Online Worship Trinity Fifteen, Sunday September 20, 2020
Sermon for Trinity Fifteen – Sunday September 20, 2020
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Matthew 27:26 (NKJV)
26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. *
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Who was crucified, died and was buried,
NOT as a powerless victim, but a willing sacrifice,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His most Precious Blood –
For just under 2000 years, Christians, across the face of the earth have confessed that Jesus ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate.’ But, did you know that up until 60 years ago many historians actually argued that Pontius Pilate, the 5th Governor of Judea, never existed? Really.
Why would historians dispute that Pontius Pilate existed? Well, despite the events recorded in the Gospels (which they don’t consider reliable history) and by Jewish Historians, Philo and Josephus and Roman Historian Tacitus; it was simply the fact that there were no physical records of his administration or letters to Rome. As a result, some questioned if Jesus of Nazareth ever actually ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate.’
Then, in the summer of 1961, Italian archaeologists found a piece of limestone in the ruins of a sports stadium near the ancient seaport of Caesarea (on the Mediterranean Sea). The piece of stone was about 2ft x 3ft. The stadium had not been there at the time of Jesus, but on the piece of limestone were engraved the words: “Pontius Pilate, Praefectus Judeae.” In case your Latin is a little rusty, that means, “Pontius Pilate, Ruler of Judea.” Some historians suggest that it’s the one physical link to the man who, gave the order that Jesus of Nazareth should be crucified.
Some say that it’s fairly miraculous that the stone survived. They say that the sea could have worn the lettering away and we wouldn’t have proof of the existence of Pontius Pilate. Well, at least that’s what some historians claim.
“Whew! I guess we can still confess that Jesus ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate!’”
Actually, that piece of limestone didn’t matter to 1st Century Christians, and it shouldn’t matter to Christians today. After all, our faith is based upon the rock that is God’s written word, not on the stones dug up by archaeologists or the thousands of dusty volumes written by historians. We don’t need to discover Noah’s Ark or the Ark of the Covenant to know that they existed. We don’t need to have DNA to believe that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate.
In 2004, Actor Mel Gibson produced the film, “The Passion” picturing the suffering and death of Jesus. He was attacked by some and labeled ‘antisemitic’ because of his depiction of the Jews hatred of Jesus. He was called to ‘given an account’ by Diane Sawyer on the television program, ABCNEWS Primetime.
When asked directly: “Who killed Jesus of Nazareth?” Gibson replied, “We all did.” He continued, “Jesus was a child of Israel, among other children of Israel. There were Jews and Romans in Israel. There were no Norwegians there. The Jewish Sanhedrin, and those who they held sway over – and the Romans – were the material agents of his demise.” In other words, both we and the Jewish leaders and the Romans killed Jesus of Nazareth. Thus far, Mel Gibson.
This morning we ask the same question and seek the answers of Scripture. Who killed Jesus of Nazareth? Is Mr. Gibson correct, was it all of us? Was it the Jewish Sanhedrin? Was it the Roman Soldiers? Was it Pontius Pilate?
May God the Holy Spirit bless our study of the Scriptures. Amen.
26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. *
It would seem rather easy to answer the question, ‘Who killed Jesus of Nazareth?’ After all, all we need to figure out is who is the ‘He’ referred to in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27, verse 26. Even though our unbelieving world rejects the Bible as a historical document, it does furnish an answer to the question.
Who was it that released Barabbas, a murderer, to the assembled crowd as they requested?
Who was it that gave the order for Jesus to be scourged?
Who was it that gave the order for Jesus to be crucified?
If we find the answer to these questions, we will find the answer to the question: “Who killed Jesus of Nazareth?” We need only back up a few verses to determine who the ‘He’ is that released Barabbas and gave orders that Jesus be scourged and crucified (Matthew 27:22-26):
22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” 23 Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”
24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” 25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
One man was responsible for releasing Barabbas and ordering that Jesus be scourged and crucified: Pontius Pilate, ‘Praefectus Judeae.’ I guess that wasn’t all that difficult, was it? But it is really fair to pin the whole matter on Pontius Pilate? It’s true that Pilate had the authority to release Jesus, but was He really responsible? After all —
The Jewish Leaders demanded Jesus be crucified (Matthew 27:20, Luke 23:23, John 19:6).
The Assembled Mob demanded that Jesus be crucified and even offered to take responsibility for His Blood (Matthew 27:22-25).
Shall we say that Pilate succumbed to their wishes, and they killed Jesus? We could, and some might agree with us, but others would declare us antisemitic.
Who killed Jesus of Nazareth? I’m sure that ‘literalist lawyers’ would point out that actually, the Roman Soldiers killed Jesus of Nazareth. After all, they caused massive blood-loss by scourging Him (Matthew 27:27). They caused His death by nailing him to the cross (Luke 23:33). They pierced him with a spear to confirm that He was dead (John 19:34).
But they were acting under orders…they weren’t responsible. The responsibility for their actions should be traced up the chain of command…
So, it was Pontius Pilate who was responsible for Jesus’ death! There is no doubt that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate. He suffered the indignity of being rejected in favor of a murderer. He suffered physically, being scourged as commanded by Pontius Pilate. He died as a result of Pilates direct order.
Well, I guess that settles it, right?
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, before you render your verdict, perhaps you should hear from one of Jesus own disciples. He spoke on the matter just 50 days afteward, to a crowd of Jews assembled in Jerusalem (Acts 2:22-23):
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;
Well, OK. Jesus’ disciple, Simon the son of Jonah, said that the Jews (Religious Leaders and Mob) took Jesus by lawless hands and crucified, put him to death. So then, the Jews were the ones who killed Jesus of Nazareth. I guess that makes both Peter – who was a Jew – and those who agree with him – “antisemitic.”
Except for one other thing…according to Simon this all happened because Jesus was ‘delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.’ It would not have happened except that God delivered Jesus into their hands, knowing beforehand what they would do to Him.
“Um, this is getting confusing.”
Jesus was killed in accord with God’s determined purpose and foreknowledge. God delivered up his Son to be crucified by the lawless hands of the Jews (including their leaders and a mob), through the decree of Pontius Pilate and with the actions of the Roman Soldiers.
It’s starting to sound like Mel Gibson was right in saying everyone is to blame.
So, does that about do it? Well, no, there is one more thing. Jesus spoke about his death beforehand, long before the cross (John 10:17-18):
17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Jesus said that He would lay down His life and take it again. He said that no one would take his life, but rather, He would give it up as commanded by His Father. When Simon Peter hacked off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, Malchus, Jesus rebuked him reminding him that should he need any help it would be dispatched from heaven (Matthew 26:53).
There were events along the way that showed that Jesus of Nazareth was more than a man. When He first answered the arresting mob, they inexplicably fell to the ground. After Peter removed Malchus’ ear, Jesus put it back on without surgical gear, He healed him. When He died on Calvary, there was darkness over the face of the earth and an earthquake and a resurrection of formerly dead people.
It is true that these things happened during the rule of Pontius Pilate, but the Roman Governor wasn’t the one who set in motion the redemption of humankind. It was our gracious Father and His Loving Son. In fact, even beaten and bloodied, Jesus reminded Pontius Pilate that He would have no power over Him…had it not been given him from above (John 19:10-11).
So, according to Jesus, no one killed Him. He laid down his life and then on the third day, took it up again. He was no victim; He was a willing participant.
Why did Jesus have to die? Our redemption required it. We are the guilty, like Barabbas. We have sinned against God countless times by misusing our members, mouths and minds. We minimize the seriousness of our rebellion. Our case was open and shut – not just yours and mine – the entire human race. God, the judge, determined in the very beginning to have mercy instead of condemning us. I hate to say it, but from that standpoint Mel Gibson was correct; Jesus death was made necessary by our sins.
Divine Justice – it was God who decided that Jesus had to die to make things right with him, not Pontius Pilate. It was God who laid the death sentence on His Son, so that we might become part of His Family by faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Who killed Jesus of Nazareth? The question is simple, but the answer is complicated.
It’s true that Pontius Pilate gave the order, prompted by the Jewish leaders and their mob. The Roman Soldiers carried out the death sentence. Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate.
It’s also true that God determined in eternity to deliver Jesus up for our sins. God so loved this cesspool of sinners that He gave His only begotten Son and the Son willingly submitted to die the one death that could redeem all.
The Prophet Isaiah has the honor of setting us straight and laying it out (Isaiah 53:6):
“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.”
I was asked last week about the fate of Pontius Pilate. Did Pilate go to hell for killing Jesus? Well, did he? The Bible doesn’t specifically answer that question.
But…if Pontius Pilate is in hell, it’s not because He killed Jesus…it’s because He didn’t trust in Him when He breathed his last.
Rather than worry about who is to blame, let’s recognize that Jesus death has set us free. Instead of worrying about who is in heaven and who is in hell, perhaps we should all make sure that we stay close to Jesus, so that we depart in peace to the Father’s House.
Still, until then, we will confess,
“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and died.”