The Soldiers Mock Jesus
Verse 1: "Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him."
The soldiers mock Jesus and administer His punishment. Free Romans were beaten with rods, soldiers with sticks, but slaves and probably despised non-Romans with whips whose leather thongs enclosed sharp pieces of metal or bone.
Although the Jewish law allowed only thirty-nine lashes; the Roman law allowed scourging until the soldier grew tired, and some reports show that bones or entrails were sometimes bared. (Bible Background Commentary)
Although men were known to die from flogging this was actually an effort by Pilate to substitute a lighter penalty than that demanded by the Jews. but his tactics failed.
Concerning Pilate: Some have tried to soften his role in the crucifixion by portraying him as a helpless victim of circumstances that were imposed upon him by the Jews; but upon a closer look we see a spineless leader. Pilate ordered the scourging of Jesus then sentenced Him to death, knowing that He was an innocent man.
Unbeknown to Pilate, the scourging of Jesus fulfilled the prophecy found in Isaiah; "By his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
Verse 2: "And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe."
The crown of thorns were perhaps from the branches of the thorny acanthus shrub or from the date palm. The thorns must have scraped inward, drawing blood from Jesus' scalp. Satan's hand is evident in having the crown of thorns placed on Jesus head, just as he was in the mockery in the palace of the high priest of Israel, where, as recorded in Matthew, they "spat in his face, shoved, slapped, and hit, or buffeted him, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ: who is he that struck thee" (Matthew 26:67,68).
Many scholars think the purple robe was actually a three-color fabric suggesting royalty. Crimson," "scarlet," or "purple" were also the colors of the veil of the temple and very appropriate colors for Jesus to be wearing on the day of His death.
Verse 3: "They came up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands."
Hail is sarcasm taken from the customary way of greeting the Roman emperor as in "Hail Caesar!"
Verse 4: "Pilate went out again and said to them, "See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him."
So here again Pilate confronted the Jews in an attempt to release Jesus. He had rendered his verdict as "not guilty' which under normal circumstances would stand. but the people, consumed by a satanic hatred, only grew stronger in their determination to have Him crucified.
Verse 5: "So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Behold the man!"
This was the garb of a mock king. In saying "Behold the man" Pilate's intent was more of ridicule and pity than honor.
Verse 6: "When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him."
Pilate was saying "take him yourselves and crucify him; go do your deed of blood by your own hands and take the responsibility for it; for I find no fault in him.
The Jews had produced no legal reason for Jesus' death; in fact, his innocence had been established; those hypocrites had not yet, nor would they ever produce a crime deserving a capital charge.
Verse 7: "The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God."
The charge was that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. All their efforts to get Him crucified for being a trouble maker had failed. If Pilate had any doubts before, he certainly knew now, that there were absolutely no legal charges against Jesus.
There was no reason to charge Him with anything actually, and certainly no legal charge requiring death.
The Jewish law to which the priests appealed made it a capital offense for one to claim to be the divine Messiah, unless His claims were true (Lev 24:16), and Jesus sworn testimony was the truth, because He was the Son of God, He was deity.
Verse 8: "When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid."
Pilate had many fears, including his relations with Herod, his reputation with the emperor, the outbreak of violence in his city, his wife's dream as mentioned in the other Gospels, and now the claim by Jesus to be the Son of God.
Verses 9: "He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer."
Again, some Romans were cynical about gods, but most believed in them and Pilate seemed to be especially cautious.
Verse 10: "So Pilate said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?"
Pilate was astounded and near disbelief at Jesus' silence and the fact that any man would behave in such a manner in his presence. Pilates decree was legally binding in all capital cases, his issue in this case was not a matter of guilt or innocence, but the religious and political consequences of his decision. (In other words, what problems was the judgment he passed down likely to cause him)
Verse 11:"Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin."
The phrase "Above" was a Jewish word used frequently by John when speaking of God.
Judaism understood that rulers held authority only as delegated by God and exercised only under God's permission." Jesus could have called for legions of angels; The tiniest display of Jesus' supernatural power could have turned Pilate into putty in Jesus' hands.
Regarding the greater sin: The high priest of Israel was the person guilty of greater sin.
Verses 12: "From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar."
The Jews were using vicious political blackmail. If Pilate would not do their will, they would file charges against him before Caesar. These charges, whether true or false could remove him from office. After hearing their threats Pilate caved in completely and moved at once to have Jesus crucified.
Verse 13: "So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha." (GAB-uh-thuh)
The "Stone Pavement" was a stone platform in the courtyard of the Praetorium. It appears to have been made of stones ingeniously joined in a manner to form a throne-like platform with steps and ornaments for the purpose of adding dignity to the decisions announced therefrom.
It was upon this judgment-seat that Pilate ordered Christ before him for sentencing. Most commentators believe that the governor had to pronounced death sentences from this judgment seat.
Verse 14: "Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, "Behold your King!"
The "day of preparation" would be on Friday (what we call 'Good Friday') A Jewish day was from sunrise to sunset. Friday night would be the beginning of the Sabbath.
Verses 15: "They cried out, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar."
It was common knowledge that these people hated Caesar, the major theme of the history of Israel was that they claimed God as their true king. Later during the siege of 70 AD, over a period of less than ten years Caesar reportedly crucified 30,900 of their young men on the walls of ruins of Jerusalem.
God had never done anything except love them, bear with them, and protect them throughout their history; but now is forced to hear them say: "We have no King but Caesar."
Verse 16: "So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus,"
So finally Pilate gave in and knowingly sent an innocent man, in this case 'the Son of God,' to his death.
Condemned criminals normally carried their own cross (only the horizontal bean), not the upritght stake, to the site of the execution. The victim was usually stipped naked for the procession and the execution.
The most likely site for Golgotha was outside the city wall and not far from Herod's palace, perhaps within a thousand feet.
The Easter Story continues in John 19:17-42