Behold Your King – John 19:1-16a

Behold Your King

Nick Esch, 9/30/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve likely heard about the hearing in Washing D. C. regarding Judge Kavanaugh… Now I don’t want to get into the details regarding that hearing; but one thing has become abundantly clear as this has been going down… Most people already have their mind made up regardless of the evidence given… You turn to one news source and they say he’s clearly guilty; you turn to another news source and they say he’s clearly innocent… Looking at those sources hasn’t revealed much to me about Judge Kavanaugh, but it has clearly revealed much about humanity as a whole… People are sinners, who tend to be led by their own hearts and pride, rather than the truth…

Well, today we’re going to look at another hearing that reveals this very same thing… Today we’re going to look at, part 2 as it were, of Jesus before Pilate… And what will see is people on two different sides, both refusing to budge on their positions, and ultimately refusing to see the evidence right in front of them… Neither Pilate nor the Jews saw the truth, even though the truth was standing before them… The King of the universe, full mercy and grace, stood before them, but they refused to see Him for who He was… My hope and prayer for us today is that we might truly see Him; that we would behold our King. So with that in mind, look with me at John 19:1-16a.

John 19:1-16a

Jesus has been arrested and tried by the High Priest and now the Jews have brought Him to Pilate to have Him crucified. In John 18 Pilate began conducting his own trial and found no guilt in Jesus. He believed Him to be innocent, so he has no desire to crucify Jesus; but he’s also worried about a Jewish protest or revolt that might, at best, lead to him getting removed from office, and at worst, lead to him being killed by the Roman officials over him… So, in an effort to keep the peace, and get Jesus released, he brought out Barabbas, a violent robber and insurrectionist; he wanted the Jews to chose between him and Jesus, and whoever they picked could be set free. But they immediately chose Barabbas… And that brings us to our passage today.

In verse 1 we’re told that Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. Now, given our context this sounds a bit odd; why would Pilate flog an innocent man? Well, it appears that he’s trying to pacify the Jews by punishing Jesus severely, but without actually putting Him to death… The Roman flogging was where a group of Roman soldiers would take whips that had things like bone and rocks on the end of the throngs, and they would strip down their victim and tie him to a pole, and then each soldier would whip the man as hard as they could for as long as they could, and then the next soldier would take over, and on and on it would go… And I’m sure you can imagine the kind of horrible damage this would do to a human body… Many people didn’t survive this… But here Pilate puts Jesus through this, seemingly, as some sort of sympathetic act, hoping that the Jews will think He’s suffered enough and allow Him to go free…

Now as this is going on we’re told in verses 2-3 that, “the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands.” So, regardless of what Pilate is thinking, clearly the soldiers didn’t seem very sympathetic… One reason being because they were anti-Semites; they hated the Jews, and if Jesus was truly the King of the Jews they were going to hate Him too… So, in their hate they mock and ridicule Him; they make a crown of thorns—very large thorns—and put it on His head, and put a robe on Him, and then they begin to hit Him, beating the thorns into His skull… On top of the damage to His body from the flogging, because of the thorns His face would have been covered in blood, to the point of Him being almost unrecognizable; it was no doubt, a horrific sight… But, there’s meaning here in what’s happening…

It’s not a coincidence or the mere cruelty of the soldiers that’s placed this crown of thorns upon Jesus’ head. This was the gospel in action… This was the sovereign grace of God working for the salvation of God’s people… In fact, that’s what’s been going on with Jesus here… For instance, think about how this whole ordeal started. They came to arrest Jesus and His disciples in the garden; they were going to arrest them and put them to death… Well, now, think back to Adam and Eve in the garden; they sin and then God comes for them in the garden… God addresses Adam for his sin, but he blames it all on Eve… He basically says, don’t blame me, blame her… Well in contrast, when the Romans and the Jews come to get Jesus and His disciples, He steps forward and says don’t blame them, but blame me… Adam seeks to hide behind his bride, but Jesus steps up and protects His bride… That’s what the church is: the bride of Christ… Adam hid from wrath behind his bride, while Jesus hid His bride from wrath… And there are numerous connections to Adam like this here in the Gospel.

Think about what we’re seeing happen here with Jesus and His crown of thorns… Do you remember what God told Adam when he first sinned against Him? He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistlesit shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19)… Do you see? Thorns are a sign of the curse… Thorns are directly related to the fall of man and the wages of sin… But here Jesus is taking those thorns upon Himself… As we looked at last week He’s going to the cross to take our curse upon Himself… All of this is pointing to the same gospel reality: that Jesus has come to take the curse and save His people… Adam failed and through His sin the whole of creation fell under a curse, but Jesus is the perfect God-man who is going to save His people and fix what was broken in the fall… He takes the pain, He takes the thorns, He takes the suffering, He takes the curse upon Himself in order to save us… And one day, all that is broken will be fixed…

This is the day that we’re all waiting for; this is the day that our hearts are longing for… The day when Jesus will fix everything, and there will be no more sin, no more pain, and no more death… Jesus’ nail scarred hands will wipe our tear stained eyes dry and we will weep no more… We will fully behold Him in His glory and we will fully enter into the joy of our Master… Every wrong will be made right, and we will bask in the radiance of the glory of Jesus forever… But this great day can only come after the day we see unfolding in our passage; so, let’s look at how this plays out…

In verses 4-5 we read, “Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’” And Jesus is indeed the man… He is the Son of Man… Truly man, and truly God… And as Pilate says, there is indeed no guilt in Him… He is the perfect man… He is blameless… And that’s why He could stand in the gap for us… He could take our guilt upon Himself because He has no guilt of His own… “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)… Because He is the sinless Son of Man, He could take the place of man, and take the curse upon Himself, for the cause of redemption… And that’s what’s happening here…

Pilate presents Him, adorned like a king with a crown and a robe, yet beaten, bloody, and torn, hoping that the Jews would see that He was not a threat, and that He had suffered enough… He was hoping that Jesus would gain their sympathy… But his efforts were to no avail… In verse 6 we’re told, “When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’” Pilate, no doubt frustrated with the way things were going says to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” Then in verse 7, the Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

Now that wasn’t exactly true. They didn’t have to put Him to death, and Jesus didn’t make Himself the Son of God… He is and always has been the Son of God… He was in the beginning with God, and He is indeed God… So here Pilate and the Jews both are committing injustice after injustice; sin after sin… Pilate seeking sympathy for Jesus, not because He cares about Jesus, but because He doesn’t want anything to do with the situation, or with Jesus at all… You see, elsewhere we’re told that Pilate’s wife told him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man (Jesus), for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” And he seems to want to listen to her counsel, not because he cares for Jesus, but because he’s a bit superstitious… We see that superstition come out in verse 8 when we’re told that he was afraid after hearing that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God… It wasn’t that he feared God, but just the whole situation he found himself in, and how it might play out for him… He was only worried about himself, not Jesus… Pilate is set in his ways here… And likewise, the Jews are set in their ways here; their mind is made up; they want Jesus dead…

Now, in light of what the Jews have just told Pilate, he goes back into his headquarters and begins to question Jesus again… He wants to get to the bottom of who He is, so he asks Him where He’s from… But Jesus, says nothing… Then in great frustration Pilate says in verse 10, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” But you see, Jesus is showing Him who is really in control here… Pilate is not sovereign, but Jesus is… It isn’t merely the will man unfolding here, but the will of the sovereign gracious God… Jesus doesn’t say a word unless He wants to; and He certainly isn’t pleading for Pilate to release Him, for He has completely surrendered Himself to the will of the Father… But Jesus does answer Pilate when he tells Him that he has authority to release or crucify Him…

In verse 11 Jesus says, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” And by from above He means from God, not from some higher ranking Roman official… So, in other words, Jesus is telling Him that God is in control here… That Jesus is standing before Pilate, not because of the sinful will of man, but because of the sovereign will of God… And that leaders and governments are instituted by God as agents of justice who are to work for the good of their people… And then He says, “Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” Now He could be speaking of Judas, the High Priest, or the Jews in general, because they are all in great sin because they have committed the ultimate sin of rejecting Jesus; and along with that are seeking to have Him crucified… But, notice He doesn’t let Pilate off the hook… He says he who delivered Him to Pilate has the greater sin, but that implies that Pilate is also in sin… Both he and the Jews are guilty of injustice here; and along with that, they carry the far greater guilt of rejecting Jesus…

Now after seeing this we get a brief glimmer of hope for Pilate. In verse 12 we’re told, “From then on Pilate sought to release him…” So it seems like he wants to do the right thing… But then we’re told the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” And so the Jews throw Pilate’s fear back in his face… As we’ve seen throughout this ordeal, Pilate isn’t afraid of the Jews, he hates the Jews… And Pilate doesn’t fear God, for he has committed sin after sin, and wrongfully punished Jesus… What he fears is Rome… What he fears is losing his position of privilege and power, and possibly losing his life… And the Jews, knowing this, basically threaten to tell Caesar that Pilate opposes him… And if they do, that will be the end of Pilate; or at least the end of his rule as a Roman governor…

What we see here is that Pilate has a few major issues working against him; and I’m not talking about Rome or the Jews… Pilate’s major issues are hardness of heart, pride, and fear of man… With every exchange he has with Jesus, it almost seems like he’s beginning to see Jesus rightly, and then he does something to show that he doesn’t get it… He doesn’t truly see who Jesus is; and that’s because his heart is hard… He has a heart of stone, as it were… In his sin he’s blind and cannot see the truth of the gospel right in front of him… And flowing from his hard heart is his pride… Everything he does is really centered on him; what’s good for him; what’s going to make much of him… And because he is at the center of his universe, he has a debilitating fear of man… Because he lives for his own fame and renown, keeping his position and reputation means everything to him… So his behavior is not driven by conviction or compassion, but by fear of man… fear of what they may think of him or do to him… He thinks he’s in control but he is a slave; a slave to sin, and a slave to his fellow man…

Friends, this is how we all are in and of ourselves… We have hard hearts that refuse the truth… We have blind eyes that don’t see Jesus for who He is… We are ate up with pride and seek to live for our own fame and renown… And we are eaten up with anxiety because we live in the fear of man… But God in His grace changes all of that… When, through the power of the Holy Spirit God opens our eyes to see the truth of the gospel, He likewise removes our heart of stone, and replaces it with a heart of flesh… a heart that is gripped by grace and moldable in His hands… And in His kindness He shows us that the universe does not, in fact, revolve around us… No, no… We were not created to live for our fame and renown, but for Jesus’ fame and renown… And as our hearts and minds begin to grasp that all the more, fear of man fades away because we live to please God… And ultimately, because we have turned from our sin and trusted in Christ, and are therefore counted righteous in Christ, we know that God is already pleased with us… And His opinion is really the only one that matters… So we don’t live as slaves in fear, but as children of God compelled by love and gripped by grace… So if you see yourself following in the footsteps of Pilate here, with a hard heart, habitual pride, and living in fear of man, understand that something is a miss, and something needs to change… And we can see what needs to happen as we look at the rest of our passage…

In verse 13 we’re told, “So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.” Now, this could not be more ironic… Pilate brings Jesus to the judgment seat to judge Him… Pilate, a mere man, thinks he is going to judge Jesus, who is the Son of God, the true Judge of the universe… In this act he’s seeking to put himself in the place of Jesus… Which is the very same thing he’s doing when he seeks to live for his own fame and renown… Which is the same thing we all do when we let our own pride and selfishness guide our lives… Pilate sits down on his judgment seat to render judgment over Jesus, but he’s got it all wrong… It isn’t Pilate that should be sitting there, but Jesus… And likewise, when we are controlled by pride we’re putting ourselves in a seat that we don’t belong in… We’re living as if we are the King of the universe… But we’re not the King… We need to get off the throne… We need to humble ourselves before King Jesus, and follow Him… And that should’ve been Pilate and the Jews’ posture as well, but it wasn’t…

In verses 14-16 we read, “Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.” What a sad scene… The true King of the Jews, the true King of the universe is standing before them, ready to save them, but they refuse to see it… They refuse to behold their King; and they do whatever is necessary to get their will done… Though they hated Rome, and hate Caesar, they proudly proclaim that they have no king but Caesar… Beloved, for God’s people it should be just the opposite; we should have no true King but Christ… We are to give due honor and respect to all governing officials, but we bow the knee to King Jesus alone… We are not to fit neatly into the world’s political parties… We are not republicans or democrats… We are followers of Jesus… Who we are and who we bow the knee to transcends this world… But that’s not the case in our passage… They forsake King Jesus for the kings of this world… They choose Caesar over Jesus, and that’s really because they chose themselves over Jesus…

But in the midst of Pilate’s sin, and the Jews sin, and all this hardness of heart and arrogance, we’re told that this is all happening on the day of preparation for the Passover… It’s happening in the midst of this week long celebration remembering that God is mighty to save; remembering the day the blood of a lamb was spilt to save God’s people… But even as they are preparing for this Passover, the greater Passover, the greater Lamb who was truly spotless, was being prepared to save His people… The time has come for Jesus to be crucified… And in His crucifixion He is doing everything necessary to atone for the sins of His people… He is the Lamb who is slain to purchase people from every nation and generation… Jesus is the true and better Adam come to save His people… He’s the true Judge of the world, who is judged for His people… He’s the true and better Lamb, come to die for His people… He’s the true King of the universe come to lead His people out of bondage and into glory. And all that need happen in order for them to partake in all of this, is for them to do exactly what Pilate said; they just need to behold their King… If they would but behold Him and see Him for who He truly is, everything would change…

Jesus knows that at this point they will not behold Him rightly… So He is willingly, for the joy set before Him, going to the cross… He’s going to that Roman tree where He will be high and lifted up, and take our curse… He will die for His people… But on the third day He will rise in power… Indeed we know He has already done all of this… He lived, died, and rose again, and ascended on high so that all who would rightly behold Him would be saved… In John 3:14-15 Jesus said that the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. And what I want you to see beloved is that beholding is believing… And this is what needs to take place to transform our hearts, to kill our pride, and free us from fear of man… We need to behold our King in His glory and be changed…

Conclusion

This world lives with hard hearts and minds that refuse to see the truth, and so often so do we… What this world needs, and what we need is to behold Christ. The old puritan, John Owen once said, “It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die.On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.”[1]“Some complain of their sad spiritual state. Some make great self-efforts to revive their souls, such as imposing on themselves many religious duties. But if they would only behold the glory of Christ by faith as he is revealed to us in the Scriptures they would be healed…”[2]

Beloved, what Pilate needed, what the Jews needed, what this world needs, and what we ourselves need is to behold our King… To behold King Jesus in His glory… For that is how we are saved, and it’s how we are sanctified… We need to see Jesus for who He is in His beauty, in His glory, in His majesty, and be so gripped by that, that we joyfully forsake our sin and follow Him with all that we are… When we see Jesus rightly we fall in lovewith Him and out of lovewith our sin… And when we behold Him in His glory again and again, we continue to be compelled to love and live for Him, and forsake our sin… Pilate couldn’t see Jesus rightly; the Jews didn’t Jesus rightly; but what about us?… Here He is; beaten, bruised, covered in lashings, with a crown of thorns upon His head, a robe upon His back, and you and me upon His heart… It says, our names were graven on His hands… There He is… Heading to the cross to die for sinners like us… Do you see it? Do you see Him? Do you see how He loves you? Do you see how altogether lovely He is? Beloved, behold your King!

 

 

 

[1]John Owen, The Glory of Christ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), 7.

[2]John Owen, The Glory of Christ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), 112.