Tag Archives: Pilate

God Is Not Mocked

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. [Luke 22:63-65 ESV]

People mock that which they do not know or care to understand. People who mock think they have the upper hand over someone they consider inferior, undeserving of respect or compassion and mercy. It is the guilty who mock the innocent, the strong who mock the weak, those who have control who mock those who have no control.

It is the Jewish Temple guards and authorities who mock Jesus. Soon, the Roman guard will mock Him and put Him to death. Their mockery shows they are aware of what others have claimed about Him and what He has claimed of Himself.

Like His cousin John, Jesus was deemed a Prophet similar to those of the Hebrew Scriptures. In Hebrew history it was God’s prophets who came to the rulers and peoples of Israel and Judah telling them to stop sinning and return to worshipping only God. They stood before kings and priests, before the thrones and inside the city gates, telling all that if they did not return to worshipping only God they would die or be taken into exile to die away from their land. These who spoke for God were held in contempt because God is held in contempt. They were treated shamefully because the people did not believe their words. They did not believe God. Those who speak for God will encounter those who would silence them because of the hatred they have toward God.

Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. [Hebrews 11:36-38 ESV]

Writing through David 900 years earlier Jesus told what would happen to Him. “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” [Psalm 22:7-8 ESV]. Pilate examined Jesus and found no guilt in Him. Pilate’s solution is to “punish and release Him” [Luke 23:22 ESV]. Pilate’s punishment is physical abuse. If Jesus is not guilty of anything why punish Him? Pilate’s punishment is a mockery.

Herod examined Jesus because he wanted to see Jesus perform a sign, a token miracle, as if Jesus were a performer sent to entertain. Jesus would not perform for Herod. “Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him” [Luke 23:11 ESV]. Pilate and Herod were enemies until they stood before the condemned Jesus. Afterward they became friends.

When Jesus was delivered over for crucifixion the Roman guard treated Him with their fullest contempt. These men were experienced at dehumanizing their prisoners and making sure they died in excruciating agony.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. [Matthew 27:27-31 ESV]

A sign was made and placed over Jesus as He died on the cross. “This is the King of the Jews” [Luke 23:38 ESV]. Pilate ordered the sign inscribed and placed above the condemned man. While Jesus hung on the cross many of the people there challenged Him to take Himself off the cross miraculously. Even those crucified with Him (at least one of them) suggested He save them when He saved Himself.

Jesus did not come to save Himself. Everything which happened to Jesus was predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Perhaps the most insidious and disturbing evidence of hatred for God is the motives and actions of the religious leaders tasked with upholding the Law of God. In their zeal for looking superior before the people they violated the Law they were responsible for knowing and enforcing. Jesus taught against the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders, quoting Isaiah written 700 years earlier, to show He knew their hearts from eternity.

So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” [Matthew 15:6-9 ESV; quoting Isaiah 29:13]

Jesus’ life, His motives and actions, His teaching and healing, His miracles culminating in His resurrection from the dead, show He is God, the Author of the Law and the Prophets come to fulfill them. God will not be mocked.

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Examples of Meekness: David

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7 ESV]

David’s legacy, as found in Scripture, comes from God’s perspective not man’s. All of the kings descended from David are compared to him. He is the standard by which God judges their actions. For, from before David was anointed by Samuel as king of Israel until his death, David sought the Lord with his heart. Either the future kings of Judah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, walking with God as David their father had done, or they did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did not wholly follow God, as David had done.

Everyone with a Bible may read about David. His devotion to God was unparalleled. His sins, though, were typical. Yet, because he was the king, the leader of the nation of Israel, when David sinned, not only did he bear the consequences of his sin but so did the entire nation.

David demonstrated specific characteristics throughout his life. He did not set himself up as king as soon as he was anointed, grasping after the throne or trying to displace Saul. Saul was still alive and David would do nothing to shorten the life of the living king. Everything David did, in relation to Saul, reinforced the kingship of Saul though Saul was rejected as king by God. David fought for truth, God’s truth, true truth, not Saul’s or his own perception of truth. David recognized man’s eyes and the thinking of their hearts were corrupted by sin. When David sinned he not only recognized his sin but grieved deeply over the consequences of his sin. He was “poor in spirit” and he “mourned” over sin, especially his own.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. [Psalm 51:15-17 ESV]

David intimately knew God and saw how He worked from before he was anointed king. As the youngest of eight sons David was not pampered but sent to work caring for his father’s sheep. The simplicity of his work ethic and his experienced trust in God comes through when Israel is challenged by Goliath. His duty was to mind the sheep. He did this in spite of dangerous circumstances and the occasional predator. How many of us would run from a lion or the bear even if the sheep they were attacking were ours? They are just sheep! Not David. He fought the lion and bear, killing both, because he knew God would fight for him. He believed God. He trusted God. He obeyed God. No matter the circumstances.

David relied upon the strength of God whether to defeat his enemies, make decisions or repent of the most grievous of sins. He was the youngest and least of the sons of Jesse. But God chose him because of the thinking of his heart showing the meekness of his life before God. He was the greatest king of Israel. David relied upon God’s strength working through him under God’s control and inherited a name by which all of the true kings of Israel were judged.

From David’s descendants, from the city of Bethlehem, came the promised Messiah, Jesus the Christ. When Scripture speaks about a future king In Him is no sin. In Him is justice and mercy and an unshakable government. There will be no divided kingdom and He will reign forever.

Everything Jesus did, his miracles and care for the people pointed to His divinity. Yet the people He encountered either hated Him or wanted to make Him an authority over them thinking He might be the one who would remove the presence of the Romans and help establish a geographical kingdom if Israel. Jesus came to establish a kingdom but not one constrained by physical boundaries. “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’ Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself” [John 6:14-15 ESV]. He removed Himself from a place where the people might take control. When the people of Israel asked for a king it was in rebellion against God because they wanted to be like the nations around them. “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah  and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” [1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV].

Yet, Jesus recognized His heritage, that He was descended from King David and that He was the spiritual king of His eternal kingdom. He accepted the worship and adoration of those who were His but on His terms.

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” [John 12:12-15 ESV]

He was not fighting for something which He already owned. Like His ancestor David, who did not lay claim to his rightful place as king of Israel once he was anointed but waited for God to work Jesus fulfilled the command to obey even under the most tortuous circumstances. While David fled from Saul, who wanted him dead, Jesus stood before Pilate and the religious leaders who wanted Him dead.

And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” [Luke 23:2-3 ESV]

David did not fight for his kingdom trying to claim that which was already his.  But, he did fight for his kingdom, protecting and growing and establishing it at God’s direction. Jesus did not fight for His kingdom, laying claim to a people already His. He did die for His kingdom, redeeming those who are His from the kingdom of sin. David inherited the earth, the geographical area established by God as the nation of Israel. Jesus owns the earth and eternity and give it to whomever He wills. He gives it to those who recognize sin, realize the consequences of sin and relinquish control of self to Him gaining His strength in them under His control.

A Secured Tomb

Jesus’ murder is complete. Caiaphas, the chief priest, and those who participated in the decision to have the Romans execute an innocent man have spent the night thinking about what had just occurred. It was Passover, the holiest Sabbath of the year. There verbal intent to Pilate was to celebrate Passover without the spectacle of dying people hanging on crosses outside of Jerusalem to offend God.

Passover originated when God brought His people out of Egypt. It is a day of remembrance. He wanted those who are His to concentrate on what He had done freeing His people from the slavery of the Egyptian nation. His last plague, the plague which broke the grip of Pharaoh on the people he enslaved, was the sudden death of all first born in the entire nation from the lowest slave to the highest official including his own first born son. Israel was exempted from the death of the first born in their homes when they spread the blood of a lamb on their doorposts before eating their meal while waiting expectantly to be freed. All of Israel was commanded by God to remember His deliverance every year.

Were these people remembering what God had done for them so long ago as God commanded? Had they prepared themselves to celebrate the historical event which solidified Israel as a nation with their own land? Were they even thinking about God?

Apparently, they were more concerned about what they had just done than in anything God had done. They were consumed in their thinking and feeling and actions in making sure Jesus stayed dead. Not that they thought Jesus would become not dead but that his disciples would make it look like he was resurrected. Remembering Jesus words, they paid attention only as far as it suited their emotional need to keep control of the people, they went back to Pilate with a request. They did not rest on the Sabbath as commanded by God but instead went and presented themselves to the executioner, a Greek, the Roman Governor on the day of the Passover. “The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate” [Matthew 27:62 ESV]. Whether they entered Pilate’s residence like they had done the day before or sent in a messenger to speak with him is unknown. What we do know is they gathered together and went to him as a group.

Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first. [Matthew 27:63-64 ESV]

They remember Jesus saying he would be resurrected which means they knew he would have to first die. Thinking Jesus’ disciples capable of engineering a lie of outrageous proportions they asked Pilate to secure the tomb for at least a few days. Did his disciples have a plan, could they even think of such a plan, where they would steal a corpse and then claim the corpse was still alive, or had never died, or was raised from death? Devious thinkers believe everyone as devious as they. There was no concept of what Jesus’ disciples were thinking or feeling. Jesus’ disciples followed a man the Chief priest and his followers considered an imposter making them as much like their teacher as they thought their teacher had been. Jesus was a fraud in their minds and hearts. His disciples were also frauds and capable of defrauding everyone in their lust for control. Jesus was deluded. So were his disciples. Perhaps if they had listened to all of the words of Jesus their thinking would have been different? But now that Jesus was dead they wanted his influence to die with him.

Pilate didn’t care about them or the man he executed, let alone anyone associated with them or Jesus. He gives them permission to do what they think necessary for whatever reason. Jesus was dead. He was not coming back to life. What anyone did with a dead body was no concern of his. His response shows his lack of caring. “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can” [Matthew 27:65 ESV]. Use your own guards. You’re not taking any of my men for such a silly request. Keep the corpse in the tomb. Don’t let anyone steal a dead body.

Caiaphas and those with him had obviously been thinking about what they could do. They had a plan to thwart the supposed preparation of the disciples to deceive everyone. They would lock the tomb with wax and a seal and post a group of armed men around it to keep anyone from opening the tomb. “So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard” [Matthew 27:66 ESV]. By sealing the tomb they would know if anyone broke the seal and could declare to the world the evidence of intent. By posting the guard they could keep anyone, even a mob, from approaching the tomb for any reason.

Jesus was dead. People saw him die. Jesus was buried, placed in a tomb by men from their own ranks. A huge stone was rolled in front of the tomb which would take many men to move. A seal was placed on the tomb. A guard was placed around the tomb to make sure the corpse in the tomb was not removed. How much more could be done?

Jesus was resurrected. What God does no one can stop.

Joseph and Nicodemus take Jesus’ Body

As the sun went down the Jewish Sabbath began. This evening was the beginning of the Passover Sabbath commemorating the Exodus of God’s people from slavery to freedom. It was a holy day and the Jewish leaders, who had used the Romans to murder Jesus, asked the crucified men die quickly and be taken off their crosses. Pilate agreed and ordered the condemned men’s legs be broken so they would die before sundown. Jesus’ legs were not broken because he was already died.

All four documents tell about Joseph of Arimathea. He was two things. He was a disciple of Jesus. “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus” [Matthew 27:57 ESV]. But, he was also a respected member of the council, probably the Sanhedrin. “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” [Mark 15:43 ESV]. According to Luke, Joseph had not agreed with the High Priest and others who wanted Jesus executed. “He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action” [Luke 23:50-51 ESV]. He is called honorable and good and righteous, and was “looking for the kingdom of God” [Luke 23:51].

John gives what may be considered conflicting evidence about Joseph. Whereas the three synoptic documents tell Joseph was a disciple of Jesus and voted against the rest of the council when they wanted to murder him John says he was a secret disciple of Jesus because of fear. “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews” [John 19:38 ESV]. John also tells us he was accompanied by Nichodemus, another member of the council. Nichodemus visited Jesus several years earlier and at night so he might not be seen talking intimately with someone the rest of the council had already condemned as dangerous. “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him” [John 3:1-2 ESV]. John was known by the High Priest and admitted into the courtyard where the hastily assembled council met at night to pass judgment and condemn him (see John 18:15). He watched some of what occurred and may not have seen Joseph disagree with the council. Since Joseph and Nicodemus may have been secret disciples of Jesus before his crucifixion it is not hard to understand John’s comment about Joseph being one secretly.

Joseph asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. He was no longer a secret disciple of Jesus. This was a bold move on his part. Going to the Roman Governor as a known member of the council and asking for the body of a man condemned by the council would compromise any political influence he may have had. Jesus was dead, executed as a common criminal, and there is no indication they would have treated his body with respect after he died any more than they would have while he was alive and during his death. Pilate may have already given the order to finish off the criminals at the request of the council but was surprised Jesus was already dead when Joseph made his request. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph” [Mark 15:44-45 ESV].

When Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus body from the cross they made themselves ritually unclean and were then unable to participate in the Passover celebration. They touched a dead body. They not only touched him but wrestled him from the cross, carried him to a tomb and prepared his body for burial.“And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud” [Matthew 27:59 ESV]. When Joseph took Jesus’ body he had to first take it off the cross. Luke’s says he “took it down” [Luke 25:53] while Mark says he “took him down” [Mark 15:46 ESV]. This is a curious mix of English phrases translated for identical wording in the Greek. Luke, a physician, would look at the body as a thing no longer inhabited by a person while Mark would still see a person. This does not explain the differing translation of the identical words.

Had Jesus still be alive, even a spark of life in the body, these two men, and the servants who accompanied them, would have seen it. Jesus was dead and they are reliable witnesses to his death. Even the confusion of phrases between the documents is not evidence of the reality of the actions of these men. When Jesus was seen alive a few days later it was not resuscitation but a resurrection.

Centurion

From the time Jesus was presented to Pilate until his death there was probably one man in charge of the prisoner and may have witnessed everything which happened to him. This was the centurion, a man in charge of a hundred Roman soldiers. Jesus was too important a prisoner for anyone else to take charge. He was a Roman soldier ascending the ranks to his current position. He was not a Jew but more likely a pagan who may have cared nothing for any god. Probably superstitious to his core he was also hardened by the life of a Roman soldier. There was nothing in this man to suggest compassion or emotion other than the steel strength to do his duty no matter the suffering his duty visited upon anyone.

When Jesus was brought into the Praetorian a centurion took over from the temple guards who had charge. They, the temple guards were now in a Roman court. He was bruised and bleeding and probably haggard. I envision the Roman’s present laughing at the sight and making derisive comments. They hated the Jews as much as the Jews hated them. Pilate comes down and plays his part, posturing his way through the spectacle. Sending Jesus to Herod it was most like the centurion tasked with making sure Jesus did not escape or was abducted on the way and the way back. He probably stood by and watched as Herod questioned and abused the prisoner. Driving Jesus back to Pilate it was he who would then prepare Jesus for death by crucifixion. He led the guard in the scourging and abuse and he would then stop it to bring the man back for final judgment. He approved the crown of thorns and the mockery of the prisoner. He led the procession to Golgotha and he supervised the impaling of the prisoners with spikes through arms and feet. He was responsible for the prisoner and would not let him come down from the cross until he was dead.

But, he was also the one who heard the words of Jesus before Pilate, during his trial, on the way to the place of death and while he died on the cross. He heard Jesus speak with Pilate, never asking for his life, never begging to be let go, and never trying to prove his innocence. He heard the false accusations of the Jewish leaders and their request to release a known murderer instead of Jesus. He watched as Jesus was abused and witnessed the man’s demeanor. Jesus never tried to defend himself, never turned away from the torture inflicted. Nor did Jesus curse the men accusing him or abusing him. When Jesus was led up the hill the centurion heard him speak to the women, he watched the people who loved this man led away to die. When he crucified him and gambled for his cloths he heard every word Jesus gasped to those nearby, his compassion and love for them, his forgiveness. Jesus forgave the centurion for what he was doing.

Then darkness and he was there for he would not leave the men he had crucified. He was commanded to stay and guard them, not to protect them from the elements or the mobs walking by but to make sure they stayed on their crosses and finally died. He heard Jesus utter his last words and die. He felt the earthquake and heard the rocks move. He saw everything and heard everything. He had watched men die before having executed them himself. There was no fear in this man but at this moment he was afraid. Matthew says he and those with him “were filled with awe” [Matthew 27:54 ESV]. Their awe was fear. This is what the words mean. Great fear. His only frame of reference was superstition and seared emotions and hatred for the Jews. His words in Matthew and Luke are consistent and give a true impression of Jesus. “Truly this was the Son of God!” [Matthew 27:54 ESV] and “certainly this man was innocent!” [Luke 23:47 ESV]. There is no reason to suggest the centurion said “son of a god” as in one of the superstitious idols which filled his life. Both statements lend credence to Jesus’ innocence. Even Pilate and Herod determined Jesus was innocent of any crime deserving death. Now, the centurion who executed Jesus gives his firsthand opinion.

Jesus is dead, an innocent man executed by the religious leaders of the Jews who used the Romans as executioners.

It was not just the centurion who was affected but also his men and the crowds who had witnessed Jesus’ death. “All the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts” [Luke 23:48 ESV]. An innocent man was legally murdered by the authorities. Many knew Jesus and his life and words and actions. Only the hardest of the hardened would continue declaring Jesus guilty. It is hard to imagine any harder than the Roman soldiers who were there.

Forgiveness Posted

Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, the authority over the province, the mouth and hands of Caesar, allowed himself to be manipulated by the local authorities, the Jewish religious leaders, and crucified an innocent man. He had determined Jesus was innocent of any crime deserving death. After interviewing Jesus, during the “trial” he may have concluded Jesus was insane for the condemned man admitted being a king. This was one of the blasphemous statements Jesus was accused of by the religious leaders. They declared Jesus claimed to be the king of the Jews and the absolute authority of God over His people. Jesus never denied this accusation but declared his kingdom was of another place. I can see Pilate rolling his eyes as he hears Jesus, a ragged, beaten, abused man rebuke him and his authority by declaring himself a higher authority.

Pilate crucified Jesus between two criminals, suggesting he was the leader of a band of outlaws. Over Jesus’ head Pilate posted a sign, the charges against Jesus which led to his execution. This is normal. Over the heads of the criminals may have hung a sign which said “murderer” or “thief” or “rebel.” Over Jesus’ head hung the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” [John 19:19 ESV; see Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38]. This galled the Jewish religious leaders. This inscription was written in three languages, Aramaic, Latin and Greek. Everyone who walked by, for the place of execution was near the city with people constantly traveling the road. “Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek” [John 19:20 ESV]. Hanging on a cross, swelling from the beatings and bruising Jesus may have been close to unrecognizable. For Pilate to hang this inscription over Jesus, the condemned and almost dead man, was an act of mockery. Pilate mocked the Jewish religious leaders and the man himself, thinking they were worthless and Jesus a lunatic. Pilate was finished being manipulated by them and rebuked by him. Their complaint “do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews'” [John 19:21 ESV] fell on uncaring ears. Pilate’s answer “what I have written I have written” [John 19:22 ESV] put an end to their argument. They would have to be content with knowing Jesus would be dead soon.

After they finished attaching Jesus to the cross, raised it into place, and crucified the other two beside him Jesus whispered a request but not to them. His statement is consistent with his personality as heard in his words and seen in his actions. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34 ESV]. To whom was Jesus referring? Was he referring to the Roman guard, his executioners? They were just following orders. But, they were cruel in the execution of these tasks having grown callused and unfeeling to those they were ordered to kill. These were the same who mocked him before and after the scourging. Was he referring to Pilate? He was the one who conducted Jesus’ trial, determined he was innocent and had him crucified anyway. He gave the orders to the Roman guard who fulfilled the task given. They all knew they were executing an innocent man.

Perhaps Jesus was referring to the Jewish religious leaders. They were the ones who determined months earlier Jesus would have to die. They were the ones who understood the law, were experts in the law, yet threw the law aside when it interfered with their judgment against Jesus. They knew they were having Pilate murder and innocent man. Perhaps Jesus was referring to all those who heaped abuse upon him while he hung on the cross. Perhaps Jesus was referring to any who reject him.

For now, we will assume Jesus was referring to the immediate circumstance. He was speaking of those who actually crucified him. It would seem his words had no effect upon them. They still divided his clothes and stayed to make sure he died. Nothing he could say to them would compel them to bring him down from the cross and he knew this. His executioners were simply tools who did not want the same thing to happen to them.

Jesus’ words assume several facts. First, there is a God and he listens to Jesus. Second, there is a law which God upholds and against which all are held accountable, including Jesus. According to the Jewish leaders Jesus deserved death because he was deceiving the people claiming to be a king, the ultimate authority over the Jews. According to Pilate, Jesus was insane because he claimed to be a king whose geography included spiritual places unencumbered by physical boundaries. Being a lunatic is not against the Roman law and he was innocent of any crime deserving death. Jesus had done nothing deserving being nailed to a cross. He had done nothing deserving death. He, powerless and abandoned, had the audacity to ask forgiveness for those who ignorantly put him to death “for they know not what they do” [Luke 23:34 ESV]. Are these the words of someone truly deluded? Or are they the words of a man who knows what is happening and what the ultimate outcome will be? All of the evidence says he will die. All of the evidence says he will live again. There is more to his death, and his resurrection, than meets the eye.

Jesus Followed by the Crowd

Jesus and two other criminals destined for execution are driven through the city to the place where they will be crucified. All three have been beaten, scourged, in preparation for death. Jesus is so weak he cannot carry his own crossbeam. He stumbles under its weight and probably lays exhausted from the torture he has already endured. Using their authority, the Roman guards impose upon a bystander, someone simply watching the spectacle, to carry the cross behind Jesus. Simon, of Cyrene hefts the beam to his shoulders and walks behind the beaten and traumatized man.

By this time, about noon, the city is awake and filled with business, preparation for the Passover, a holy Sabbath. But news of Jesus’ arrest and trial, his impending execution, escaped no one. People line the streets. People follow the procession of the condemned. This is a normal spectacle throughout history. Public executions are public affairs and people come to watch, to gossip, to be amused and entertained. This execution is no exception. Except that one of the people condemned is a well know teacher with many followers who has done nothing wrong or deserving of death. Many of the people following were part of the mob demanding Jesus’ life be taken. Many were just passersby’s, in the city for the feast. But, many were women and devoted followers of Jesus. “And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him” [Luke 23:27 ESV]. Luke describes the scene with people, specifically women, wailing and beating their breasts. A man they loved had been horribly beaten and tortured and was now being driven to inescapable death. They are watching him be dragged and driven, stumbling and barely able to walk, through the streets toward a place outside of the city where the Roman’s executed those who had broken their laws or threatened their sovereignty.

During this time, probably at a stumble, while he is down on his knees, Jesus turns to speak with the people. He knows them by name. He knows their hearts and the truth of their anguish over his fate. Always the teacher, always the compassionate lover of people, he continues to instruct and direct the thinking of their hearts. “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” [Luke 23:28 ESV]. He is not directing his words to them personally but to them as representatives of the nation of Israel. He is not standing erect with one finger in the air lecturing these women. He is on his knees. His breath is coming hard and with rasps. His head is bowed and his strength is quickly ebbing. His words are not spoken with strength and vigor but whispered and forced. Jesus is already dying. He knows he is dying and will soon be dead. He is not afraid to die even the death he is facing. But he knows something they do not know. He knows many things they do not know. While his words sound mystical and surreal coming from a man who will soon be dead his resurrection undergirds and validates the force of his words. Don’t weep for his death for he must die first then be raised. Weep instead for what will happen to your nation, the children of your children as they face the future which is dire and filled with grief.

Jesus has already spoken about the future, what will happen. His people, the Jews, and his followers, soon to be called Christians, will face persecution and horror. They will be driven from place to place. Those who are parents will watch their children suffer and will be unable to do anything, which is the greatest agony. They will pray for death, to be hidden and removed from the world. “For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us'” [Luke 23:29-30 ESV]. People will face such agony they will feel compelled to do wicked and unthinkable things just to stay alive. Jesus is predicting the future. This is not an unusual prediction. He could see the present, the political climate, the tension between nation and nation, people and people, and say with fair accuracy the future would be explosive. But, he knows more than the obvious.

Now he makes a statement describing what is happening to him. He has done nothing wrong. Pilate and Herod both affirmed his innocence. In fact, everything he did was right. He healed people. He taught them about God though in a way which contradicted the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees, which is why they wanted him dead. They cut down a tree in full bloom yielding nutritious fruit for no reason. “For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry” [Luke 23:31 ESV]? If he is being murdered then no one is safe. If they circumvent the laws of God, ignoring their own responsibility to it, in order to remove a man who is completely innocent then their interpretation of the law of God will lead them anywhere they wish. If the laws of Rome can be nullified by a Governor simply through cultural pressure then there is no moral foundation for the existence of such laws. Law, especially moral law, ignored or changed and reinterpreted at a whim is no law but anarchy. No one is safe under these circumstances. It is better to have never lived than to live under such total disregard for people and the protection given them by law.