The Journey to the cross was not an easy one in any way. Abandoned by friends, betrayed by companions, condemned by the religious establishment… and then, the weight of the Roman Government would descend upon Jesus.
Station 5: Jesus is Judged by Pilate
Matthew 27:11-14;24-26 NLT
11 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.
24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”
25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”
26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
The story of Pilate’s interaction with Jesus is a fascinating one. Pilate was known for his cruelty. Historians of the time wrote of his rule to be rather harsh, so much so, that he was recalled by the Roman government in AD 37 because even the leaders of the Roman Empire, notoriously cruel themselves, thought Pilate was too cruel.
And so, we get a reluctant Pilate in the Gospel narratives. Reluctant to find Jesus guilty, even at one point offering to have Jesus flogged to appease the Jewish leaders. His wife warned him not to convict and kill Jesus. Pilate even thought the Jewish crowd would wish to see an actual criminal, Barabbas killed, so he offered that instead.
The crowd, many of them the same people who days before shouted “Hosanna!” as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, demanded Jesus should die.
And so, Pilate acquiesced. He ordered Jesus’s crucifixion. But not before a bit of theatre of his own – a symbolic washing away of his actions as he declared he was innocent in the matter.
But the stark reality is that the Jewish people are not to blame for this. The religious leaders are not to blame. The Roman government, even Pilate, are not to blame. Instead, we all are to blame. The sinful condition of this world is what sent Jesus to the cross. That victory over sin and death was required. It wouldn’t have mattered in any way who was leading the charge. In some capacity, the crucifixion of Jesus is something we all are part of…
The prophet Isaiah said in chapter 64:6, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.”
So, just like Pilate, we can’t really claim innocence. Just like Pilate, we can’t wash away our role in the matter by dipping our hands in a bowl of water.
And then, as you see in Matthew 27:26, Pilate “ordered Jesus flogged.”
And that leads us to the next stop on Jesus’ journey.
Station 6: Jesus is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns
Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. 2 The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. 3 “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.
John 19:1-3 NLT
After Jesus was tried, convicted, and sentenced, things went from bad to worse. The Roman guards were notorious with their instrument of torture – a whip known as a cat of nine tails. It was tipped with metal and had barbs and shards entwined in it. It would whip the flesh from people.
I could expound on this. I could show you clips from The Passion of the Christ. But I’m not going to. The torture and mocking was incredibly brutal and cruel. But it was not to be unexpected.
I want to leave you with Isaiah 53 (The Message). The prophet poetically wrote about what was to come for the Messiah. Jesus was tried and despised for us… and it was the plan from that moment in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve first disobeyed.
Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.
Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.