Through the Bible Day by Day
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
JESUS ENDURES CONTEMPT
Pilate was convinced of our Lord’s innocence, and he adopted several expedients to save His life; he did everything, indeed, except to act with absolute justice and discharge the case. If he had promptly and firmly refused to be a party to the unrighteous act to which the Jewish leaders were goading him, before they could further inflame the popular sentiment, the whole matter would have come to an end. But he let the golden moment slip, and every succeeding hour made it more impossible to retrieve it. The proposal to chastise Jesus; the endeavor to induce the people to ask for Him rather than Barabbas; the scourging as an appeal to their pity-all such expedients failed to turn them from their purpose. The governor became more and more afraid. Whence art thou? Of human birth or more? Our Lord’s silence was His answer. Had He been only of earth, He would never have let Pilate suppose that He might be of heaven.
Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
THE REJECTION OF THE KING
Pilate’s pride was touched by that silence. In His reply our Lord refers to the relative responsibility of those who shared in His condemnation. It was as if He said, “Great as your sin is, in forfeiting your position, it is less than the sin of those who have put Me into your power.” Pilate then became aware of the coil of evil in which he was caught. He was dealing with a matter that touched the unseen and eternal, but the threat to report him to Caesar suddenly brought him back to the earthly and human aspects of the case. With ill-concealed irritation he adopted the phraseology of the priests and cried, Behold your King! The Jews touched the lowest depth of degradation when, trampling under foot their national pride, they cried, We have no king but Caesar! Pilate signed the necessary documents and retired to his palace as having been himself sentenced.
Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
“THEY CRUCIFIED HIM”
Just outside the city gates, beside the main road, was a little conical eminence, which from its resemblance to a skull was called in Aramaic, Golgotha, and in Latin, Calvary. As we speak of the brow of a hill, they called the bald eminence a skull. The three languages in which the inscription was written stand for religion, government, and science. Note that every one of us is unconsciously writing his verdict about Jesus Christ; and when once it is written, there is no altering it. We may be forgiven, but the past cannot be obliterated.
The clothes of the crucified were the perquisite of the soldiers. But Christ’s were so poor that they were not worth keeping entire, except the inner tunic, the gift of someone’s-it may well have been His mother’s-love. What a contrast! Above, the consummate evidence of love working out the plan of eternity; below, the appeal of ignorance and brutality to chance.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
JESUS’ LAST THOUGHT FOR OTHERS
Love made Mary brave to encounter the tragedy of that scene. The sword, as Simeon had foretold, was piercing her soul, Luk_2:35. Jesus knew how lonely she would be. He had neither silver nor gold, but could at least secure her a home and tender care. As the cross was elevated but slightly from the ground, His words could easily reach the little group. He chose the title, Woman, rather than “Mother,” lest identification with Himself should bring her insult.
It is to this paragraph that the soul turns when oppressed with the consciousness of guilt. The light-hearted, gay world, which has never known the terror of a sinful conscience, turns from it as from a tragedy of woe and blood, but the repentant sinner presses from this vintage the wine of life. We stand beside thy Cross, O Son of God, and worship in adoring love, as we behold thy tenderness to thy mother, thy devotion to Holy Scripture, and the majesty of thy last cry of victory. It is finished-the Savior’s work of redemption and the ground of our salvation. What is there left for us, but to hide in the cleft of His pierced side, and to seek the cleansing of the water and the blood?
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
THE PIERCED SIDE
How punctilious the Jewish leaders were to maintain each detail of their ritual! Remember that there is a religiousness which is not religion but its counterfeit.
John solemnly attests the fact of the blood and water. He knoweth that he saith true. It is referred to again in his Epistle, 1Jn_5:6; 1Jn_5:8. Science tells us that the presence of those two elements was evidence that there had been heart rupture, and that our Lord literally died of a broken heart. But it was also, as devout souls have loved to remember, a symbol of the “double cure,” which Jesus has effected. Blood to atone; water to purify and cleanse. What a comfort it is that Jesus did not come by water alone! As we come to know ourselves better, we realize that only blood could meet our need. He bowed His head, that we might lift ours up to greet the eternal morning.
And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
In that supreme hour Christ’s secret disciples revealed their true heroism, and carried Him to the garden sepulcher. It had been written that the Messiah would make His grave with the rich, Isa_53:9; that prophecy seemed unlikely of fulfillment until Joseph and Nicodemus stood forth, in the darkest hour, as confessors of their faith and reverence. There are more friends of Christ in the world than we know of. They sit in our legislatures, our councils, and we meet them day by day as we go about our work. Although they give no outward sign of love or loyalty, they are forming secret resolves in their hearts, and the time will come when the fires of their love will burn the bushel that hides it, and they will avow themselves on the Lord’s side. Let us plead with such, however, not to waste these precious years. How much Joseph and Nicodemus missed of Christ’s inner fellowship by this long delay!
It was a royal burial. Love carried the body; sweet spices scented the air; a new-hewn grave received the precious treasure; and angels mounted guard. Remember that wherever the Cross of Jesus is erected, whether in the soul for the daily crucifixion of the flesh, or in the life by self-sacrifice for others, gardens will inevitably bloom.