After the Jews refused to let Jesus go, Pilate had him flogged. He was brutally beaten with a whip weighted on the ends to cause massive pain and injury. The Roman soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and placed it on his head and clothed him in a purple robe to represent royalty. Then they mocked him calling him the King of the Jews and struck him in the face.
The Romans were famous for their brutality. The Jews had been nothing, but trouble to the Roman Empire. The soldiers seemed to take great delight in humiliating Jesus.
Pilate brought Jesus out, bloody and beaten, hoping that the flogging alone might satisfy the bloodthirsty chief priests. But, they started shouting, “Crucify!” Pilate stated for the third time, that he could find no basis for a charge against Jesus. The chief priests answered him that they had a law that said he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God.
Pilate was afraid at this point and asked Jesus point-blank, “Where do you come from?” Jesus refused to answer. Pilate asked him, “Don’t you realize I have the power to free you or crucify you?”
Jesus’ answer must have chilled Pilate to the bone. Bloody, beaten and likely still bound, he said, “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.”
Pilate had presided over a number of executions. He had probably heard it all and had people begging him to spare their lives. Jesus was completely calm, would not answer his questions and told him that God had given Pilate the power that he now wielded. Pilate wanted out of this entire affair. He tried, with no luck, to get the Jews to let Jesus go.
I wonder if he knew in his heart that he was wrong. I know he was afraid the Jews would riot if he didn’t give into their demands and if Rome had to send in more troops to deal with another Jewish uprising, it would be bad for Pilate politically. But, did his hesitation go deeper? As he stood in the presence of the Messiah, did he know that Jesus was Divine?
Either way, Pilate gave into their demands and handed Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus carried his own cross to the place of execution, Golgotha in Aramaic and Calvary in Latin. Mark’s Gospel has someone carrying the cross part of the way due to Jesus’ weakened state. He was crucified with a man on each side of him.
Pilate had a sign made that read: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The chief priests protested this and wanted it changed to the man who claimed to be the King of the Jews, but Pilate refused. The soldiers cast lots for Jesus clothes, fulfilling prophecy.
John lists four women standing at the foot of the cross; one was his mother. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Mary to watch her innocent son die. She knew all of God’s capabilities. She had actually talked to the Angel Gabriel. She had witnessed his miracles. She had to have known he could save himself. Her pain must have been unfathomable.
And as Jesus hung up there bleeding and dying, he asked John to take care of his mother. The mother and son bond between Jesus and Mary was clearly very strong. His first miracle was at her request. In his final hours on earth, in complete agony, he was worried about his mother.
The love and compassion in the heart of Jesus is almost too overwhelming to even consider.
The text says that later, knowing all was complete, Jesus said he was thirsty and after he was given a drink of wine vinegar, he dismissed his soul, saying, “It is finished.” To the very end, Jesus was in control. He willingly submitted to all that happened to him. He could have called it off at anytime, but didn’t. He decided when it was finished, not mankind or any other dark powers.
The Romans put a spear in his side, just to make sure he was dead and they broke the legs of the other two men hanging with him.
A man named Joseph and Nicodemus, (remember him?), both members of the Sanhedrin, asked Pilate if they could bury Jesus. He agreed. They placed him in a tomb and wrapped his body in strips on linen and used burial spices. One of them was myrrh. Myrrh was one of the gifts brought to the baby Jesus by the three wise men. They hurriedly prepared the body because the sun was going down and left him there in the tomb.
I imagine that was the darkest day the earth has ever known.
What did you think of today’s reading. I’d love to hear from you.