Back in January I was journeying through the book of John, but stopped at the end of John 18, figuring I'd wait until Passion Week was approaching to finish up that book. That time has come.
Today's text is John 19:1-16.
Most assuredly some of the disciples were present at Jesus' trial. John was one of these and here, we read his firsthand account of what occurred.
Why was Jesus on trial? Do you know? It was because He claimed to be exactly Who He was - - - the Son of God (vs. 7). It wasn't for a political offense, claiming to be a political "King of the Jews" that the Jewish leaders called for his crucifixion. Such was a pretense to have Him arrested and convicted by the Romans, the alleged crime being political sedition against Caesar. (The Jews had no power to put anyone to death; that power had to come from Rome.) But, the pretense is over, revealed in verse 7: the Jews were really up-in-arms over His claim of being the Messiah, God-in-Flesh which, indeed, He was.
In their book, Killing Jesus, O'Reilly and Dugard point out that Jesus made this factual claim when He was 12 years old. Do you remember when He, Mary and Joseph journeyed to Jerusalem for Passover that year? He was left behind when the caravan left to return to Nazareth. Mary and Joseph had to turn back to search for Him. They found Him in the Temple, teaching with the elders and priests. At that time He asked, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49) Jewish boys at age 13 were/are considered to be "of age", to be held responsible for their own actions. Had Jesus been 13 at the time He made that truth claim in the Temple, He could have been prosecuted for blasphemy, just as he was being brought to trial for it many years later, in Pilate's court.
"And when I think ... of God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die....I scarce can take it in."
Hymn: "How Great Thou Art"
Like all mothers I grieve when my children hurt, when they stumble and fall, make mistakes, get into trouble. I truly cannot imagine the agony of Mary, mother of Jesus, witnessing the horror God the Father allowed to touch His only begotten Son - - - beginning with this kangaroo court trial before Pontius Pilate. Much is made of Pilate's mistakes in this debacle, but Jesus points out in verse 11:
Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore he who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."
Pilate pronounced Jesus innocent three separate times; yet, the Jews clamored for His death. Jesus very pointedly lays the blame for this scenario (His arrest, scourging, trial) at the feet of Judas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin. Wesley, Barnes and Clarke, in their Bible commentaries all agree on this point. Barnes, specifically, points out that the word "he" in verse 11 is a plural form, not a singular.
Yet, Mary knew, and I hope you know, that it was not Judas, nor Caiaphas, nor Pilate, nor any Jew per se who brought Jesus to this scene in John 19. It was every one of us, and our sin. Mary had to watch her son be beaten, falsely accused and murdered because of her own sin. I simply cannot comprehend that level of spiritual and emotional pain. Joseph was long since dead; she did not even have a husband to comfort her.
You may have, like me, watched the movie, "Passion of the Christ", which was made several years ago. The brutality of Jesus' scourging and crucifixion was on unvarnished display, through the cinematic medium. Many who watched that film could not comprehend the depths of His suffering.
And Mary, no doubt, watched all of this, wishing she could die right there with Him, perhaps wondering why she could not. I don't know if she realized that He was laying His life down of His own accord, or not, at that point. I'm sure that there was a tremendous amount of confusion and mayhem among His disciples in those hours. (It's not like they could text each other to stay in contact!) Long before Gethsemane, Herod's palace and Pilate's court, Jesus declared (John 10:17-18) that He was laying down His life willingly.
"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from my Father."
Of course, at the time He made that emphatic declaration, the disciples had no idea of its implications; but, John remembered it later and wrote it in his gospel account. I wonder if he whispered those words to Mary at the cross, as he held her, as he received from Jesus the command to care for her for the rest of her life? Matthew records in 26:53 that, at the time of His arrest in Gethsemane, Jesus reminded those present that if He just asked His Father, He would instantaneously send thousands of angels to His rescue.
So, don't think that all of this caught the Father or the Son unawares. Jesus was "slain before the foundations of the world" were laid. This was no miscarriage of justice, this kangaroo trial, this scourging, this crucifixion. Rather, this plan of God the Father's, with the agreement of God the Son, was carried forward for the purpose of justice - - - ours.
Theologians call this "justification": the legal act where God declares the sinner to be innocent of his or her sins.
We, who were unable to attain a righteous status with God from our own, pitiful works of "righteousness", can have a right standing with God through this marvelous, breathtaking, heartbreaking work of His Son. And, that is the only way we can get it. As much as it hurts to cast our eyes on the Scriptures and read of His tremendous pain and sacrifice, to and through the point of death, we must. For it is only through His amazing sacrifice that we can have peace with God.
Yesterday's post was about receiving. Salvation is about believing and then receiving. Many will read about Jesus and will believe intellectually that He did what Scriptures say He did. But, they won't receive Him in order to claim the gift of righteousness for which He died. Saving faith believes...and then receives.
To as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even to them who believed on His name.
Is pride keeping you from receiving God's greatest gift, the gift of His Son?
Father, I pray today that anyone reading these words who has not said, "yes" to Your greatest gift will lay down their pride at Your feet and accept Jesus' gift of eternal salvation today. I'm so sorry for my many sins, which nailed Your Son to that cross. Thank you for providing the way for me to be made righteous in Your eyes. When You look at me now, you look through "rose-colored glasses", colored with, coated with, Your Son's shed blood, which covers all my sin. Thank you, Father. In Jesus' name, amen.