Third Stage of the Roman Trial (Part 5)
As our prior lesson closed, the chief priests cried out to Pilate - "We have no king but Caesar!" They completely rejected Jesus. Tragically, their ancestors had also rejected God as their king. They preferred a mortal king to a divine one (cf. I Sam. 8:7; 12:12). In A.D. 70, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, the Jews would certainly "cry out" because of the king they had "chosen" and the true King they had forsaken (cf. I Sam. 8:18; Luke 19:41-44)!

Historically, none of the lives of the major participants ended well in this miscarriage of justice. The infamous Judas died in shame, a suicide. Pilate, whose political fortunes he valued more than justice, stood helplessly by as his prestige fell, ultimately dying in banishment and disgrace. Caiaphas was expelled from the high priesthood. Herod perished in shame and exile. The house of Annas suffered destruction at the hands of a mob and his son was dragged through the streets of the city.

"But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed" (Luke 23:23). They overcame Pilate's weak resistance by their perseverance. "When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it'" (Matt. 27:24). Pilate's actions here are symbolic. He is physically demonstrating that he regards the crucifixion of Jesus as murder, and he is hereby washing his hands of any guilt in this matter (cf. Deut. 21:1-9). Although this may have given Pilate some peace of mind, it certainly did not resolve him of his guilt (i.e., of allowing an innocent man to be condemned to death). His actions here certainly displayed his own weakness and hypocrisy; after all, he is going to let an innocent man be executed, and it was his responsibility more than anyone else to serve justice (and to use the Roman soldiers to enforce his just decisions).

"And all the people answered and said, 'His blood be on us and on our children'" (Matt. 27:25). Pilate's handwashing ceremony doesn't deter the Jews at all. They are more than willing to claim responsibility (personally and upon their descendants) for Jesus' death. It cannot be denied that at Jerusalem's destruction they did answer in part for the blood of Christ they willingly shed.

"So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them" (Mark 15:15). Pilate honors their tradition in releasing one prisoner of their choice. Barabbas, not Jesus, was the one who deserved to die. Jesus died in his place (and in ours). "And he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified" - Mark, since he didn't mention the scourging earlier, comments upon it here to show that it did precede the crucifixion. However, this should not be understood to be a second period of scourging. John's account clearly shows that the scourging took place somewhat earlier in the proceedings.

Pilate delivered Jesus to their desired punishment, but not into their hands (as the following verses indicate). "Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison" (Mark 15:16). Prior to the death sentence, it may have been that only some of the soldiers were involved in treating the Lord scornfully. Now, the "whole garrison" is involved.

"And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head" (Mark 15:17). They also put a reed in His right hand (cf. Matt. 27:29). It is likely that the mock robe and crown had been removed when Jesus was brought before Pilate to be sentenced to death, but now they put Jesus back into His "costume" and continue mocking Him.

"Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him" (Mark 15:19). Although they ridiculed and abused Him that morning, and pretended to worship Him prior to executing Him, they will again bow before Him (cf. Rom. 14:11). But on that occasion, their roles will be reversed--Jesus will sentence them to death (cf. Matt. 25:31ff, assuming that none of these men were later converted)!