Handed Over and Led Away
WHEN Pilate, moved by the quiet dignity of the tortured Jesus, again tries to release him, the chief priests become even angrier. They are determined to let nothing interfere with their wicked purpose. So they renew their shouting: “Impale him! Impale him!”
“Take him yourselves and impale him,” Pilate responds. (Contrary to their earlier claims, the Jews may have authority to execute criminals for religious offenses that are of sufficient gravity.) Then, for at least the fifth time, Pilate declares Jesus innocent, saying: “I do not find any fault in him.”
The Jews, seeing that their political charges have failed to produce results, fall back on the religious charge of blasphemy used hours earlier at Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin. “We have a law,” they say, “and according to the law he ought to die, because he made himself God’s son.”
This charge is new to Pilate, and it causes him to become more fearful. By now he realizes that Jesus is no ordinary man, even as his wife’s dream and Jesus’ remarkable strength of personality indicate. But “God’s son”? Pilate knows that Jesus is from Galilee. Yet, could he possibly have lived before? Taking him back into the palace again, Pilate asks: “Where are you from?”
Jesus remains silent. Earlier he had told Pilate that he is a king but that his Kingdom is no part of this world. No further explanation now would serve a useful purpose. However, Pilate’s pride is hurt by the refusal to answer, and he flares up at Jesus with the words: “Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know I have authority to release you and I have authority to impale you?”
“You would have no authority at all against me unless it had been granted to you from above,” Jesus responds respectfully. He is referring to the grant by God of authority to human rulers to administer earthly affairs. Jesus adds: “This is why the man that handed me over to you has greater sin.” Indeed, the high priest Caiaphas and his accomplices and Judas Iscariot all bear heavier responsibility than Pilate for the unjust treatment of Jesus.
Impressed even more by Jesus and fearful that Jesus may have a divine origin, Pilate renews his efforts to release him. The Jews, however, rebuff Pilate. They repeat their political charge, craftily threatening: “If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar. Every man making himself a king speaks against Caesar.”
Despite the dire implications, Pilate brings Jesus outside once more. “See! Your king!” he appeals yet again.
“Take him away! Take him away! Impale him!”
“Shall I impale your king?” Pilate asks in desperation.
The Jews have chafed under the rule of the Romans. Indeed, they despise Rome’s domination! Yet, hypocritically, the chief priests say: “We have no king but Caesar.”
Fearing for his political position and reputation, Pilate finally caves in under the Jews’ relentless demands. He hands Jesus over. The soldiers strip Jesus of the purple cloak and clothe him with his outer garments. As Jesus is led off to be impaled, he is made to bear his own torture stake.
By now it is midmorning on Friday, Nisan 14; perhaps it is approaching noon. Jesus has been up since early Thursday morning, and he has suffered one agonizing experience after another. Understandably, his strength soon gives out under the weight of the stake. So a passerby, a certain Simon of Cyrene in Africa, is impressed into service to carry it for him. As they proceed along, many people, including women, follow, beating themselves in grief and bewailing Jesus.
Turning to the women, Jesus says: “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for me. On the contrary, weep for yourselves and for your children; because, look! days are coming in which people will say, ‘Happy are the barren women, and the wombs that did not give birth and the breasts that did not nurse!’ . . . Because if they do these things when the tree is moist, what will occur when it is withered?”
Jesus is referring to the tree of the Jewish nation, which still has some moisture of life in it because of Jesus’ presence and the existence of a remnant that believe in him. But when these are taken out from the nation, only a spiritually dead tree will remain, yes, a withered national organization. Oh, what cause for weeping there will be when the Roman armies, serving as God’s executioners, devastate the Jewish nation! John 19:6-17; 18:31; Luke 23:24-31; Matthew 27:31, 32; Mark 15:20, 21.
▪ What charge against Jesus do the religious leaders make when their political charges fail to produce results?
▪ Why does Pilate become more fearful?
▪ Who bear the greater sin for what happens to Jesus?
▪ Finally, how do the priests get Pilate to hand Jesus over for execution?
▪ What does Jesus tell the women who weep for him, and what does he mean by referring to the tree as being “moist” and then “withered”?