What Shall I Do WIth Jesus?
Journey to the Empty Tomb
What Shall I Do With Jesus?
John 18:39-19:16
This morning we are continuing our “Journey to the Empty Tomb” as we study John 18, 19 and 20.  Today we are at John 18:39 – 19:16 where we find a character study of a man named Pilate.  And as I told you last week, he is the epitome of a coward.
When we come to these verses, we need to keep in mind this is Jesus’ last day alive on earth before the crucifixion.  He has been tried in front of the religious court of the Jews and found guilty of nothing.  But they are intent on killing him anyway simply because He is a disturbance to them.
But the Jews have no right to execute Him.  That right has been taken away by the Roman government.  So they are required to bring Him before Pilate, the Roman governor so that he might be the executioner.
They don't want Pilate to try Him; they only want Pilate to kill Him. But in order to get Pilate to do it they have to use every possible tactic that they can imagine trying to come up with a charge that will stick in order to get the thing finally accomplished, and they finally succeed. They are wily, they are clever, they are unscrupulous, they are bloodthirsty. And they hound Jesus and they hound Pilate until finally they get them both.
And yet, in this kind of a thing which could again, as we have seen so many times, be very debasing to Jesus, we see Him exalted.
And the one who is debased in this situation is Pilate.  And equally debased are the Jewish leaders and before it’s over, even the people. And in this passage we once again see a contrast between the major players.  On the one hand, there is the hysterical hate of the Jews and the panicky fear of Pilate.  They stand in very stark contrast to the serene majesty and calm of Jesus Christ. It ought to be the other way around.  The victim should be anxious and frenzied and the accuser calm and deliberate.  But it is exactly the opposite as we shall see.
And in all of the humiliation and mockery of this unbelievable scene where we see Jesus abused, then mocked, then clubbed, then spit on, scourged, smashed in the face and finally nailed to a cross, we would think we would see a debased Jesus, but we don't.   Instead we see Him in as much beauty as you will ever see Him.
We are now into the second phase of the second trial.  The religious trial is over.  Jesus has appeared before Annas, then before Caiaphas, the High Priest and the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night, and then before them again the following morning.
Following the religious trial, Jesus has a civil trial where he appears before Pilate and we looked at that last week.  Pilate examined Him to see whether the charges would stand up and comes to the conclusion He has done nothing wrong as far as Roman law is concerned.  That could have been the end of it, but Pilate is in a pickle.
The Jews aren’t content to let it end and they have some leverage with Pilate because of past events.
He had capitulated to the Jews on three occasions and they knew that they had him right under their thumbs. They knew he was nothing but a puppet and they could move him around anywhere they wanted to move him. More than once, they had revolted against his authority and won.  So they had this leverage of saying, “If you don't do what we want, we'll revolt and if the emperor hears about it, you'll get the axe.”
So they were putting the pressure on Pilate by way of blackmail to execute Christ and ultimately that is exactly what happens.  He caves in and gives them what they want.
So Pilate's really got two options on his hands when it comes to what to do with this innocent man named Jesus.  He could let Him go. That would be right because He's innocent. But if he lets Him go, he risks a Jewish revolution.  And if word goes to Caesar, either he will be removed from office or his head will be removed from his shoulders because Tiberius Caesar didn't tolerate messing around.
So Pilate had the option of doing what was right and losing his job and maybe even his head because the Jews would undoubtedly revolt, or he had the option of doing what was wrong which was executing an innocent man. And that went against everything that was just and all that he had ever learned.  And in his defense, we do see a sense of morality and sensibility in Pilate.  But ultimately, he is faced with either violating his conscience or saving his neck.
So what should he do?  He has this man he has declared innocent, but what do you do with Him?
The solution he comes up with is to send Him to Herod.  This is the second part of the trial and John doesn’t give us any information about it.  Luke does in chapter 23.
Since Jesus is originally from Galilee and Herod is the big dog in Galilee, Pilate decides to pass the buck to Herod.  Herod looks at Jesus a while, the soldiers mock Him, beat Him a little bit, but then Herod says, “Take Him back to Pilate.”  And Pilate is stuck again.
And that’s where we intercept the story today at verse 39 and what we discover in these verses is exactly what every man has to face and that is a decision about what to do with Jesus Christ.
Pilate tried every single thing he could to get rid of Jesus and he couldn't get rid of Him.  He just kept showing back up as God forced him to make the decision himself. And so must every man as well.
As we move into the trial in verse 39, I'm going to show you three things.  First we see
1. Pilate's Proposals
Pilate thinks up a couple of different proposals in order to get rid of Jesus. We’ve already seen where he tried to just let the Jews deal with Him but that didn’t work because the Jews knew it wasn’t lawful.  They were certainly willing for Him to die, but according to the prophecy of Jesus, it had to be at Gentile hands.
So Pilate has to come up with another plan.  And I think by this time there is a certain desperation in Pilate’s decisions.
Remember, his head could very well be on the block if this doesn’t work out right. Yet, in his heart and mind he knows that Jesus is innocent. He knows what the Jews are up to.  But he cannot afford another revolt or Rome will eliminate him and he knows the character of Tiberius and he knows that he is quick. And even though he's got a sense of justice he's got that lingering thing in the depths of the human heart that says, “I want to stay alive at all costs”. And so, it's very complicated.
So first of all, he tries to worm out of it.
verse 39
Every year at Passover, a Jewish criminal would be released from the Roman prisons. It was, very obviously, a concession on the part of Rome to the people because the other gospel writers tells us that the people had the right to choose who it was that they desired to be released. And so Pilate in his little brain begins to think, “It's Passover time and they get to choose whomever they will to be released. And he thinks here's my out. I'll offer them Jesus.”
And on the surface, that seems like a pretty good plan.  After all, not too many days earlier, Jesus had come riding into Jerusalem on a little donkey and everybody was praising Him, saying, "Hosanna to the King.”  So maybe this is his out.  It’s certainly not what the Jewish leaders want, but it might work.  
Now apparently, by this time, a crowd has gathered outside Pilate’s Hall. That should work to Pilate’s advantage because the people seem to like Jesus.
And I'm sure Pilate expected the crowd to say, “Release Jesus.”
After all, the alternative is Barabbas who was a notorious criminal, a scum of the earth kind of guy.  He is indicated in other places as an insurrectionist and a murderer and robber.  Surely they will pick Jesus over Barabbas.
So Pilate puts him up there with Jesus and according to verse 40 they don’t want Jesus.  They want Barabbas released. That points to a couple of things.  First of all, people can be very fickle.  If you don’t believe that, just listen to the way some people talk tomorrow who were in church singing praises today.  It’s like:  Sunday, praise God.  Monday, curse God.
But we also discover through Mark that the people were stirred up by the chief priests.  So the religious leaders, trusted men in the city, were out there campaigning for a convicted criminal as opposed to the Son of God.
And although it can’t be proven, there are some who believe the full name of Barabbas was Jesus Barabbas and perhaps there was some confusion regarding the chants of the people.
But regardless, the intention of the people is that Barabbas be released and now Pilate is really in a jam.  What's he going to do with Jesus now? He thought he had a sure thing in releasing the prisoner, but it didn't turn out to be a sure thing. And now he's stuck with Jesus again.  And to make matters worse, according to Matthew’s account the crowd is beginning to escalate their demands.
So Pilate tries something else.
John 19:1
This is an effort at compromise. He figured if he beat Jesus up and mutilated and humiliated Him enough, the people would say, “That's enough, let Him go.” And maybe Jesus would lose His following and be too embarrassed to keep talking about being a king and leave town.”
So the Bible says he scourged Him.  And let me throw in a theological footnote at this point. We often think that Jesus bore our sins only when He died, but He bore our sins in pain and suffering.  He was bearing sin before he ever went to the cross and even when He was alive on the cross.
Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities.”
So even when they hit Him in the face with their fists, He was suffering for sin for the chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed.
Now, it's hard for us to understand what scourging is, but it was a hideous torture.  A Roman scourge was a thick stick wrapped in leather. At the end of it were leather thongs of some length and in the end of those leather thongs were held bits of brass and lead and bone filed to sharp points. The victim was then either stretched flat on the ground with his back up, or tied to a post, hanging, or strapped suspended from the ground. And then the man who was accustomed to doing it and knew how well to do it would lash the back 40 times with the scourge.
And from what we understand, the back was torn and lacerated to such an extent that even the deep seeded veins and arteries and sometimes even the entrails and the inner organs were exposed. It was a total shredding of the back.
This was such a horrible torture that no Roman citizen, no matter how great his crime, could ever undergo scourging. It was forbidden. And it gives us some indication of why Jesus died so soon upon the cross, because He was beaten so raw before He ever got there and the loss of the blood before He ever made it to the top of that hill with His cross would have made His death much more rapid than it would have otherwise.
To add to this thing, he let the soldiers play a little game with Jesus.
Verses 2-3
Now history tells us that Roman soldiers loved to mock the prisoners waiting to be crucified by dressing them up like kings and ridiculing them.  The great crowning event would be when they nailed him to the cross and dropped it in its hole.
And there was added delight with Jesus, because He claimed to be a king.  So Pilate seizes on that claim and he lets the soldiers play along.
So they make a crown of thorns to cram down on His head.  And they throw an old faded robe on Him and they tell Him He's a king and they stick a phony scepter in His hand and they set Him up.
And Matthew tells us they walked by and spit all over Him. And then they beat Him in the face with their fists. And they made a mockery of Jesus as a king never realizing indeed He was a King. King of kings and Lord of lords.
And then Pilate comes back before the people.
Verse 4
What a coward!  If He has no fault, then why all of this mockery?  Why rip His flesh off His back? Why the mockery?  But this is his plot. If they see how horrible He looks, maybe they'll think it's enough.
verse 5
He doesn't say, “Behold your king”.  He says, “Behold the man.  Look at Him.  He's no threat to you or to me or to anybody.” This is Pilate's effort to get off the hook. He figures that seeing Him in this condition will be enough.
There He stands, covered with gashing wounds, blood streaking down His face from the crown of thorns on His head. He's a ghastly figure. And Pilate says, “Look at Him!  There He stands, nothing more than a helpless, powerless prisoner.”
He is saying, in effect, “Does He look like a king? Does He look dangerous? Look at Him. Isn't it enough for an innocent man to be beaten like that?”
But Pilate doesn't understand that they were egged on by such hatred and by such Satanic forces that they would stop at nothing short of the death of Jesus.
They had Pilate where they wanted him. And they weren't going to let up on Jesus or Pilate until Pilate caved and did what they wanted.
But Pilate thought it might
verse 6
Hardly had Pilate's dramatic appeal ended when the most hardened individuals of all, seeing the bleeding object of their hate, started crying, “Crucify Him.”
And over and over they screamed until the whole crowd , in one great cry of hatred, is screaming for His death.
And Pilate’s proposal had failed again and he realizes it’s over.  So in desperation, he says unto them:  “You take Him and crucify Him for I find no fault in Him."
Pilate now gives them the right of Roman execution, but for the time he says, "I find no fault in Him."
Verse 7
Now, Pilate well knew that law.  He knew that the Jews didn't tolerate any false gods.  On two different occasions Pilate had tried to post images of Caesar around Jerusalem and it had caused such a revolt among the Jews that Caesar himself had to get involved and order them removed.
So when the Jews say, “Hey, Pilate, do you remember that law about false gods? It’s still on the books!”
He obviously remembers very well that law. So that leads us to 
2. Pilate's Panic
verse 8
Catch that phrase, “more afraid.”  If you're more afraid what were you before you were more afraid? Afraid.  He's already afraid and now the fear turns to panic.
Now we don’t have all the details recorded here in John, but in addition to all he’s been dealing with,   the character of Jesus, the threat of his life, the threat of his losing his own position and the ethical dilemma he’s facing, his wife came along and whispered in his ear that she’s had a dream and he should have nothing to do with Jesus.
All of those things added together make Pilate want to get rid of Jesus but nothing he’s tried has worked.  He can’t get rid of Him and now the Jews are threatening a revolt on the same premise he’s messed up twice before.
So he runs back in the house and talks to Jesus again.
verse 9
Why does he ask that question?  My conviction is he asks that because of the last thing the Jews say to him.  Jesus claims to be the Son of God.  That’s the reason his panic escalates and He asks Jesus this question.
To complicate everything else that’s going on there is now the possibility he has scourged the Son of God. He’s not asking for his address down in Nazareth.  He is asking Him if He's the Son of a god, that's what he's asking Him. Where did You come from? Are You earthly or are You from up there where the gods are?
And notice the response of Jesus.  Not a word.  Here stands Pilate in a panicked frenzy, trying to find a way out of this mess and Jesus stands there in absolute silence.
Why was Jesus silent? For one thing, that is a fulfillment of prophecy.  Isaiah 53:7 says: "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He open not His mouth." In a sense He knew He was fulfilling prophecy in silence.
But, let me give you something even greater than that. Jesus knew Pilate's heart. And Jesus knew it was over with Pilate. Nothing that Jesus said anymore would have mattered to Pilate. So, He didn't say anything. You know, it's a shocking thing to realize that a man can come to the place in his own experience with God that God stops talking to him. But it can happen.
There comes a time in the life of an individual who willfully rejects Jesus Christ that all of a sudden it becomes impossible for that person to be saved. And God in Christ knew Pilate. He knew it was over. He knew Pilate had gone past the point of possibility.
We’ve seen the digression of that in these studies.
Back in chapter 18, verse 37 Jesus said, "Everyone that is of the truth hears My voice."
He was giving to Pilate an invitation. He declared who He was. He told him He was a King from another realm, not the world, but Pilate wouldn't buy it and Pilate kept going further and further and further and further until it was finally over.
Some people have thought that Pilate later on was saved. I have no reason to believe that at all. History never tells us anything about him from here on out. I have no reason to believe he was ever redeemed. I don't think Jesus would ever stop, would ever be silent in front of a man whose heart was open. Pilate was a closed book. He was a frenzied maniac and Jesus says nothing.
By the way, whenever you see silence in the Word of God, it is generally connected with judgment. Prior to the unfolding of the horrible judgments in Revelation the Bible says: "And there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." And it may very well be in the silence of that moment when Jesus stands there before Pilate, that Pilate’s soul, for all eternity, passed beyond the call of God.
Well, Pilate responds to the silence of Jesus by pulling rank.
Verse 10
“Don't You know who I am? I'm Pilate!”
Jesus could have said, "Don't you know who I am? I'm God."
He says, “Don’t you know I’ve got the power to crucify you or release you?”
Jesus could have responded, “Yes, and you don’t have the guts to do either one!”  That was his whole problem.  He had the authority to do it, but he didn't have what it took to do either one. What a spineless coward.  He was all talk and no action.
And I love Jesus' reply.
Verse 11
Isn't that good? Everything is under control. You got that? The death of Jesus Christ isn't out of control. Jesus Christ did not die as a misguided reactionary who got himself tied down too tight and lost his life over it. Step by step God is moving this thing along.
Then Jesus makes a very startling statement at the end of verse 11
Verse 11b
According to Romans 13, God ordains the powers that exist.  In other words, no one comes to rule without God’s consent.  So Pilate was a governor by the decree of God. That means, in a sense, he was responsible to act for God in that fashion. So what he did, he had been given the authority of God to do. God had designed that this would happen and God knew that it would happen and so Pilate was really acting in the design of God though he was guilty himself.
But Caiaphas and the Jewish leaders had the greater sin because they had no authority to lay hands on Jesus at all.
And what Jesus is saying is that all of them are guilty, but there is a greater sin than Pilate's.  Now I will admit to you that is hard for me to understand.  When you look at all that Pilate did and did not do and could have done, you see unbelievable guilt.
But the truth is, according to Hebrews 6, anyone who knows the truth and rejects it, is guilty of crucifying the Son of God afresh, putting Him to an open shame. And men today are just as guilty as the people who screamed for His blood then when they reject Him, willfully knowing the truth.
In fact, there it is very likely there will be someone who walks out of this building today just as guilty as were those Jewish religious leaders back then.  In fact, the guilt may even be more because you will sin against a completed revelation of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Then notice verse 12
Pilate is panicked. Having just heard the words of Jesus, he knows He's innocent.  He's scared to death because he may think now that Jesus is in fact a god.  After all, Jesus had said, “You get your power from above and I know all about that.”
So Pilate decides to release Him.  He wanted to get rid of Him, he tried everything he knew but the Jews try one last shot and this one did it.
Verse 12
Now the threat is to report Pilate for letting a political threat to Rome go unpunished.
Pilate knew that to tolerate a traitor was the end. Tiberius would overlook tolerating a traitor so Pilate decides to save his neck instead of his soul.
Listen to
3. Pilate’s Pronouncement
verse 13
Pilate sits down.  It's time for sentencing. It’s kind of a shocking thing to realize that one day the tables will turn and Pilate will stand before the Great White Throne where Jesus will be seated to sentence him.
But on this day, Pilate sits down. The time has come to sentence the prisoner.  But he’s not going down by himself.  He refuses to take the responsibility for the death of Jesus by Himself.
Verse 14
I don't know what he meant by that. I don't know whether it was cynical, whether it was desperation or whether it was prophetical.  I don't know what it was.
By this time the man has lost his senses. He is backed in a corner; he is panicky; his heart is beating, he is sweating, he just wants out. He's remembering that Jesus may be the son of a god. He's remembering the warning his wife had in a dream which connects up that whole divine possibility. He's remembering that Jesus is innocent. He knows the hatred of the Jews. He worries about the pressure of Rome. He's trapped and he's got nowhere to go.
And he says, “Behold your king.”
Maybe he places the emphasis on "your" as if to say, “This is your doing”.
The crowd continues to cry for His execution.
One final time, Pilate makes an appeal.  “Shall I crucify your king?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar."
You want to know something? They said that as the hypocrites that they were.  They hated Caesar. But they also said it in truth because they were, in fact, ruled by Caesar. God wasn't their king. They weren't His subjects. And you want to know something? Israel still doesn't have a king and they won't have till the King of kings comes back in the great day of the dawning of His Kingdom. And today the Jews are without a king. Only when one comes to Jesus Christ does he know his King.
Then they said this to Pilate, "Let His blood be on us and on our children." They wanted to be guilty of the death of Jesus.
And then Pilate made the final pronouncement in
verse 16
Now listen to this and I’m through:  I don't care who you are.  I don't care when you live.  I don’t care what you’ve done or how good or bad you believe yourself to be.  Everyone has to make a decision about Jesus.
And the whole point of everything I’ve said to you this morning boils down to this:  Pilate tried over and over again to get rid of Jesus. But you know what he discovered?  He couldn't do it. He couldn't do it. You know why? No man can do it. If you think you can wiggle out of a commitment to Christ and a final decision, you are wrong. No decision is a decision with Pilate.
So what are you going to do? Are you going to save your soul or your neck?  Do you want eternal salvation or do you want to go for the things of the world? That's your choice.
And God wants nothing more than to back you into a corner and force you to make that decision.
And I say to you with all the love in my heart, you better make up your mind before it’s too late and you find that Jesus is silent and there aren't more opportunities.
Don't do what Pilate did. Don't pass the buck. Don't compromise. Don't run away. Pilate said, and you have to say it too, “What shall I do with Jesus?”
And the only wise thing to do is accept Him as Savior and Lord.
Let’s pray.


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