“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!”
Will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?
That was Pilate’s question!
Indicative it was of Pilate’s weak position! Should he not rather have said, I will release unto you the King of the Jews? Was he not convinced of Jesus’ innocence? Had he not again and again confessed that he knew no fault in Him, and that he knew the Jews had no real accusation, but only for envy they had delivered Him up? And did not Pilate himself say, that he had power to kill and to release? And if he wanted to be a just judge in the matter, after acknowledging Jesus’ innocence, have released Him? And if he did not care for justice, which evidently he did not, should he not for pragmatic reasons have released Jesus because he was afraid of Him? That Pilate’s position was very weak becomes still more evident when we consider Matthew’s interpretation of it. Matthew tells us that Pilate asked: What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? Imagine a judge asking the accusers to express the verdict! Should he not rather have asked himself: What ought I to do with Jesus? And without hesitation should he not have replied: I ought to release Him at once, on the grounds that He is perfectly innocent, and there is no cause of death in Him!
Barabbas or Jesus!
Once before the Roman judge had attempted to evade any judgment of the Lord, when he had sent Jesus to Herod, the fox. But when Herod had ascertained that Jesus was not John the Baptist risen from the dead, and that he therefore had nothing to fear of this Jesus, and after He had vented his mockery upon Jesus, he sent Him back again to Pilate. Now Pilate tries for the second time to get rid of the responsibility of judging Jesus by placing a proposition, a choice before the people; the choice, namely, between Barabbas and Jesus. It was his hope that the people’s choice would be Jesus Who should be released unto them at the feast.
Not this man, but Barabbas!
That is the people’s choice!
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him!
Though scourging was customary, it opened to Pilate another possible avenue of escape. He hoped that when the people would see His emaciated, beaten, bloody form, they would be satisfied to let Him go. Especially had he hoped for this when he allowed Jesus to appear before them as a poor imitation of a king whom the soldiers had mockingly dressed up in the scourging room.
In the scourging room!
The soldier’s hangout! The place where they spent their leisure moments to chat and visit between the scenes of trial. Where now, you may imagine they had more to talk and frolic about than usual. In this room were also all the weapons of torture kept. There was the flogging pole. And on the wall, each in its proper place, were the lashes used in flogging. In another area, row upon row, were pitched their spears and shields which they could pick up at a moment’s notice when they would be ordered out to use them. Only he who was a Roman citizen could be spared the ordeal of flogging. All the rest, whether guilty or innocent, were beaten to draw out of them innocence or guilt. And usually when one was sentenced to be crucified, he was first stripped to the waist or made entirely naked, then tied with his hands to the flogging pole with his head bent forward and with his back arched in such a way that the skin was stretched tightly. Then with the powerful hand of one of the soldiers the victim was severely beaten with leather strips affixed on the one end to a wooden handle, and on the other were attached metal pellets or pieces of bone. By such scourging the victim’s back was cut to pieces.
They ploughed deeply upon His back!
They made long their furrows!
Yes, verily, the Prince of Israel shows His people how to endure the whip lashes of the wicked, of the wicked of whom the Psalmist declared (129:3) that the enemies had played hard upon Israel’s back, that by His stripes they might be healed!
And they platted a crown of thorns, and pressed it on His head!
The soldiers will have their fun today!
They cover His bleeding body with a faded purple soldier’s robe, and placed a flimsy reed in His hand for a scepter, a symbol of mock authority.
And they make mock obeisance! They bow down before Him, false worshippers as they are! And they exclaim: Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote Him with their hands!
What awful mockery!
What awful depravity!
Such ridicule of His Kingly office! As a King, He must have a crown. But why such a crown? As King He must have a royal robe. But why such a robe? As King He must also have a scepter. But why such a scepter? Here is evidenced man’s total depravity! And lest we should conclude that the soldiers were wicked beasts, vile men whom we would have stopped had we been there; let us understand it well, this is every natural man apart from the grace of God! This is what every man by nature is capable of doing and actually does when God allows Himself to be taken with wicked hands, and He does not fight back!
It was Pilate’s purpose to use this caricature to finally persuade the people to let Jesus go. There is no indication that Pilate did not condone this vile treatment of the Saviour. He does not remonstrate against the evil abuse of the soldiers, but he uses the mock image they built in one last effort to have Jesus discharged.
“Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!”
Behold the man!
See what I have done to Him! You say that He made Himself a King? Well, witness what I think of His kingship! Notice that I have made it so that there is hardly anything left of Him. You say, He has power? If you will look at Him closely you will see that He has no power at all! You say, He is a threat to Caesar? Well, I have thoroughly interrogated Him on that point also. O, yes, He admitted under questioning that He is a king! But listen to me closely, He has shown to me that His kingdom is of another world. All that Caesar and I, and also you, have to be concerned about is this world. So, I ask you, what is there to be alarmed about? Look at Him! Does He look like a king? Look at that crown! That crown that fits so tightly that there are lines of blood streaming from His brow! Look at that robe! Don’t you recognize it? Do you see any semblance of royalty in it? Behold the man!
Mind you, all the while this fiend of injustice knows that Jesus is perfectly innocent. Hear him speak: I find no fault, no cause for punishment in Him!
How devilish! What miscarriage of justice!
To knowingly scourge an innocent man! To allow the King to be so ridiculously mocked! And then to present Him as innocent and harmless! Indeed, his was a devilish purpose!
Apparently utterly helpless He stands!
Behold the man! He does not look like a king at all! Much less like the King!
Only once during the awful episode before Pilate does He open His mouth in defense of His kingship! Says He: “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 to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence . . . . Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.” That is all He said! For the rest He was dumb, and opened not His mouth.
While actually He is the King of kings!
O, to be sure, not as though He stands at the end of a long line of kings, as if He was just another among the kings of the earth! His kingship is not one to be learned by comparison. Rather, the eternal idea of kingship is in Him, while all other kings are mere earthly, sinful, faulty types of Him!
He is God’s anointed King!
Appointed is He to do battle with all the powers of evil and to overcome them; not with the show of physical and material strength, but by allowing the world and Satan to draw His blood, whereby He must save His people from their sin and guilt. Therefore He has no armies at present to do battle for Him. That is why He refuses a crown of gold upon His head. For the moment the only crown that befits Him is one of suffering of which the thorns are a fit picture. The only royal robe that is His is the one that shall be laid upon His shoulders after He rises from the dead and is ascended to glory. For the present the only attire that befits Him is the soldier’s faded robe that can only bring upon Him ridicule and shame. O, yes, His is the scepter of Judah’s tribe which He shall wave in His hand when He is seated at Father’s right hand. But for now, let it be the flimsy reed, until one can be forged for Him to wield when He shall come in the power of His Father and with all the holy angels to set up His kingdom, of which there shall be no end!
Yes, Pilate, for the moment you may mock with Him Whom you allowed to be so maliciously and mockingly crowned!
But, behold, the day comes, and even now is, when the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father and His kingdom, when every eye shall see Him, even they that pierced Him!
Then shall they call to the mountains and the rocks to annihilate them from before the face of Him with Whom they shall have to do! Then shall He destroy all His and our enemies, and settle His kingdom which shall embrace heaven and earth, and wherein only righteousness shall forever dwell!