Memorial Study Topic: Crucifixion
Background Reading Material
John 18: 33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” 34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” 35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” 40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising. Mark 15: 1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. 4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12 then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” 13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and 2 Jesus in the middle. 19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
Reprint 4712, The Prince of Life Crucified, page 531 Pilate was disappointed when Jesus was brought back to his court. The case was an unpleasant one to settle. The prisoner was manifestly innocent of any crime, yet his accusers were the most prominent men in the nation and city over which he had charge. Their good will must be preserved, if possible, and they were evidently bent on the murder of their innocent captive under the form of legality. What a pity it is that religion has been so often misrepresented by her votaries in every age of the world! A lesson which we all should learn is to search the motives and intentions of our own hearts, that we be not led into the error of the wicked—into violating the rights of others and thus fighting against God…. As a last resort Pilate caused Jesus to be brought to a prominent place where the multitude could all see him and then he cried out to them, “Be hold the Man!” See the character of the man you are willing to crucify. Note that he has most kingly features, such as none of your race possess—nor others. Would you crucify the very best sample of your race? Consider; be reasonable. Be hold the Man! It has for years been a custom with you that the Government at this season release a prisoner. So, then, consider that Jesus has been condemned and that your conception of justice has been satisfied and that now I release him to you. But the multitude cried out so much the more, Crucify him! Release unto us Barabbas (a robber and dangerous character). Who will explain this strange perversity of fallen human nature—that a villain should be preferred to a saint? Thus, a few years ago, in the City of Vienna, a man who had just been released from serving a term in prison made a speech in which he declared that all Jews should be put to death. A frenzy seemed to seize the people. The bad man became the leader of sentiment. He was applauded and, as a mayoralty was impending, he was elected mayor of the city on the strength of his bravado. Oh, shame! How can we claim that the world is ready for liberty while such conditions stare us in the face and mark the pages of history? They prove, on the contrary, that the world needs just such a strong, imperial government as God purposes to give it—the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, strong for the suppression of every wrong and strong for the uplifting of every right.
Reprint 2473, He was numbered with the transgressors, page 491
Little did Pilate comprehend the great truth that he set before the world in the words, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Few yet realize the truth of this statement that Jesus is a King; comparatively few have yet rendered him allegiance, bowing the knee of their hearts in sincerity and truth: and yet so surely as the Lord has spoken it, the time is coming when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess him Lord, Master, King, to the glory of God the Father. And to this end it shall come to pass that after full knowledge of the matter has been given to all, he that will not obey this Prophet shall be cut off from among the people in the Second Death. (Acts 3:23)….
The Jewish Doctors of Divinity were willing enough to have Jesus condemned as the King of the Jews, but were quite unwilling to have this sentence publicly recorded, and thus to imply that they had so feared his claim and influence as to seek his death. Pilate’s refusal to amend the charge was a just one; if there was no merit in the 3 claim, why should they have feared him, and why should he have been crucified? If there was enough merit in the claim to lead to his crucifixion, the matter should be plainly stated.
Possible Considerations and Questions
The following text provides some considerations and questions.
However, everyone should feel free to pose one’s own questions during the study in addition or in lieu of the questions below.
In the movie Son of God Pilate realizes that the Roman government is not in the business of serving as an executioner for any ruling religious sect’s lethal aversion to persons preaching religious heresy. Rome is, however, definitely in the business of making short ends of anyone posing a threat to the increasing hegemony of Rome’s authority. Thus, Pilate asserts that very authority in his opening salvo, hoping to spur a response that would remove any complicity on his part. Jesus answers that, unbeknownst to Pilate’s government agents, he already has at his disposal powers and personnel that could overthrow the Roman yoke, if it were not for the mandates of his faith, which generally required submission to secular governmental authority.
So Pilate asks Jesus if he represents a threat to the prerogatives of the Roman government as the priest have claimed by pronouncing himself a king. Jesus defends himself by saying, “only if you say I am” and “my kingdom is not of this world for then my servants would have resisted my arrest.” Jesus alludes that, at worst, he is merely guilty of heresy because the impetus of his mission is not to overthrow the current government but to “bear witness to the truth.” By asking Jesus, “What is truth,” Pilate indicates agreement with Jesus. Heresy is not a capital offense because, in Pilate’s view, one man’s truth about things (not pertaining to governmental authority) is likely to be just as valid as another man’s truth. On the other hand, Pilate is savvy enough to understand the dangers of “bearing witness to the Truth” if that “truth” assails Roman governance performance or brings into question the lack of limits on Roman government’s prerogatives.
1. Jesus’ defense being almost complete, why didn’t Jesus answer Pilate’s question regarding the nature of truth by explaining what truth was and how “religious truth” or “inner truth” couldn’t possibly, even individually, collide with one or another government? Did pagan Rome fall by a sword? What could Jesus have said or, more importantly, what can we say or not say right now?
2. Is the movie Son of God correct in suggesting that Pilate insisted on placing the sign “King of the Jews” as a way of absolving himself of the murder of a mere madman or false teacher, thus placing the entirety of blame for the community murder on the Priestly ruling elite and their minions?
3. Assuming Jesus gave an adequate defense to Pilate, why does it appear as though Jesus early on abandoned any attempt to defend himself by cross-examination in the presence of the Sanhedrin in what had quickly devolved into an interrogation-style lynch-mob trial?
4. Why did Jesus instruct us to “preach unto all nations?” Is it possible that the heavenly global- governance that Jesus alluded to will be comprised of a Roman-like representative Senate with representation from provinces of every nation, tribe, and tongue? Did the “Universal” (Catholic) church attempt to fashion itself after this future kingdom concept? Do we still have reason to look forward to a 4 perfect and uncorrupted version of the same when the invading King of Kings places one foot on the sand of the shore? (Revelation)
5. Are we committing our lives, our sacred honor, and our fortunes to a pipedream of a King who was an imposter? Or, as Pilate alluded, does our sacred oath lie with the King of truth and inner freedom, which is at the very heart of our eventual parliamentary/priestly aspirations?
6. Did Jesus eventually give proof to the mockers and scorners that he was the King of the Jews and that he could heal himself and get down off the cross and come in the clouds of glory in 70 AD? (Mark 14: 61-63) Can we (or do we) have mockers and scorners in our own lives? Are we assured our vindication in this life?
7. Did Pilate get a chance to proclaim Jesus “King of the Jews” in earnest, followed by the offering to take orders from Jesus? After all, some Roman soldiers once asked Jesus, “What should we do?”
8. Do we swear allegiance to a dead king or a living king, to a dead army of saints or a living army of saints, to a nonexistent heavenly government or heavenly government encroaching or in waiting?” Is God a god of the living or of the dead?”