Tuesday, June 13, 2017
"You Have No Authority" Sermon: John 19:1-16a
“You Have No Authority”
June 11, 2017, Second Reformed Church
We continue with the trials of Jesus: Pilate interviews Jesus, and Jesus tells Pilate that He is king of a kingdom that is not of this fallen world. Jesus’ purpose – as He explains it to Pilate – is to reveal truth – the Gospel – to the world. But Pilate doesn’t understand.
Pilate also does not believe that Jesus is guilty of anything, so he offers to free the terrorist, Barabbas, or Jesus, in respect of the holiday of Passover – and to Pilate’s dismay, the crowd calls for Barabbas to be released.
What is Pilate to do? He knows Jesus is innocent, but the Jews want Him punished – even killed. Pilate decides to try to satisfy their blood-lust by having Jesus tortured.
And so we see, first, Jesus is tortured.
“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’”
Pilate is afraid of the Jews and how they might take action against him, so he has an innocent man tortured with the flog. Hear what this means:
“The Romans first stripped the victim and tied his hands to a post above his head. The whip (flagellum) was made of several pieces of leather with pieces of bone and lead embedded near the ends. Two men, one on each side of the victim, usually did the flogging. The Jews mercifully limited flogging to a maximum of forty stripes; the Romans had no such limitation. …
“The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus’ shoulders, back, and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper in the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. … It is not surprising that victims of Roman floggings seldom survived” (http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread83973/pg1).
After this, the guards take it upon themselves to continue to torture and mock Jesus – Pilate goes back to his office until they finish.
They wind together some stiff, thorny branches into a mock crown, and then they beat it into His scalp so it stays put, and they lay a purple robe – the color of royalty – around Jesus’ shoulders, and they take turns, bowing down, crying out, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and punching Jesus in the face.
What kind of people would know someone is innocent and still torture him? What kind of people would go beyond their instruction to torment and mock and beat someone they know is innocent?
Would any of us take a rod and beat a child for no reason? Would we delight in making a child bleed? Wouldn’t we call a person who delights in these things a psychopath?
Jesus – much more than a child – is sinless, innocent, righteous – and He is taken and tortured because the chief priests don’t want to give up their sinful and corrupt lifestyle and Pilate doesn’t want to give up his sinful and corrupt lifestyle – so, in the hopes of satisfying their blood-lust – short of killing Jesus – He is tortured – horrifically – almost to death.
How can we understand these actions?
The prophet, Isaiah writes, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6, ESV).
What is Isaiah prophesying about Jesus?
You and I cause Him to bear grief and sorrow. You and I cause Him to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted. You and I cause Him to be pierced for our sin. You and I cause Him to be crushed for our sin. You and I cause Him to be flogged and tortured and mocked. All of us. All of our sin is placed on Him, and He suffers as if the sin was His. He took the torture that we deserve.
Every time we choose to sin, we lay claim to a strand of the whip digging into Jesus. We lay claim to punching Jesus in the face and mocking Him as King. We ought to remember that as the world and the flesh and the devil tell us it doesn’t matter – it’s only a little thing – everybody does it – it’s easy – it feels good.
Yet, as Isaiah prophesies, because Jesus endures this torture for our sin – He has no sin – through Jesus – through believing in Him and His Gospel – the work that He did – we have peace, we are healed, we are made right with God, we are forgiven.
One of the problems we have in our world today is – as God says in the book of Judges – everyone does what is right in his own eyes. We talked about this two weeks ago – the idea that everything is right and nothing is wrong – or everything is wrong, but it doesn’t matter – that’s just the way it is.
The character, Gregory House, on the T.V. show, “House,” repeatedly exclaims, “Everybody lies.” And it’s true – everybody lies – and that is a problem, but more than that, there is a problem in that we don’t think it is a problem!
Jesus was tortured horrifically so all we who believe would be forgiven, but that is not a license to sin or to take sin lightly. We ought to be horrified at our sin and repent quickly, and through Jesus, we have abundant forgiveness.
As Paul writes:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:3-10, ESV).
Thanks to Jesus’ willing sacrifice, in life and torture and death – resurrection and ascension, He has lavished – and continues to lavish – us with redemption and forgiveness and grace.
Pilate brings Jesus out, soaked with blood, wearing the mocked garments of a king, and Pilate cries out that Jesus is innocent. “Behold the Man! Have I assuaged your blood-lust? Is this enough that I can just let Him go?”
Second, Jesus causes Pilate to fear.
“When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.”
Pilate despises the chief priests and what he has done to try to appease them. So, he tells them again to crucify Jesus themselves. Pilate doesn’t want to put an innocent man to death. So he tries to at least put the Jews in their place by emphasizing to them that crucifying Jesus can only happen if Pilate goes along with it. They are occupied. They don’t have the authority to put Jesus to death.
Sometime during this back and forth between Pilate and the Jews, Pilate’s wife sends a message to him, and we read in the Gospel of Matthew:
“Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream’” (Matthew 27:19, ESV).
And then the Jews ask Pilate to respect their traditions and their laws – because they have a law that states that if someone claims to be God, he is to be put to death – and Jesus claims to be the Son of God – God the Son.
Jesus has told Pilate that He is not of this world, but He is a king. Pilate’s wife is having nightmares about Jesus. The Jews say that Jesus claims to be God.
And that’s something important to notice for our day, because there are people who say, “Oh, well, Jesus never claimed to be God – that’s something His followers attributed to Him after He died.”
No. Jesus says He is God over and over again in the Gospels. The only real charge that the Jews bring against Jesus is that He claims to be God. And, if He isn’t God, then they would be right to put Him to death – it would be blasphemy. But, if Jesus really is God. What if Jesus really is God?
Now, we have no reason to believe that Pilate understood the Incarnation. But Roman religion had gods appear in human form and even gods having children with human wives. So, Pilate is wondering – is it true? He has been skeptical about the gods, but what if it is true – what if Jesus really is one of the gods in human form – what if Jesus really is the son of a god?
Pilate is trembling – for the first time through all of this, he is scared.
And, if you’re not a believer, that’s a good thing to be. If you don’t believe savingly in Jesus, God is mightily angry with you, so, if you find yourself in His presence, you do right to be afraid.
But Pilate doesn’t make the necessary connection. Instead of responding in faith and repentance, he tries to shake Jesus by explaining the amount of trouble He is in:
And we see, third, all authority comes from and belongs to God.
“He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.’”
Pilate asks Jesus where He is from: “Are You a human being, or are You one of the gods from Olympus?” And Jesus refuses to answer, which makes Pilate angry.
“Don’t You understand that I am the authority here? I hold all the cards. Whether You live or are crucified is in my hands – it’s my decision – I hold all the power.”
And Jesus corrects him: “No. The only authority – the only power – you have is authority that My Father has delegated to you to use in a way that glorifies Him. You will be held liable for the way you use the authority that My Father has delegated to you. You will do whatever you decide to do and you will answer to God for what you have done with the authority and power He has given you.”
Paul writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1, ESV).
Everyone who has any authority of any kind has been given their authority by God. We may not be presidents or kings, but we all have some degree of authority, and God will hold us accountable for what we have done with the authority God has given us.
It also means that everyone who is in power had been put there by God and God can and will take a person out of power or keep him in power as it suits His Will.
We are to pray for each other and the authority we each have – that we will use it for good and to the Glory of God. We ought to pray for all of our leaders, because they have been given authority by God. We ought to ask God that He would cause them to do good and be pleasing in His sight. We ought to pray for our ministers – our pastors:
James writes, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1, ESV). Those who are given the authority to be ministers will be judged more strictly than others. That’s one reason that great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said, “If you can do anything else do it. If you can stay out of the ministry, stay out of the ministry” (http://amicalled.com/2014/11/is-the-holy-spirit-pushing-you-toward-preaching/).
Having authority is a dangerous thing. Being a minister is a very dangerous thing. All authority comes from God and God will judge our use of authority.
Pilate understands enough of what Jesus says to be very afraid, and he tries everything he can think of to release Jesus and stay out of trouble, himself.
Finally, the chief priests deny that God is their king.
“From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.’ So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ 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.’ So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.”
Pilate keeps telling the Jews that Jesus is innocent – there is no reason to put Him to death. (There was no reason to torture Him.) And the Jews say that they will send word to Caesar that Pilate is not stopping Jesus from trying to overthrow the Roman government – these are the same people who just asked for Barabbas, the terrorist, to be set free. And Pilate sits down on his judgment seat.
If he lets Jesus go, the people will tell Caesar that he is a traitor. He doesn’t want to put an innocent man to death – especially just because the chief priests are jealous of Him. But what other option does he have? If they accuse him of treason, Pilate will lose his position, his wealth, maybe even his life. Pilate has lost; the chief priests will get their way. Jesus will be crucified.
But Pilate can at least rub their noses it in one more time: Behold you king! Shall I crucify your king?
Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!
We have no king but Caesar!
What about YHWH? What about Adonai? What about the Almighty God?
We may remember when the people of Israel asked God for a king, Samuel, the prophet was outraged, but when he went to God, “And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them’” (I Samuel 8:7, ESV).
They were supposed to be the chief priest of the Almighty God, their king!
“No, no, we have no king, but Caesar.”
And so Pilate is beaten, and he tells the guards to crucify Jesus.
What are we to think of these horrible things?
Paul writes, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2, ESV).
Jesus was tortured and killed for our sins – to make us right with God.
Non-believers do well to fear God.
All power and authority belong to God, and God gives power and authority to whoever He wills.
And God is the Sovereign King over all. Everything is happening according to His plan. We have nothing to fear. But we have much to do in going forth to tell others the Gospel – who Jesus is and what He has done to make us right with God. Who do you need to tell?
Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father, we thank You for sending Your Son to live, suffer, die, rise, and ascend that we might be made right with You. We rejoice in knowing that You are God, the Sovereign King, and we ask that we would trust You and acknowledge You before all. Help us to use the authority and power that You have given each of us in a way that is pleasing to You. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.