from Galilee.
    • He asked a series of questions to see what kind of a defense Jesus could muster in court.
  3. He first asked, “Are You the King of the Jews?” (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13)
    • Jesus answered, “Are you speaking for yourself about this or did others tell you this concerning Me?” Jesus was exploring the man’s heart.
    • Pilate retorted, “Am I a Jew? What have You done?”
    • Jesus answered in John 18:36 describing the nature of His kingdom, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
    • Pilate argued: “If My kingdom were of this world my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.”
    • This is how earthly kingdoms are established and overthrown.
    • Jesus repeated Himself to affirm His origin, “My kingdom is not from here.”
  4. Pilate sought further clarification: “So You are a king then?”
    • Jesus affirmed His earthly purpose in John 18:37, “I was born and came from My kingdom which is out of this world to enter the kingdom of this world to bear witness to the truth.”
    • Christ’s claims were quite astonishing.
    • He affirmed His identity as King of another Kingdom—one not of this world.
    • He wasn’t here to usurp an earthly throne.
    • But He was here on a mission to announce the truth.
    • Then he added that, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
    • The truth would be preached everywhere over the earth, but everyone who hears the truth will enter His heavenly kingdom.
    • Notice that “everyone who is of the truth,” actually hears and enters His kingdom.
    • This was consistent with Christ’s previous teaching that only those who had ears to hear the truth actually came to faith.
    • His truth would accomplish all He intended in the hearts and lives of those who heard the truth.
  5. Puzzled by Christ’s claims, Pilate asked in John 18:38, “What is truth?”
    • He didn’t know he was looking in the face of the Truth and listening to His truth.
    • In our generation, people question, “Is there even such a thing as truth?”
    • Truth today is relative to the individual.
    • There are no moral absolutes.
    • Only what is right in the eyes of the individual is absolute.
    • Jesus was bound by shackles, yet He came to liberate sinners from bondage to their sinful wills.
  6. After this brief but profound time alone with Jesus, Pilate returned to the Jews outside.
    • Then he announced his verdict: “I find no fault in Him at all.” (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; Hebrews 4:15)
    • Pilot’s verdict is identical with the opinion of the Scriptures.
    • We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that it was God the Father’s intention for the Perfect Man to take upon Himself our sins. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
    • Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:22-24 that even though Jesus was innocent He did not respond to His critics because His purpose was to die for our sins. “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”
    • In 1 John 3:4-5, the Apostle John said that we know that Christ was God manifested in flesh on the cross to “take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”
    • Because Christ is the sinless One who took upon Himself our sins, He is able to perfectly intercede for us as our Great High Priest.
    • Hebrews 4:14-16 encourages us to come to Christ. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
    • Pilate’s verdict was correct, but his resolve to hold to the truth began to crumble under the pressure of these persistent leaders of Israel.
    • Fearing political fallout, Pilate appealed to a custom of Israel by which one convicted criminal could be released at Passover, as a demonstration of God’s grace in delivering Israel from their slavery in Egypt.
    • What Pilate didn’t know was that the lambs slain at Passover found their fulfillment in Christ.
    • Thinking the people would prefer to see Jesus released, Pilate offered to let Jesus go.
    • But the crowd would have nothing to do with his clever political maneuver to get out of this predicament of deciding Jesus’ death or release.
  7. Two sons of two fathers stood together stripped and bound before an angry crowd.
    • It was a classic trial between two very different humanities. (John 18:39-40)
    • One son was guilty and one Son was innocent.
    • Both were charged with crimes.
    • One led an insurrection against Rome.
    • He was a political zealot, convicted of robbery and murderer.
    • His name was Barabbas, which means “son of a father.” (John 8:44; Luke 23:25)
    • He was already sentenced to be crucified.
    • Some say he was the son of a priest, while others say he was the son of his father the devil.
    • The other man was named, “Jesus of Nazareth”
    • He was accused by Israel of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God, the equal with His Heavenly Father. (Matthew 3:17; 17:5)
    • Never has there been such a contrast of two humanities than Barabbas and Jesus Christ.
    • And never has there been such injustice as that which was about to take place.
  8. One disobedient son would be set free by men, but one obedient Son would set sinners free.
    • One man was a murderer and the other a Savior.
    • On this day, the guilty one would live and the innocent One die. (Romans 5:12, 15-19)
    • Barabbas represented Adam’s fallen seed.
    • Jesus was the Second Adam, the head of a chosen and redeemed humanity.
    • The Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12, 15-19 described these two distinct heads of humanity and the result of their works to their own respective seed.
    • “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Therefore, as through one man’s offense, judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”
    • As both Barabbas and Jesus stood before the mob, two humanities were clearly represented.
    • Because of Christ’s obedient death, many sons and daughters would be declared righteous.
    • By His righteousness, many would become the sons of God.
    • By His death, many would live.
    • However, the irony of this trial is that God accomplished His eternal plan for satisfying His justice through man’s injustice.
    • Pilate teased the mad multitude by asking, “Do you want me to give you the King of the Jew?”
    • Instead, they insisted, “Not this man but Barabbas.”
    • Pilate’s attempt to dodge this great injustice had failed.
    • Our text in John doesn’t tell us, but Pilate then sent Jesus over to King Herod because He was the proconsul of Galilee.
    • Luke’s Gospel tells us Herod didn’t want anything to do with Jesus, so he sent him back to Pilate. (Luke 23:11)

One king was seated on his throne in judgment, while the King of King’s was judged.

(John 19:1-16; Genesis 3:18; Isaiah 53:5; Romans 8:20; Matthew 27:28-31; Mark 15:16-20; Luke 22:63-65; 23:11)

  1. One king looked like a king, while the other man looked like a mockery of a king. (John 19:1-4)
    • Pilate decided to have Jesus taken away and scourged by soldiers.
    • He thought if the Jews saw Jesus punished in this way, their enmity would be satisfied.
    • The soldiers flogged Jesus forty times with a flagellum, which had several leather straps with bits of bone or metal attached at the end.
    • Every stroke of the whip cut deep and tore away the skin, exposing muscles, sinew and bone.
    • They put a purple robe on him and a reed in His hands to hold as a scepter and then the ultimate mockery a crown of thorns on his head.
    • Then they mocked Him to His face hitting Him on the head saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.”
    • “You say you are a prophet, so prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?”
    • When their work was completed, Pilate went back to face the restless mob from his balcony.
    • As if he were announcing royalty, Pilate had Jesus brought back for the crowd to see.
    • He affirmed to the crowd that he still found no guilt in Him.
    • Jesus was then escorted in by the soldiers.
    • Every inch of His body was bloodied and torn underneath the purple robe and crown of thorns.
  2. Pilate dramatically introduced Jesus as “Behold the Man”—Ecce Homo. (John 19:5-7)
    • He hoped the shock of seeing this pathetic spectacle would pacify the crowd.
    • Instead, the chief priests and officers shouted out again and again, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
    • Pilate, irritated by their contempt, shouted back as he did before, “You take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no fault in this man.”
    • They cried back that according to their law Jesus should die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God. (Matthew 27:19)
  3. Pilate was even more afraid of this angry defiant mob, while Jesus stood by unafraid
    • Pilate was afraid he and his leadership were on trial—and they were. (John 19:8)
    • His dilemma was how to pacify the public while executing justice for the innocent.
    • To make matters worse, Matthew’s account tells us Pilate received a note from his wife warning him that because of a dream she had, he was to have nothing to do with Jesus, “That just Man.”
  4. Pilate pulled Jesus back again out of the public spot light into his chambers to make one final appeal for Jesus to clear His name.
    • Instead, when Jesus was asked, “Where are you from?” Jesus remained silent.
    • Confused by His silence, Pilate reminded Him that he had the authority to release and crucify.
    • Jesus said, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)
    • Pilate sought to release Jesus but the Jews kept crying out for His crucifixion.
  5. Finally Pilate sat on his judgment seat to judge Jesus. (Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 26:64)
    • As he prepared to pronounce Christ’s death sentence he said, “Behold your King!”
    • When Pilate asked the frenzied crowd, “Shall I crucify your King?”
    • They responded, “We have no king but Caesar! Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”
    • Their deafening words echoed in Pilate’s ears until he relented and turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.
    • But the man Pilate sentenced, previously quoted from the prophet Daniel, “I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64; Daniel 7:13-14)
  6. Behold the words of the “Man!” “Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”
    • His silence standing before His accusers speaks volumes of His love of the Father and His determination to fulfill His destiny, dying for His chosen people.
    • If you have heard Him speak through the retelling of these events, you have heard the Truth of the Gospel.
    • On that early morning, the cross awaited our Savior.
    • But for the joy of obedience to His Father’s will, Christ walked to Golgotha to fulfill His divine destiny as the Savior of His seed.
    • May we stand in awe of the love and grace of God manifest in Christ, as He endured the injustice of man to justify rebellious sinners.
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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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