Part 81 – John 19:16
Who is involved?
The discussions, bordering on arguments, between Jesus and Pilate come in two sets of three each. In both of them Pilate moves in and out of his palace in a quite extraordinary way. One would expect a Roman governor, lord of all in that area, to require people to come to him rather than him going to them. But it is not so in this case. Such was the power and authority that Jesus wielded.
So, in 18: 28 – 40 Pilate ‘came out’ in v29; ‘went back inside’ v33; ‘went out again’ v38. In 19: 4 – 13 he ‘’came out’ v4; ‘went back inside’ v8; and finally ‘he brought Jesus out’ for judgement v13.
All that is very clearly laid out to get our attention – to two things in particular. The first is that we should see that neither the Jews, that is the leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem at that particular time, nor Pilate, as the representative Gentile non-Jew, was exclusively responsible for the condemnation and death of Jesus. John has sometimes been accused of laying the blame for what happened on the Jews and that has contributed to the persecution of Jewish peoples at certain times throughout history – some of which still goes on. This is clearly very unjust. John could not have laid out the sequence of what happened more clearly to show that although Pilate was acting as a tool of the Jews he did not need to do so and would not have done so if he could have avoided the serious political blackmail he was subject to.
The second thing John would have us see is what he emphasizes at the centre, the focal point, of his account. In 19: 1 – 3 we read: “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’”. Jesus is king. But not the sort of king we, and they, expected him to be. It is all in very conscious imitation of Isaiah 53, where we read, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. … he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. … He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”
All of which John must have had in mind as he wrote his description of the suffering servant king. It is strange, but clearly deliberate, that up to this point John has said very little about the kingship of Jesus and about the kingdom, so very unlike the other three Gospel-writers. He makes up for it at this point.
This is who we follow and serve: this totally unique figure, the great King of all creation, the servant of all mankind, the bruised and bleeding one.
Stop. Think. Wonder.
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