Read John 19
Jesus is Lord! I love saying that. Jesus overcame sin and death for me. What love!
Jesus conquered the grave. Amen, hallelujah, oohrah! Jesus made me right with my heavenly Father. Praise the Lord!
Jesus said, remember me in this way. We will partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper shortly and I asked that you receive it as a celebration.
Jesus told me to be known by my love. Let everyone know that I am his disciple by my love.
We celebrate resurrection. We rejoice in the atonement for our sins. Eternal life—eternal relationship with our heavenly Father and Christ Jesus in heaven and on earth with time no longer a factor—is ours. An inheritance stored up for us beyond our imagination. Wow!
Christ going to the cross for us was big time. Yes, we should celebrate, but as we read this chapter, we must empathize. There’s no reading what happens in this chapter without a lump or two or three or three hundred in your throat.
Our nature is to struggle to live. That’s human nature. If I hold you underwater for a couple of minutes, you will fight. If someone comes at you with a knife, you will fight or run. You want to live. It’s hard-wired in us and in everything with a heartbeat.
We understand the concept of death. We don’t fully understand everything about death, but we know enough to fight to stay alive. Some people suffer from depression and give up the struggle. One of those unique groups is veterans. I’m plugged in to some veteran networks, and suicide is a real thing for many.
Absent some debilitating condition, we are hard-wired to live. There is something so special, so sacred, so holy about life. It desires to prevail.
We sense danger if we think our life is threatened. Fight or flight is a real thing. We are hard-wired to live. We are different from the rest of the animal world in this regard. The rest of the world can sense danger to a degree and does fight to live, but we have an extra component. We get to think about it, even if only in the instant.
If I put a .45 caliber pistol up to your head, your heart rate will go up. Some might pass out. If I put the same pistol up to my dog’s head, he will lick it and the hand holding it and wag its tail. Your dog does not sense danger as we do. We get to think about it.
We understand danger to a greater degree than other living things. We understand existential risk—a threat to our existence more than other animals, even though they have survival instincts.
Jesus knew the exact situation that he was in and chose to continue to the cross despite what was ahead of him. He was not suicidal. He was not depressed. He was purposeful and his purpose involved existential risk. Risk is not the right word.
To fulfill his mission, Jesus moved towards certain death. There wasn’t a risk that he would die. He would die to fulfill scripture and accomplish the mission for which he was sent.
You might think, Yeah, but he knew he would live again. He knew he would be with his Father in heaven. He knew that the grave could not hold him.
That’s all correct, but he also knew that the human vessel that he was born into craved to live. The human nature that came with the flesh desired to live.
We desire to live. I have told you before that I read minds. I know some of you say, Oh just kill me when the sermon gets a little long, but really you desire to live. Once again, I insert the disclaimer that the last statement was tongue-in-cheek. After all, it is 2020 so you either have to wear a mask or explain your humor.
Jesus and Pilate had their initial exchange in the previous chapter. We begin chapter 19 with Jesus being whipped or scourged. This was not just a little pain here and there. This was flesh-ripping, agony-filled, blood-drawing pain, and it would last until Jesus died on the cross.
It wasn’t something you could put a Band-Aid on and make it better. The pain wouldn’t go away in the next 5 minutes. This punishment in itself would have most people begging for mercy.
It takes a special—and by special, I mean sadistic—sort of person to flog someone, but whipping Jesus wasn’t enough. They made him a crown of thorns to mock him and dressed him in a purple robe.
Then Pilate made one more appeal to the Jews. This had graduated from a few Jews to a crowd, but the religious leaders who wanted Jesus dead were among them. It was as if to say, isn’t this enough punishment for someone who hasn’t done anything wrong?
But the religious Jews who held the kangaroo court also incited the crowd. Crucify him!
The Jews shouted that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. That was blasphemy, it was blasphemy unless you actually were the Son of God but the Jews would not see the truth. The Jews just said it was against their law. Blasphemy was not a big deal to the Romans. Blaspheming the Jews and their God was likely common place in Pilate’s palace. So, the Jews just shouted he broke our law by claiming to be the Son of God.
Pilate wasn’t concerned about this breaking Jewish laws. What he heard was Son of God. He could find no fault with this man and the religious Jews who were such a pain in the neck, were the only ones who wanted him killed.
He went back into the palace and spoke with Jesus again. I will take a little liberty here. Give me something to work with. I don’t want to do this. Don’t you get it? Your life is in my hands.
Jesus did give Pilate an answer.
“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.”
There is an interesting rabbit trail about the greater sin should we want a Bible study on the taxonomy of sin again, but that is for another day.
At this point, Pilate really wanted to set Jesus free. What has he gotten himself into? He should have stuck to his guns when he told the Jews who pestered him to Go and try him by your own laws. He made his last appeal to the Jews, but they manipulated Pilate to do their will.
Anyone who claims to be a king is no friend of Caesar.
I remind you that the Jews hated the Romans, but they sure sounded like Romans themselves here.
We have no king but Caesar.
Remember, that Caesar had declared himself to be a god, so the Hebrew people were saying, We have no god but Caesar. Who’s the blasphemer now?
As we consider this part that we know well but don’t dwell upon much, let us remember at any point along the way, Jesus could have said, stop, and it all would have ended.
Pilate wanted to let him go. Had Jesus just proclaimed his innocence, Pilate could be rid of this mess.
Had Jesus called for rescue, a dozen legions of angels would have delivered him, but Jesus chose to continue to the cross and fulfill the will of the Father.
In every word or in his silence, in every lash of the whip, in the constant pain, Jesus chose to fulfill the will of the Father and continue to the cross.
Moment to moment Jesus chose the cross. He chose the cross.
He chose the cross because of God’s great love for us.
God loved us. God chose us. God still loves us.
See his love in the moment-to-moment decisions of Jesus to continue to the cross.