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Hail, King of the Jews

Jesus Flogged“Flog him!,” Pilot ordered, irritated by the early morning disturbance from the Jewish leaders, and hoping to settle the Jesus matter quickly and quietly. “What? Flog him? But he hasn’t been tried, yet! He hasn’t been found guilty of any crime!” some onlookers protested. Obeying the orders of their commander, the soldiers went above and beyond a flogging, twisting together a crown of thorns and jamming it on Jesus’ head.

“Hail, King of the Jews,” the soldiers mocked, spitting on him, slapping him in the face, repeatedly. Such is the behavior of those given position and power to administrate justice. Some things never change.

They threw a purple robe on him, so he’d look the part, and displayed him for the crowds. “Look at the poor fellow! He’s harmless!” Pilot shouted.

The religious leaders, those who were supposed care for the poor, to show hospitality, to be a blessing, to be a holy nation, incited the crowds and shouted, “Crucify him!”

“You do it! I find no guilt in this poor fellow!, shouted Pilot, knowing full well they didn’t have the legal right to impose the death penalty.

“He claims he’s the Son of God!,” the religious leaders cried. Shaken, perhaps by the plea of his wife to leave Jesus alone, or perhaps by his encounter with such an obvious man of peace, humility, grace, and power, Pilot brought Jesus in for further questioning.

“Who are you? Where do you come from?,” Pilot asked. Jesus remained silent. Pilot, who earlier had asked with disdain and contempt, “What is truth?” was not in any place to hear the Truth.

Jesus said nothing.

“Nothing? How dare you! Don’t you know who I am? Your life is in my hands! I can let you live or die,” Pilot scolded Jesus. Jesus, weakened and tired, expanded Pilot’s limited scope, reminding him of the sovereignty of the Almighty. Gently, Jesus pointed out that Pilot was merely a pawn on the chessboard of God’s redemptive purposes for the world.

From that point, Pilot argued for his release, but the Jews were relentless. “If you release Jesus, who claims to be a king, you’re not honoring Caesar. Anyone who claims to be king opposes Caesar,” they said. It was getting close to lunch. Pilot, weary, afraid, and running out of options, shouts, “But what about your king! Shall I crucify your king!”

“We have no king but Caesar,” shouted the leaders of God’s people, revealing the hardness of their hearts, and simultaneously betraying their heritage, their responsibilities, and their God.

The soldiers strapped a heavy cross beam across Jesus’ shoulders and marched him out. He was crucified between two common criminals – one on his left, another on his right. A sign was nailed above Jesus’ cross. It was written in Greek, Latin, and Aramaic to ensure everyone got the message. It read, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Messages like this were used to state the crime and to help deter others from getting any ideas lest they end up with a similar fate.

The religious leaders protested about the sign, saying to Pilot, “Do not write King of the Jews, but rather This man said I am King of the Jews.” Pilot brushed them off, never knowing the irony of what he had written about Jesus.

Unwittingly fulfilling scripture, the solder’s divided up Jesus’ clothes and played rock-paper-scissors for his tunic. There he hung, naked, spikes through his wrists and ankles, bleeding from virtually every part of his body from the prior scourging.

His mother, Mary, stood by the cross, as did other followers. Jesus, still thinking of others, turned to his best friend, John, and asked him to take care of his mother.

Knowing that all was finished, Jesus continued to fulfill scripture, saying, “I thirst.” They gave him sour wine from the end of a hyssop branch. This was perhaps just enough liquid to allow Jesus to make his final victory declaration, “It is finished.”

What did he finish?

Jesus completed the tasks His Father had sent him to do – ushering in the Kingdom of God, and drinking the cup of God’s wrath, taking upon himself the sins of the world.

Jesus bowed his head and released his spirit.

The religious leaders wanted the bodies taken down so they wouldn’t spoil the Sabbath – especially on Passover week. They broke the legs of the two criminals which speeds death as they can no longer use them for support to keep the breath of life in them. Arm strength quickly fails and the crucified suffocate.

When they came to Jesus, he was already dead. They didn’t break his legs, but jammed a spear into his side to ensure he was dead – both acts fulfilling scripture. Out poured a mixture of blood and water – the blood of Jesus – that paid for our sins – and the cleansing water that washed us clean.

Adapted from John 19 (ESV)

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted

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