“And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified.”
Behold the man!
That is what Pilate said when he had brought Jesus forth before in an attempt to have Him released. Then Jesus appeared battered and bruised, wearing a crown of thorns and the faded soldier’s robe, and holding the flimsy reed in His hand as a scepter. Pilate had mocked His kingly office, showing to the people that such an impotent figure could hardly be royalty that could command respect.
But the people failed to fall for Pilate’s trick! Under the direction of the chief priests a chorus of voices cried out: Crucify him, crucify him!
Behold your King!
That is what Pilate said when he saw that there was no possibility left to escape rendering the verdict that Jesus must be crucified. Now Jesus appears once more, no longer wearing the crown of thorns and the faded soldier’s robe, but in His own apparel. Now Pilate is no longer mocking His kingly office, but ridiculing the Jews.
Shall I crucify your King?
There was a sting in that question!
Not especially directed against the Lord, though He continues to bear the brunt of their mockery, but directed especially against the Jews who were demanding Jesus’ crucifixion!
Shall I crucify your King? Is that what you want me to do? He is your King, is He not? Who ever heard of such a ridiculous thing, that a people would desire the crucifixion of their king?
And the chief priests again supply the answer!
We have no king but Caesar!
Israel rejects their King!
It must not escape our notice concerning the time mentioned in this sacred record. It is quite significant that John records here that it was the preparation of the Passover, and that it was about the sixth hour. This seems to be in conflict with the notices of the other Gospel narrators. Matthew and Mark both speak of Jesus being on the cross and of the great darkness which was from the sixth to the ninth hour. And Mark especially says it was the third hour when they crucified Him. So that the question arises, How can John say it was the sixth hour? while it is evident that Jesus had not even been sentenced. This must evidently be explained from their different view-points of time reckoning. Matthew and Mark reckon according to Jewish time. Then when Mark says He was crucified at the third hour, he means nine o’clock in the morning. And when Matthew and Mark say that from the sixth to the ninth hour there was great darkness, they mean from twelve to three in the afternoon. But John undoubtedly reckons according to the Roman method of counting time. For them time began at midnight. Then about the sixth hour would mean from six to nine in the morning. And the apparent contradiction is resolved.
Much more significant, however, is the fact that John informs us that it was the preparation of the Passover!
Strange paradox, indeed!
At the very moment that the Jew should be preparing himself religiously and ceremonially, as well as the paschal lamb to be used at the feast; we find Pilate being pushed to prepare and slay the very Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world! At the time of the morning sacrifice, we hear the cry of the Jews: Crucify Him!
To be sure, it was the proper time on God’s schedule! The time when the shadows must meet the object that caused them. The time when all the little lambs that had been slain throughout the centuries must find their fulfillment in the Lamb to which they pointed. Time, too, it was when, according to the plan of God, the royal seed of David should produce the King that should sit on the throne of David forever.
But consider the evil of the wickedness of those who feigned to be religious while they were rejecting not only the blood of the atonement but also the Royal Son of David, their proper King!
And he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him!
A complete rejection! It was, first of all, their way of expressing their bitter hatred for their King. For He was their King, whether they would acknowledge Him or not! What the Wise Men acknowledged through faith, they without faith rejected! The former came from the far East with the question on their lips: Where is He that is born, King of the Jews? and they fell down and worshipped, presenting unto Him gifts befitting Royalty. But the latter, when they see the King, the very King Whom God had appointed to deliver them from all the hosts of darkness, would have Him cast out of their sight. Verily they said, Let Him be hanged on a tree where it can be seen that He is not wanted, neither by heaven nor by earth. Let Him be as a thing that is accursed!
Secondly, they present a complete denial of His kingship!
We have no king but Caesar!
This was the answer of the chief priests! The elite, the very best among the people, and the people’s representatives. That it was also the answer of all the people is plain from the fact that not one protested against the voice of their leaders.
It was, indeed, a case of Israel rejecting their King!
The despicableness can best be understood when you take note of the parties concerned. On the one hand, there is Israel! That is the church of the old dispensation, of course. The church as it must be viewed organically! It is the church as it developed from generation to generation, composed of the believers and their seed. But here manifestly with its corrupt seed in the majority.
And what does the church always do when the majority is corrupt? Exactly what Israel was doing here! All that is holy, just, and good is rejected! God is rejected in favor of the idol. The Word of God is rejected in favor of the word of the false prophet. The service of God is rejected in favor of the service of their own sinful lusts. The history of Israel is replete with illustrations of this corrupt conduct. To be sure, also now, under the persuasion of its reprobate element Israel is acting out its natural bent, and substantiating the truth expressed later by the Apostle Paul: “and were by nature children of wrath, even as others.”
On the other hand, there was their King! The promised Messiah! The Prophet Whom Moses had predicted the Lord God would raise up. The Priest Who would appear, not according to the order of Aaron, but the Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The King Whom the daughter of Zion and the daughter of Jerusalem should behold: Who is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass, as they saw Him riding only a few days before; and as they had seen Him only moments before, bowed, and wearing a thorny crown!
For it was a denial of the Christ, and a plea for His blood!
What Satanic depravity!
They were willing that His blood be upon them and their children. Their feet were swift to shed blood, innocent blood. They did not care!
Thus they brought upon themselves a curse! And at the same time sealed their doom as a nation!
Strangely, it was concerning this latter that the leaders of the Jews with Caiaphas at their head had previously been so concerned! (John 11:47-53). In council the leaders said: “If we let him (Jesus) thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” And Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied that it was “expedient that one man should die for the people, and the whole nation perish not.”
Now they had not planned that He should die so publicly. They had planned to do away with Him secretly, for fear of the people. But God overruled their plans, and uses their wicked rejection of Israel’s King in order to destroy the nation, and condemn the world; and at the same time save and redeem His people. They is why the Apostle John continues to say: “And this spake he (Caiaphas) not of himself; but being high priest that year, he prophsied that Jesus but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”
In this Lenton season, beloved reader, as you and I consider the passion and death of our Saviour, let us not fail to see not only how wicked that rejection was, but also that we belong historically to that Israel that rejects its King. Israel and the church are one. The King of Israel is also the King of the church.
We also are confronted with Pilate’s assertion: Behold your King!
And the question we face is the same that Pilate placed before the Jews: What shall I do with Jesus? Shall I crucify your King?
What will your answer be?
By nature you can give no different answer than was given: Let Him be crucified! We have no king, but Caesar! Let us not exalt ourselves above the rejecters!
And God moved Pilate to deliver Him unto them to be crucified!
And here is the wonder of grace!
Not that you and I would stand in the midst of the milling mob to protest that sentence! But, beholding in Israel’s King our Saviour, we will cry out with repentant hearts, Let Him Who is appointed to be our eternal King battle unto death against all the forces of evil that fill our wicked hearts and enslave our depraved natures, in order that He may overcome that evil, and renew us so completely that we may reign with Him now in principle over sin, and presently with Him in His everlasting kingdom!