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Sermon: Will You Have Jesus As Your King?: John 19:1-16a


Old Testament Reading: Zechariah 6:9–15

“And the word of the Lord came to me: ‘Take from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.’’ And the crown shall be in the temple of the Lord as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. ‘And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.’” (Zechariah 6:9–15, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 19:1-16

“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’ When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. 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?’ 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.’ From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.’ So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.” (John 19:1–16a, ESV)

Introduction

It would seem to me that the passage before us today demands that we answer one question: will you have Jesus as your King? Will he be your Lord and Master? Will you bow before him, trust in him, and give yourself to the service of him? That seems to be the question provoked by this narrative.

To confess Jesus as Lord is a difficult thing for fallen creatures to do. In fact, the scriptures reveal that it is an impossible thing for people to do apart from the grace of God. The reasons for this are many. And the scriptures use a diversity of images and terms to communicate the fact of our natural revolution to Christ’s kingship. The scriptures reveal that we, in our natural and fallen state, cannot follow after Christ apart from the call of God (John 6:44). This is due to our spiritual blindness, deafness, lameness, and deadness. We are by nature in bondage to another king. It takes an act of God to free us so that we might confess Jesus as Lord. God must, through the proclamation of the gospel and the working of the Spirit, graciously open our blind eyes, unstop our deaf ears, call us to take up our mat and walk, and summon us from the spiritual grave. The chains of bondage to sin, self, and Satan must be loosed by God if we are to walk freely after Christ. These are some of the images and terms found within the Holy Scriptures which communicate the fact of our natural revolution to Christ’s kingship

The truth of the matter is this: when people look upon the Jesus of John 19 in their natural and fallen state, apart from the grace of God, and apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit, they do not see a king there. Instead they see a pitiful man; a weak man; a foolish man; a failure. But when the Spirit of God effectually calls us – when he makes us alive to the things of God, unstops our ears, and causes the scales to fall from our eyes – it is then that we look upon Jesus, the suffering servant, and say, “There is my king! There is my Lord! There is my Savior!”

So will you have Jesus as your king? That is the question provoked by the narrative here in John 19. Our prayer is that God would move amongst us to bring more into his kingdom, and to make those who are already in his kingdom better servants of his.

Jesus Is Presented To Us As Our King

Notice that in this passage Jesus is indeed presented to us as our king.

Use your imagination for a moment and picture the coronation ceremony of a great king. I have never witnessed such an event. We do not live in a kingdom. But I would imagine that coronation ceremonies would be quite lavish. You can picture the new king standing there, can’t you? You can see the large crowd. You can hear their cheers. The whole event would be a great celebration. The king would undoubtably be clothed in the finest garments. He would be surrounded by his most trusted companions. I can picture him there standing in great gory and splendor having that precious crown placed upon his head. This is the scene we would expect to see at a the coronation of a king.

The irony in John’s gospel is indeed thick here in chapters 18 and 19. What is ironic is that Jesus is in fact the King of kings and Lord of lords, but he is presented as such in lowliest of ways. He is coronated as king, but to shouts of hatred. He is clothed in the garb of a king, but in mockery. He is presented to us as king, but in a sarcastic and belittling way. And the people do not receive him – they reject him instead. But it is never-the-less important see that Jesus is indeed set before us as a king.

Pilate was clearly growing frustrated. He knew that Jesus was innocent. He had some desire to uphold justice. But he was also concerned appease the Jews in order to keep the peace. His job was a difficult one. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place, as the expression goes. On the one hand, his concern was to uphold justice; on the other hand, he desired to keep the peace.  To be clear it was not the Jewish people that Pilate feared. He had more than enough power at his disposal to put down an uprising. Pilate feared the Roman authority which was over him. He feared Caesar. His job was to keep the peace, and too much trouble in his region could cost him dearly. Pilate was a conflicted individual, as his actions show.

Instead of doing the right thing, Pilate delivered Jesus, whom he had already said was innocent, to be flogged. 19:1 says, “Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him.” It is not that Pilate flogged Jesus himself, but that he had him flogged.

It is important to understand that there were different kinds of floggings administered by the Romans which varied in degree. Common criminals would sometimes be whipped and then sternly warned. More severe crimes would be punished by a more brutal whipping and beating. And those condemned to death would be flogged in a most severe way. So brutal was this third form of flogging that some criminals would perish because of the flogging itself (I’ll spare you the details, though I am sure you have heard of the brutality associated with this most extreme form of flogging).

I say this because it helps to make sense of what at first seems to be a discrepancy between Matthew and Mark’s account when compared John’s. Matthew and Mark seem to suggest that that Jesus was flogged after Pilate delivered the death sentence. But John tells us that Jesus was flogged before the final verdict was delivered. It seems to me that both accounts are true. Jesus was flogged twice. Once in a that least severe way, and then again in the most severe way after the final verdict was given and Jesus was delivered to be crucified. It would not make sense for Pilate to hand Jesus over to this most severe form of flogging if he still hoped to release him. That form of flogging was reserved for criminals condemned to death. So severe was it that some died from it. Jesus was indeed brutally beaten before the final verdict was given, but he was scourged again in that more severe way afterwards, in the way that only criminals condemned to death were.

So what was the purpose of this first flogging? Pilate’s hope was that the Jews would be satisfied with it. His hope was that they would see that Jesus had been severely punished and posed no real threat to them or the Romans.

It was during this first scourging that the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus while they delivered the beating. It is in verse two that we read, “the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.” (John 19:2, ESV)

These Roman soldiers were indeed brutal men. They were tasked with beating Jesus in order to teach him a lesson, but they decided to mock him too. It would have indeed been painful to have a crown of thorns (perhaps from the date palm) pressed down upon the forehead, but think of the mockery. Think of the fact of who Jesus was and is, and picture him enduring such scorn from sinful men such as these. It’s difficult to comprehend.

They also took a purple robe, which was probably a military cloak, and draped it over his back. And “they came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and [instead of kissing his cheek, they] struck him with their hands.” (John 19:3, ESV)

Do you see the irony, though? Do you see how, though these men meant only to mock Jesus, they speak better than they know. They do in fact present Jesus to us as the King of the Jews!

Pilate does the same thing.

Verse 4: “Pilate went out [to the Jews] again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’” (John 19:4–5, ESV)

What did Pilate mean by this? He brought Jesus before the Jews after having him mocked and beaten in order to say, look how pitiful this man is! “Behold the man”, in Pilate’s mind meant, is this the man you are so concerned about?

But ironically, he was indeed presenting the Jews with the man. He is the man in that he is the Messiah, the anointed one of God. He is the man in that he is the Son of Man, promised from long ago. And it is my option that he is the man of Zechariah 6, which was the Old Testament reading for today. That Old Testament passage is a Messianic prophesy which foretold the coming of  “the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zechariah 6:12–14, ESV)

Who is “the man” of Zechariah 6? It is Christ Jesus our Lord! Pilate intended only to mock when he introduced Jesus as “the man”, but he spoke better than he knew. Ironically, his presentation of Jesus to the Jews was spot on, for he was indeed “the man whose name is the Branch” (see also Zech. 3:8; Is. 4:2).

The Jewish authorities did not see it that way. “When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.’” (John 19:6, ESV)

It is at this point that they reveal more to Pilate concerning their real trouble with Jesus. “The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’” (John 19:7, ESV)

Those who say that Jesus never claimed to be divine are mistaken. There are many passages in the Bible that we could point to which claim that Jesus was indeed God come in the flesh, and this one of them. Why did the Jews want Jesus put to death? It was because he claimed to be the Son of God. And what did they understand him to mean by this? Was he using the phrase “Son of God” to mean that God was his creator? No, for in that in that sense we are all son’s and daughters of God. There is no blasphemy in that. Or was he using the phrase “Son of God” in the way that the Old Testament sometimes does in reference to earthly kings who, in a way, serve as God representatives on earth? No, for this is the language of the Old Testament. When the Jews heard Jesus claim to be the Son of God they understood exactly what he meant by it – he was claiming to be from above, the eternal Word of God come in the flesh, the only or unique begotten Son of God. This was blasphemous to their ears and deserving of death.

“When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.” (John 19:8, ESV) By the way, notice the explicit statement that Pilate was acting out of fear the whole time. But upon hearing that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, “he was even more afraid.” This was not because he believed in Jesus as the Son of God in a true way, but because was superstitious. Pilate was a pagan. He believed in the gods. And according to his worldview he believed that the gods would sometimes visit earth. This is why he was afraid.

And so “he entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. 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?’ 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 19:9–11, ESV)

Jesus, where are you from? That seems to be the central question, doesn’t it? From beginning to end in John’s Gospel it is communicated that Jesus is from above. John speaks of Jesus this way: “He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony.” (John 3:31–32, ESV) In John 8:23 Jesus says, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23, ESV) Here Jesus replies to Pilate saying, “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 19:11, ESV)

Jesus reveals that Pilate is not the supreme authority. God is. And Jesus is from God – he came to accomplish the Fathers will. And it is the will of the Father that Jesus die at the hands of sinful men. Notice that Jesus does not say to Pilate, you have no sin. He only says, “he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin”, this most likely being a reference to Caiaphas the high priest and those he represented.

This is intriguing, isn’t it? In this verse, there is on the one hand the acknowledgement that it was the will of God that Jesus be condemned by Pilate. And on the other hand there is the truth that Pilate sinned in condemning Jesus unjustly. Here we see demonstrated that which is clearly communicated throughout the scriptures that God is both sovereign of all things, and yet man is accountable for his choices and actions.

This truth is stated most clearly by Peter when he preached to the Jews after Pentecost, saying that on the one hand Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” and on the other it was the Jews who were guilty for “[they] crucified and killed [him] by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23, ESV)

 

What then does Pilate do in response to Jesus’ words? “From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.’ So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover [the day before the Sabbath during the Passover (feast of unleavened bread)]. It was about the sixth hour [6am according to the Roman way of counting time?]. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’” (John 19:12–14, ESV)

Again, Pilate presents Jesus to us as our king. Again, he means it in a condescending way. He says it in the hopes that the Jews will relent. But he speaks better than he know, for Jesus is indeed their king and ours. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

And what did the Jewish authorities do with this? “They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered him over to them to be crucified…” (John 19:15–16, ESV)

Isn’t it ironic? “We have no king but Caesar”, the high priests said. Here Jesus the Christ is standing before them – “the man” , the savior, the Messiah, promised from long ago. He is indeed their king, the son of David, the Son of God. And yet how do they respond to him? They cry out, “crucify him, crucify him! We have no king but Caesar.”

Application and Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, how does this apply to you and me?

The most important question for me to ask is , will you have Jesus as your king? If so, we must receive him, first of all, as the humble, lowly, self-sacrificing king that he is. He will return in glory, it is true. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” (Revelation 1:7, ESV) He will return in glory and power. But we must first of all revive him as the lowly, humble, servant-hearted king that he is. We must look beyond the humble appearance to see the power which lies beneath. There is great power in his death. It is through death that Jesus earned victory for himself and all who belong to him. The world looks at Jesus in his humility and scoffs. But those born of God – those born from above – look upon Jesus and see the true power and glory that is there.

We must come to terms with our need. Why do we need a king? Two reasons come to mind. First, we need a king to concur our own rebellious hearts. He must first subdue us! Secondly, we need a king to conquer all our enemies. We humans tend to think of ourselves as free by nature. But we are not free. We are in bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Christ the king has won victory over these. Do you see your need for him? Or do you, like Pilate and the unbelieving Jews, assume that you are are free and are in need on no one?

Brothers and sisters, we must forsake Caesar. By this I mean that we must set aside all reliance upon the things of the world and look wholly upon Christ for our deliverance.

And it is important that we come to Jesus, not only as Savior, but also as Lord. It is true that he has earned salvation for those given to him by the Father. But we must believe upon him and confess him as Lord. He is to be submitted to. He is to be obeyed. And he is to be obeyed in the whole of life – in every arena. The longing of our heart should be to hear the word’s, “well done good and faithful servant.”

Brothers and sisters, men and women do not naturally bow the knee to Jesus. By nature we respond to him the way the Roman and Jewish authorities did here in John 19. We must pray that God would move by the Spirit and through the proclamation of the word in bringing many to repentance. The truth is this: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, ESV) Paul poses this question:

“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:20–24, ESV)

Father in heaven, move upon the hearts of men and women, and boys and girls, we pray. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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