Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

Vol. 1, No. 2 Page 6 February 1999

Gospel Gazette, Bible Articles

A Dark Night and a Darker Day

By Allen Webster

Of all the nights in the world's history, the night they arrested Jesus was the darkest. Treachery, intrigue, betrayal, deceit, hypocrisy, and disappointment followed one on the heels of the other. Think again of the dark night that led up to the afternoon the sun refused to shine.

Betrayal and Arrest (Matt. 26:47-56; John 18:1-14)

After some private time with His disciples, and prayer time with His Father, Jesus was arrested, probably sometime after midnight (Matt. 26:47-57). Of all the faces about the cross, none is quite so tragic as Judas'. Having heard all Jesus' sermons, seen as many miracles as any man alive (except maybe the inner circle), having been privy to personal talks with God's Son, and having carefully watched the life of the world's only sinless human, he still was able to sell out his Master for the price of a wounded slave (Zech. 11:12)! Remarkable! Better to have never been born than to have betrayed the Son of God into the hands of sinners (Matt. 26:24).

Beating and Trials

Jewish Trials (Matt. 26:57-75). Following arrest, Jesus was taken first to Annas (John 18:13). He in turn sent Him to Caiphas (18:24), his son-in-law. Between 1 a.m. and daybreak, Jesus endured hours of cross-examination before the political Sanhedrin. He was lied about, threatened, abused, and eventually, condemned. Further, He was kept up all night (Matt. 27:1), deprived of food (nothing since supper), taunted (Luke 22:63), spit upon (Matt. 26:67), buffeted (bruised), slapped (margin, "hit with rods") (Matt. 26:67-68), and struck (perhaps in mouth) (John 18:22). Even the servants--who just a few hours before would not have dared even look Him in the face--now joined in slapping His face (Mark 14:65). Soon after daybreak, presumably at the temple, the Sanhedrin (with the Pharisees and Saducees) finished the proceedings and found Him guilty of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death under the Jewish law.

What about Jesus' physical condition at this time? The rigors of His ministry (traveling by foot throughout Palestine) kept Him in good shape and give evidence that He had no major physical defects. Nonetheless, by this time, His health must have suffered from the mistreatment. During the twelve hours between 9 p.m. Thursday ad 9 a.m. Friday, He had suffered great emotional stress (cf. the bloody sweat), abandonment by His closest friends, the ridicule an trauma of two trials, and now a physical beating. Also, in the setting of a traumatic and sleepless night, He had been forced to walk more than 2.5 miles to and from various trial sites. He must have been physically worn out and emotionally on edge.

Roman Trials (Matt. 27:1-26). Jesus was bound (Matt. 27:1-2) and taken early in the morning by temple officials to the Praetorium of the Fortress of Antonia, the residence and governmental seat of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea (Luke 23:1-11). Interestingly, they changed the charge against Him between the temple and the fortress. Jesus was presented to Pilate not as a blasphemer but as a self-appointed king out to lead the Jews in revolt (Luke 23:2). It was at this point that Judas tried to stop the proceedings, but the Jews were not interested in justice (Matt. 27:3-10). (Note the hypocrisy of the Jews--they would murder an innocent Man, but they would not "defile" themselves by setting foot on Pilate's porch!)

Upon examination, Pilate found no fault in Jesus and tried to stop the miscarriage of justice by suggesting they could choose to release one of two prisoners. He presented a notorious criminal named Barabbas alongside of Jesus. Faced with this choice, he felt they would be forced to free Jesus (Matt. 27:16) since Barabbas was guilty of insurrection/sedition (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18), robbery (John 18:40), and murder (Mark 15:7). But their hatred was so blind that they chose Barabbas and suggested that he do as he had ever done unto them! (We wonder if his next victim was in the crowd that set him free.) Pilate's wife further urged Pilate to stop (Matt. 27:19), but her pleas were lost in the crowd's cries. ". . . the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed" (Luke 23:23). Pilate, it seems, cared more for his political standing than his domestic situation.

During the proceedings, Pilate learned that Jesus was from Herod's district, so he tried to "pass the buck" by sending Him to Herod (Luke 23:6-12). Jesus refused to speak to Herod, so the king and his men just mocked Him and sent Him back (23:11). Pilate then washed his hands in the people's sight, trying to pass the guilt on to those who clamored for Jesus' death (Matt. 27:24). Nonetheless, Jesus' blood was on Pilate's hands. A bowl of water, political posturing, an showmanship theatrics could not remove it. Paradoxically, the only thing that could have was the blood of Jesus contracted in baptism (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-4), but we have no record of Pilate ever accepting Christ's religion.

Soldiers' Mocking.

Pilate next had Jesus scourged, perhaps hoping to play upon the sympathies of the people. He again tried to release Jesus, but to no avail (Luke 23:22-23). While the last details of crucifixion were arranged, and while the cross itself was prepared, Jesus was handed over to the soldiers. These men--Pilate's bodyguards--evidently took Him to their barracks in the governor's headquarters. Amused that this weakened man had claimed to be a king, they began to mock Him. One fashioned a robe out of some purple material (perhaps left over from the trip to Herod's palace); another ran out to a thorn bush and gathered some prickly limbs to form a tight, pointed circle; and another found a rod or stout stick of some kind to use as a scepter.

Just about the time the bleeding from the scourging stopped, they ripped His clothes off and placed on Him the robe. Remember His clothes had been placed directly on the open, bleeding wounds some time before. The blood must have soaked in and dried. Thus removing them opened the wounds all over again. Imagine the pain! (Even a cut small enough to be covered by a Band-Aid hurts terribly if it adheres to the Band-Aid.) One soldier grabbed His head and forced the thorns down into His scalp. Think of the sharp thorns piercing His skin in dozens of places! Another took the reed and hit Him over the head thus driving the thorns deeper. How He must have bled! (So much blood goes to the brain that a small cut on the face or head bleeds profusely.) Despite their cruelty, of all parties involved perhaps these were least to be blamed. They had no idea who Jesus was. They were not Jews, for Jews were the only nation in the Roman Empire exempt from military service. Nonetheless, their rough horse-play further agonized our Lord's body. When people make fun of us, it helps to remember that they first did it to Jesus in a way that is worse than anything likely to happen to us.

Presentation.

The soldiers finally had all the fun they wanted and took Him back to Pilate. Pilate presented Him to the people. Picture, if you can, Pilate leading this purple-clad Man, with scepter in hand, and bloody crown on His head, out for these sick people to view. Pilate simply said, "Behold the man!" (John 19:5). He must have thought that surely this would satisfy their hatred. But he underestimated them. They wee no more satisfied than a shark that first gets the scent of blood. They wanted more. They wanted murder.

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