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JOHN - The Light Shines in the Darkness
A Bible Study Course on the Gospel of Christ according to John
PART 4 - Light Overcomes Darkness
A - Events From the Arrest to the Burial (John 18:1 - 19:42)
3. The civil trial before the Roman governor (John 18:28 – 19:16)

b) The choice between Jesus and Barabbas (John 18:39-40)

JOHN 18:39-40
39 But you have a custom, that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Therefore do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 Then they all shouted again, saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Pilate felt convinced that Jesus was truthful and posed no danger. He went out to the Jews who were waiting in the court, and publicly witnessed to the innocence of the accused. All four gospels confirm that Jesus was sinless according to religious law as well as the civil statutes. He could not as the governor pin any blame on Jesus. So the agent of the civil authority admitted Jesus’ innocence.

Pilate wished to rid himself of this strange person, but was also anxious to please the Jews. He suggested releasing the prisoner on the basis of a custom which allowed one of the convicts to be pardoned on the Feast day. He tried to placate the high priest by calling Jesus king of the Jews in derision. If Pilate had released him, Jesus would lose his popular appeal (so Pilate argued), since he could not free his people from the yoke of Rome.

However, priests and people went mad at the title "King of the Jews". They had expected a military hero, a man dominant and severe. So they chose Barabbas the felon; preferring a man of sin to God’s holy One.

Not only was the Council antagonistic to Jesus, but it was also the populace who scorned him. Do you then stand alongside truth, meek and unarmed, or are you like the legalist who relies on violence and deceit, leaving aside both mercy and truth?

c) The flogging of Jesus before his accusers (John 19:1-5)

JOHN 19:1-3
1 So Pilate then took Jesus, and flogged him. 2 The soldiers twisted thorns into a crown, and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple garment. 19:3 They kept saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and they kept slapping him.

It was incumbent on Pilate to set Jesus free and arrest his accusers. This would not do, rather he twisted the facts and searched for a compromise; so he ordered Jesus to be flogged. Such a punishment was terrifying and exhausting. The lashes carried bits of bone and lead that cut into the skin. When the soldiers roughly manhandled Jesus they tied him to a pillar with bared back and rained blows on his body. His skin and flesh were torn which led to unutterable pain. Many thus tortured died in the process. Our innocent Lord suffered much in body and soul.

Then the soldiers, to keep up the mockery, took the lacerated body of Jesus. These soldiers lived in fear of Jewish terrorists, not daring to march out at night. This then was their chance to avenge themselves by torturing someone called the king of the Jews. On him was poured all the malice they felt towards this restless people. One of them ran and plucked a branch from a thorn bush, making it into a crown to place on Christ’s brow. The pressure of this crown of thorns made the blood gush out. Others came with worn clothes that belonged to the officer and wrapped it around him. The blood mixed with the purple dye until Jesus seemed to be covered in gore. Added to this, he was kicked and punched brutally. Some bowed before him, as if preparing him for coronation. The likelihood that these imperial troops represented various European nations means that many of the world’s tribes shared in this mockery and blasphemy directed at the Lamb of God.

JOHN 19:4-5
4 Then Pilate went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I bring him out to you, that you may know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 Jesus therefore came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the man!”

Pilate looked up Jesus’ file and found he was innocent. For the third time he went out to the Jewish leaders and witnessed again, "I find no fault in him." Eventually, he tried to bring them together face to face to uncover deceit and display the truth.

He brought out Jesus with all the signs of blows and tears on him and blood flowing profusely and with the crown of thorns on his brow. On his shoulders was the robe of purple, drenched with blood.

Can you conceive the picture of God’s Lamb bearing the world’s sin? His abasement was elevation, for his matchless love appears in his patience. He stood before those who represented East and West, mocking him, ill-treated and crowned with thorns. All the crowns of the world with their glittering gems are of no value compared with his thorny crown with the blood that atones for all sin.

Though Pilate was the roughest of men prior to this, he was moved by this picture. There was no trace of hatred on Jesus’ face, or a curse on his lips. He prayed silently to his Father, blessed his foes and bore the sins of those who reviled him. The governor uttered the striking words, "Behold, the Man!" He felt the majesty and dignity of this man. As if he meant to say of Christ, "This is the unique man who bears the image of God." His mercy radiated, even at the hour of mortal danger; his holiness shone out in weakness from his marred body. He was not suffering for his own misdeeds, but for my sin and yours, and the guilt of all mankind.

d) Pilate awed by Christ's divine nature (John 19:6-11)

JOHN 19:6-7
6 When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw him, they shouted, saying, “Crucify! Crucify!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and crucify him, for I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”

Long were the hours of torture, and many of the multitude descended on the governor’s gate. The Jewish leadership were unwilling to soften their attitude or relent, but had agreed to demand Jesus’ death at once with shouts and mighty tumult. Those who inclined to be lenient were cowed into despondency and assumed that God had forsaken Jesus. He did not provide them with a miracle of rescue, so the demands for execution grew louder, and Pilate was expected to pass the harshest sentence of all. Thus, they renounced him and delivered him to the depths of shame.

At the time, Pilate was specially wary of any signs of unrest, yet unwilling to kill someone illegally, so he said to the Jews, "Take and crucify him, even though I am convinced of his innocence" – a third occasion of his admission that Jesus was guiltless. With this, Pilate judged his own self to be guilty in not having the right to flog an innocent captive.

The Jews were aware that Roman Law forbade their killing anyone, and Pilate might turn on them if they did so, despite his reassuring words. Jewish law had no provision for crucifixion, but only for stoning. Jesus had "blasphemed" and so deserved to be stoned.

The Jewish elders knew, that if claims to Christ’s divine Sonship were right, they should have bowed down to him. The crucifixion would "prove" that he was not divine with all the torture that he had suffered. They would thus be justified by his dying, not by atoning blood, but by mere crucifixion that met with God’s approval.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we thank you for your pains and torture, you bore our stripes. We praise you for your patience, love and majesty. You are our King. Help us to obey you; teach us to bless our enemies and show mercy to the hateful. We praise you that your blood cleanses our guilt. O Son of God, we are yours. Ground us in your holiness, to walk in mercy, thankful for your sorrows.


  1. What do we learn from the picture of Jesus beaten, wearing purple and a crown of thorns?


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