LIFE OF THE MESSIAH – 019
DR. ARNOLD G. FRUCHTENBAUM
IX. The Rejection of the King: The Trial and the Death of the Messiah
B. The Religious Trial - Paragraphs 154-158
Turn in your Harmony to paragraph 156 and on your outline to page 18. Now we entered the last session, the ninth main division of His life, the rejection of the King which involves both the trial followed by the death and we began and were in the midst of dealing with the religious trial which has three stages and we completed the second stage of the trial. Now while the second stage is going on in one part of the compound, elsewhere in the compound we have the event of paragraph 156, the denial by Peter.
3. The Denial by Peter - Paragraph 156
Mark 14:54, 66-72; Matthew 26:58, 69-75; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27
Now again when he was first arrested the apostles were scattered but now two of them begin to follow where Jesus was taken, but a bit from a distance. Now John’s family and the family of the high priest had somehow a relationship, so John 18:15 says, “Now that disciple was known unto the high priest,” and because of his familiarity and the servants of the high priest knew John, they let him into the compound.
And in John 15:16 “Peter was standing” outside and John uses his influence to get Peter within the compound, inadvertently setting the stage for Peter’s three-fold denial as was prophesied by Jesus during the last Passover supper. Now as he enters in the maid and some other accused Peter of being one of the disciples. At this point he has his first denial in Matthew 7 that he denies; it’s a simple denial, nothing more than a mere denial of knowing Jesus or being a disciple of Jesus.
At the end of Mark’s account, Mark 14:68, that’s when the cock crew the first time. There’s two ways to take this, there’s (?) about a rooster crowing once and then a second time later. There’s also the word the cock crow was used as a watch in the night. There’s the first, second, third and fourth cock crowing. And most likely this is referring to the… not the real rooster crowing, rather the cock crowing of the night watch and if so it is now midnight.
A bit later that evening, actually nighttime moving into the morning, a second person identifies Peter and Luke points out in Luke 22:59 that was about an hour later. Once again he is identified as being among the disciples of Jesus. He denies Him a second time, notice that in Matthew 26:72, and again he denies with an oath; this time it was not a simple denial but a denial with an oath. And when he denies Jesus a third time he gets even stronger; in Mark 14:71 for example, “he began to curse, and to swear.” Now the way the text reads in Greek the swearing requires an object; what it actually means is he began to curse and to curse Jesus Himself. He went from a simple denial, and now with an oath in which he probably used the name of God, and now he actually uses a curse. And in Mark 14:72 that’s when the cock crew the second time; that makes it 3:00 o’clock in the morning.
So in a three hour period he denied Jesus three different times. And the third denial that’s when, apparently the second stage of the trial came to an end, and Luke 22:61, at that point Jesus turned and the eyes of Peter and Jesus actually met. That’s when Peter suddenly remembered the prophecy of Jesus, that before the second cock crowing he will deny Him three times. And in Luke 22:62 that’s when he went out of the compound weeping bitterly.
4. The Mockery and Beating
Paragraph 155b – Mark 14:65; Matthew 26:67-68; Luke 26:63-65
Now go back to paragraph 155 because here again A. T. Robertson broke Luke’s order, and Luke’s section of paragraph 155, Luke 26:63-65 belong at this stage. What you have here is the third physical mistreatment He suffers on this night and you also have the first of eight mockeries. He will suffer four mockeries before the cross and He will suffer four mockeries on the cross; here’s the first of the four mockeries before the cross.
5. The Condemnation by the Sanhedrin
Paragraph 157 – Mark 15:1; Matthew 27:1; Luke 22:66-71
Paragraph 157, this is the third stage of the trial and the condemnation before the Sanhedrin. By this time some may have come to their senses and realized all of the proceedings, segments of the trial, have been totally illegal. The only purpose of this third stage is to try to give a measure of legality to what has become totally illegal and they wait for a measure of daylight and all three Gospel accounts make that point. So Mark 15:1, “straightway in the morning;” Matthew 27:1, “when morning was come;” and in Luke 22:66, “as soon as it was day.”
They wait for a measure of daylight and quickly reconvene. And they ask Jesus two questions; the first question is in Luke 22:67, “If You are the Christ,” “if you are the Messiah, tell us.” His answer in verses 67-69 is it’s useless to tell them, they’ve already determined not to believe. But again, someday they’ll know the truth of His claims when they see Him seated at the right hand of God the Father.
The second question is in verse 70, “Are You then the Son of God?” His answer is, “Ye say that I am.” The way the English reads it may appear to be that’s what you’re saying, that’s not what I’m saying. But in Greek that’s a very emphatic way of saying yes indeed, that’s exactly who I am. In American English we have a similar way of doing this; somebody makes a statement and we respond “you said it.” “YOU SAID IT!” When we say it that way, with that tone of voice, we’re not saying that’s only your opinion, we’re affirming the truth of what the person just said. That’s the way the emphasis is here, when He said “Ye say that I am,” it’s an emphatic way of saying “yes indeed, that’s exactly who I am.”
And so with the ending of the trial, the first stage, they officially condemn Him to death in Matthew 27:1.
6. The Death of Judas
Paragraph 158 – Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:18, 19
So we come to paragraph 158, the death of Judas. Now while the Sanhedrin could condemn somebody to death, what they could not do at this point in their history is actually carry the death sentence out because the Roman Senate has taken away from the Jewish Sanhedrin the right of capital punishment. So if Jesus was to die He will have to die based upon Roman law, not based upon Jewish law, and that creates another problem, because while blasphemy was punishable by death under Jewish law, it was not punishable by death under Roman law. And therefore they’ll have to change the issue in the civil trial.
As I mentioned, Judas was not needed for the religious trial but he’ll be there for the civil trial to fulfill his third function, to serve as the prosecuting witness. What happens between the Jewish and Roman trial is Judas dies. In Matthew’s account, Matthew 27:3, “Then Judas, which betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself.” Because of the word “repent” here the question has arisen, was Judas saved; after all, it says he “repented.”
When I was a new believer I was in the foyer of a Baptist Church in south Jersey and it had a large foyer, there was a large wall with a tract rack; it had all kinds of tracks. One of the tracts and booklets in the foyer was this very question: Was Judas Saved? I was only beginning my New Testament studies in those days so I thought that’d be a good question to deal with and I pulled it out to find out whether Judas was saved or not. I opened to page 1 and it says, “Was Judas saved? That’s not the question, the question is are you saved?” It went on to give me the gospel which I already believed and never answered the question. That’s called false advertising in Christian literature.
Now in Greek there are two different words, both of which come out as “repent” in English. And the first Greek word is the word metanoia, which means repentance, a change of mind; you change your mind about Jesus. In the Jewish context here you change your mind about Him being possessed, demon possessed, and you believe He’s the Messianic King. That’s the word that normally is carried in the salvation repentance. But that’s not the word that’s used here. The word that’s used here is metamellomai, which means to remorse, or be filled with regret: remorse or filled with regret. And he was full of regret and remorse but there’s no real salvation repentance. The answer is no, he was not saved and as prophesied he goes to perdition.
Now critics of the New Testament who deny inspiration point out two major discrepancies between Matthew’s account and Luke’s account and the Acts passage. They also point to a mistake about Matthew whom he quotes. So let’s deal with these. The first discrepancy they point to is exactly how did Judas die. At the end of Matthew 27:5 it says “he went away and hanged himself.” But Luke says in Acts 1:18, “falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all of his bowels gushed out.” In our English, he fell and his guts gushed out.
So how did he die? Did he die by hanging or did he die by falling with his guts gushing out? Now from the perspective of Jewish law of that day both statements are actually true. The principle in Jewish reckoning of time, keep in mind the day does not begin at midnight as in Gentile reckoning, it begins at midnight, so the Sabbath is not simply Saturday; technically the Sabbath is from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Now Saturday night is Saturday but it’s not the Sabbath any more.
Now because of that system the first night of something precedes the first day of something. The first night of Passover precedes the first day of Passover. And the first night of Passover is when the Jewish families will eat their Passover meal, and Jesus observed His last Passover on the first night of Passover with the apostles.” And the first day of Passover, which follows the first night, at 9:00 in the morning there would be a special Passover sacrifice. And from that sacrifice only 25 men partake in the afternoon, the high priest and the 24 chief priests.
However, by Jewish law if there was a dead body within the walls of Jerusalem, the city was viewed as being unclean, and whenever the dead body was within the walls they could not proceed with the Passover sacrifice. So to deal with that issue, the law went on to read that in order to be able to cleanse the city for the sacrifice you take the dead body, you throw it over the wall of Jerusalem, the wall that faced the valley of Hinnom, and then once the body was thrown over the wall then you could proceed with the sacrifice and then the burial detail can go out and bury the body.
Now when Judas was filled with regret and remorse he tried to return the funds to the chief priest; he refused to take it, he simply dumped it in the temple compound and went away and hanged himself; he dies by hanging. In order to main the city ability to perform the sacrifice at 9:00 a.m. his body had been thrown over the wall and in the fall his guts gushed out so from the perspective of Jewish law of that day both statements are true.
The second discrepancy has to do with who purchased the field. Now Matthew points out it was the chief priests in Matthew 27:6-10 that purchased the field. But Luke says in Acts 1:18, “Now this man,” meaning Judas, “obtained a field with the reward of his iniquity,” so who bought the field, the chief priests or Judas? Here again from the perspective of Jewish law both statements are true.
Now by Jewish law money wrongfully gained could not be put into the temple treasury. Again, from the viewpoint of Jewish law money wrongfully gained could not be put into temple treasury. We see that law reflected in Matthew 27:6, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is the price of blood.” And by Jewish law those who knew the money was wrongfully gained had to return the money to the donor. However, suppose the donor dies before the money can be returned to him, then what do you do? You still could not put it in the temple treasury, but then you have to use the money to purchase something for the public good. And that’s what they do, they purchase something for public good, they purchase a field to bury strangers in. However, the purchase had to be still in the name of the donor though the donor was dead and therefore the actual legal documents themselves would have the name of Judas in it. So by technical Jewish law Judas purchased a field and the chief priests that do this are strictly his purchasing agents. So again from the perspective of Jewish law both statements are true.
Now the discrepancy, not between Acts and Matthew but the violation of the discrepancy of quotation; we read in Matthew 27:8, “Wherefore the field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.  Then it was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet,” then he goes on to quote not Jeremiah but Zechariah. Now the last part of the quotation does come from Jeremiah; the first part comes from Zechariah, the second part comes from Jeremiah. So one way to respond to this is to point out while he doesn’t mention both prophets but he does quote a portion from Jeremiah; he just doesn’t mention Zechariah.
A second answer to the way to respond to this is that sometimes when you’re dealing with different scrolls by just mentioning the first book of that scroll it covers the whole scroll, so by mentioning Jeremiah it covers the whole scroll of the prophets so that would include Zechariah. The problem with that response is that if that is true only if the first book of the scroll is mentioned and the first book of that scroll would have been Isaiah, not Jeremiah. So if he said Isaiah that would be a good way to respond to it, but he doesn’t say Isaiah, he says Jeremiah.
Now let me give you a third response which is my preferred response to this. Now notice only Mathew mentions this; also remember Matthew is the one that continues to trace the consequences of the unpardonable sin of paragraph 61. And notice what the field was purchased, the field of Aceldama it was named that once the field was purchased. Now take your bibles and turn to the book of Jeremiah chapter 18, make that chapter 19 although it’s first mentioned in chapter 15. Now there was a section just outside of Jerusalem known as Topheth; let me illustrate this for you.
Here’s a picture of the walls of Jerusalem as they were in the time of Jesus, you have the walls, the temple compound, Golgotha was just outside the wall on the left hand side, on the west side. And surrounding all sides of the city except for the north side was valleys. On the west side of the valley (?), on the south side the valley of Hinnom, and in Hebrew, by the way, that’s Ge Hinnom, in Greek it becomes Gehenna, Gehenna became the technical name for the lake of fire for reasons I’ll explain in a few moments. On the east side of the valley was a second valley called the Kidron Valley that separates the old city from the Mount of Olives. And right where the two valleys meet in the Old Testament it’s called Topheth, and Topheth is where they practice human sacrifice. And because of the practice of human sacrifice that’s where Jeremiah pronounces a specific curse.
And the curse in Jeremiah chapters 15, 18, 19 is that the day will come that they will bury and bury and bury in Topheth until there’s no longer any room to bury, especially Jeremiah 19:10-13. And so Topheth became a place of the burning of humans, and that’s how Ge Hinnom became Gehenna, the eternal place of the burning of humans in the lake of fire. Here it talks about the physical burning of humans as they were offered up as sacrifices to certain idols and gods. But when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in the year 586 BC it did not fulfill this prophecy; this prophecy was fulfilled only in the events of AD 70, where there were so many killed and so many corpses, so full of corpses as one historian of ancient times wrote, there simply was no longer any room for burying.
And the point that Matthew is trying to make is that when they purchased this field in Topheth they purchased a curse of Jeremiah. And so in the year 70, when the judgment came for the unpardonable sin they buried and buried and buried in Topheth, there was no more room for burying. It was given a new name, an Aramaic name, Aceldama meaning the field of blood. And so the use of Jeremiah’s name is to emphasize Matthew against the one who traces the consequence of the unpardonable sin, the continual burying and burning Topheth, until there is no more room for burying and they purchased a curse which was finally fulfilled in AD 70.
By at the end of this event, between the two trials, notice they no longer have the prosecuting witness any more, and that’s the reason why there was confusion in the first stages of the religious trial but now there will be also confusion in the first stages of the civil trial; they don’t have their prosecuting witness any further.
C. The Civil Trial – Paragraphs 159-162
In paragraph 159-162 we have the civil trial, this undergoes three separate stages. As I mentioned the civil trial has to change the issue because the issue will now be blasphemy, but it does not carry the death penalty; the issue here will be sedition or treason against Rome. Now in the Jewish trial I gave you 22 laws that were violated in the Jewish trial. Let me give you two Roman laws that will play a role in this trial, two specific Roman laws. Number one, all proceedings have to be public, and this one is very public, much to Pilate’s regret. The second law that is involved here is that the trial has to begin with a prosecuting witness. The trial began with a prosecuting witness presenting a charge punishable under Roman law. It’s because of the second rule they have to have Judas present and giving the charge but they have no prosecuting witness any more.
1. The First Trial before Pilate
Paragraph 159 – Mark 15:1-5; Matthew 27:2, 11-14; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38
Now in paragraph 159 we have the first stage, the first trial before Pilate. Pilate was a Roman citizen born in Spain; he served as procurator from the year 26-36 AD; he was the longest ruling procurator in Judah’s history. This trial takes place at the mid point of his procuratorship, in the year A.D. 30. In contemporary Jewish writing he’s viewed as being noted for his cruelty, but normally a correct Roman following strict Roman procedure. And although it is the wee hours of the morning he is dressed and ready to conduct the trial; he was anticipating a trial because earlier he had released the Roman cohort for Judas to make the arrest.
Now John 18:28 says, “They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the palace,” or praetorian, “and it was early. And they themselves entered not into the palace, that they might not defile themselves, but might eat the Passover.” And because the way it implies here the Passover had not yet been eaten, some have suggested that Jesus ate His Passover meal a day early. But keep in mind as far as the Mosaic Law He kept that law perfectly down to every jot and tittle. The Mosaic Law specified which night of the month the Passover must be eaten and He would not have violated that principle.
Now in the context of John 18 the pronoun “they” goes back to the chief priests; he’s not dealing with the Passover meal of the first night of Passover, but for the Passover sacrifice of the first day of Passover, on which the high priest and 24 chief priests partake, but if anyone became unclean they could not partake of the Passover feast and that’s why they only go so far and no further, so they may still partake of the Passover.
And in keeping with the second Roman law at the end of John 18:29, Pilate begins with the question, “What accusation bring ye against this man?” And Judas was supposed to step forward but he’s gone now. So in verse 30 they respond, “If this man were not an evil-doer we should not have delivered Him unto you.” And the point they make is that they don’t have a prosecuting witness any more, they simply tried to pressure Pilate to merely pass a death sentence with no trial, no verdict, and no sentencing.
At this point, Pilate, the correct Roman, will have none of it. So he says in John 28:31, “Take him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” If there is no accusation there will be no trial; if there is no trial there will be no condemnation; if there is no condemnation there’ll be no sentencing either. And they respond, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,” meaning no longer lawful under Roman law.
And notice John’s editorial comment in John 28:32, “that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spoke signifying by what manner of death He should die.” And Jesus said more than once, as we noted, that when he dies He will die by crucifixion. Now crucifixion was not the Jewish mode of execution; that was the Roman mode. The Jewish mode of execution was stoning to death. If Jesus died under Jewish law he would have been stoned to death, but if He was stoned to death he would be rendered a false prophet because He prophesied He’d die by crucifixion, not by stoning.
And the timing, by the way, specifies exactly what year the Roman Senate took away from the Jewish Sanhedrin the right of capital punishment, and (?) says it happened forty years before the temple was destroyed. The temple was destroyed in the year 70, subtract forty years, you have the year 30, the very year of this trial. In other words, if this trial had taken place only six months earlier He would have been stoned to death and rendered a false prophet. But in the providence of God, the proper time, God moved the Roman Senate to take away the right of capital punishment from the Sanhedrin and so now if Jesus dies He’ll have to die under Roman law, not under Jewish law.
Now when the leaders realize that Pilate will not proceed until he has a specific accusation they finally produce one in Luke’s account, Luke 23:2, they accuse Him of sedition, of treason on three counts: first of all, “perverting our nation,” fomenting revolt; secondly, “forbidding to give tribute to Caesar,” an act of rebellion. But third, claiming Himself to be a king and if He claims to be a king He claims to be a competitor to Caesar. Now the (?) has specific charge so they can continue with the Roman trial and what follows the accusations, the questioning of the accused.
So in John’s account, the end of John 28:33, he asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Now Pilate is not asking Jesus are you the Messiah? From a Roman perspective that’s not where he’s coming from. The point of his question is are you really claiming to be a competitor to Caesar. And typical of a Jewish response, He responds with a question of His own, in John 18:34, “do you say this of yourself, or did others tell you concerning Me?” On what basis are you asking Me this question, from the perspective of a Roman or the perspective of a Jew?
And Pilate answers in John 18:35, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You unto me: what have You done?” And Pilate says I’m not a Jew, that’s not where I’m coming from; you’ve been turned over to me by the Jewish chief priests with a specific accusation. So are you claiming to be a competitor to Caesar? And once that question is clear, the issue is clear, He can answer in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered unto the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence,” or not from now.
Simply put, no, I’m not a competitor of Caesar and that for two reasons: first of all, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
And this has become a very favorite proof text for those who are amillennial, those who don’t believe in a future Messianic Kingdom. They claim that when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” shows His Kingdom will not be in this world. But there’s a difference between saying “of the world” and “in the world.”
It’s not a play on semantics with them because in the very same Gospel, in the two proceeding chapters, 16 and 17, He Himself made that distinction. Concerning Himself and believers He says we are “in the world,” we are not “of the world.” Now to be “of the world” is to be of this world’s nature, and the believers are no longer of this world’s nature; as long as He’s living He’s in the world but no longer of it. The same thing applies here: His Kingdom is not of this world’s nature, He’s not really coming back to the policies and to the policies of Caesar’s throne, He’s coming with His own throne, the throne of David, with His own Kingdom, the Messianic Kingdom. So His Kingdom will someday be “in the world” but never “of this world,” never of this world’s nature.
The second reason He’s not compared to the Caesar is because His Kingdom is not for now; as a result of the rejection of the King, as a result of the unpardonable sin, as we saw in paragraph 61-64, His Kingdom will not be set up at this stage of Jewish history.
In John 18:37 Pilate asks a subsequent question, “Are You a king then?” meaning are you a king in any sense of the term. And Jesus answers in one sense I am, I am a King of the truth and those who are of the truth hear My voice. But this stage now comes to an end with a sarcastic question in John 18:38, “What is truth?” And what is so sad for Pilate is this: at this moment he is looking at The Truth and failed to recognize Him where He stood. The result in Luke 23:4 is that he comes out and issues the first of several declarations of innocency, in so far as Pilate is concerned He’s no threat to Rome.
But following this first declaration of innocency in Mark 15:3 they begin to accuse Him of many other things. And Jesus responds in Matthew 27:12 by saying nothing. And in Mark 15:4, when Pilate asked Jesus to respond even then in verse 5 Jesus refuses to respond. Now as these accusations are being brought out in Luke’s account, Luke 23:5 someone happens to mention that Jesus originated from the Galilee, and the mention of His Galilean origins gives them a way out of this perspective, this situation, because while both Samaria and Judea were under his jurisdiction, Galilee was not under Pilate’s jurisdiction; that was under the authority of Herod Antipas, also who had come to Jerusalem to help maintain order during the festivals. So he chooses to send Jesus over to Herod Antipas.
2. The Trial Before Herod
Paragraph 160 – Luke 23:6-12
Paragraph 160, the second stage of the civil trial is the trial before Herod Antipas, and Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great, the one that tried to kill Jesus when He was two years old in Bethlehem. Now this Herod is that Herod’s son. Now this Antipas here is the one about a year or so earlier had beheaded John the Baptist. Only after hearing about the beheading of John did he begin hearing about the miracles of Jesus, and he even sent for Him once, and Jesus simply said go and tell that fox no. But now he has his opportunity and he wants to have Jesus perform those miracles for him; he wants to be entertained by these miracles. But Jesus responds with not answering any questions and giving no signs. And so Antipas simply reduces Him to the second mockery He suffers on this night. But he issues a second declaration of innocency; as far as Antipas is concerned, He’s not threat to Rome.
Now Luke 23:12 says, “And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day: for before they were at enmity between themselves.” The enmity between them was created because of the event that occurred when Pilate became procurator. He had brought Jesus to Jerusalem and the outer walls of the temple compound, he lifted the Roman shields, (?) Roman shields, and the problem for Jews is that these shields had images of the gods and goddesses that the Romans worshiped and that went against Jewish sensitivities concerning idolatry. A riot broke out and Pilate released his soldiers and many got killed on the streets of Jerusalem on that occasion. He still refused to take the shields down. Antipas knew that as long as the shields were up there they would be a constant boiling point for rebellion. So he asked power to take the shields down, power was still refused. And so Antipas wrote a letter to the Roman Senate and the Roman Senate ordered Pilate to take down the shields; now he had no choice. As a result the two became at enmity between themselves because they felt each other were not recognizing each other’s authority. But now the problem is sent to the Galilean, to the one in charge of Galilee, there’s recognition of mutual authority, they become friends at Jesus’ expense.
Nine years later, in the year AD 39, his wife Herodias who had initiated, instigated the beheading of John, now talked him into traveling to Rome to request the title of king, the same title that the Senate had given to Herod the Great. She desperately wanted to be called queen. But the Roman senator, the Roman Caesar, in that day was a man named Gaius Caligula; you made no such request of Caligula, he was an insane madman, he spent the treasury rather freely, mostly on pleasures, and when he ran out of money he would simply accuse a wealthy landowner or senator of some crime against the state, have the whole family executed and then replenish the funds again. He was so insane he made his own horse a member of the Roman Senate, and that horse always voted his way. Things finally got so bad that the Praetorian Guard which was there to protect him ended up being the ones to assassinate him.
And so when they came asking for the title of king he simply deposed them into Leone, what is now France, and the two died in abject poverty, and paid for their role in the beheading of John and the cursing and the mocking of Jesus.
3. The Second Trial Before Pilate
Paragraph 161 – Mark 15:6-15; Matthew 27:15-26; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:10
Paragraph 161 we come to the third stage of the civil trial. What now happens is that Pilate will make several attempts to have Jesus released and the first attempt is in Luke’s account, Luke 23:13-15 which falls back on the second declaration of innocency given by Antipas, and meanwhile Herod issues the third admission of innocency. But that won’t appease the mob outside.
So he falls back on a custom that developed between the Jews and the Romans that on the feast day as a good will gesture the Romans would release a political prisoner. We see the custom mentioned in John 18:39, and John 18:40 says, “Not this man, but Barabbas.
Now Barabbas was a robber.” The word “robber” in English implies someone who goes around stealing things but that would not be punishable by death anyway. He was a robber in the same sense that Josephus used the term in his works on the Jewish Antiquities and Jewish war of AD 70. It’s a term that is used of Jewish bands that were actually rebels who would be characterized by robbing to supply their rebellion. The fact that he was a rebel you can see from Mark 15:7, “And there was one called Barabbas, lying bound with them that made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed murder.” So Mark, as well as Luke in Luke 23:19 makes it quite clear that Barabbas was more than someone stealing things; he was a rebel robber, and he was facing his own death penalty in prison.
Now Barabbas is not a name; it’s a title. It’s a Hellenized title of two Aramaic words, Bar abba; bar means son of, abba was this person’s father’s name. And that was his father’s name but also in Aramaic it means the father; he was the son of abba, he was the son of the father. But the Gospels probably do not give us his actual name to avoid confusing the reader, but by other sources we know what his actual name was; it was the same name as Jesus, in Hebrew Yeshua. He was Yeshua Barabbas, Yeshua, the son of the father. He had the title but not the reality. And he was actually guilty of the very crime, the other issue he is accused of, and the other issue is the true son of the true Father. And John points out several ironies in this Gospel, this is one of those ironies.
Now it’s obvious that he anticipates them crying out for Jesus of Nazareth to be released; when the choice is getting ready to be made the procedure is temporarily interrupted in Matthew 17:19 when he gets a message from his wife warning him not to get involved with this because of a dream she had. In church tradition she became a believer; her name was Claudia.
And that interruption is long enough for the events of Matthew 27:20, “Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.” And that’s what happens and so his second attempt at Jesus released fails. The first attempt was with the declaration of innocency for the third time; and the second one is given them this choice and it’s also failed to have Jesus released.
Then comes the third attempt to have Jesus released in John’s account, John 19:1, “Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him.” He tries a compromise of scourging. The Gospels provide no details about the scourge because when the Gospels were written nobody knew what a scourge entailed. But 2000 years later we don’t always appreciate the amount of suffering He suffered before He got to the cross.
There are two kinds of scourging; there was the Jewish scourging and the Roman scourging. The Jewish scourging was called forty save one; and why forty save one? In the Mosaic Law no one could be lashed more than forty lashes. And so it’s part of … and the question came up, suppose the lasher is lashing and miscounts and gives the victim 41 lashes and breaks the law. So they’re building a fence around the tower (?) we talked about earlier in the series they decreed that the lasher, the lashings count should stop at thirty nine just to play it safe; hence forty save one. And the Jewish scourge had a wooden or leather handle with short leather strands; the only part of the body affected was the victim’s back, and while it was very painful it was never deadly, no one ever died of a Jewish scourge. And Paul said he suffered a Jewish scourge five times and survived all five scourgings.
But Jesus has now suffered the Jewish scourge; He suffers the Roman scourge which is far more severe” no limitations of how many lashes could be given. The Roman scourge had a handle of wood or leather but the straps were long enough to go around the whole body. The whole body was affected, the front, back, sides and face. At the individual end of each strand was a piece of sharp metal or glass or lamb bone, so after only a few lashes the skin was torn away, muscle exposed, and after some more pieces of muscles would go flying, and many never survived the Roman scourge.
And furthermore, because they went around His face the face would have been rather disfigured. One of the misconceptions we have that comes from crucifixion paintings, they show the face of Jesus in tact except for the crown of thorns. Actually the face was a very pulpy mass; in the records we have, sometimes even family members could not recognize the victim any more. And this fulfills the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53; 52:13 through 53:12, His visage was so marred or so disfigured He no longer resembled a man. But in the book of Hebrews, in chapter 12, we’re encouraged periodically to go over every detail of His suffering to see how much of His sufferings He entailed. And this is one example. He suffered a great deal of physical torture before He even got to the cross. And this is now His third physical mistreatment.
We also have here the third mockery, because as if that scourging was not enough they put upon Him a purple colored cloth that would resemble a robe, and they put on His head a crown made of thorns. In Israel these thorns come to razor point sharp, it you brush against one lightly it could still cause you to bleed. And it says they kept hitting Him. If the hitting also included the thorns of the crown, the thorns would go deeply into the brow causing even more pain. Here you have the third of the four mockeries He suffers.
And Pilate hopes that will be sufficient, and in John’s account, John 19:5, he brings Him out and issues the fourth declaration of innocency. Now the response of the crowd is still to cry out for the crucifixion, in John 19:5-6. He then makes a fourth attempt of Jesus release by simply refusing to pass Roman sentence, at the end of John 19:6.
Now keep in mind from the Roman perspective of that day, and by Roman law, he would have the final decision whether Jesus will die or not. If he does not pass Roman sentence Jesus could not die and so he refuses to pass Roman sentence at this stage. And that causes the multitudes or the mob in John 19:7 to finally drop the charge of sedition. And in verse 7 he points out, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” They dropped the charge of sedition and go back to the real issue that’s been troubling them, the issue of Him claiming to be the Messiah.
And now the crowd has a new accusation so they have a new interview. He tries to have one in John 19:8-11 but this time Jesus will not answer any more of his questions. By now He received sufficient light to respond correctly; He responds incorrectly with a sarcastic what is true is not known for the light will be given to him. And when Pilate presses him to answer because he’s got the authority to release Him or to crucify Him, Jesus reminds him all government authority is only delegated from above. He has delegated authority only, not final authority. And furthermore, the ones who turned Him over to him will be guilty of the greater sin. There are differences in sin.
He then makes the fifth attempt of His release in John 18:12, “Upon this Pilate sought to release Him:” but the fifth attempt is foiled when they cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; everyone who makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” Now notice Pilate’s response to that empty accusation, verse 13 “When Pilate therefore,” what for? “heard these words,” what words? “if you release Him you’re not Caesar’s friend, he then takes his place upon the judgment seat and from the judgment seat a verdict must be issued. If the verdict is guilty a sentence must be issued.
And the question is why would he be intimidated by this one crime? Why does he care what they say? And normally he would not care. But Pilate’s in a difficult situation because of events going on back in Rome because Pilate got his job as procurator at the influence of a friend named Sejanus, S-e-j-a-n-us; Sejanus was the captain of the Praetorian Guard and a friend of Pilate. And when he became captain of the Praetorian Guard, an influential position, he got the job for Pilate to become procurator of Judea and Samaria. But then Sejanus decided he would prefer to be Emperor, he organized a conspiracy against the then emperor Tiberius, and the conspiracy was uncovered before it could be carried out, and Sejanus and other co-conspirators had been executed. And now the Senate was investigating everybody connected with Sejanus to see if they were part of the conspiracy. And so Pilate himself would be under investigation; the last thing he needs is for word to get back to Rome that he released a man claiming to be a king and therefore a comparative of Caesar, and that’s why that cry is sufficient to put him on the judgment seat.
Now from the judgment seat he makes his sixth and last attempt of Jesus release by bringing Him out in John 18:14 and saying “Behold, your King. And in John 18:15 they respond, we have no king but Caesar.” And they disown Jesus as their King and own Caesar as king.
And Pilate will make no further attempts to get Jesus released. Instead, in Matthew 27:24 he calls for a pail and pitcher of water and washes his hands assuming that merely washing his hands exempts him from any guilt. It does not. The final decision whether Jesus lives or dies was only his to make. He knew what the right decision should have been but he made the wrong decision based upon what they were saying. And merely washing his hands would not absolve him of his guilt because it was up to him to make the final decision from a human perspective.
And the early church did not absolve him. So for example, when Peter preaches his message in Acts 3 he names several men guilty of the death of Jesus; among the ones he names is Pontius Pilate. The earliest church creed we have is called the Apostles Creed. One of the sentences in the Apostle’s Creed says He suffered under Pontius Pilate. And God did not exempt him either; in the year 36 he was finally deposed, banished to Gaul in the area of Vienna, Austria today; he was sent away by Caligula where he later committed suicide and paid for his role in the role of this trial.
Also Matthew 27:24, he makes his fifth declaration of innocency. Now of the five declarations of innocency this is the most significant because it was made from the judgment seat. And they respond in Matthew 27:25, “His blood be upon us,” now notice only Matthew mentions this because Matthew is the one that traces the consequences of the unpardonable sin. And notice the curse of the blood is limited to them and their children; it goes no further; there’s no mention of the third and fourth generation. And in the year AD 70 it finally fell upon them and their children.
In Luke’s account, Luke 23:24 he issues a death sentence against Jesus and in verse 25 he releases Barabbas. And there is a symbolic substitution; the innocent one will die in the place of the guilty one. And in Matthew 27:26 he turns Jesus over to be crucified.
4. The Mockery
Paragraph 162 – Mark 15:16-19; Matthew 27:27-30
Now paragraph 162 we have the mockery, this time the whole Roman cohort takes charge. He undergoes now the fourth mockery and the last mistreatment before He goes on the cross.
The Procession to Calvary
Paragraph 163 – Mark 15:20-23; Matthew 27:31-34; Luke 23:26-33; John 19:16-17
Now capital D we come to the procession to Calvary, paragraph 163. And the whole death scene begins here and continues until the sealing of the tomb and between the procession and the sealing of the tomb there will be 32 distinct stages. And the best way to deal with this material is to go and chronologically is to deal with this stage by stage making comments as we proceed; some will have less comment than others. And the first five stages happens under capital D, the procession to Calvary.
The first stage is in John’s account, John 19:16-17, where He carries His own cross out of the Praetorian. This was standard Roman procedure; the victim would carry his own cross to the crucifixion sight. Now normally a person was not scourged beforehand but as part of Pilate’s compromise he had Jesus scourged, so the body is very weakened by it so he can only carry the cross so far, He’ll at least carry the cross buy maybe not the whole cross.
So Mark 15:21, they force a man named Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross the rest of the way. Cyrene is located in North Africa and so Simon was a Jew from North Africa that came to observe the Passover at Jerusalem. Now again the city could not contain all the pilgrims so most pilgrims ate their Passover outside the walls in the tent cities erected. The next morning they were going to the city to observe the special Passover sacrifice and that’s what Simon was apparently doing when he found himself forced to carry the cross the rest of the way.
Now in Matthew 17:32 and Luke 23:26 also mention the face that Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross the rest of the way, only Mark makes the point he’s the father of Alexander and Rufus, which means that was significant to the audience that Mark was writing, not significant to the audience that Matthew and Luke were writing. This becomes significant if we keep in mind that Mark wrote his Gospel for the Romans. And when Paul writes a letter to the Romans, Romans 16:13 he does mention the names of the same family. What this shows is that this event led to the salvation of Simon, his wife mentioned in the Romans account, and the two sons named here.
Now what caused Simon to respond favorable we’re not told. We have records of other crucifixions and the way Jesus responds to His own crucifixion is radically different. Other victims would yell and scream, call out all kinds of curses to their tormentors and sometimes the screaming and yelling and the cursing got so bad the soldiers would cut out the tongue of the victim just to shut him up. But Jesus did not cry, He doesn’t curse, He even prays for those crucifying Him. As Simon observed the scene he came to the conclusion that Jesus had to be the Messiah and he became a believer. In Romans 1 the church at Rome was not planted by one of the apostles, it was planted by Jewish believers that had migrated to Rome, and that would have included apparently the family of Cyrene, so this small event had long time consequences all the way to Rome.
The third stage is Luke’s account, Luke 23:27-31, the lament over Jerusalem. As they are heading for the crucifixion site, and notice again Luke alone quotes this because of the role of women here, one of the three concerns of Luke’s Gospel, and these are not the women that came up from the Galilee with Him; these are local women so he calls them the “Daughters of Jerusalem.” What’s happening here is also a traditional custom that when a Jewish man is being taken out for execution by Gentile authorities, as is the case here, the professional wailers, lamenters, would go out with a loud lamentation just as you’ll still hear at certain kinds of Jewish funerals. And as the wailing goes on He suddenly stops the procession and says don’t weep for Me, “but weep for yourselves, and for your children,” in keeping with the curse they took upon at the trial, because while the 70 AD will be severe for the country as a whole it will be especially severe for those in Jerusalem.
And in Luke 23:31 he says “For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” This was a Jewish idiom meaning if I suffered this much when I am innocent, how much are you going to suffer that are guilty. The background to that idiom is Ezekiel 20:47.
The fourth stage is in Mark’s account in Mark 15:22, the arrival at Golgotha; in Aramaic term that means “The place of the skull.” And all four Gospels make that point rather simply, “The place of the skull.” Notice not one of them actually says that it looked like a skull. Maybe you may have seen the slides that people come back from Israel, they will show you this low lying cliff with two holes there that give it the impression of a skull; this has become the Protestant sight of the crucifixion since about the 1880s. The (?) is always (?) in such a nice way (?) ever notice (?) there’s a very noisy Arab bus station right there because that kind of spoiled the feeling. And also what the guides don’t tell people, is that those holes were dug out in the 1800s, that was a (?) area for Jerusalem. (?) doesn’t mean it looked like a skull, only it was the place of the skull, the place of crucifixions.
There are similar thing in America here in Dodge City, Kansas, a place called Boot Hill, and I’ve been there twice, it’s not called Boot Hill because it’s shaped like a gigantic boot; it’s called Boot Hill because of what happened there; gunfighters were buried with their boots on. That’s how it’s intended to be meant here, it’s not that it looked like a skull, it means the place of a skull, the place of execution. And between the Protestant and Calvary site, on this point the Calvary site is the correct site, the more correct site not based on Calvary tradition, based upon Jewish traditions of Messianic history and archeology.
Now if you go back to page 226 and look at the footnote he mentions the (?) sepulcher could not be because it stands within the walls. He wrote this in the late 1800s or early 1900s, before the archeology actually discovered the walls. The walls, the present day walls were built by the Turks, 1500s. Where the Church stands today was outside the wall in the first century; the walls did not follow the same lines in every case.
Now the fifth stage is the refusal to drink a mixture. They offered Him in Mark 15:23 “wine mingled with myrrh,” Matthew adds it was mingled with gall. This was a mixed drink given to a victim just before the nailing because it would help deaden the pain. It also makes you very light-headed and because He must have full control of His senses because of the spiritual conflict He has to fight on the cross, He refused to partake of this mixture. It also means He will suffer the pain that much more severely than the others being crucified with Him.