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Saturday, September 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
John 18

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

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Verse 1

John 18:1

Then Pilate, therefore, took Jesus and scourged Him.


Pilate’s second attempt to rescue Christ

A SHAMEFUL INFLICTION on Jesus. Scourging and mockery (John 19:1-3).

1. The character of it.

(1) Severe.

(2) Insulting.

(3) Illegal--because Christ had been pronounced innocent.

2. The object of it

(1) As preliminary to execution.

(2) As a method of examination. Pilate may have hoped that this would elicit from Christ something which would either secure His release or justify His crucifixion.

(3) As a means of appeasing the Jews.

AN EARNEST APPEAL (John 19:4-5) to the Jews. Setting Christ before them, clothed in purple, crowned with thorns, a mocking king of woe, he appeals to

1. Their sense of justice.

2. Their feelings of compassion--“Behold the Man!--have you no pity?”

3. Their perception of truth. Was it reasonable that that meek Prisoner should be a rival to Caesar?

A HOPEFUL DECISION by Pilate (John 19:6).

1. The fierce demand “Crucify Him!” A week ago they cried Hosannah.

2. The firm reply “Take ye Him.” Pilate again refuses to incarnadine his hands. Only, Pilate, having put thy foot down, pray heaven for strength to keep it fast.

3. The forceful reason “I find no crime in Him.” If those blood-thirsty ruffians will have Him crucified they must do it themselves.


1. The certainty that Christ’s words will be fulfilled. Six months before He had predicted this (Matthew 20:19).

2. The depth of humiliation to which Christ stooped for men.

3. The difficulty felt by even wicked men in doing crimes. Conscience “makes a man a coward … fills one full of obstacles … beggars any [wicked] man that keeps it” (“Richard III.” Acts 1:1-26. scene 4).

4. The moral insensibility which men professing religion may at times exhibit. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

A wonderful picture

Like every great historical picture, this one contains special points for special attention. It contains three lifelike portraits.

THAT OF OUR LORD HIMSELF. We see the Saviour scourged, crowned with thorns, &c. Yet this was He whom angels delighted to honour, and who spent His time in going about doing good. Surely the sun never shone on a more wondrous sight.

1. Let us admire that love of Christ which “passeth knowledge.” There is no earthly love with which it can be compared, and no standard by which to measure it.

2. Never let us forget, when we ponder this tale of suffering, that Jesus suffered for our sins, and that with His stripes we are healed.

3. Let us diligently follow the example of His patience in all the trials and afflictions of life, and especially in those which may be brought upon us by religion. When He was reviled, He reviled not again.

THAT OF THE UNBELIEVING JEWS. We see them for three or four long hours obstinately rejecting Pilate’s offer to release our Lord--fiercely demanding His crucifixion--declaring that they had no king but Caesar--and finally accumulating on their own heads the greater part of the guilt of His murder. Yet these were the children of Israel and the seed of Abraham, to whom pertained the promises, &c. These were men who professed to look for a “Prophet like unto Moses,” and a “Son of David,” who was to set up a kingdom as Messiah. Never, surely, was there such an exhibition of the depth of human wickedness. Let us mark the danger of long-continued rejection of light and knowledge. There is such a thing as judicial blindness; and it is the last and sorest judgment which God can send upon men. He who, like Pharaoh and Ahab, is often reproved but refuses to receive reproof, will finally have a heart harder than the nether millstone, and a conscience past feeling, and seared as with a hot iron (Proverbs 1:24-26; 2 Thessalonians 2:11).

THAT OF PONTIUS PILATE. We see the Roman governor--a man of rank and high position--halting between two opinions in a case as clear as the sun at noon-day, sanctioning from sheer cowardice an enormous crime--and finally countenancing, from love of man’s good opinion, the murder of an innocent person. Never perhaps did human nature make such a contemptible exhibition. Never was there a name so justly handed down to a world’s scorn as the name which is embalmed in all our creeds.

1. Let us learn what miserable creatures great men are, when they have no high principles within them, and no faith in the reality of a God above them. The meanest labourer who fears God is a nobler being than the king, ruler, or statesman, whose first aim is to please the people.

2. Let us pray that our own country may never be without men in high places who have grace to think right, and courage to act up to their knowledge, without truckling to the opinion of men. (Bp. Ryle.)

A threefold type of sinners

THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST CONVICTION. To this class Pilate belonged. To do this is

1. Hard work. How difficult did Pilate find it!

2. Fiendish work. Satan and his legions do it.

THOSE WHO SIN FROM CONVICTION. Such were the chief priests and officers, &c. Innumerable heathen, heretics, persecutors believe they are doing right whilst they are perpetrating the greatest enormities. There are no crimes blacker than those enacted from religious convictions.

THOSE WHO SIN WITHOUT CONVICTION--the soldiers and the thoughtless rabble. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

Pilate taking Jesus

1. The surrender of innocence.

2. The triumph of malice.

3. The abuse of authority. (S. S. Times.)

Took Jesus

1. From whose custody?

2. For what purpose?

3. On what grounds?

4. With what results? (S. S. Times.)

Jesus delivered to be crucified


THE PERPLEXITY AND SHAME LIKELY TO BE EXPERIENCED BY ONE WHO ACTS FROM SELFISH EXPEDIENCY INSTEAD OF HIS CONVICTIONS OF RIGHT. Poor mockery of a ruler! Set by the Eternal to do right upon earth, and afraid to do it; told so by his own bosom; strong enough in his legions and in the truth itself to have saved the Innocent One and kept his own soul, he could only think of the apparently expedient! Type of the politician in all ages, who forgets that only the right is the strong or the wise.

THE POWER OF POPULAR CLAMOUR, AND THE NECESSITY AT TIMES OF RESISTING IT. Very impressive is the voice of a multitude. Its applause is intoxicating, its condemnation dreadful, its strenuous demand most difficult to deny. When this voice represents the ripe moral sentiment of an intelligent people, or when it is the swift, honest judgment of that people in regard to wrong, then Vox populi est vox Dei. But the clamour by which Pilate was swayed was a different thing. It was the voice of a mob inflamed by passion, worked upon by wicked and crafty leaders--the voice of Satan. Whenever a crowd is foolish or mad, has a cumulative force, and reaches a colossal magnitude. Hence the horrors of the French revolution, and the toleration and support given now and then by the people of a nation to great wrongs. In such cases public opinion is not to be heeded. “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” It is well then to stand up like Luther at Worms and say, “To act against conscience is unsafe and unholy. Here stand I, God help me. Amen.” This was the spirit of the apostles, martyrs, and reformers.

THAT CHRIST’S CLAIM TO KINGSHIP, WHICH EXCITED SUCH RIDICULE, WAS A TRUE AND VALID CLAIM. Some of the most precious doctrines were first uttered in derision. The grace of Christ to sinners was the subject of a sneer--“He receiveth sinners,” &c. The necessity which constrained Him to die for the salvation of man was set forth in the jeer, “He saved others, Himself He cannot save.” Here before Pilate His claim of Kingship was made the occasion of brutal merriment. But Jesus was indeed a King! As such He came attended by a retinue of angels, and inquired for by the wise men. Through all the centuries since His kingly dignity has been owned. When the Crusaders proposed to crown Geoffrey of Bouillon king of Jerusalem, Geoffrey said, “I will not wear a crown of gold in the city where my Saviour had a crown of thorns!” He is

1. A beneficent King. He rules in the interests of His subjects. “Woe to the conquered” was the old cry. But Christ’s conquests bring good to the conquered. The more perfect their submission, the more perfect their felicity.

2. A perpetual King. His throne is established for ever. “Conceive of Caesar,” said Napoleon, “the eternal emperor watching over the destinies of Rome. Such is the power of Christ.”

3. His kingdom is constantly advancing. Because the tide ebbs, no intelligent man, viewing the naked sand, would say, “The sea is losing its dominion.” He would answer, “Wait awhile,” confident that it would reoccupy its lost ground. So with Christianity. In Damascus there is a mosque which was once a Church. Over its portal the Christian inscription still stands--“Thy kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth through all generations.” For twelve centuries that writing has been contradicted, seemingly, and probably the Moslem has suffered it to remain to convict Christianity of a vain boast. But that inscription may be regarded as a solemn prophecy that the Moslem sway is but temporary, and that the faith which has been driven from its sanctuary will return. Even now the signs of its return appear.

THE SPIRITUAL CHARACTER OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM. He explicitly said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” &c. But He did not leave His cause impotent and defenceless. There are other forces besides armed battalions. The Word of God, the Spirit of truth, the religious faculties on which they act, faith, hope, love, duty, sacrifice, and prayer; by means of these Christ sent forth His apostles to conquer the world. Christ’s patience, self-restraint, and forgiving Spirit were potent even at His trial and crucifixion. They invested Him with that majesty which could not be obscured by indignities, which awed the scoffing Pilate into respect, and moved him to an unwonted desire to do justly; which brought the thief on the cross to repentance, and led the centurion to exclaim, “Truly, this was the Son of God.” And in proportion as the followers of Christ have trusted these forces, they have been successful. Alliance with secular power, or reliance on physical force, has proved disastrous. (Sermons by the Monday Club.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 18". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/john-18.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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