Jesus Christ Our Passover



Part Six

[*** Be sure to read Part Five before continuing.]


Realizing it is close to the Passover time, the people began to clamor for Pilate to initiate the proceedings which would mean the release of a prisoner.

Mark 15: 8 -- And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do  as he had ever done unto them.

Pilate responded to their wishes.

Matthew 27: 16 to 18 -- And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.

Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?

For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. [Pilate understood the motivation of the men who had brought Jesus to him. He wasn't being fooled.]

The two oldest Aramaic manuscripts and an abundance of Greek manuscripts do not simply call the prisoner "Barabbas"; rather they give his full name "Jesus Barabbas" in verses 16 and 17. No doubt the name "Jesus" was deliberately deleted in other manuscripts for reverential considerations.

The name "Jesus" means "Jah is savior" or "Jah is salvation." "Jah" is a contracted form of "Jehovah." The name "Barabbas" is a surname literally meaning "son of the father." The parallel between Barabbas as "Jesus the son of the father" and Christ as "Jesus the Son of the Father" is spiritually significant. The counterfeit is unmistakable. The choice was between two: the first was "Jesus the son of the father," who was a man well known as an insurgent who had committed murder; the other choice was "Jesus the Son of the Father," who was the Messiah. His Father was God Almighty, the God who had delivered Israel from oppression time and again in their long history. Jesus Christ was, in reality, their long-awaited redeemer.

Pilate began by giving the crowd a choice: did they want Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ to be released? Personally, Pilate wanted to see Jesus Christ go free, but the pressure to please the religious Judeans was very great. In order to shift the burden of responsibility, Pilate took this issue to the rest of the people, giving them the choice. However, after he had already given the people a choice, Pilate's wife complicated Pilate's situation further.

Matthew 27: 19 -- When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

No doubt this message from his wife intensified Pilate's desire to have Jesus released. What an awkward moment this had become for Pilate, since he had already committed himself to giving the people a choice between Jesus Barabbas and Jesus Christ.

Matthew 27: 20 and 21 -- But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.

Mark 15: 9 to 11 -- But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy.

But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them.

John 18: 39 and 40 -- But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. ***

*** In summarizing the events of the trial, the revelation in John includes many details the other Gospels do not record. Conversely, John does not include many aspects that the other Gospels have. Between John 18: 38 and 39 there is a period of time in which much occurs, including Jesus' appearance to Herod (Luke 23: 7 to 12).

Incited by the religious leaders, the crowd called for Barabbas to be released. In a moment of desperation, Pilate made the following proposal.

Luke 23: 14 to 17 -- [Pilate] Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him  before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:

No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.

I will therefore chastise him, and release him.

(For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)

Pilate wanted to release Jesus. However, he had gotten himself into a corner by already having given the crowd a choice as to whom should be released. Pilate reasoned with the people that Jesus was an innocent man. However, his logic did not change the mood of the crowd.

Luke 23: 18 and 19 -- And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man,  and release unto us Barabbas.

(Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)

The crowd's decision was definite: Do away with Jesus Christ and release Barabbas, the criminal rebel. This concludes Pilate's first appeal to all the people from the seat of judgment.

Though Pilate now was committed to release Barabbas, he still did not want to inflict capital punishment on Jesus. He had offered to chastise Jesus and let him go, but to no avail. Still maneuvering, Pilate had Jesus scourged in hopes that he could then convince the people that Jesus had suffered enough and should be released.

John 19: 1 to 3 -- Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged [mastigoo] him.

And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it  on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,

And said, Hail, King of  the Jews! and they smote him with their hands [rhapisma].

The Greek word "scourge" is mastigoo  meaning "to scourge with a lash or rod," "to whip," or "to flog." The soldiers stripped Jesus, tied him to a post, and brutally flogged him. At the end of the thongs of this whip there were pieces of metal or bone. The soldiers plaited or braided a crown of thorns and put it on his head. As they continuously beat on him, the pain Jesus was suffering is impossible to describe or fathom.

The word "purple" is the Aramaic word argwna  and the Greek word porphureos  meaning "purple" or "reddish purple." This was the color often used to signify royalty. The word "robe" in Greek is himation  meaning any type of outer garment, but especially the mantle. It could refer to a large outer cloak or to a smaller mantle which went around the neck and hung down the front. Thus he was once more mockingly dressed as a king, this time by Pilate's soldiers.

After "crowning" Jesus and attiring him in this purple, royal-looking garment, the soldiers began to taunt him, saying, "Hail, King of the Judeans." What a cruel spectacle! Imagine the humiliation! Then, as if the previous flogging and mockery were not enough, they smote him. The words "smote him with the palms of their hands" are again the one word rhapisma  meaning to beat with the palms or with rods. His torture and consequent suffering was indescribable.

After this torturing and taunting, Pilate decided again to take the issue to the people, offering them another chance to change their minds.

John 19: 4 and 5 -- Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate  saith unto them, Behold the man!

Mutilated beyond recognition, wearing a garb which by its color implied royalty, and wearing a ridiculous crown of thorns, Jesus was again brought out for public display. Pilate then stated, "Look, this is to show you that I found no fault with the man." His statement implied that despite the soldiers' unmerciful torture of Jesus, they could get him to admit no wrong. Pilate said, "Behold the man," imploring the crowd to look at someone who was looking less and less like a human being. Pilate desperately wanted to convince them that Jesus had been sufficiently chastised to satisfy their fiendish desire to see him punished and humiliated and that now he should be released. At the same time Pilate was not prepared to challenge the will of the people. This was the second time Pilate went out from the judgment hall to the area of the judgment seat and appealed to the people. Records of this second appeal are found in the other Gospels as well.

Luke 23: 20 -- Pilate therefore, willing [desiring] to release Jesus, spake again to them.

Matthew 27: 22a -- Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?

Mark 15: 12 -- And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him  whom ye call the King of the Jews?

Pilate, in making this appeal, clearly hoped the people would call for him to release Jesus. By exhibiting Jesus as a beaten, bleeding, mocked man, Pilate desired to convince the crowd that Jesus had been punished enough. We must understand that though Pilate had the authority to release Jesus, his overriding desire in this situation was to please the crowd. Thus, without the crowd's approval, he would not make the decision he actually wanted to make, which was to release Jesus.

Pilate's chastisement of Jesus  still did not satisfy the crowd's craving for brutality. By this time, Barabbas' fate was no longer an issue. Pilate asked what they would have him to do with Jesus.  Following the cue of the religious leaders, the crowd clamored for Jesus' crucifixion.

John 19: 6a -- When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him,  crucify him. . . .

Luke 23: 21 -- But they cried, saying, Crucify him,  crucify him.

Mark 15: 13 -- And they cried out again, Crucify him.

Matthew 27: 22b -- They  all say unto him [Pilate], Let him be crucified.

After this crowd response to his second appeal, Pilate looked directly at the religious leaders and attempted to pass back to them the responsibility for the life of this man.

John 19: 6b and 7 -- Pilate saith unto them [the religious leaders], Take ye him, and crucify him:  for I find no fault in him.

The Jews  answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

Pilate told them to crucify Jesus themselves according to their own law, because according to Roman law he had found no fault in Jesus. Yet, even though Pilate had told them to crucify him, crucifixion was a mode of death used by the Romans, not the Judeans. The leaders replied that Jesus had committed a capital offence according to Judean law, that offence being that he made himself the Son of God. This was the first time Pilate heard that charge. Before this, the accusation had been his claim to being a king. Pilate had already made a mockery of that. But the claim of being the Son of God deeply troubled Pilate. Jesus had already caused him to marvel greatly by the way he had handled himself. Pilate was in terrible confusion and fear. Perhaps he thought that Jesus really could be the Son of God. He certainly considered this Galilean unusual, mystifying, even awesome.

John 19: 8 to 11 -- When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.

Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all  against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

Pilate returned into the judgment hall to interrogate Jesus again, specifically to learn from him, "Whence art thou?" He desperately wanted Jesus to answer the charge and provide him with a reason to release him. While Pilate spoke of power to release, Jesus responded that God had the ultimate power and that "he that delivered" Jesus to Pilate had the greater sin than Pilate. Judas did not deliver Jesus to Pilate. Caiaphas, the high priest, had delivered him. In this moment of intense mental struggle and turmoil, still wanting to see Jesus released, Pilate went and appealed to the people for the third time.

John 19: 12 to 15 -- And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

And it was the preparation of the passover, [*] and about the sixth hour [noon]: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King.

[*] The first part of John 19: 14, "And it was the preparation of the passover," is omitted in the following four Greek manuscripts: MS 264, 557, 747, and 2389.

But they cried out, Away with him,  away with him,  crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

Once again Pilate, sitting on the judgment seat, exhibited Jesus publicly. "The preparation of the passover" simply refers to the fact that all this was transpiring during the preparation period, before the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is ironic that this would be stated here when the people were, in a symbolic sense, preparing Jesus as the Passover lamb. Here it is Tuesday, the thirteenth of Nisan at "about the sixth hour," which means about noon. Some theologians have tried to say that the time was midnight or even 6:00 A.M. Pilate would not have gathered a crowd to pass judgment at midnight. The Sanhedrin had tried Jesus at daybreak and then brought him to Pilate while it was still early, Jesus was then interrogated, sent to Herod, returned to Pilate, flogged, and presented to the people so that most of the morning would have passed by. Rather than dawn, it would logically be close to noon by the time referred to in John 19: 14. In Biblical usage midnight is only called "midnight" or "the middle of the night," never "the sixth hour." Six o'clock in the morning would be called "dawn" or possibly "the first hour."

This simple, plain reference to time should have caught our attention long ago and eliminated the tremendous confusion in setting the chronology prior to the crucifixion. Many have taught that the last supper, arrest, and cock-crowings were the night before his appearances to Pilate and his crucifixion. His crucifixion was at "the third hour" (Mark 15: 25), our 9 A.M. Yet here in John 19: 14 it says that Jesus was before Pilate at noon,  the sixth hour, after he had already been on trial before the Sanhedrin earlier in the morning. There is no one who can make any of these events fit chronologically unless he recognizes that this was only Tuesday, the thirteenth of Nisan, around noon, and that it was the day before Jesus was crucified.

As Pilate began his final appeal to the crowd to allow him to let Jesus go, the Judeans accused Pilate himself of betraying the Roman Emperor, Caesar, if he were to release Jesus. Why? Because anyone who claimed to be a king, as Jesus had done, surely was an enemy of the Roman king, Caesar. This was quite a serious charge against a Roman governor like Pilate. It obviously put more pressure than ever on him. As he sat down on the judgment seat, Pilate was desperate. Grasping for straws in the wind, he tried to put the issue back on their shoulders by saying, "Behold YOUR king!" and "Shall I crucify YOUR king?" He was telling them that Jesus claimed to be their  king, not a Roman king. Did they want one of their own to be crucified? The religious leaders, who supposedly despised Gentile rule, now retorted, "We have no king but Caesar." Pilate had run out of arguments. Fearful of the religious leaders and people and intimidated by their threat of associating him with treason against Caesar, Pilate would compromise his responsibility and authority. Even though he had found Jesus totally innocent, Pilate would give in to their demand rather than carry out justice according to Roman law.

Besides John 19, this third and final appeal by Pilate to the crowd is also recorded in the other Gospels with some added detail.

Matthew 27: 23 -- And the governor [Pilate] said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

Mark 15: 14 -- Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.

Luke 23: 22 and 23 -- And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.

And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.

Luke 23 specifically states that this was the third time Pilate spoke or appealed to the people. That fits perfectly with the other Gospels. On this final appeal he once again declared Jesus' innocence and offered to chastise him once more and release him. Pilate charged the crowd to answer his question, "What evil hath he done?" The mob ignored Pilate's rational question and emotionally cried out "Crucify him!" Pilate's final act was an intense climax to the extraordinary chain of events preceding it.

Matthew 27: 24 -- When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that  rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his  hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

When Pilate washed his hands in water, he was acting out a custom which signified that he was taking no responsibility in the matter. Even though he was the governor and had the legal authority over such proceedings as this one, Pilate obviously feared the Judean people greatly and refused to go against their will. When the Judeans threatened to accuse Pilate of not being a friend of Caesar by releasing a man who "maketh himself a king," Pilate's fear of the crowd was intensified. Yet at the same time, Pilate was loath to execute this mysterious, awesome, unique, innocent Galilean who endured silently the beatings and humiliation reserved for the vilest of criminals. Pilate was in a vise. Completely exasperated, he consented to send Jesus to be crucified, while simultaneously saying he would not take responsibility for the spilling of this man's blood.

Matthew 27: 25 -- Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be  on us, and on our children.

Luke 23: 24 and 25 -- And Pilate gave sentence [or "assented"] that it should be as they required.

And he released unto them him [Barabbas] that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.

Even though the Romans carried it out, the Judeans willingly accepted full responsibility for the execution of Jesus Christ, the king of kings and lord of lords, the savior of all mankind. Some misguided people have attempted to assert that all mankind killed Jesus Christ, and therefore, we living today are responsible for it. Yet the Bible clearly states that it was the religious leaders of the Judeans who were the responsible ones.

In delivering Jesus to his accusers' will, Pilate had him flogged by his soldiers again with whips with pieces of metal or bone on the end of the thongs.

Mark 15: 15 -- And so  Pilate, willing [boulomai, deciding] to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged [phragelloo, to whip] him,  to be crucified.

Matthew 27: 26 -- Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged [phragelloo] Jesus, he delivered him  to be crucified.

John 19: 16 -- Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him  away.

When Pilate gave consent to the people and proceeded to wash his hands of the responsibility for Jesus' fate, it was still Tuesday, the thirteenth of Nisan, about noon. Understanding this, the next events must have begun that Tuesday afternoon. Upon leaving Pilate, Jesus was not immediately taken and crucified. He was first taken by the Roman soldiers back into the Praetorium, the judgment hall. Pilate's appeals had been made just outside of the Praetorium. The Praetorium was in the large royal palace where Pilate as the provincial governor resided when in Jerusalem. Numerous soldiers were also there at this time.

Matthew 27: 27 to 31 -- Then the soldiers of the governor [Pilate] took Jesus into the common hall [of the governor's palace], and gathered unto him the whole band [speira, cohort] of soldiers.

And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet [kokkinos, crimson or deep scarlet] robe [chlamus, a wide, coarse military cloak].

And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it  upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote [tupto, to beat repeatedly with a stick] him on the head.

And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe [chlamus] off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15: 16 to 20 -- And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band.

And they clothed him with purple [porphura, a purple garment], and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,

And began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews!

And they smote [tupto, to beat repeatedly with a stick] him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their  knees worshipped him.

And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple [porphura] from him, and put his own clothes [himation, outer garments] on him, and led him out to crucify him.

These few verses contain all that is recorded of the events between the time Jesus left Pilate shortly after Tuesday noon and the time he was led out for crucifixion early on Wednesday, the next morning. These verses tell all that the Scriptures reveal about the next eighteen to twenty hours. Not realizing the chronology of events and the extended time period involved, most people have not fully appreciated the duration of the suffering our savior went through.

To summarize the events following Pilate's giving in to the mob: first the soldiers flogged Jesus; then, in the judgment hall an entire band (or "cohort") of four to six hundred soldiers gathered for the single purpose of torturing and mocking this one man. The soldiers stripped Jesus of the purple garment Pilate had placed on him. Then, as we learn from Mark 15, they put on him another purple garment. Over this they draped a crimson military cloak which would normally be worn on the outside. These comprise the third and fourth articles of clothing put on him by his torturers. Then the soldiers plaited or braided his second crown of thorns, the first having been plaited while he was before Pilate. They put the crown of thorns on his head as a mock-crown and put a reed in his right hand as a mock-scepter. Imagine hundreds of soldiers converging on and sadistically abusing this one battered man.

Jesus Christ was again mockingly dressed as a great king and conqueror. The soldiers taunted him and bowed before him. They spit on him, took the reed from him, and began to repeatedly beat him with it on the head. The thorns pressing into his head would have intensified the pain as they beat him. The pain had to have been excruciating, the humiliation unthinkable, the bleeding profuse.

How long did this mockery go on? We do not know. Did the soldiers continue to scourge and beat him throughout the afternoon, night, and morning? Did they allow him to sleep? God's Word is silent on these matters. Yet an entire cohort of soldiers could torture one man for many hours.

With sunset of that Tuesday afternoon ended the thirteenth of Nisan. More events are detailed on that day in Nisan than on any other day recorded in the whole Bible. From the last supper, to the prayers in the garden, to the denials of Peter, to the illegal trials, to the continuous scourgings and, finally, to this scene in the Praetorium, we see the picture of our savior's endurance, love, and obedience in the face of unparalleled evil. By this time the prophecy of Isaiah 52: 14 saying that "his visage was so marred more than any man" was already fulfilled.

Sunset on Tuesday began the fourteenth of Nisan, the most ignoble day in all human history. That momentous day began with a night of torture followed by the death of God's Passover lamb dying for the sin and sins of mankind.

End Of Part Six