Sunday, September 26, 2021



The Crucifixion


The soldiers took Jesus outside the city to Golgotha (Aramaic) It translates into English as “Place of the Skull”.  We often call the place “Calvary”, from the Latin word “calvaria”, to be crucified. 

The Romans had likely set up this place for crucifixion to avoid inflaming the Jews by creating uncleanness inside the city. The writer of Hebrews picked up on this. He wrote:

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:10-14)

Jesus had to carry his own cross. Ever efficient, the Romans also crucified two others, one on each side. (17-18)

Pilate took a plaque and wrote “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” on it before having it attached to the cross. (19) It was the Roman practice that the crime of the condemned person be written on a plaque. It would be hung around the neck of the condemned man as he walked to the cross. Once there, after the prisoner was attached to the cross, the plaque would be attached to the cross. This plaque lets us know Jesus was convicted of sedition (rebellion against Rome). 

Since the site of the crucifixion was close to the city, many Jews came to see it and read the inscription. (20) Since it was written in three languages (Aramaic, Latin, Greek), everyone could read it. 

The Chief Priests told Pilate to change it to “This man said, I am King of the Jews”. (21) They did not want anyone to believe the charge was actually true since they rejected his claims.

But Pilate refused to change it. (22) He was likely disgusted with the Jews at this point. He taunted them one last time before his part of this charade is finished. You can tell that it bothered the Jews since they asked him to change it.

Despite the protest, the wording of the plaque is true. It declared to the world that Jesus really is the king the Jews. It was true in their own concept of the Messiah, the king who restores the kingdom and drives out the Romans.

It was true because God promised a Davidic king. (2 Samuel 7)

Ironically, the Jewish high priests who engineered Jesus’ death, become parties to the proclamation that Jesus reigns.  

As Jesus was hanging on the cross, the soldiers divided his garments among themselves. There were four parts, once for each of the four soldiers. (23) These would have been his outer garment, similar to a robe, as well as his belt, sandals, and head covering. 

Jesus would also have had an undergarment, as the NIV calls it.  The ESV calls it a tunic. It would have been worn under his robe. His tunic, however, was seamless. It could not be divided four ways without damaging it. 

So they decided not to tear it but to cast lots for it. The winner would get the whole tunic. That fulfilled Psalm 22:18, which John quoted from the Septuagint: “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots”.  

Standing nearby and watching these events were some of the women who had followed him: his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (25) It is remarkable that these women stayed close by when most of the disciples had scattered. 

They also present a remarkable contrast to the soldiers: the women stand in devotion to Jesus while the soldiers are greedily taking his clothes.

John was standing with near Jesus’ mother. Jesus committed Mary’s care to John, saying “behold your son” and “behold your mother”. (26-27) 

John took Mary into his home and cared for her. Jesus, as the oldest son, had an obligation in Jewish culture to care for his mother if she became a widow. Jesus’ actions indicate she was a widow. So, Jesus assigned his friend and follower the task. 

He could have assigned this task to one of his half brothers. It would have been expected for the next oldest brother to be assigned. John does not explain, and may not have known, why Jesus did not do so.

Where did John and Mary live after this? John stayed in Jerusalem after these events. Acts 8:1 says the disciples stayed in Jerusalem even after persecution drove many Christians away. He was evidently still there when Paul and Barnabas arrived and appeared before the Council, which included the apostles and elders. (Acts 15:4) Galatians 2:9 also indicates that John was still in Jerusalems when Paul went there with Titus. This would have been about A.D. 47. 

Catholic tradition holds that John later moved to Ephesus and that Mary went with him. There is no real documentation of this, only the supposed visions of a Catholic nun.  We do know that John was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he received the Revelation. (Revelation 1:9) 

After assigning Mary to the care of John, Jesus said “I thirst”. (28) John wrote that he did this knowing that all was finished and to fulfill Scripture. That Scripture appears to be Psalm 69:21, which says “for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink”. Sour wine would have been a cheap wine that was given to soldiers. 

John again lets us know that Jesus knows exactly what is happening. He knew that all was now completed. His work was done and death was imminent. He also knew that, if he said he was thirsty, the soldiers would give him sour wine, thus fulfilling the scripture. 

His last words were “it is finished”. (29) Then he gave up his spirit. 

He gave it up - he was in control.

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18)

So, what was the work that Jesus finished? It was his life of perfect obedience to the Father and his death for our sins. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021



The Trial Continued


Having failed at getting the Jews to choose Jesus as the person to be released from custody during Passover week, Pilate continued to look for ways to release Jesus without antagonizing the Jews. So, he had Jesus flogged, hoping it would satisfy them.

The Romans had different kinds of flogging. There was a moderate flogging for less serious offenses and a longer, more severe flogging for one who was condemned to death. It was designed both as punishment and to weaken the person severely so that he he would die more quickly during crucifixion. John did not specify which type of flogging this was.

It would make sense for Pilate to have the more moderate flogging administered since he had not yet condemned Jesus to death. In addition, he let his soldiers mock Jesus by putting a crown of thorns on his head and a purple robe. They had heard the claim that he was King of the Jews. They could not conceive how a small and powerless nation like Israel could produce a king, so they reveled in the fact that they appeared more powerful than he. They even struck him with with their hands. 

After this torture, Pilate brought Jesus out to display him to the Jews. Pilate pointed to Jesus and said “Behold the man”. (5) Jesus would have been bruised and bloody and exhausted. Wearing the robe and crown of thorns in that condition would make him look pitiful and ridiculous. Pilate was hoping the Jews would see him in this debased condition and decide that it was enough. Pilate reiterated that he found no guilt in Jesus, hinting that he could let Jesus go by his own judgment whether the Jews approved or not.

But the display did not assuage the Jewish leaders. They cried our for crucifixion. (6) Pilate appears to have been exasperated and angry. He yelled back at the Jews to the to crucify Jesus themselves because he found no guilt in him. (7) Pilate knew that the Jews could not execute Jesus, but was hitting back at them for putting him in this position.

Pilate’s sarcasm had no effect. The Jews replied that they had a law that said Jesus must die because he made himself to be the Son of God. (7) This is the theological reason for the Jews to kill Jesus. They understood that his claim to be the Son of God was a claim of deity, a claim to be God. Since they did not believe his claim, they decided it was blasphemy. 

The law they refer to may be Leviticus 24:16, which says “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall put to death.”

Verse 8 says that when Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid. But John did not explain why. One explanation is that the Romans believed there were certain men who were considered “divine men”, who received some divine powers. The term Son of God would mean such a man to a Roman. 

Pilate took Jesus back inside his headquarters and asked him where he was from, trying to alleviate his fear as to what kind of man Jesus was. However, that did not work because Jesus did not answer Pilate. 

Jesus failure to answer angered Pilate, so he reminded Jesus that he had the authority to release him or crucify him. That did not work to make Jesus afraid. Instead, Jesus instructed Pilate that he had no authority over Jesus except that given to him from above, from the Father. (11) 

This statement is one of the themes of John’s presentation of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus: God was in control, Jesus was in control, although obedient to the Father, and the events that occurred were part of the will and plan of the Father. Pilate was just a player; God wrote the script.

You might call this “Biblical compatibilism”. God is in control of what happens, he is sovereign, but people are still responsible for their actions. 

So, Pilate is guilty of his sin before God. But the greater sin belongs to Caiaphas, the one who sent Jesus to Pilate. Caiaphas, who, as High Priest, was charged to lead the people to worship and obey God, initiated the proceedings and drove them. Pilate’s role was more passive; he had this dumped on him and tried to release Jesus before giving in to pressure. Indeed, verse 12 says Pilate continued to try and release Jesus. 

But the Jewish leaders prevented the lease by striking at the heart of Pilate’s weakened authority. His previous troubles with the Jews had brought his leadership issues before the emperor (Tiberias Caesar). So, the Jews said that if Pilate released Jesus, he was not Caesar’s friend. (12)

Jesus’ claim to be a king, if taken literally, put him at odds with Caesar. Pilate could not afford for the charge to be made to the emperor that he tolerated rebellion. He might not only lose his position, but suffer great punishment.  Ironically, the Jews claimed to be more loyal to Caesar than Pilate.

So Pilate gave in. He brought Jesus out of the headquarters to stand before him as he sat on the judgment seat. (13) Pilate called out to the Jews again to behold their king. The crowd chanted “crucify him!”. They even declared that they had no king but Caesar, despite the fact that they despised the Romans and their rule over them. 

They denied their true and long awaited king to preserve their power, position, and authority. In effect, these Jewish leaders, especially the chief priests, also denied the kingdom of God, which is tied to the idea of the Messiah. He had come to his own, as John said in the Prologue, and his own people did not receive him. (1:11)

Having made the Jews declare themselves and demand crucifixion, Pilate turned Jesus over to be crucified. (16)

We must all decide how to respond to Jesus. We may reject him and suffer the consequences of eternal punishment. Or we may believe in him and receive him as our savior. If so, we will receive eternal life! Believe in him today!

Sunday, September 12, 2021



Taking Jesus to Pilate


John did not relate anything that happened before Caiaphas. He may not have witnessed it first hand and so, did not report it. Or, he may have felt he had established the responsibility of the Jews and was ready to move to the Gentiles, the Romans.

Both are held responsible for the death of Jesus in the New Testament. Acts 2:36 says “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

And Acts 4:26-28 says “The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Anointed - for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place…”

John does, however, record more details of Jesus’ trial before Pilate than the other gospel writers. 

Pilate was the governor, so the Jews took Jesus to the governor’s headquarters. He had the penalty to conduct a trial and issue the death penalty. It was now early morning, so they have been at this all night already. 

Pilate was appointed by the emperor Tiberius as governor, or procurator, in A.D. 26 and governed until A.D. 35 or so. He was not considered a good governor, even for a troubled province. He was not sympathetic to the Jews or their religion. He got into trouble at least three times for stirring up the Jews either with graven images or with raiding the temple treasury. 

The best practice for a governor was “out of sight, out of mind” with the emperor. Having rebellions or riots, or having citizens come to Rome to complain to the emperor, were sure to lead to the loss of position or worse. 

The purpose of taking Jesus to the governor was to get the death penalty. They could not do this on their own, as they acknowledge in verse 31. The Talmud says “Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, judgment in matters of life and death was taken away from Israel”. 

The Jews, according to Old Covenant law, executed people by stoning. The Romans executed by crucifixion. So, in turning Jesus over to the Romans, they were actually doing what Jesus wanted and what he said would happen. He said he would be “lifted up”, meaning crucified. (John 12:32)

Ironically, the Jewish leaders would not enter the governor’s headquarters to avoid being ceremonially unclean during Passover week, while falsely accusing Jesus (Ex. 20:16) and being party to a murder (Ex. 20:13), making them guilty of sin and, therefore, unclean.

Pilate Engages Jesus


At the insistence of the Jews, Pilate opened a proceeding. However, he did not simply confirm the verdict of the Sanhedrin. He started a fresh proceeding, asking the Jews what charges they brought. They were upset by this and responded with petulance: “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you”. (30) 

Since the Jews did not answer Pilate’s question, but responded with petulance, Pilate responded with petulance of his own, telling them to take Jesus and judge him by their laws. He could not proceed with a trial with no charges. 

But, the Jews insisted that Pilate do it because only he could impose the death penalty. Pilate knew what they wanted, but made them work for it to show his authority.  

So, Pilate questioned Jesus. The Jewish leaders would not be able to hear this encounter because they were outside and Pilate and Jesus inside. He asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews. John does not record this title being  used before, but the Jews must have complained that Jesus claimed to be king, therefore committing the crime of insurrection, or rebellion, which could be punished by death.

Jesus asked Pilate if he asked this on his own accord, meaning had he heard Jesus claim this, or did someone else say it to him, making it hearsay. It may also have been Jesus’ way to telling Pilate he knew this was a “setup”.

Pilate seemed agitated by this, asking if he was a Jew. This was a rhetorical question meant to raise the fact that Pilate did not want to get involved in  squabbles between Jews over religious issues. So, he asked Jesus what he had done to get himself brought before Pilate. 

Jesus answered him by addressing the king issue. He said his kingdom was not of this world, which is why his servants were not fighting. (36) This is a denial of the accusation of insurrection. It was not a denial that Jesus was a king, and Pilate picked up on that. He said “so you are a king” (37)

Jesus responded that Pilate said it, not Jesus. But this is an affirmative statement. That is why the NIV words it to be a “yes”. 

But, Jesus said he was sent into the world to bear witness to the truth. To bear witness to the truth here means Christ’s revealing God to the world and Jesus’ status as Son of God with the power to save. 

Jesus also said that everyone who was of the truth would listen to him. (35) This is similar to what Jesus said to the Jews several times: if they were of the Father and loved the Father, they would believe Jesus’ words.

Pilate expressed his frustration to all of this saying “what is truth”. (38) He recognized his problem here: there likely was no way to discern the truth because this was all bound up in Jewish history and theology, which he did not understand (and did not want to). He also likely realized that Jesus was the victim of a plot by the Jewish leaders, which plot was dangerous to Pilate also.

So, Pilate told the Jews he found no guilt in Jesus. (38) This statement is important to the story, for it shows that Jesus is innocent of any crimes. He is not going to die for his sins, but ours. 

That should have been the end of it. But, Pilate wanted to appease the Jews, so he offered to release Jesus as part of a custom to release one prisoner at Passover. The Jews, however, wanted Barabbas, a known criminal, released instead. (40) That would allow Jesus to go free, but not declare him innocent of his crimes. 

At this point, John has established that Jesus was innocent of the accusations against him and was even declared innocent by the Romans. So, when he is put to death, it is obvious to the readers of the gospel that Jesus was killed for other reasons. One reason was the sinful nature of both the Jews and the Romans who participated in this process and refused to believe Jesus was who he said he was. 

And the second reason is the sovereign authority of Jesus over all that happens. 

The guilty man was released and the innocent man punished. It is a picture of the world’s thinking, upside down from the values of God. 


And it shows us that sinless Jesus submitted himself to sinful humanity to bring salvation to sinners.

Sunday, September 05, 2021



John did not record all of the details of the story as the other gospel writers did. He assumed knowledge of the other gospels.

He recorded the facts that demonstrated his message:

(1) Jesus’ sovereignty over the events of his death

(2) Jesus working on Peter to make him the man he needed to be.

Taken To Annas


After finding Jesus in the garden, the Roman soldiers and the temple officers arrested Jesus and bound him. There was no reason to bind him, since he had not resisted arrest. But it was part of his humiliation, being treated as a common criminal.

It was also useless. Jesus had already caused them to fall to the ground with his words, he did not need his hands to defend himself. Or, as the hymn says, “he could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set him free”. (The hymn “The Thousand Angels” was written by Carl Overholt.)

Having arrested Jesus, they took him to the house of Annas. Only John records this encounter. Annas had been High Priest from A.D. 6-15. Although the High Priest was supposed to serve for life, at this time the Roman governor could depose the priest and appoint someone else. Some of Annas’ sons succeeded him, the Caiphas his son-in law. 

Despite being deposed, Annas was rich and powerful. Many Jews thought of him as the rightful high priest. John does not tell us why Annas had Jesus brought to his house, but we may suspect a little “payback” here. The vendors that Jesus ran out of the temple worked for Annas, who controlled the money changes and animal sales. It was called the Bazaar of Annas. Annas may have wanted to convey to Jesus that it was Anna, not Jesus, who controlled the temple.

Peter’s First Denial


As Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, the former, and rightful, high priest, Peter followed along with another disciple, whom we assume was John. John got into the courtyard with Jesus because he was known to the high priest. Peter was not known, and was left outside until John intervened to get Peter in. We could assume that, if the servant girl knew John well enough to take instruction from him to let Peter in, she knew him well enough to know he was a disciple of Jesus. That would make her question to Peter a logical follow up. 

The servant girl asked Peter a question in the negative sense: “you are not one of this man’s disciples are you?”. (17) The question has a sense of disdaining about it. 

Peter said “I am not”. So, Peter was brave enough to follow, but not brave enough to admit to being a disciple of Jesus. This was despite his saying he would follow Jesus “I will lay down my life for you” a few hours earlier. (13:35)

Sometimes people further criticize Peter saying this was only a servant girl, so he had nothing to lose by admitting his relationship with Jesus. However, for the servant to ask the question, she must have been told what was going on and knew Jesus and his disciples were in trouble. She would possibly have told her master, the high priest, that another disciple was outside, which could have led to questioning and arrest. 

So, Peter stayed in the courtyard, warming himself by the fire with the servants of the high priest and the officers from the temple. He probably kept his head down and hoped to blend in with the group until he could see what was going to happen. 

Annas Interrogates Jesus


While Peter waited in the courtyard, Anna questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. It is interesting that John puts the topics in this order, indicating that Annas was more interested in the disciples than in theology. This indicates the plan was already in place to send Jesus to Pilate to have him found guilty of insurrection. That charge would lead to the death penalty.

The real concern of the Jews, though, was theological. They viewed Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God to be blasphemy. But, a theological charge would not get them to capital punishment. 

If Jesus had enough disciples who showed any kind of rebelliousness (as Peter had done), Jesus could be portrayed as the leader of a rebellion. 

Jesus did not answer the question about the disciples. He was protecting them. He was keeping his promise to the Father not to lose any of those the Father gave him. And it was his will that the disciples carry on his work, which they could not do if they were killed before they even got started.

Jesus did answer Annas regarding his teaching, although not the content. He said he had taught openly in synagogues and the temple. He knew they had often had spies in the group and that others reported his teaching to the Jewish leaders. So, he implied, that Annas should not ask Jesus about this, but witnesses who heard Jesus teach.

Jesus’ response has a legal aspect to it. Under the Jewish law, the accused was not to be directly questioned. It was similar to the American right to remain silent. Witnesses were to be called and witnesses for the defendant were to be called first. 

In addition, two witnesses were required to support the death penalty, and two were required to have consistent testimonies. So, Jesus’ statement pointed out the fraud in the proceedings.

One of the officers took it as an insult to challenge the former high priest, and slapped Jesus in the face. (22) Jesus, undeterred, continued his challenge to the proceedings, telling them to bring witnesses if he said taught something wrong, otherwise, striking him was wrong. 

Annas sent Jesus to Caiaphas. In order to get Jesus tried by Pilate, the charge had to be brought by the reigning high priest on behalf of the Sanhedrin. 

John did not record what happened with Caiaphas. Either he was not allowed inside and was not an eye witness to it, or he thought had established the guilt of the Jewish leaders sufficiently. 

Peter Denies Jesus Again


John did not record anything that happened at Caiphas’ house. Instead, he focused on Peter again. While still in the courtyard, some of the others asked him again if he was one of the disciples. He again denied it. (25) 

John created a dramatic tension here with contract between Jesus and Peter. Jesus stood up to his accusers and did not deny anything about himself. Peter, on the other hand, trembles before his accusers and denies everything. 

Then, a third time he was asked. This time it was by a relative of the Malchus, the man whose ear Peter severed, and also a servant of the former high priest. That man was evidently in the group that arrested Jesus. He thought he recognized Peter as being in the garden when Jesus was arrested. But Peter again denied it. Then the rooster crowed, as Jesus had prophesied. (27)

One lesson for us here is that we should always declare ourselves as disciples of Jesus as soon as possible. When you start a new job, meet new friends, or join a new organization, ff you do not speak up and acknowledge Jesus at the first opportunity, you will find it more difficult as time goes by to step forward and have credibility. And you will find it easier to keep silent or deny since you have already done it. 

Your denial may just be not speaking up when someone refers to Christ or Christianity in a derogatory manner. Your failure to acknowledge is about the same as an outright denial.