So, what we see here is that when Pilate brings Him down, he brings Him to The Pavement. “Now, it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour, and he said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King’.” This might have been about six o’clock in the morning. “So, 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’.” May I tell you, that must have been a hard pill to swallow because that was a thing they did not believe. They did not think that Caesar was the rightful king over them.
So, for them, on a high and holy day, to crucify their own Messiah, and then feign loyalty to Caesar, was a double whammy when you think about it that way. I want to stress again, though, from the standpoint of the Scriptures, it would be wrong to say there was an anti-Semitic bias in the New Testament. The idea here is that the Gospels are really focusing on the death and resurrection of Christ and the fact is that when we look at the love of the disciples, you have the life of Christ with the disciples, the life of Christ with the multitudes, you see a strong narrative structure. It is not biographical, but topical and thematic and it emphasizes the crucifixion in a disproportionate way because this was the ultimate purpose for which Jesus came. The New Testament teaches multiple causation’s in the death of Jesus.
It was not just the Jews, it was everyone. His Jewish opponents were involved, but His own disciple betrayed Him. A Roman judge, Pilate, issues the sentence, and it was the Roman soldiers who carried out the execution. You have to keep in mind that the early Christians were all Jews. For probably the first 20 years of the Church, all believers in Christ were Jewish. You cannot forget that. Jesus was Jewish, the disciples were Jewish, and the whole New Testament was written by Jews, with the possible exception of Luke. At the same time, the Jewish leadership, the Sanhedrin, and the temple priests, they rejected their Messiah. And so, it was rejection by the Jewish leadership. In verse 16, then, we read, “So he handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own Cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.”
So, what you have here is, from a human standpoint, the crucifixion was, indeed, a great crime. From a human standpoint, it was a tragedy. But, from a Divine standpoint, you see it totally differently. From the Divine standpoint, it was the total fulfillment of prophecy and an accomplishment of the will of God. “It was for this reason I came, It was for this reason I came to serve.” Now, Roman citizens, I should point out, were never crucified. That was too ignominious a death. It was reserved for the lowest criminals because it was an agonizing method of punishment.
The criminal would customarily carry his own cross or the crossbeam, not necessarily the whole cross. It was more likely that it was the crossbeam that Jesus carried. In an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the drawings shows what position Jesus would have been in during the scourging and another drawing shows how He would have carried the crossbeam, or ‘patibulum’. The ‘stipes’ would be the vertical portion on which it would be placed.
So, He likely carried the crossbeam, but remember they pressed Simon of Sirene into carrying it, because of Jesus’ physical condition. It was about a mile and quite a long walk. And so, it was necessary for them to do that. In any case, the Place of a Skull, where He was crucified, was outside the city. This is an important point. I want to read to you Hebrews chapter 13, verses 11 to 13, and they relate to this very issue. “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” See the imagery there? Now, where He was crucified is now inside the city walls, but in the first century, it was clearly outside the city walls. Are there any other accounts, outside of Scripture, where the Romans were asked to carry out Jewish law? I cannot think of any and I think this was an unusual occurrence because of the complexity of the case. The Jews were clever and knew that Pilate was in some hot water already with Caesar and if it was reported that he let this Man go, who was a claimant to the throne, then he could have lost his position altogether. Knowing that, they said, “We have no king but Caesar.” Let’s continue on. Frankly, we are left to guess as to the exact location of this Place of a Skull. There are two traditional sites and one is Gordon’s Calvary and it is the most impressive because it has a nice garden.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is an older traditional location. That locale has better historical connections, but it is not as fun to see. If you have the opportunity, go see them both. One gives you the sense of what it might have looked like at the time, whereas the other is more likely the locale. Returning to the text, and to verse 18, “There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side and Jesus in between.” Again, this is not an accident. I believe it is a symbolic picture. It is historical, but it speaks of something theological as well. On the one hand, He had the response of rejection and on the opposite hand, He had the response of acceptance and those are the only two options you have. To ignore Him is, in fact, covert rejection.
So, not to choose is to choose. There is no way around this one. People say that they didn’t ask to be born. Deal with where you are and don’t whine about where you aren’t.
So, my point is that you are in a condition here where you don’t get to make the rules. God, the Scriptures teach us, is gracious and compassionate and those who wish to know Him will find Him, but God is also a sovereign Creator. The point here is that a response is needful. Just mere intellectual assent is not enough. There has got to be the issue of personal reception. As I often put it, belief in Jesus is not assent to a proposition, but trust in a person.
So, I say that propositional truth always points beyond itself to personal truth. But, revelation demands a response. The Gospels are not there to inform us but to transform us. Therefore, it requires a response and that is the uncomfortable position that the Gospels leave us in, frankly. It is one of the reasons, by the way, why the Gospels have been subjected to more scrutiny and more vilification than any other ancient texts. This is because of its power. Whenever there is something that powerful, it will cause trouble. It is like stirring up a hornet’s nest. Demonic desires would be to keep people from reading the Gospel to see what it really says; better to hear it from a second, and third, and fourth account. My desire is to get people to read these Gospels directly. I have this special sermons or message of John. If I can get them to read it, at least I have them in a situation where they can more intelligently assess who this Jesus was and what He really said. You need to make an intelligently informed decision.
You will make the decision to either accept Him or reject Him, so wouldn’t it be a good idea, at least, to check out the evidence instead of relying on what others have said? Now, we are one of these two transgressors here and in Isaiah 53:12, and this text was written some seven centuries before the Crucifixion, and it reads, “Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” We have a remarkable image here of how Jesus fulfills prophecy and we will see that many more are fulfilled as well. A criminal would wear a placard identifying his crime and this was Pilate’s insult to the religious establishment. In verse 18 we see, “There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the Cross. It was written, ‘Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews’, (Again, a reference as to why our church is called The House of The Nazarene).
Therefore, many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.” The point is that the “chief priests were telling Pilate not to write, ‘King of the Jews’, but that He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’. Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written’.” What do you suppose was going on in Pilate’s mind when he did that? I think it was more than just getting back at the Jewish leaders. I think there was some doubt in his own mind that He had been the King. It was against his own will to crucify Him, and so this might have been a last possible tribute to Him. Again, however, regret is not the same as repentance. There are some apocryphal books that talk about the conversion of Pilate and Claudia, his wife, but they are just that. There is not much historical warrant for it. Now, it is interesting here that Hebrew is the language of religion, Greek the language of philosophy, and Latin the language of the law. All three combined to crucify the Son of God.
A Centurion and four soldiers would usually be assigned to do these executions. In verse 23, “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So, they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it will be’. This was to fulfill the Scripture: ‘They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots’.” This is a fulfillment of Psalm 22, verse 18. At this time the people would revile Jesus and so we also have this account in the parallel Gospels. Look at Psalm 22:18, to vividly see, again, that reviling. Part of that reviling is also in Psalm 22, verses 12 to 18, “Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have surrounded Me. They open wide their mouth at Me, as a ravening and a roaring lion.