A Trial of Grief
And A Trail of Tears
More has been written about Jesus’ life than any man who
has ever lived. More has been written about His death than His life,
yet the material is not exhausted. Writers can find no more appealing story
and readers never tire of the theme. He faced a trial of grief before
Pilate when justice was executed before He was. Then there was a
trail of tears as Jesus was led to Calvary as the women followed weeping
over His eminent demise. A fascinating angle to explore is the different
functions of Jesus in light of those who interacted with Him on the way
Christ, judge of all men, stood in front of Pilate,
a judge. He who will judge all men (Rom. 14:10), knows what
if feels like to be judged. The Prosecutor knows what it feels like
to be the defendant. Jesus promises to be fair, and merciful (to
His own, 2 Tim. 4:8), something that was foreign at His trial. He
will say to many imperfect and undeserving children on that day, “Well
done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few
things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy
of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21). Though perfect and deserving, He heard
no such words. The words He heard went something like this, Illum
duci ad crucem placet. We learn this from Barclay,
who writes: “The Roman ritual of condemnation and routine of crucifixion
were fixed. They did not alter. The judge said, Illum
duci ad crucem placet, ‘The sentence is that this man should be
taken to a cross.’ Then he turned to the guard and said, I,
miles, expedi crucem, ‘Go, soldier, and prepare the cross.’”
Jesus knows what it feels like to have a sentence of condemnation passed
down to a waiting defendant. He watched Pilate deliberate and heard
him condemn. He will understand the pounding hearts and the sweating
or our palms. He seeks to take the stress out of judgment by preparing
us for trial. In fact, He pleads with sinners to repent and take
Him as their Advocate before they have to take Him as their judge (1 John
2:1). How interesting it will be to watch Pilate come before Jesus
at the judgment that really counts. Here we have the Judge judged!
Christ, friend of publicans and sinners, walked
friendless down the Calvary road. After the scourging and
mocking, at about 9 a.m., Roman soldiers put Jesus’ clothes back on him
and led Him and two thieves to be crucified. The processional to
the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed
by a centurion. These soldiers remained with the victim throughout
the process until they were sure of his death. The prisoner, usually
naked (If local customs prohibited nakedness, they would allow a loincloth,
which was probably the case in Palestine.), was set in the middle of a
hollow square of four Roman soldiers. His own cross was laid upon
his shoulders, and he was goaded along the road as he staggered to the
place of crucifixion. They chose the longest possible route for two
reasons. First, anyone could still bear witness in his favor, could
stop the procession to have the case retried. Second, Roman politicians
like to make examples of condemned men. The long, slow parade along
public streets was designed to serve as a warning to others that Rome dealt
with criminals quickly and mercilessly.
During the parade to the execution ground, Jesus--weak
from loss of blood, food deprivation, fluid dehydration, and emotional
strain--fell beneath the load. At this point, we might expect a hundred
volunteers among those He had helped during His ministry to rush to His
aid, perhaps arguing over who got the privilege of helping the Master in
this small way. But no one stepped forward. Simon of Cyrene,
evidently a stranger, was compelled (made) to bear the cross after Christ.
Jesus, who had always been a friend to those who needed a friend (Luke
7:34), walked alone to Golgotha. His disciples had forsaken Him and
fled into the night (Matt. 26:56), and now His acquaintances kept their
distance when He needed a hand. Here we have the friendless
Friend of sinners!
Christ, the glad tidings of good things, trailed
behind an accusing placard. In front of the condemned man
marched a soldier bearing a placard (titulus) with his crime
inscribed upon it, as a warning to anyone else contemplating such a crime
(Mark 15:21). (Sometimes the condemned man’s name and crime were
put on the placard and hung around the criminal’s neck instead.)
Later, the titulus was attached to the top of the cross. Jesus’ inscription
was written in three languages--Hebrew, Greek and Latin. (These three
great languages of the ancient world stood for three great nations.
Every nation has something to teach the world; and each of these made a
significant contribution to world history and to God’s plan. The
Hebrews taught the world religion and the worship of the true God; Greece
taught the world to appreciate beauty and to speak a universal language;
Rome taught the world to respect law and government. In Jesus, these have
fulfillment. He is the supremely beautiful one and the highest thought
of God. In Him is the law of God and the kingdom of God. In
Him was the very image of God. It was symbolic that the three great
languages of the world should call Him, “King.”)
Jesus’ favorite greeting was, “Be of good cheer!” (Matt.
9:2; 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 16:33). Where He went the Gospel (Good
News) spread. He spoke more encouraging words, with more force, than
any who went before Him or who have come since. Therefore it is interesting
to note what was not said on this occasion. Of all
the words that could have been used of the Word (John 1:14) at His death,
it is interesting that no formal, flowery, funeral speech was made (Talk
about a grand occasion to “preach someone into heaven!”), no careful obituary
was penned, no long write-up was published and circulated, and no though-provoking
marker was placed at His tomb. The only words used wee those scratched
by some soldier on a rough board and nailed over His head as He died.
Here we have the Word unarticulated.
Christ, the merciful master, submitted to an unyielding
politician. No doubt Pilate put this inscription on the Cross
of Jesus to irritate the Jews. They had just said that they had no
king but Caesar, and had absolutely refused to have Jesus as their king.
They complained, but he said, “What I have written, I have written.”
Here Pilate is inflexible--unwilling to yield an inch. A very short
time before, the same man had been weakly vacillating as to whether to
crucify Jesus or to let Him go. In the end he allowed himself to
be bullied and blackmailed into giving the Jews their way. Adamant
bout the inscription, he had been weak about the crucifixion. It
is one of the paradoxical things in life that we can be stubborn about
things which do not matter and weak about things of supreme importance.
Pilate was the man who took a stand on the wrong things and too late.
Now contrast Jesus with Pilate. Jesus was a greater Master (Matt.
23:8), but showed more mercy to less deserving people (cf., John 8:1-11;
Heb. 2:17). He had inherent authority, but Pilate had only delegated
authority (John 19:11; Rom. 13:1-6). Jesus thus gave Pilate his authority
and then submitted to it. Further, He submitted to abused authority.
He who needed only justice did not even plead for mercy. What a Savior!
continued in the February,
Jesus: The Good Shepherd
“. . . We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psa.
100:3). “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand . . .” (Psa. 95:7).
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, cares for the sheep
individually. “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear
his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out”
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, leads his sheep in
the right way. “And when he putteth forth his own sheep,
he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice”
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, saves the sheep.
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall
go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, gave his life for the
sheep. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth
his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “As the Father knoweth me,
even so know I the Father: an I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15).
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, protects the sheep.
“But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose won the sheep
are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and
the wolf catcheth them, an scattereth the sheep” (John 10:12).
Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, unifies the sheep.
“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring,
and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd”
“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say
unto you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). “And he said,
. . . He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth
not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).