Which Jesus Will You Choose?
Matthew 27:15–26; Mark 15:6–15; Luke 23:13–25; John 18:39–40
Matthew Lesson #182
December 24, 2017
“Our Father, we thank You so much for Your goodness, Your grace to us. What a marvelous gift we have and we hardly understand it— this gift of eternal life, this gift of eternal salvation—all that our Savior did for us.
“As we go through these passages in Matthew describing the trials, describing the ridicule, the contempt, describing the physical beatings and abuse, the whippings, the scourging—all that transpired leading up to that which took place on the cross—we are just astounded by what our Lord did for us.
“Father, we pray that as we continue our study today that we might come to understand and appreciate what our Lord went through just a little bit more, each time recognizing that we do nothing and can do nothing to add to what He has done for us, and that He has paid the price in full, He has paid it all, and so all we do is rest in Him and believe what He has provided for us.
“We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Yesterday a friend of mine sent me an email that says, “Why Jesus is Better than Santa Claus.” I thought I would read it. Somebody had done a pretty good job. I modified and fixed a few things, but…
Santa lives at the North Pole.
Jesus lives everywhere.
Santa rides a sleigh.
Jesus rides on the wind and walks on the water.
Santa comes but once a year.
Jesus is an ever-present help.
Santa fills your stockings with goodies.
Jesus supplies all your needs.
You have to wait in line to see Santa.
Jesus is as close as the mention of His name.
Santa lets you sit in his lap.
Jesus lets you rest in His arms.
Santa doesn’t know your name, all he can say is
“Hi little boy or girl, what’s your name?”
Jesus knew our names before we did.
He knows our address, history, and future too.
He even knows how many hairs are on our head.
Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly.
Jesus has a heart full of love.
All Santa can offer is “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.”
Santa’s little helpers make toys.
Jesus makes a new life, mends wounded hearts,
repairs broken homes, and builds mansions.
Santa may make you chuckle.
Jesus gives you joy beyond all comprehension.
Santa puts gifts under your tree.
Jesus is our gift and died on the tree.
We’ve been looking at the events leading up to that crucifixion, and we come to a point where we begin the sixth of the six trials—the third in the second set of trials, the religious trials.
What we see here is Pilate continuously trying to avoid what becomes increasingly obvious—condemning Jesus to death—and that He’s not worthy of it. He finds no fault in Jesus, but he is caught in a religious and a political vice, and he’s getting squeezed, and there’s no place for him to escape.
He keeps trying to come up with options, ways to avoid it, and he comes up with this option of offering them a criminal. It is something that has been going on for a number of years, nobody knows when or why or how it originated, but apparently each year at the Passover feast, the procurator would offer a criminal to be released and given his freedom. Something to placate the Jews who were hostile to their Roman conquerors.
This appeals to Pilate and appears to Pilate that this is what he should do to avoid sending Jesus to be crucified. He’s got the idea that Jesus really hasn’t done much. Why in the world would they choose to release a horrible criminal when Jesus has not really done anything? He’s no threat to anyone. So, he thinks he has a way out and he’s going to give them a choice.
That’s the same choice that everybody else has: which Jesus will you choose?
Slides 3, 4
We’re in the civil trials, and as I’ve said the last few weeks, there are six trials. There is debate among scholars whether these are six actual autonomous trials or whether there are two sets—two trials with three elements to each one. I still like the idea that there are six trials: there are three religious trials before the religious leaders of Israel, and then there are three criminal trials.
We have looked at those opening religious trials. The first was before the former high priest Annas, who is at the head of a criminal enterprise. He is using his position as the high priest to control the buying and selling of animals on the Temple Mount for sacrifices, the exchange of money. If you came from outside of Israel and you didn’t have the right currency, you could exchange.
And, of course, he took a healthy cut; those were the money changers. His enterprise has been attacked by Jesus, both at the beginning and at the end of His ministry, when He’s gone into the Temple and cleansed it and thrown out the moneychangers. So that’s a direct assault on the organized crime that is run from Annas, the former high priest.
He’s the first one that Jesus appeared to in John 18:12–14. Then He went to the acting high priest, the son-in-law of Annas, named Caiaphas. There they came up with a trumped-up charge, a manufactured charge. They bring in all manner of false witnesses. They can’t get any two to agree. Finally, two kind of get close.
So, Caiaphas takes advantage of that, stands up and rips his garment, accuses Jesus of blasphemy, which is not true. To blaspheme God, you had to use the name of God, which Jesus has not done. So, they manufacture this charge of blasphemy.
They demand that He be put to death because of that, but as Roman subjects, they are not allowed to execute anyone. They’re not allowed to implement the death penalty. They have to then go to the governor, go to the prefect, Pontius Pilate. We studied him last time.
Pilate by this time has been the prefect for six years. He has offended the Jews on several occasions, as I pointed out last time. He’s been guilty of blasphemy; he’s been insensitive to their religious requirements. At one point, he marched his troops into Jerusalem, bearing an image of the Emperor on their imperial standards. This, of course, violated the Mosaic Law: having graven images.
A huge group of religious leaders went to Caesarea by the Sea to protest. He could not negotiate with them, so he sent his troops among them saying that if they would not disburse, he would cut off their heads. And they reacted by pulling back their robes, baring their necks, and bending over, basically saying, “Go ahead and do it!” So, Pilate had to back down.
He knows politically that Sejanus, who was the acting Emperor in Rome—Tiberius had basically retired to Capri—was his patron, but Sejanus had visions of taking over the Empire himself. He had been arrested, removed from office, so Pilate no longer has a protector. He knows that if he does anything that creates more civil unrest, then he may lose his job. So, he’s caught in this particular vise between the political realities of Rome and the religious realities of the Sanhedrin.
Jesus appears to Pilate in the first trial we studied last week; and he comes to the conclusion that he can find no fault in Jesus. That is his first statement at the end of John 18:28–38.
Now as soon as you saw that last week, it looked extremely busy, and you can’t really make it out, so let me explain it to you. This is roughly the outline of the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. This is the Temple Mount on the east side. Over here you have from north to south, top to bottom, you have the Kidron Valley, and on the far right is where the ridge of the Mount of Olives is located. This is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested.
He’s been taken to Pilate’s headquarters, the Praetorium. For many, many years, if you come out of a Roman Catholic background, you hear about the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Tears.
You will take this from inside Stephen’s Gate or the Lion Gate right over here by Bethesda, and come in this way. They believe that because this is where the Antonia Fortress was located, that this is where the Praetorium was located, and they’re wrong. Via Dolorosa has nothing to do with what happened on Jesus’ walk.
Actually, what you see on this map, you have this complex; this is over near what is today the Jaffa Gate. This is where the Praetorium was located where Pilate’s temporary headquarters were when he was up from his own headquarters, which was in Caesarea by the Sea. It is also where Herod’s Palace was located—Herod Antipas, who is the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea in the north, not of Judea.
You see all of these areas are located very close. This map locates Herod Antipas’ palace here—that’s debated; depending on the map you look at, it moves around a lot.
Same thing with the traditional location down here of the Upper Room: that also moves around a lot. We don’t have any idea where either of those actually were at the time. But this was the Praetorium, so traditionally it was located over here, but now it’s located there.
Here’s another sort of a three-dimensional map. You see the same thing. North is up towards the upper left corner. Here’s the Temple Mount, across the way would be the Mount of Olives. Jesus was brought into the western side of the city.
This gate going in here was where Herod’s Fortress was located and the Praetorium. You can’t really read what that says there, but that identifies this is the Praetorium. The location of the cross is right here, so you see it wasn’t that far. We will come back to talk about that when we get to that area. That gives you a visual understanding of the area we’re talking about.
Jesus had appeared to Pilate. He then sends Him to Herod Antipas, which is probably just a building next door. Then Herod examines Him; that’s described in Luke 23, and he can’t find any real fault with Him either. But his soldiers are going to mock Jesus, and they put a robe on Him.
The description of the robe doesn’t give us a lot of detail. It’s just a robe that has significance—probably the best way to understand it is as an idiom—and they probably took some robe that has some value, and they’re mocking Jesus.
He claims to be the King of the Jews, so this robe is to indicate that He has this claim to royalty, but they’re doing all of this just to mock Him and to ridicule Him. Then because Herod can’t find any fault with Him. Herod sends Him back to Pilate—that’s the fifth trial of the six.
Luke 23:13, “Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people …”
There’s quite a crowd that is showing up. You’ve got the chief priests and the rulers. These are the religious elite: the chief priests, the elders, the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin; these are gathered together. Then Luke includes “the people”.
You’ve got a huge crowd there, but this isn’t the crowd that was singing “Hosanna” to Jesus as He entered into Jerusalem. There are a lot of people who confuse that. It’s not a fickle crowd that’s following Jesus. This is a crowd that has been manufactured by the organized criminal elements of Annas, the former high priest, and the Sanhedrin.
They’ve probably paid for them, just like today we have various political demonstrations against the current administration that pop up. Every time they breathe somebody reacts, and they have a demonstration. You wonder, “Where in the world did they get all the signs that were made up?” Well, they’ve already been made up.
These planned demonstrations have been planned for several weeks. They’re paid for by money, mostly from George Soros who’s a billionaire radical leftist, who seeks to destroy Western civilization. He funds many radical organizations, and so they pay for these people to come out and to demonstrate against some government policy, just to create more disruption and more chaos.
That’s probably what was going on with this crowd. This crowd is going to be totally manipulated by the chief priests and the leaders. They probably promised them something, they paid them something, so it is a crowd there to do what the religious leaders want them to do.
In Luke 23:14, Pilate speaks and he says, “You brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man. concerning those things of which you accuse Him.”
He repeats the fact of his conclusion at the end of his first examination, that there is no fault with Jesus and “of anything that you accuse Him.”
He goes on to say, Luke 23:15, “no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed, nothing deserving of death has been done by Him.”
Again, he is reiterating as he does many times through this. I tried to count them; some people have tried to count them. But the way you compare and pull the synoptic accounts together, it’s a little difficult to do that because of the summary way in which the writers are speaking. We just see that a number of times Pilate asserts His innocence and that He’s not worthy of death; He’s done nothing deserving of death.
He thinks he will placate the crowd, and he says in Luke 23:16, “I will therefore chastise Him …” which is the Greek word PAIDEUO, which simply means to discipline someone. It’s the same word that is used for disciplining a child, and so he’s going to discipline Him in some way.
It could include physical beatings or torture, but not necessarily, and he says, “… and release Him …” That’s the idea of letting Him go, freeing Him, he finds no reason to keep Him whatsoever.
We will see again and again that Pilate seeks to release Jesus. In Matthew 27:22 he asked them again, “What then shall I do with Jesus?” He doesn’t want to execute Him. Then finally, as they say they want to have Him crucified, he will wash his hands, claiming that he is innocent of the blood.
Again, he says he is innocent of shedding the blood of Christ; this is a false claim. He is using a ritual—it is not a Roman ritual—it’s a Jewish ritual. The idea of washing your hands, washing your feet, where do we see that? In the Old Testament, going into the tabernacle or the temple, the high priest is going to wash his hands, wash his feet. It’s a picture of cleansing, that he is free from any guilt in this particular manner.
Another time in John 19:4 he will attempt to avoid executing Jesus, and he goes out to the crowd and says he has found no fault in Him. Another time in John 19:6 he again goes out and claims that he has found no fault in Him.
Again and again and again, he claims Jesus has done nothing worthy of death; he finds no fault in Him; the man is innocent. But he is under such political pressure from the situation and from the Sanhedrin that he will eventually just fold.
The way he tries to avoid this initially here is to give them a choice. He’s going to fall back on this custom of releasing a criminal.
This is described in Matthew 27:15–16, and he’s going to offer them this, as it’s translated in the New King James, “notorious prisoner.” It really means somebody who’s well known. And his name—it really isn’t his name, it’s more of a title—it’s Bar-Abbas. This is the choice.
The word Bar-Abbas: Bar is the Aramaic for “son;” Abbas is the Aramaic and Hebrew word for “father.” If you watch some shows that have Israeli characters, they will refer to their father as Abba and their mother as Ima, that is mother and father in Hebrew. You have this same name show up in the name of the Palestinian leader today, Mahmoud Abbas. It’s that same word, it means “father.”
What this shows is that Bar-Abbas is really a counterfeit; he is a false Messiah. He is not called that per se in the text, but that’s what this language indicates. His name means “son of the father,” which I put in lowercase here, and he is giving the option between this pseudo-son of the father and Jesus, who is the real Son of the Father and the Son of God.
Matthew 27:15–16, “Now at the Passover the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time there was a notorious prisoner called Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels …”
That tells us what his criminal activity was. He is a rebel against Rome. He is one of many Jews who were fighting against the rule and the authority of Rome, and he “… had also committed murder in the rebellion.”
Mark 15:7 puts it this way: “And there was one called Barabbas, lying bound with them that made insurrection …”—that’s the word for rebellion— “… men who in the insurrection had committed murder.”
Here’s the choice: are they going to look for someone who is really acting along the lines of their political view of the Messiah? That’s what was going on.
If you remember back when Jesus started His ministry, after the miracle at the wedding at Cana, He went to Jerusalem. It was the time of Passover. That’s the first time He cleansed the temple and threw the money changers out, and He performed many signs, John tells us.
When he is there, there are many people who believed as a result of those signs. Then the text says in John 2:24 “but Jesus did not commit Himself to them.”
That’s because even though they were saved, because they had believed in Him, they had not learned enough to have their thinking changed: from thinking about the Messiah as a political figure who would free them from the tyranny of Rome, instead of a Messiah who would pay the penalty for their sin, and free them spiritually.
Jesus was never going to trust Himself to those who still had that political agenda. Well, that’s what most of the people wanted, and this happens throughout time. People want the wrong thing in their leaders most of the time. They want somebody who’s going to give them everything or somebody who’s going to make life easier for them and make all sorts of promises, rather than somebody who’s going to enforce personal accountability and responsibility on people.
Barabbas is one of those rebels that existed in Israel at the time, and he wants to overthrow the power of Rome, and that’s what they want. That’s their preconceived notion of a “messiah”. It’s not somebody who’s teaching spiritual truth, offering them the kingdom of God and teaching them that they need to repent and obey God spiritually.
So the question that they had to face is, are you going to accept the true Messiah or a substitute messiah? We see the same thing today. There are different kinds of substitute messiahs.
In the end times during the tribulation there will be a false prophet who is a false Christ. You also have the Antichrist: the word means a substitute messiah. You have a political leader, and you have a religious leader, both of whom act like false Christs.
There is the warning in the Olivet Discourse. Jesus said, “there will be many who will come in My name.” There will be many false messiahs that will appear during the Tribulation period. The issue for people is always distinguishing the true Messiah from these false messiahs.
We have another form of a false messiah that has been gaining traction over the last 15 or 20 years, especially in Europe and to some degree here, and that is the Muslim Jesus, Isa. The Muslim Jesus is not the biblical Jesus any more than the Muslim god Allah is to be related to the biblical God El, even though there is a cognate similarity between Allah and the word El.
The word El for God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who loves the Jews and promises a free gift of forgiveness for salvation in the Old Testament. That is not the Allah of the Quran. The Allah of the Quran hates Jews and Christians. He mandates that Muslims kill all Jews and Christians.
There is no forgiveness of sin in Islam. The only peace in Islam is a military submission to the law of the imams and the radical leaders of Islam. It is a false religion. They offer a false Jesus.
This is becoming manifested today. In Europe, for example, many of the mainstream, extremely liberal denominations are putting out these various feelers to come together in an ecumenical way with Islam because we all worship the same Jesus, we just have a different slant on it.
This is called “Chrislam.” The “Chris” from Christ and the “lam” from Islam, and it shows up in various liberal Protestant denominations. If you want to learn more about this, we’re going to have a special speaker at the Chafer Pastor’s Conference—March 12–14, 2018.
Shahram Hadian is an ethnic Iranian. He came here with his parents just before the Shah fell back in the late 70s. When he was in his late teens, early 20s, he became a Christian. He’s now a pastor, and he is very well known in terms of what he teaches: what’s really going on in Islam, what they believe, and what the agenda is.
There’s an article in the Gatestone Institute today by Soeren Kern talking about this very topic of this conflict in Europe. They want to have a Christmas that promotes the Muslim Jesus. This total compromise that is taking place at a cultural level because there’s a rejection of Jesus.
The issue in human history is which Jesus are you going to accept?
There are other false Jesuses. There’s the false Jesus who’s the pacifist. There’s the false Jesus who’s the Marxist. There’s the false Jesus who wants you to work your way to heaven. There are all kinds of false Jesuses.
This is what was happening here: their choice was are you going to believe in the Son of God, the Son of the real Eternal Father, or are you going to believe in this human insurrectionist?
Matthew 27:17 we see this offer that comes from a Pilate. He says. “Therefore, when they had gathered together …”—that’s the multitude and the religious leaders— “… Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ ”
In some of the Synoptics, He is referred to as in Mark 15:9, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
Of course, he doesn’t recognize Jesus as the King; that’s just the claim. That’s the accusation they’re bringing because they want the Romans to execute Him, and the Romans aren’t going to execute Him for blasphemy: claiming to be the Son of God and to be totally divine.
What the Romans will crucify Him for is if He’s a threat to Rome, so this is the charge that they have manufactured to bring before Pilate. But Pilate understands what’s really going on here—that this is not about what Jesus has done or not done. It’s not about any political claims that He might have.
It is about the fact that He is a threat to the power base of the religious leaders and the Sanhedrin and the criminal enterprises of Annas. They’re jealous of His power, and they want Jesus taken out of the way.
In both Mark 15:10 and Matthew 27:18 we’re told that Pilate understood that the reason they wanted Him crucified was because of envy, because of jealousy. So even though he understands what’s really going on, his hands are tied because of the political and religious realities.
Then there is sort of an interlude that takes place. As he’s trying to decide what to do, his wife comes in. Now Pilate’s wife and the wife of a procurator would not come in and interrupt things, but she comes in and she is distressed, and she approaches him and she says, “Don’t have anything to do with that just man.”
I don’t think that means that she’s a believer, but she has had a dream—possibly God has providentially allowed this—and it has caused her great distress. She is warning her husband, “don’t have anything to do with this. This is just trouble if you give into this.”
But again, there’s not much he can do. He tries, yet he’s up against the religious leaders who were manipulating the masses.
Matthew 27:20, “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.”
So, there’s a dynamic going on with this huge crowd: the religious leaders are in the middle of them, going around drumming up support for the crucifixion of Jesus. They’re building this argument, maybe even bribing people, promising them things, giving them financial gifts. It doesn’t state that, but this is how that sort of thing works to get the masses riled up against Jesus.
Then Pilate comes out again in Matthew 27:21 and says, “ ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ They said, ‘Not this man.’ ”
They have rejected Jesus. They’ve rejected His claims to be the Son of God who would bring them salvation and bring in the kingdom. They chose the wrong choice: they chose Barabbas.
Matthew 27:22, the issue is, as Pilate frames it, what shall he do with Jesus? After they choose Barabbas he says, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?”
This is the question for every human being: what will you do with Jesus? Will you accept Him for who He claimed to be, the Eternal Son of God who entered into human history for the purpose of going to the cross to die for our sins?
Or are you going to try to create a false Christ? Say that this Jesus was a good man. This Jesus is a political revolutionary. This Jesus is some form of proto-Marxist who wants to give everybody the same level of living. This Jesus is a pacifist.
All of these are different options, or this Jesus who is really an early Muslim. Of course, Islam didn’t come along for another 600 years, but that doesn’t matter. They want to claim that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were Muslims and Moses was a Muslim.
They are basically thieves. They just want to steal everything out of Judaism and Christianity, and make it their own. But that’s what Satan does. I think Satan is the real architect of Islam.
Matthew 27:22–23, he asked this question, and what did they say? “Let Him be crucified! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
Whenever I read that I think of a football game when the opposing team looks like they’re going to score, and everybody starts chanting, “Defense! Defense! Defense!” This is the same thing; they’re just chanting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
It’s at this point that Pilate says, “ ‘Why, what evil has He done?’—there’s no fault in Him— “But they cried out all the more, saying, ‘Let him be crucified!’ ”
We’re going to stop there because at this point, Pilate will authorize the scourging of Jesus. From this point on, everything marches inexorably to the Cross. The scourging, the beating, the intensified mocking, I want to cover all of this up through the crucifixion in one session. So, we’ll do that next week on the morning of New Year’s Eve.
“Father, we thank You for Your Word. On every page it challenges us to make this same decision: are we going to trust You or something else? Which God in the Old Testament? Which Jesus in the New Testament?
“Father, it is our prayer that if there is anyone listening to this message today or on the Internet that they would come to understand this truth, that You will make what has been proclaimed here today very clear in their thinking that Jesus is the unique Son of God.
“He is the One who entered into human history for a very specific purpose: to die on the cross for our sin and to lay that foundation for redemption and to pay the price so that we could be forgiven of sin as a free gift. There’s not anything that we can do to earn it. We cannot go through any ritual, we cannot give ourselves to any religious activity because it is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to Your mercy You saved us.
“Father, we pray that anyone listening would recognize that the only issue here is, what will you do about Jesus? Will you believe in Him as Your Savior or will you turn away and seek your meaning and purpose in life from something else?
“Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us with what we have studied today because if we are believers, the issue still is what are we going to do with Jesus? What are we going to do with Him in terms of His command to us, which is to follow Him, to make Him the priority, to live our lives totally and exclusively in light of our eternal destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ.
“From these lessons, we pray that You will challenge us and God the Holy Spirit will edify us and strengthen us spiritually.
“We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”