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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Appendixes


     

Part IV: Triumph Over Death

Chapter 28

The Sinless One Becomes A Sin-Offering

For (God) hath made Him,
who knew no sin,
to be a sin-offering for us;
that we might be made
the righteousness of God in Him.

(2 Corinthians 5:21)

     On the Mount of Transfiguration, God had declared that the Man Christ Jesus had matured faultlessly and, like Enoch, was ready for "graduation." He had earned the right to enter heaven. Before their very eyes, the three disciples had witnessed the glorification of Jesus, his face shining like the sun and his raiment white as light (Matthew 17:2).
    But then to their astonishment, instead of the joy that might have crowned the perfecting of his manhood, Jesus had come back down the mountain and had at once set out for Jerusalem ‹ a course of action which could only end in his death. What astonished them was the commitment of Jesus to death rather than glory. In the succeeding days He explained what would happen at Jerusalem: "The Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him. And the third day he shall rise again" (Matthew 20:18,19). The disciples were amazed: they didn't understand. It was so contrary to all their hopes of a Messiah: for their hope was not in a Lamb. They looked for a kingdom, forgetting the prior need of personal salvation.

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     But Jesus knew what was involved in becoming the Lamb of God. The steps of the procedure He must go through were prefigured in the ceremony of the Day of Atonement. Like the victims for that Holy Day, He had to be examined according to certain specifications laid down by law and then officially and publicly declared to be without spot or blemish, an acceptable victim for sacrifice.
     He must have been intensely aware of this deeper meaning when He shared the Passover Supper with the disciples, an awareness made more acute since the disciples were unable to comprehend despite his teaching. To them this was the most important Holy Day of the year . . . indeed a day of rejoicing!  To Him . . . an awful portent.
     Earlier that afternoon Peter and John, representing the Lord's "household," had presented a paschal lamb before the priests in the Temple. In a brief but carefully regulated ceremony, the lamb was slain. A priest with a silver or gold vessel caught a small sample of the dying victim's blood, passed it to other priests near the altar who took this blood and cast it in one sweep at the base of the altar while at the same time supplying a fresh clean bowl to another priest for the next sacrificial victim. The procedure was quick but reverent and orderly. At some convenient place nearby, the lamb was skinned and cleaned, parts were passed to other priests to be offered up as a burnt offering and the rest taken home for the Passover supper. The whole procedure took but a few minutes, and hundreds of lambs were offered up in this way.
     The Passover day began at 6 p.m.. An upper room ‹ some believe it was in Mark's house (Matthew 26:17‹19) ‹ had been prepared for Jesus to share this meal with his disciples. While the lamb was roasting, the meal began with unleavened bread and wine (presumably unfermented, for why otherwise use unleavened bread?). It was then that the Lord instituted the pattern of our communion service. The disciples seem to have been totally unaware of the deep significance of what was taking place at the table ‹ the meaning of the Lord's words regarding the bread and wine, the whispered conversation between Judas and the Lord, his statement that He would not again eat this with them until He did so in an entirely new setting (Luke 22:16).
     The passover lamb was now ready to be served and was brought to the table. What can have been in the Lord's mind as He saw laid before Him this sacrificial victim, seeing the hour was so very near when He Himself would become the sacrificial victim of which this was but a symbol? He had said previously to his disciples, "Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53), and now the time was almost come for its appalling fulfillment in his own Person. The meaning of his words at that time had been wholly lost to his hearers, except as an offensive

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idea grossly misunderstood by their carnal minds; and even now it is doubtful if any one of the disciples perceived the significance of the present circumstances. Such total lack of understanding must have added to the burden of his spirit, especially as they were engaged in a heated argument as to who should have the highest position in the Kingdom to come (Luke 22:24). What loneliness, humanly speaking, the Lord must have constantly suffered! What patience He showed towards these blind followers!
     After the meal was over, and Judas had already gone his way into the night to do his terrible work, they sang a psalm and together left the upper room heading in the bright moonlight (for Passover was at full moon) towards the Garden of Gethsemane.
     From that moment events moved quickly. Judas now knew where Jesus could be safely apprehended, and Caiaphas was allowed a small company of soldiers to conduct the arrest. Since the soldiers might not identify Jesus quickly amid his disciples, all of whom would be rather similarly dressed, it was essential for them to have an unmistakable sign. Judas arranged to betray the Lord with a kiss, perhaps the touching of cheeks on each side as is done to this day in greeting. The events going on behind the scenes, though hidden from the disciples who therefore could profess an untested but fearfully frail courage beforehand, were of course fully known to the Lord Jesus Himself. His agony in the Garden was not the response of a fearful soul who anticipated pain but of One who could foresee events which were to be filled with horror. To be made a sin-offering! That was the terrible prospect for the fulfillment of which He sought strength of body, mind, and spirit from his Father in heaven: and He was heard (Hebrews 5:8) in that He received angelic assistance (Luke 22:43).
     In the semi-darkness, the approaching band of soldiers and some other people from Caiaphas' house including a servant named Malchus, with lanterns fastened to their spears or carried in their hands, must have been visible from some distance. As they drew near, Judas ran forward and betrayed the Lord Jesus with an embrace and a greeting. For a moment there may have been some uncertainty and confusion, but the Lord offered no resistance to his arrest, as his disciples must surely have supposed He would do. Indeed, He told Peter to put up his sword and at the same time undid the harm that Peter had done in using it by restoring Malchus' severed ear.
     To the disciples such actions were totally unexpected and incomprehensible, and their courage being undermined by their puzzlement, they all deserted Him and fled. The Lord Jesus remained alone, an unresisting prisoner of the soldiers. The Messiah who was to destroy the enemies of Israel and rule over the world had meekly surrendered to the enemy, and now allowed Himself to be led away into the night

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apparently without protest! No wonder the disciples had fled. Thus was the Lord Jesus led away unresisting to the High Priest.
     Then began that extraordinary trial ‹ perhaps the most infamous in history ‹ which, while establishing the utter worthlessness of the court itself as a defender of human justice, served only to establish for all time the complete innocence of the Accused.

     The Jewish authorities conducted a trial which contravened every single safeguard against injustice to the innocent that they had laboriously constructed over the previous centuries. And so it was that by a travesty of illegalities the Lord Jesus Christ was publicly shown to be innocent ‹ though this was not their intention ‹ and thus identified as the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish, a worthy sacrificial victim to die for the sins of others.
     Nor did the Gentile court prove to be any more just, though conducted by a nation whose law was universally recognized as fair and sound. Nevertheless this trial also clearly demonstrated the innocence of the Accused, the court showed itself to be equally unable to fulfill its mandate in upholding justice.
     Two trials were involved: a trial by Caiaphas officially representing Israel, and a trial by Pilate officially representing the Gentile world. The Jewish court in a desperate effort to maintain their authority among their own people stooped to measures entirely illegal. The Gentile court did no better. Coming to a right verdict of "Not guilty," Pilate then surrendered to expediency and perjured himself.
     So the trial of Jesus Christ, whether religious or civil, was in fact and in every sense a miscarriage of justice. Jew or Gentile, Herod or Pilate ‹ it made no difference. What was initiated by the envy and hatred of the religious authorities in the Court of Caiaphas was reinforced by the brutality and sadism of the soldiers under the authority of a Roman Governor in the Hall of Judgment. It was a truth indeed that "against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together. . ." (Acts 4:27).
      Paradoxically, the religious and the civil trial proved both the innocence of the Accused and the guilt of the accusers! In point of fact He was the Judge and they were on trial. The Lord Jesus had foreseen this: his words, "Now is the judgment of this world" (John 12:31) had a double meaning. Mankind was on trial. By their verdict they demonstrated their own unrighteousness and only underscored their need of a Saviour.
     It was essential to the working out of the Plan of Redemption that He be condemned to death though innocent, and we shall see how it came about that the legally constituted authorities unwittingly

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performed their duty by "certifying" the Lamb of God, thus providing for mankind a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice and satisfaction once for all in the Person of Jesus Christ.
      Let us consider these two trials separately, in the order in which they occurred: first the trial in the Jewish Court under Caiaphas, and then the trial in the Court of the Gentiles under Pilate.

     One of England's most prominent magistrates, Frank J. Powell, made a study of the legal aspects of the Jewish trial of the Lord and was amazed at what he discovered regarding the procedures adopted by these authorities in the light of their normal practice in criminal cases as set forth in great detail in the Mishnah. The Mishnah was the more or less codified "Bill of Rights" protecting the individual in various life situations. Its instructions had been developed out of experience over the preceding centuries and had virtually the status of civil law. It was compiled in its final form by Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi (c.135‹220 A.D.) but had already been in effect for a long time One important section dealt with criminal legislation under the heading Nezikin ("Damages"). Powell summed up his impressions of this code by observing: *

     It is sometimes said that the law of England is unduly favourable to the accused; but the safeguards in English law designed to reduce to a minimum the danger of an innocent person being convicted are as nothing compared with the "fences" put around an accused in a Jewish court. Indeed, with so many "fences" it is a wonder that anybody was ever convicted. But at the trial of Jesus these safeguards against a miscarriage of justice were thrown to the winds, and, judged by the Mishnah law standard, the proceedings ended in a riot of illegality with the Accused condemned exactly as the Presiding Judge and his colleagues had previously determined should be the case.

     Virtually every single aspect of the trial of the Lord Jesus Christ contravened these safeguards and made the whole affair a mockery. First of all, for humane reasons, the Mishnah ruled that a capital case could not be tried at night. *  In contradiction of this injunction, the Lord Jesus was taken straight from the Garden of Gethsemane and tried at once.
     Secondly, if the judgment went against the accused, sentence could not be passed on the same day as the trial. Since that night belonged to a day which did not end till 6.00 p.m. of the following

* Powell, Frank J., The Trial of Jesus Christ, London, Paternoster Press, 1949, p.80.
Mishnah: Sanh. IV. 1 "Judgments in souls are conducted by day and settled by day."

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evening, the Lord should not in that twenty-four hour period have had sentence passed upon Him at all, let alone been executed. The sentence "He is worthy of death," pronounced by the court within minutes of declaring his guilt was wholly illegal. *  Moreover, the same ruling laid down that no sentence of death could be passed on a Sabbath or a Holy Day. Since it was now the day of Passover, a Holy Day, it was strictly forbidden to pass sentence: and since execution must be carried out within twenty-four hours of judgment, the trial itself could not even be legally held on that particular day! The illegality of the proceedings was therefore doubly apparent ‹ and Caiaphas and his court must have known this perfectly well.
     According to E. M. Yamauchi, it was only legal to pronounce the actual death sentence in the so-called Hewn Chamber, in the innermost court of the Temple.  The purpose of this was to have such a sentence pronounced away from the excitement of the public court, in the seclusion of a restricted area. But the death sentence was passed by this court in the palace of Caiaphas ‹ and was therefore clearly out of order.
     Again, an attempt must be made to find witnesses who would speak for the accused, since no unanimous verdict of guilty was allowable.  Here the purpose was to ensure that no one would be condemned without having at least one other person to support him in the ordeal. No effort was made as far as we know to honour this requirement. There is no record that any single person was appointed to oppose the verdict of guilty in order to provide at least one dissenting voice.
     Then again, when witnesses proved false, they were to suffer the same penalty as the accused man would have suffered, if it turned out that they showed themselves to be false witnesses.  No attention was paid to this "hedge" about the accused. There is no evidence that the false witnesses were either punished or even rebuked by the court, though their witness was proved false by its inconsistency.
     In the case of an accusation of blasphemy punishable by stoning, it was required that the accused should actually employ the sacred name   

* Mishnah: Sanh. IV. 1 "Judgments in souls are finished on the same day for clearing and on the day after it for condemnation ‹ wherefore there can be no judgments on Friday or on the eve of a festival."
Yamauchi, Edwin M., "Historical Notes on the Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ," Christianity Today, 9 April, 1971, p.9. 
Mishnah, Sanh. IV. I "All must not express an opinion for condemnation."
Mishnah: Sanh. XI. 6 and Makkoth 1.6 "False witnesses, are condemned to the same death which they had intended [for the accused]." Compare Deuteronomy 19:l‹19.

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of the Lord in the statement that was considered blasphemous. *  The Lord did not even use the word God, let alone the sacred name Jehovah. It was Caiaphas who presented the question to the Lord Jesus, in which the name of God was used. The Lord merely answered in the affirmative: "Thou hast said." Indeed, the Lord's reply to Caiaphas' question (Matthew 26:64) seems to have been deliberately formulated with the express purpose of giving no legal grounds for the immediate accusation of 'Blasphemy.' Technically, by their own definition, He could never have been accused of blasphemy. What had offended the Court was the Lord's claim that He, the Son of Man, would descend from heaven with the clouds. For Daniel had seen a vision in which "the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven" (Daniel 7:13) and this vision was applied by the Jews to the appearance of the Messiah. But although it may have seemed to them entirely heretical, this was not actually blasphemy by their own legal definition.
     And lastly, the crowning illegality: Jewish law expressly stated that a man condemned to death may not be scourged before execution.  Yet the Jewish authorities offered not the slightest protest when Pilate scourged Jesus before He was crucified; nor did anyone suggest for a moment that the act of scourging ought to have prompted a delay in the execution of the death sentence until his wounds had healed ‹ which was a further requirement of Jewish law. It is just possible that Pilate knew of this injunction and commanded the scourging for this very reason in hopes that a delay in execution might give him time to find another way out of his dilemma.
     It is evident therefore that every illegality imaginable was practiced at this trial. It is an interesting fact that while these Jewish leaders had not the least moral scruples about perjuring themselves before Pilate, religious scruples prevented them from entering into his heathen place of residence on a Holy Day. Pilate "went forth" to tell them his findings after each questioning of Jesus. He did not require them to come in before his judgment seat as he might otherwise have done.
     It is also evident that these judges should have been disqualified from presiding, for they were by no means unbiased. They had no liking for this Man. In the last days of his public ministry, the Lord had challenged the two chief ruling parties in the nation, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, in a way that was almost fatal to them.
     He had entered into the outer court of the Temple and ejected those who exchanged money and sold sacrificial animals. This

* Sanh. VIII.5.
Edersheim, Alfred, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, New York, Henick, 1886, vol.II, p.563.

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business was under the care of the Pharisees and brought them no little financial gain. They were likely to lose this permanently if such interference was not stopped.
     And then He had raised Lazarus from the dead, a fact which gave tremendous support to the popular belief in resurrection but which the Sadducees categorically denied. They believed that death was the end of existence and that life must be enjoyed to the full, here and now. But here was an undeniable case of a man truly and 'legally' dead (for he had been dead the minimum number of three days required to warrant a death certificate* ), publicly resurrected by One who had assured everyone at the graveside that there would indeed be a resurrection at the last day ‹ and furthermore that He Himself would raise the dead. To validate his statement, He had then calmly gone to the tomb and called Lazarus back to life. This was a severely discrediting blow to the Sadducees.

     Both parties thus stood seriously in jeopardy, their reputations and their future clearly at stake. Something had to be done to put an end to this Man, not merely by having Him executed and possibly thereby turned into a hero, but by having Him crucified and thereby wholly discredited.
     Their object in this instance was above all to invalidate the messianic claims of the Lord Jesus. This could only be accomplished by one means: having Him crucified and thereby rendering Him "accursed of God" according to Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 21:23). Such a one would never again be considered by the common people as a serious candidate for the Messiahship. Thus their own position of privilege and authority, so severely challenged over the past three years, would be secure.
     Furthermore, the soundness of their judgment of the impostor would be vindicated, for in their own way they genuinely believed that they were acting in everybody's interest. When, later, bystanders challenged the Lord Jesus to come down from the cross as a proof of his Messiahship, they were acting on this principle (Matthew 27:39‹43). Unless God saved Him from the cross, or unless He saved Himself, He must indeed be an impostor in their view. When the authorities had said that if He were not stopped all men would come to believe his claims, and the Romans to protect themselves would come and take away their place and nation (John 11:48), they can only have been assured in their own minds that He was not really the promised Deliverer. Otherwise they would themselves have supported his claims in

* Ryle, J. C., Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, New York, Carter, 1881, vol.II, p.284. Here it is stated that the rule was based on the accepted fact that "after three days the countenance changes." See also Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, New York, Herrick & Co., 1886, vol.II,  p.325.

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hopes of getting rid of the Roman occupation.
     They had already determined, even before the trial, what the verdict should be. "The chief priests and the elders and all the council sought for witness, for some charge against Jesus to put Him to death" (Mark 14:55). Their witnesses were obviously false; their testimonies did not agree and could not stand up in even this kind of a prejudiced court
     As a last resort, Caiaphas directly challenged the Lord Jesus with a question which, if answered in the affirmative, could at least be grounds for indictment on a charge of blasphemy (Matthew 26:63‹66). He said, "I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou be the Messiah, the Son of God." As we have seen, Jesus entirely frustrated their design, but added, "Nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Then the High Priest rent his clothes, saying, "He hath spoken blasphemy. What think ye?" And they all answered, "He is guilty of death."
    The Lord Jesus was not guilty of blasphemy, by their own definition. But it mattered not: for such a charge brought a penalty of death ‹ and this was what they sought.
     However, the sentence of death for blasphemy was to be by stoning. While such a death would put an end to Jesus' career, it could not invalidate his claims to Messiahship in the eyes of the common people. In fact, it might even make a martyr of Him. If only they could have Him crucified, then He would indeed be discredited, for everyone knew that a man hanged on a cross was not merely cursed by his own society but cursed of God.
     There was a further complication. Under Roman rule, or at least under the Roman procurators of whom Pilate was one, the Jews were not actually permitted to execute a prisoner at all. They could condemn him to death in their courts, but the charges must be presented to and confirmed by the procurator who carried out the death sentence. Only in one circumstance were the Jews permitted to put a Gentile to death (even a Roman citizen) by immediate stoning, and this was for trespassing past the middle wall of Partition in the Temple which marked the boundary of the Court of the Gentiles.
     In their own court they had "secured" a death sentence which must now be referred to the Procurator. They realized that they must bring an accusation against their Prisoner which could be referred to Pilate with assurance of a death sentence by crucifixion. Because this form of punishment was considered so awful and so degrading, the Romans limited it to the execution of slaves but no free man could be so put to death ‹ except for treason. If they could establish an accusation of treason, there was hope. . . .  But even in the Court

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of Caiaphas the witnesses, who would also appear before Pilate, could not agree in their testimony. It was soon clear that such a charge could not really be substantiated, for He had not forbidden the payment of tribute to Caesar ‹ indeed, He had actually advised the very opposite (Matthew 22:21).
     In the end the main thrust of their charge before Pilate was that Jesus had claimed to be a king ‹ a charge which they hoped would be taken by Pilate as treasonable. Even with such a shaky charge, their determination to secure a penalty of crucifixion forced them into the next step. Only Pilate could execute Jesus in this way, so to Pilate they must go.

     It is difficult to know from the records of history what kind of man Pilate really was, whether he simply did not care about justice or was caught up in events too large for him. Certainly when faced with the Lord, he made a far better assessment of Him as a Man than the Jewish authorities had done.
     Pilate was astute enough to recognize the charge that Jesus claimed to be a king was not really any challenge to Caesar. In the presence of this regal figure he asked ‹ without cynicism it seems to me ‹ "Art thou then a king?" Powell speaks of the Lord's defense action here as a case of "confession and avoidance." For the Lord confessed that He was a king indeed, but not the sort of king alleged by the Jews, a king who might seem to be a rival to Caesar. He explained that his Kingdom was "not of this world" ‹ otherwise his followers would have fought against his seizure. Pilate did not ridicule this affirmative answer; rather he went out to the waiting accusers and, to their chagrin, said, "I find no fault in this man."
     He had, perhaps, not reckoned with the hostility of either the religious authorities or of the crowds of people who had gathered outside ‹ for it was now fully daylight. All Jerusalem seemed to be demanding that He be crucified, be executed in the most terrible, most cruel, most degrading way known to the Roman world. "Why? What evil hath he done?" asked a bewildered Pilate.
     It may be, that, knowing crowd behaviour only too well, Pilate still supposed he could moderate their hostility to the prisoner by an appeal to pity for a broken man ‹ at any rate he must have had some reason for what he did next. For returning to Jesus, he handed him over to the brutal soldiery in the Common Hall to scourge Him and abuse Him as they wished. Roman soldiers were hardened to physical suffering. They were accustomed to seeing men torn asunder by wild beasts or slaughtering each other by the hundreds without mercy, for the entertainment of the degraded masses of the common people who daily thronged the Coliseum in Rome and screamed for blood. It is

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a terrible thing when such men are given authority to abuse the bodies of victims who are helpless and unresisting, particularly of such a notable prisoner as this who had so recently been acclaimed by the common people as a man of tremendous power and authority. Sinful man takes pleasure in seeing the righteous brought low.
     The Lord Jesus ‹ the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe ‹ could have demolished his oppressors with a single word, or turned upon them with such anger that they would have fled from his presence in terror. But He didn't. He meekly submitted, willingly, "turning his back to his smiters" (Isaiah 50:6), dumb as a lamb before its shearers (Isaiah 53 :7). His very submission being mistaken for weakness, provoked the brutality of the soldiers to express itself so appallingly that when He finally emerged from their presence He had been so abused that Isaiah had to search for words to describe his appearance: he predicted that those who beheld Him would be astonished, his face and body so marred as to be scarcely recognizable as human (Isaiah 52:14).
     The Lord Jesus had so absorbed in Himself the hatred and cruelty and corruption of unrestrained human wickedness, expressed both as spiritual venom by the Jews and as physical abuse by the Romans, that it is difficult to see how He remained conscious at all. That He could scarcely even support Himself, let alone the crossbar on the way to the crucifixion, is not surprising. Yet the crowds by and large seem to have been aroused to no pity, apparently genuinely believing that He had been a deceiver and was actually "stricken, smitten of God" (Isaiah 53:4). And in a profound sense they were perfectly right. As Isaiah (53:10) had put it: "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief."
     I believe that when Pilate presented this battered figure before the people, he was hoping to present Him as an object worthy of pity, now surely punished sufficiently for whatever crime they were accusing Him. Hence his words, "Behold the man!" As though he had said, "Just look at Him! Is this not enough?" And perhaps when he offered to release Him as an act of clemency (as his custom was at this time), he genuinely hoped they would accept his offer, their appetite for blood being finally appeased. But the appearance of the Lord whom they had once believed would overthrow their Roman oppressors, whom they now saw so utterly debased and apparently without the slightest resistance, drove them to even greater frenzy, for clearly He had proved Himself to be a deceiver indeed. "Crucify Him!" they screamed with one voice, "Crucify Him!"
     I think this turnabout in the attitude of the common people was not really so surprising if it is borne in mind that they had hoped for only one thing from the Messiah. They were interested in his role as a conquering Deliverer of the nation, not as a dying Saviour whose  

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sacrifice of Himself would secure their personal forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Had they, as a people, recognized his identity as the Lamb of God, as Saviour in this sense, they might at the same time have seen that his death was essential. But what then? Would they have undertaken to condemn Him to death on that account? It seems unlikely. Even less likely does it seem that they would have insisted so vehemently upon his death by crucifixion. And yet crucifixion was the only form of execution which, as we shall see later, would have permitted the Lamb of God to offer Himself as a vicarious sacrifice. He could not in fact have made satisfaction for the sins of his people in any other way. Their blindness seems to have been essential to the fulfillment of God's purposes.
     That Pilate did really hope for some moderation of their hostility seems clear from his insistence that the Lord Jesus should be released. In Luke 23:15 and 16 we find him saying, "Nothing worthy of death is done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him." And when he re-affirmed this intention (verse 20), we are told that Pilate really was wishing to release Him. In verse 22 Pilate repeats this a third time: "I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go."
     Pilate had every reason for this insistence. He clearly had himself become convinced of the Lord's innocence, and he said, "I find in Him no fault at all" (John 18:38). Again, later, he repeated, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person" (Matthew 27:24). And once more he declared, "Know ye that I find no fault in Him" (John 19:4). What a testimony this was!
     Meanwhile, his wife had sent him a disturbing note saying, "Have nothing to do with that just man; for I have suffered many things this day because of Him" (Matthew 27:19). Even Judas had realized his mistake but sought in vain to clear his conscience by returning the thirty pieces of silver for which he had sold the Lord, saying, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4). And at the last, one of those crucified with Him and watching Him in that final ordeal, rebuked his other companion in crime with the words, "Dost thou not fear God seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss" (Luke 23:40, 41). What a triumph this was for the Lord Jesus! And though He was not alive to hear the tribute, He would doubtless have been comforted by the testimony of the Roman centurion in command of the detail of soldiers charged with the execution of the condemned prisoners. Witnessing the extraordinary events which accompanied the Lord's expiration ("the earthquake and those things that were done"), he was compelled to exclaim, "Certainly this was a righteous man! Truly this was the Son of God!" (Luke 23:47; Matthew 27:54). 

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     But despite his inner convictions, Pilate was not prepared to sacrifice his career for this man whom the people were so determined to destroy. Yet he still seems to have made one last token effort. Knowing that they had no authority to crucify the accused, he challenged them ‹ perhaps with a sneer‹ "You do it!" (John 19:6). He must have known full well that they would not have the stomach to do it themselves, even if they did have his permission, and he seems to have sought by this means to show his contempt.
    But there is nothing so terrifying as the roar of an angry crowd united in an ugly mood and bent upon a destructive course of action. Faced with this situation and unable to make his voice heard, Pilate washed his hands of the whole affair publicly, making one final declaration that he was innocent of the blood of this just Person. And then he handed the Lord over to the soldiers for execution to satisfy the people.
     It must have seemed to the Lord as He stood there that the cross itself, despite the agony that He knew it was to entail, would be almost a welcome relief from the open hatred of this violent people in their pitiless mood. We can know so little of his suffering that words fail us here and we can only repeat the Word of God and trust that the Holy Spirit will convey something of its sense to our hearts. "He was bruised for our iniquities: punishment was upon Him for our peace; by his stripes we are healed." It is as though the festered core of man's wickedness was poulticed and absorbed by Him ‹ He who alone was utterly without infection, in order that our mortal wounds might be healed and we might live. We avenge ourselves upon one another but our avenging is never truly therapeutic because the one we try to hurt returns our vengeance in one way or another. The Lord Jesus did not. He accepted it entirely as though it was really his fault and not ours. He embraced the physical and spiritual torment of our sin, burying it in his own heart, praying that his tormentors might be forgiven on the grounds that they did not know what they were doing.

    It was essential to the working out of the Plan of Redemption that the Lord Jesus Christ be thus condemned to death though innocent. He was "delivered by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). It had to happen. Yet it was "by wicked hands" He was taken and crucified and slain. For their motive was not the desire to do God's will but to destroy a man whose whole life was a challenge to their shabby pretenses. They could not abide the white light of his absolute sinlessness.
     If the trial of Jesus Christ proved anything about human nature, it was that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked

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(Jeremiah 17:9). In the presence of perfection, man is not filled with admiration but with hate. Absolute holiness condemns us and we either seek to escape from its presence or to ignore it. When we cannot do either, we seek to destroy it. The trial proved man's need of a Saviour.
     Thus did the Lamb of God stand before the bar of human judgment to be declared faultless as a human being by Jew and Gentile alike, only to be a sin-offering that we might be credited with his perfected righteousness in the sight of God.
     The Altar for this sacrifice was a cross. Only a cross could have sufficed. For, as we shall see, no other form of capital punishment could accommodate the events which were necessary to make his death truly a sin-offering.

     pg.14 of 14     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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