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27. Conviction and Crucifixion
1Now when morning was come, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: 2and they bound him, and led him away, and delivered him up to Pilate the governor.
3Then Judas, who betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4saying, I have sinned in that I betrayed innocent blood. But they said, What is that to us? see thou to it. 5And he cast down the pieces of silver into the sanctuary, and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. 6And the chief priests took the pieces of silver, and said, It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is the price of blood. 7And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. 8Wherefore that field was called, the field of blood, unto this day. 9Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was priced, whom certain of the children of Israel did price; 10and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
11Now Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. 12And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. 13Then saith Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? 14And he gave him no answer, not even to one word: insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. 15Now at the feast the governor was wont to release unto the multitude one prisoner, whom they would. 16And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17When therefore they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ? 18For he knew that for envy they had delivered him up. 19And while he was sitting on the judgment-seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that righteous man; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21But the governor answered and said unto them, Which of the two will ye that I release unto you? And they said, Barabbas. 22Pilate saith unto them, What then shall I do unto Jesus who is called Christ? They all say, Let him be crucified. 23And he said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out exceedingly, saying, Let him be crucified. 24So when Pilate saw that he prevailed nothing, but rather that a tumult was arising, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man; see ye to it. 25And all the people answered and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. 26Then released he unto them Barabbas; but Jesus he scourged and delivered to be crucified.
27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium, and gathered unto him the whole band. 28And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. 29And they platted a crown of thorns and put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they kneeled down before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30And they spat upon him, and took the reed and smote him on the head. 31And when they had mocked him, they took off from him the robe, and put on him his garments, and led him away to crucify him.
32And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to go with them, that he might bear his cross.
33And they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, The place of a skull, 34they gave him wine to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted it, he would not drink. 35And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments among them, casting lots; 36and they sat and watched him there. 37And they set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38Then are there crucified with him two robbers, one on the right hand and one on the left. 39And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, 40and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself: if thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross. 41In like manner also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, 42He saved others; himself he cannot save. He is the King of Israel; let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe on him. 43He trusteth on God; let him deliver him now, if he desireth him: for he said, I am the Son of God. 44And the robbers also that were crucified with him cast upon him the same reproach.
45Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 47And some of them stood there, when they heard it, said, This man calleth Elijah. 48And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. 49And the rest said, Let be; let us see whether Elijah cometh to save him. 50And Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. 51And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent; 52and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; 53and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many. 54Now the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, when they saw the earthquake, and the things that were done, feared exceedingly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. 55And many women were there beholding from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: 56among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
57And when even was come, there came a rich man from Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: 58this man went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded it to be given up. 59And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. 61And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.
62Now on the morrow, which is the day after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees were gathered together unto Pilate, 63saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while he was yet alive, After three days I rise again. 64Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest haply his disciples come and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: and the last error will be worse than the first. 65Pilate said unto them, Ye have a guard: go, make it as sure as ye can. 66So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, the guard being with them.
Christ Scourged and Derided; Christ Mocked by the Soldiers.
26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. 29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. 31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. 32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
In these verses we have the preparatives for, and prefaces to, the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus. Here is,
I. The sentence passed, and the warrant signed for his execution; and this immediately, the same hour.
1. Barabbas was released, that notorious criminal: if he had not been put in competition with Christ for the favour of the people, it is probable that he had died for his crimes; but that proved the means of his escape; to intimate that Christ was condemned for this purpose, that sinners, even the chief of sinners, might be released; he was delivered up, that we might be delivered; whereas the common instance of divine Providence, is, that the wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright, Prov. xxi. 18; xi. 18. In this unparalleled instance of divine grace, the upright is a ransom for the transgressors, the just for the unjust.
2. Jesus was scourged; this was an ignominious cruel punishment, especially as is was inflicted by the Romans, who were not under the moderation of the Jewish law, which forbade scourgings, above forty stripes; this punishment was most unreasonably inflicted on one that was sentenced to die: the rods were not to introduce the axes, but to supersede them. Thus the scripture was fulfilled, The ploughers ploughed upon my back (Ps. cxxix. 3), I gave my back to the smiters (Isa. l. 6), and, By his stripes we are healed, Isa. liii. 5. He was chastised with whips, that we might not be for ever chastised with scorpions.
3. He was then delivered to be crucified; though his chastisement was in order to our peace, yet there is no peace made but by the blood of his cross (Col. i. 20); therefore the scourging is not enough, he must be crucified; a kind of death used only among the Romans; the manner of it is such, that it seems to be the result of wit and cruelty in combination, each putting forth itself to the utmost, to make death in the highest degree terrible and miserable. A cross was set up in the ground, to which the hands and feet were nailed, on which nails the weight of the body hung, till it died of the pain. This was the death to which Christ was condemned, that he might answer the type of the brazen serpent lifted up upon a pole. It was a bloody death, a painful, shameful, cursed death; it was so miserable a death, that merciful princes appointed those who were condemned to it by the law, to be strangled first, and then nailed to the cross; so Julius Cæsar did by some pirates, Sueton. lib. 1. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, by an edict abolished the use of that punishment among the Romans, Sozomen, Hist. lib. 1. ch. 8. Ne salutare signum subserviret ad perniciem—That the symbol of salvation might not be subservient to the victim's destruction.
II. The barbarous treatment which the soldiers gave him, while things were getting ready for his execution. When he was condemned, he ought to have had some time allowed him to prepare for death. There was a law made by the Roman senate, in Tiberius's time, perhaps upon complaint of this and the like precipitation, that the execution of criminals should be deferred at least ten days after sentence. Sueton in Tiber. cap. 25. But there were scarcely allowed so many minutes to our Lord Jesus; nor had he any breathing-time during those minutes; it was a crisis, and there were no lucid intervals allowed him; deep called unto deep, and the storm continued without any intermission.
When he was delivered to be crucified, that was enough; they that kill the body, yield that there is no more that they can do, but Christ's enemies will do more, and, if it be possible, wrap up a thousand deaths in one. Though Pilate pronounced him innocent, yet his soldiers, his guards, set themselves to abuse him, being swayed more by the fury of the people against him, than by their master's testimony for him; the Jewish rabble infected the Roman soldiery, or perhaps it was not so much in spite to him, as to make sport for themselves, that they thus abused him. They understood that he pretended to a crown; to taunt him with that gave them some diversion, and an opportunity to make themselves and one another merry. Note, It is an argument of a base, servile, sordid spirit, to insult over those that are in misery, and to make the calamities of any matter of sport and merriment.
Observe, 1. Where this was done—in the common hall. The governor's house, which should have been a shelter to the wronged and abused, is made the theatre of this barbarity. I wonder that the governor, who was so desirous to acquit himself from the blood of this just person, would suffer this to be done in his house. Perhaps he did not order it to be done, but he connived at it; and those in authority will be accountable, not only for the wickedness which they do, or appoint, but for that which they do not restrain, when it is in the power of their hands. Masters of families should not suffer their houses to be places of abuse to any, nor their servants to make sport with the sins, or miseries, or religion, of others.
2. Who were concerned in it. They gathered the whole band, the soldiers that were to attend the execution, would have the whole regiment (at least five hundred, some think twelve or thirteen hundred) to share in the diversion. If Christ was thus made a spectacle, let none of his followers think it strange to be so used, 1 Cor. iv. 9; Heb. x. 33.
3. What particular indignities were done him.
(1.) They stripped him, v. 28. The shame of nakedness came in with sin (Gen. iii. 7); and therefore Christ, when he came to satisfy for sin, and take it away, was made naked, and submitted to that shame, that he might prepare for us white raiment, to cover us, Rev. iii. 18.
(2.) They put on him a scarlet robe, some old red cloak, such as the Roman soldiers wore, in imitation of the scarlet robes which kings and emperors wore; thus upbraiding him with his being called a King. This sham of majesty they put upon him in his dress, when nothing but meanness and misery appeared in his countenance, only to expose him to the spectators, as the more ridiculous; yet there was something of mystery in it; this was he that was red in his apparel (Isa. lxiii. 1, 2), that washed his garments in wine (Gen. xlix. 11); therefore he was dressed in a scarlet robe. Our sins were as scarlet and crimson. Christ being clad in a scarlet robe, signified his bearing our sins, to his shame, in his own body upon the tree; that we might wash our robes, and make them white, in the blood of the Lamb.
(3.) They platted a crown of thorns, and put it upon his head, v. 29. This was to carry on the humour of making him a mock-king; yet, had they intended it only for a reproach, they might have platted a crown of straw, or rushes, but they designed it to be painful to him, and to be literally, what crowns are said to be figuratively, lined with thorns; he that invented this abuse, it is likely, valued himself upon the wit of it; but there was a mystery in it. [1.] Thorns came in with sin, and were part of the curse that was the product of sin, Gen. iii. 18. Therefore Christ, being made a curse for us, and dying to remove the curse from us, felt the pain and smart of those thorns, nay, and binds them as a crown to him (Job xxxi. 36); for his sufferings for us were his glory. [2.] Now he answered to the type of Abraham's ram that was caught in the thicket, and so offered up instead of Isaac, Gen. xxii. 13. [3.] Thorns signify afflictions, 2 Chron. xxxiii. 11. These Christ put into a crown; so much did he alter the property of them to them that are his, giving them cause to glory in tribulation, and making it to work for them a weight of glory. [4.] Christ was crowned with thorns, to show that his kingdom was not of this world, nor the glory of it worldly glory, but is attended here with bonds and afflictions, while the glory of it is to be revealed. [5.] It was the custom of some heathen nations, to bring their sacrifices to the altars, crowned with garlands; these thorns were the garlands with which this great Sacrifice was crowned. [6.] these thorns, it is likely, fetched blood from his blessed head, which trickled down his face, like the previous ointment (typifying the blood of Christ with which he consecrated himself) upon the head, which ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, Ps. cxxxiii. 2. Thus, when he came to espouse to himself his love, his dove, his undefiled church, his head was filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night, Cant. v. 2.
(4.) They put a reed in his right hand; this was intended for a mock-sceptre, another of the insignia of the majesty they jeered him with; as if this were a sceptre good enough for such a King, as was like a reed shaken with the wind (ch. xi. 7); like sceptre, like kingdom, both weak and wavering, and withering and worthless; but they were quite mistaken, for his throne is for ever and ever, and the sceptre of his kingdom is a right sceptre, Ps. xlv. 6.
(5.) They bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! Having made him a sham King, they thus make a jest of doing homage to him, thus ridiculing his pretensions to sovereignty, as Joseph's brethren (Gen. xxxvii. 8); Shalt thou indeed reign over us? But as they were afterward compelled to do obeisance to him, and enrich his dreams, so these here bowed the knee, in scorn to him who was, soon after this, exalted to the right hand of God, that at his name every knee might bow, or break before him; it is ill jesting with that which, sooner or later, will come in earnest.
(6.) They spit upon him; thus he had been abused in the High Priest's hall, ch. xxvi. 67. In doing homage, the subject kissed the sovereign, in token of his allegiance; thus Samuel kissed Saul, and we are bid to kiss the Son: but they, in this mock-homage, instead of kissing him, spit in his face; that blessed face which outshines the sun, and before which the angels cover theirs, was thus polluted. It is strange that the sons of men should ever do such a piece of villany, and that the Son of God should ever suffer such a piece of ignominy.
(7.) They took the reed, and smote him on the head. That which they had made the mock-ensign of his royalty, they now make the real instrument of their cruelty, and his pain. They smote him, it is probable, upon the crown of thorns, and so struck them into his head, that they might wound it the deeper, which made the more sport for them, to whom his pain was the greatest pleasure. Thus was he despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. All this misery and shame he underwent, that he might purchase for us everlasting life, and joy, and glory.
III. The conveying of him to the place of execution. After they had mocked and abused him, as long as they thought fit, they then took the robe off from him; to signify their divesting him of all the kingly authority they had invested him with, by putting it on him; and they put his own raiment on him, because that was to fall to the soldiers' share, that were employed in the execution. They took off the robe, but no mention is made of their taking off the crown of thorns, whence it is commonly supposed (though there is no certainty of it) that he was crucified with that on his head; for as he is a Priest upon his throne, so he was a King upon his cross. Christ was led to be crucified in his own raiment, because he himself was to bear our sins in his own body upon the tree. And here,
1. They led him away to be crucified; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, as a sacrifice to the altar. We may well imagine how they hurried him on, and dragged him along, with all the speed possible, lest any thing should intervene to prevent the glutting of their cruel rage with his precious blood. It is probable that they now loaded him with taunts and reproaches, and treated him as the off-scouring of all things. They led him away out of the city; for Christ, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate (Heb. xiii. 12), as if he that was the glory of them that waited for redemption in Jerusalem was not worthy to live among them. To this he himself had an eye, when in the parable he speaks of his being cast out of the vineyard, ch. xxi. 39.
2. They compelled Simon of Cyrene to bear his cross, v. 32. It seems, at first he carried the cross himself, as Isaac carried the wood for the burnt-offering, which was to burn him. And this was intended, as other things, both for pain and shame to him. But after a while they took the cross off from him, either, (1.) In compassion to him, because they saw it was too great a load for him. We can hardly think that they had any consideration of that, yet it teaches us that God considers the frame of his people, and will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able; he gives them some breathing-time, but they must expect that the cross will return, and the lucid intervals only give them space to prepare for the next fit. But, (2.) Perhaps it was because he could not, with the cross on his back, go forward so fast as they would have him. Or, (3.) They were afraid, lest he should faint away under the load of his cross, and die, and so prevent what their malice further intended to do against him: thus even the tender mercies of the wicked (which seem to be so) are really cruel. Taking the cross off from him, they compelled one Simon of Cyrene to bear it, pressing him to the service by the authority of the governor or the priests. It was a reproach, and none would do it but by compulsion. Some think that this Simon was a disciple of Christ, at least a well-wisher to him, and that they knew it, and therefore put this upon him. Note, All that will approve themselves disciples indeed, must follow Christ, bearing his cross (ch. xvi. 24), bearing his reproach, Heb. xiii. 13. We must know the fellowship of his sufferings for us, and patiently submit to all the sufferings for him we are called out to; for those only shall reign with him, that suffer with him; shall sit with him in his kingdom, that drink of his cup, and are baptized with his baptism.