John’s Gospel: Praetorium

Once more Pilate tried to shift that duty to the Jews and once again they refused the honor.

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Pilate’s judgment hall was a place for trials and for punishment.
It was politically necessary for the Roman Governor to do something to placate the bloodthirsty leaders of this strange and mystical land. They pretended to aspire to lofty ideals but on this morning they wanted blood.

The Scourge
Despite his publicly announced verdict of a faultless Jesus, Pilate sent Him into the skillful hands of the Roman soldiers, the Praetorian Guard, for special treatment. They called it scourging, systematic beating with a whip equipped with many sharpened bits of metal, bone, and stone set into multiplied leather strips. Two soldiers took turns administering this pagan justice while an officer counted the blows. The sharp ends of the lashes bit into Jesus’ back pulling back long strips of severed flesh and leaving surface wounds bleeding profusely. As if this weren’t enough, some clever warrior got a novel idea: fashion a crown for this king, one woven of thorns. No doubt the making of this outrage made the hands of the soldier bleed also. When finished, they pressed it hard and deep into His scalp and more blood coursed down the face of Jesus. Another creative killer found a purple robe and draped it over the Savior’s shoulders.

Public Derision
Thus they prepared King Jesus, beaten, bruised, bloody and his body profaned, for the rabid crowd. The soldiers pounded Jesus with their fists and derided Him with mocking “worship.” “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Thus prepared according to Roman tastes, Pilate announced his plan to the mob. “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”

The soldiers brought Jesus out to the balcony in full view. A roar of approval went up from the people. Pilate announced: “Behold the Man!”

The roar of the crowd coalesced into a specific demand. “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

Once more Pilate tried to shift that duty to the Jews and once again they refused the honor. Pilate needed some way out of this nasty business. He asked Jesus to tell him something upon which to base a release. When Jesus did not answer, Pilate lost all patience. “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have the power to crucify You, and power to release You?”

Someone signaled for the crowd to quiet down to hear what Jesus might say. Finally, in this unnatural silence, Jesus spoke the truth. The voice that commanded storms and Satan’s legions, diseases, and even death, filled the void. “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”

As a moan issued from the crowd, Pilate sensed the truth in this; these strange proceedings were beyond his control. He sought some way to release Jesus. The Temple leaders appealed to political realities. “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.”

Pilate had no answer for this appeal. He took his seat on his throne of judgment and said once more, “Behold your King!”

The people responded as before with even more violence in their voices and blood in their eyes. When Pilate asked the question again, the leaders led the people in a lie that broke their own covenant with Jehovah. “We have no king but Caesar!”

And the trial before Pilate was over. The soldiers manhandled Jesus away from the palace toward the place of the Skull.

John 19:1-16

So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands. Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” But 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!” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.

Lord Jesus, when I read and consider the story of Your Passion, I find I must be still. So much of Your story races along from the Nativity straight through to the Passion but here I must stop and consider this: “Selah!” Lord, give me a quiet, confident spirit when I face the trials of my life. Like Your peace, this is also a gift from You. Dangerous events may swirl all around me and the future may threaten with fear, but I can have a stillness in me, the way You did before Pilate. My life is in Your hands and there is no safer place to dwell. Amen.

Behold the Man

Words and Music: Jimmy and Carol Owens

1. Behold the Man, Wounded and bruised
Crowned with thorns
He was despised rejected;
He was despised rejected

2. Behold the Man, Man of sorrows,
Acquainted with grief
We hid our faces from Him;
We hid our faces from Him.

Bridge 1
We didn’t know That it was for our sins He died
That it was for our sins He died
That for us the Son of God was crucified
That in love He bore our sorrow and pain
And in love He willingly suffered.

Verse 3
3. Behold the Man, Suffering in silence,
Bearing our shame.
We hid our faces from Him;
We hid our faces from Him

Bridge 2
We didn’t know that this was God the Father’s plan
Born of love to bring
Redemption down to man
That in love He gave His only Son
So that we might be forgiven

4. Behold the Man, Risen in glory coming to reign.
By the Father exalted,
Crowned with glory and honor.

5. Behold the man, King of kings and Lord of lords!
Through all creation Jesus Christ is Lord
He is Lord! He is Lord! He is Lord!





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About the Author

Full of passion for Jesus Christ, Stephen Phifer is a third-generation minister with more than three decades of experience as a pastoral artist, worship leader, and conductor.