1Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4Pilate 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.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6When 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.” 7The 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.” 8When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10So 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?”11Jesus 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.”
 12From 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.” 13So 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. 14Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15They 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.” 16So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  John 19:1-16

For I find no guilt in him.

With these words, Pilate manages to sum up the entire birth, life, ministry, impending death and eventual resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ whole reason for leaving his heavenly throne and descending to earth, for being born as a babe 33 years prior to this moment, was to be the unblemished lamb; the final sacrifice.

Even so, these final hours are difficult to witness.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is flogged.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is mocked.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is rejected.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is humiliated.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is given a crown of thorns.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but he is declared guilty.

Jesus is God, but he is also human. He is a man who in these moments feels the same emotions we experience in our lives. And having walked with him on the journey to Jerusalem, his passion and his purpose and his incredible sacrifice take on a deeper, heart-piercing perspective. The pain he endures and the heartbreak he experiences are beyond my comprehension.

There is no guilt, no sin in him, but me? I am more than guilty on a regular basis throughout each day. Repeatedly I hang my head and acknowledge my words spoken in anger or my lack of gratitude or my selfishness or my litany of any number of shortfalls and seek his forgiveness. All of these shortfalls part of the very reason that I stand here in Jerusalem and watch as Jesus is flogged and crowned with thorns and mocked. I watch as he is stripped of his clothes as well as his dignity and is exposed in all of his humanness and vulnerability.

I long to look away, to hide my eyes so that I do not have to see my Savior treated this way, but I look on. Somehow, it seems the least I can offer him. To see him as he is and to know that what he endures, he endures for me, in my place.

I find it interesting that there are so many questions and articles that address who is to blame for Jesus’ death. Because there is a long line of those at fault and it starts with me. Because other than me and you and every person who was ever born or will be born, including Pilate, the Pharisees, Judas, the only One responsible for Jesus’ death was God. And Jesus. And the Holy Spirit. The Trinity. Before the world was created, before Adam and Eve, before the snake in the Garden of Eden, the plan was put in place that Jesus would die.

Golgotha  (image courtesy of Bartek Ambrozik on sxc.hu)
Golgotha: the death of Jesus
(image courtesy of Bartek Ambrozik on sxc.hu)

Because we would need him to.

And because God wanted to reconcile us to himself and repair the relationship that would cease in the garden.

And the only way to do that was through God himself, in the form of Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man.

Did Pontius Pilate sentence Jesus to death? Yes, but not without the authority of God.

Did the Pharisees and Sadducees and elders and scribes bear false witness and manufacture the circumstances of Jesus’ arrest? Yes, but not without the authority of God.

Did Judas betray Jesus with a kiss in the very garden where he often met with Jesus and the disciples to pray and enjoy intimate fellowship? Yes, but not without the authority of God.

Jesus knows me and yet he loves me anyway and he chose to die so that I might know him, too. The question of who in all of these circumstances and moments was responsible for the death of Jesus in whom Pilate found no guilt is but a formality. The more important fact is that Jesus died and he did so willingly, as part of God’s plan to rescue his people from darkness and from sin and from hopelessness.

But as I watch Jesus and as I listen to the voices of the angry crowd shouting for his death, I cannot help but count myself guilty. Maybe it’s because it hurts too much to watch my Savior endure so much suffering in my place. Because that’s what it comes down to.

It should have been me. It should have been you. It should have been the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the disciples, the Roman soldiers, the angry mob, Pilate. It should have been all of us but instead it was only Jesus.

Only Jesus could take on the Enemy and win.

Only Jesus could defeat death.

Only Jesus could pay so high a ransom.

Only Jesus could redeem us and reconcile us to God.

Only Jesus could love with such an amazing, unconditional, sacrificial love.

Only Jesus.

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