Text: John 18-19
Additional Readings: Isaiah 52:13-53:12 | Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9
Pontius Pilate marveled when he had Jesus in his court, because He wasn’t like any other person facing condemnation. And he’s right. Jesus is very different from other men, including you and me.
Take Gethsemane for instance:
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. (John 18:1-3)
We go to great lengths to avoid calamity: Wearing masks, keeping our distances; fixing recall notices on our cars; having mammograms and prostate exams; covering electrical outlets and putting scissors out of reach. And if one of those dreaded things happens, especially if it’s something we’ve been trying like crazy to prevent, there’s a double pang because it happened despite what we could do.
But not Jesus. Gethsemane was a trap. Judas had betrayed privileged information to the chief priests. Jesus knew this, and instead of going anywhere else in the area, He knowingly went there and accepted the cup of woe His Father was giving Him to drink.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. (Isa 53:7)
Yet, let there be no doubt that Jesus is the same God-Man who changed water into wine, who healed the sick, and raised the dead, who could at once ask His Father for twelve legions of angels. When He answers, “I am He” they fall down at His majesty. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10) Nevertheless, He, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:7, 8) Jesus goes to His appointed end, and the Scriptures of God fulfilled.
Another example is when Jesus was before the High Priest:
19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” (Jn. 18:19-22)
Who doesn’t say things in private that they would dread being exposed publicly? Who doesn’t have a different private life than the face they put on before others? Who wouldn’t be violated by having a part of their lives exposed to scrutiny? That’s what the High Priest is counting on. Surely there is some dirt on Jesus, some failing or false word we can find upon which to hang Him. But Jesus has none.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Ps. 24:3-5)
But as for us, we do have those thoughts we hope God doesn’t see, those harsh words we pray are overlooked, and those things in our nightstand or on our phone or computer we hope won’t be found by others.
Then there’s the trial before Pontius Pilate:
33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
19:9[Later, Pilate] said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 18:33-36, 19:9-11)
It’s hard to stand alone in one’s conviction. Most of the time such a person will be labelled delusional. Likewise, it’s hard for a man to be a martyr without others at least to commiserate. Much more often, we prefer to be on the winning team, even if it’s the underdog. We seek the approval of those around us, and are feel justified in our choices when we see others doing the same.
But not the Lord Jesus. He has remained the same throughout His ministry, in declaring Himself to be the promised Son of Man, the Messiah who is Savior of the World. And now He stands alone. “He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:11) He was rejected by the people Israel, and without even His disciples. Without a single other supporter, He holds to the work His Father gave to Him. His Kingdom is not of this world. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” (John 1:10)
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off. (Ps. 38:9-11)
Yes, Jesus is not like us, and indeed there is none like Him. Where we flee the consequences and a justly-deserved eternal punishment, the Lord faced them head on in your place and for you:
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:4-6)
For us, who harbor secrets and beg that our mistakes and evils aren’t found out, Jesus of Nazareth was blameless to the heart. He had no iniquity or deceit, and all who are born anew into Him by water and the Spirit are reckoned righteous by God: “Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” (Ps. 24:6)
He stood alone, bearing witness to the truth. He made the true good confession and never wavered, and where we are ignorant and vacillate, He remained faithful. And even now He stands before His Father and makes intercession for you:
“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa. 53:11-12)
Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.