A sermon on John 19:14-18 for Lenten Midweek worship service.
The shrieks could be heard from down the hallway. Audible gasps from the gallery filled the air. Even some cheers showed excitement at what had just happened. The verdict just came in. The defendant, who sat confidently throughout the entire trial, heard his fate. His confidence quickly disappeared. The jury found the defendant guilty on all counts. The case was open and shut. The evidence could not be disputed. Even though the defendant was so sure, his life was about to change. The bailiffs came. They took the defendant away to his new home for the rest of his life, a jail cell.
Can we even begin to imagine a scene like this? We see it portrayed in the movies or on television shows, but the real life experience would be so much different. How would we react if we were in the courtroom? I hope and pray that we never have to experience something like this. So much pain, loss, and emotion for both the victims and the perpetrator. Today, we visit such a scene. Pontius Pilate presided over the court. The final verdict shows a great paradox: for we are both saddened and yet happy at the same time.
Take Him Away!
- Sentenced in our place.
- Killed in our place.
The hours had passed by so slowly. It seemed like days ago that Jesus celebrated the Passover Feast with his disciples in the upper room. However, it was only hours ago that meal took place. In the intervening time Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane so earnestly that his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. Judas, one of his own disciples, betrayed him. Annas and Caiaphas found Jesus guilty of blasphemy.
Now, Jesus stood before Pilate. Pilate held Jesus’ life in the balance. Only the Roman government had the power to sentence someone to death. Early in the morning the Jews brought Jesus to Pilate. They wanted the trial pushed through quickly. They made false accusations. They fished for the death penalty.
Pilate questioned Jesus. He found no guilt in Jesus. In order to appease the crowd Pilate had Jesus beaten and flogged. Now, Jesus bloodied and bruised stood before Pilate and the angry mob of Jews at the steps of the governor’s quarters. “Here is your king” (John 19:14)! Those harsh words brought more agony to Jesus. He looked nothing like a king. His worn out body could barely stand. His strength dripping away with every passing moment.
Some of the Jews had to chuckle to themselves. We have no king. Even if we did have a king, this man would not be it. He was a fraud, a false prophet, anything but the Savior. “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him” (John 19:15)! The Jews came closer and closer to what they wanted. Their appetite for blood grew. It did not matter that Jesus indeed was a King. It did not matter that no proof of guilt was offered. They wanted Jesus taken away. They wanted him killed.
Pilate made one last ditch effort, “Shall I crucify your king” (John 19:15)? The shouts from the Jews grew louder. Pilate saw that he would get nowhere. In order to keep the peace Pilate sentenced Jesus to death. The sentence came down. Shouts of jubilation came from the crowd. Jesus stood there not even opening his mouth. He was found guilty. He was taken away from Pilate’s place.
The Jews were blinded by their own selfishness. Zeal for manmade laws made them blind to the laws of God. They turned their back on the numerous prophecies that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. They rejected Jesus as King. They wanted him taken away and crucified.
Apart from the cheers for the verdict also come cries of agony. We should have rightfully been in the position of Jesus. The guilty sentence should have come upon us. We stood before God and the charge of sinner encircled us. We could not deny any of it.
We pushed Jesus away so many times by our sins. Our punishment should be to be taken away from God. We know all too well those sins that make us guilty before him. The temper flaring up at the smallest of cases. The dishonor shown to those in authority. Unfaithfulness in the use of the gifts God gives to us. All of the sins we commit condemn us as guilty before God.
Jesus stood in our place. The guilty verdict placed upon him should have been our guilty verdict before God. However, Jesus took away our guilty verdict. He was placed in our spot. He also was taken away and killed in our place.
The humiliation did not end just yet for Jesus. The Roman soldiers mounted Jesus’ cross upon his shoulders. They paraded him through the streets of Jerusalem like a common criminal. Each step became harder and harder to take. The weight of the cross grew heavier, almost becoming too much to bear.
The journey finally came to an end. They came to the place of the Skull, or Golgotha as we better know it. A small crowd assembled. Some came out of curiosity as to what was taking place. Others wanted to make sure Jesus did not escape and truly did die. A small group wept as they saw their Teacher treated in such a horrible manner.
Jesus could hardly be recognized. He was sleep deprived. He suffered from extreme blood loss. The wounds all over his body brought pain with each step. The body of Jesus almost collapsed upon the cross. The soldiers pulled his arms to place on the wood. A piercing howl could be heard as the nails pierced Jesus’ flesh. The cross was hoisted up. Here all could see the Savior of the world dying upon the cross.
The soldiers took Jesus away for all of this. They took him away for death. Little did they know in doing this they were carrying out the will of God. The fulfillment of all the prophecies, the culmination of meaning behind all the sacrifices would be accomplished once and for all. In the moment when the Jews got all they wished, God brought about the forgiveness of sins for the whole world.
We find comfort in the death Jesus died for us. All of our guilt washed away by his blood. All of our sins paid for by his innocent sufferings. Nothing we do can be too big for Jesus to overcome. This is the peace Jesus won for us on the cross.
They took Jesus away to be killed. Through his death Jesus took away all our sins. This was the entire reason it all happened. There could be no other way. Our sins deserved death. Our sins deserved punishment. Jesus took them all upon himself. He went to the cross so that our sins might be taken away.
In the midst of the courtroom we are filled with both joy and sadness at the sentence. Our salvation could not come in any other way. Jesus was taken away so that our sins might be taken away. However, they could not do away with Jesus. This was all a part of God’s master plan. Take him away! Jesus was sentenced for us and killed for us, so that God might never have us taken away from him. Amen.