Therefore God allows evil a temporary opportunity in order that evil might destroy itself in seeking to destroy God.
1 Pilate (Pilatos[G], meaning: armed with a spear) then took Yeshua[H] (Iesous[G], Joshua, YHVH Saves, Jesus) and scourged, brutally flogged (mastigoo[G]) Him.
Pilate’s command to scourge Yeshua is not the act of a person who considers the accused to be innocent. Pilate had confirmed that Yeshua was a king of sorts and a possible threat to the stability of Roman occupied Judea. Therefore, the political rhetoric of Pilate in debating the matter with the Jewish religious leaders was simply the means by which he would satisfy Roman law and seek to make himself immune to political repercussions.
Contrary to the suppositions of a number popular albeit misguided Christian scholars, Pilate did not have Yeshua scourged in order to save Him. The scourging itself was known to result in death at times, and cannot therefore be considered a ruse for the purpose of freeing Yeshua. We note that Pilate “took” Yeshua to be scourged. He was an active participant in this vile punishing of an innocent man, and based on Pilate’s history this was certainly not the first time he had done such a thing to the leader of a Jewish uprising.
2 And the Roman soldiers (stratiotes[G]) twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; 3 and they began to come up to Him and say, “Rejoice, be glad hail (chairo[G]), King of the Jewish People (Melekh Ha-Yehudiym[H])!” and they struck Him with a rod (rhapisma[G]).
The crown of thorns and purple robe were tools of mockery. Both symbolised kingship, the former a kingship of briars.
Thorns grow prolifically in the Israeli desert and there is a concentration of various thorns in and around Ein Gedi (spring of a kid goat) where David hid from king Saul prior to David’s ascension to the throne of Israel (1 Samuel 23:29, 24:1–2; ). One more recent thorn variety (introduced to the land approx.. 800 years ago) named the Jujube thorn has been given the name “Messiah’s Thorn” by Christians based on the connection between king David and the King Messiah Yeshua.
While we cannot know exactly which thorn was used for the crown of thorns harshly forced upon Yeshua’s head, it is interesting to note the fact that thorns typically grow in the desert and that there is a connection to these thorns and David’s suffering persecution under a king (authority) whose reign God had already determined was to come to an end.
In the case of Yeshua the greater Son of David (King Messiah), the apostate priestly authority of the early first century had already been destined for destruction by God. Sensing that their time of illegitimate power was coming to an end and being jealous of the King Messiah Yeshua, the apostate priesthood like king Saul, sought to persecute the true King.
The crown of thorns full of torture and mockery is none the less a fitting crown for the suffering Servant of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Yeshua is the ultimate suffering King, not because of His flogging and crucifixion alone (many were flogged and crucified by Rome) but because He suffered the burden of the sins of humanity so that He might deliver us from the wrath of God against sin. The Scripture says “Him (Yeshua) who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 and “He Himself (Yeshua) bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were made whole.” 1 Peter 2:24 and “He (Yeshua) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2.
Therefore, the weight of immeasurable suffering endured by Yeshua makes Him King of Thorns (Sorrow) even as His resurrection makes Him King of All, appointed by God. Having known the greatest of sorrows He is able to comfort us in our sorrow, and having overcome death He is able to fill us with the hope of glory.
There is yet another comparison to be made with the mountain goats of Ein Gedi (spring of a kid goat) and the King Messiah, Who is the “Goat for HaShem” of the Yom Kippur sacrifices.
4 Pilate (Pilatos[G]) came out again and said to them (the Jewish religious leaders), “See (eido[G]), I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know (ginosko[G]) that I find no guilt in Him.”
Pilate brings Yeshua out for a show of Roman piety. We have already learned that Pilate was complicit in the arrest of Yeshua and had an ongoing political relationship with the religious leaders of Israel. Pilate knew what the religious leaders wanted and He knew that he needed to get rid of anyone leading an uprising among the Jewish people. Further, he had already sought proof of Yeshua’s kingship and acknowledged Yeshua as a king and therefore had found guilt albeit erroneous. Today we would call this show of Pilate’s virtue signalling, in the first century it would have been considered nothing short of theatrics. Pilate had clearly decided Yeshua was sufficiently guilty to receive a scourging and was simply looking for a way to “wash his hands” of the matter. Pilate, like the religious leaders was a hypocrite of the worst kind.
5 Yeshua[H] then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate (Pilatos[G]) said to them, “Behold (idou[G], hineih[H]), the Man (ho anthropos[G], ha gaver[H])!”
Pilate mocks Yeshua’s kingship and adds salt to the wounded pride of the religious Jewish leaders by proclaiming “Behold the man”, and idiomatic saying denoting a great king, more accurately “The Great King”.
As one could imagine this insult drove the religious leaders into a frenzy of hatred, firstly toward Pilate and ultimately against the man Whom they considered a greater threat to their religious power over the Jewish nation.
6 So when the chief priests (archiereus[G], hakohaniym[H]) and the servants (huperetes[G]) saw Him, they shouted out saying, “Crucify [destroy], crucify [drive stakes into] (stauroo[G])!” Pilate (Pilatos[G]) said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify (stauroo[G]) Him, for I find no crime (aitia[G]) in Him.”
Once again Pilate seeks to exacerbate the religious leaders. Pilate is well aware that the Jewish leaders have no authority under Roman occupation to put anyone to death least of all crucify someone according to the Roman method of execution. What is more Pilate had found crime in Yeshua albeit erroneous, and had intentionally exacerbated the Jewish religious leaders knowing that they would insist on what Pilate also wanted, the death of Yeshua the would be king.
7 The Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) answered him, “We have a law (nomos[G]), and by that law (Torah[H]) He ought to die because He made Himself (heautou poieo[G]) the Son of God (uihos Theos[G], haBen Elohiym[H]).”
The religious leaders are citing the Torah law against blasphemy (Vayikra [Lev.] 24:16). In their view to call one’s self “a son of God” was acceptable but to call one’s self “the Son of God” was blasphemy. If Yeshua were not ImanuEl (with us God) their claim would have been valid, however Yeshua is God with us making it impossible for Him to have blasphemed.
8 Therefore when Pilate (Pilatos[G]) heard this statement, he was even more afraid; 9 and he entered into the Praetorium (praitōrion[G]) [Governor’s court room] again and said to Yeshua[H], “Where are You from?”
Pilate’s fear was based on superstition and Roman idolatry, something that permeated his household. This is corroborated by his wife’s dream which she interpreted as an ill omen (Matthew 27:19). Pilate wondered whether it were possible that Yeshua were a son of one of the gods (Rome adopted and assimilated gods from all reaches of the empire). Therefore, his question to Yeshua was born not of the fear of the One true God of Israel but due to Pilate’s idolatrous superstition.
But Yeshua[H] did not answer him. 10 So Pilate (Pilatos[G]) said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not see (eido[G]) that I have the power (exousia[G]) to release You, and I have the power (exousia[G]) to crucify [drive stakes into] (stauroo[G]) You?”
Note that Pilate’s fear did not last long. When his authority was rebuffed by Yeshua’s silence he went straight back to the infantile “I’m the one in charge here!”
Yeshua had already explained that His kingdom was not of the present sin affected world. He had given Pilate an opportunity to listen and accept the truth of Who He was. Pilate had brushed Yeshua’s words aside with pagan philosophy saying “What is truth”. Therefore, his present attempts to induce an answer from Yeshua seem ingenuine at best, born of superstitious fear rather than a genuine desire to see Yeshua released. Pilate’s threat bears no weight because it is levelled against the One Who has been given all authority by the Father God.
11 Yeshua[H] answered, “You would have no power (exousia[G]) over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he (singular) who delivered Me to you holds (echo[G]) greater (megas[G]) sin (hamartia[G]).”
Note that God is in control even of evil. God has allowed Pilate to act unjustly. God could have chosen to save Yeshua but did not. God is either in control of all things or He is not. If He is not then evil has control of certain outcomes and God is not all powerful. Therefore God allows evil a temporary opportunity in order that evil might destroy itself in seeking to destroy God. The created thing is subject to the Creator. Evil is the fruit of a created thing, therefore, both that thing and its fruit are subject to God.
Note also that Yeshua does not say that Pilate is without sin in this matter, just that the sin of the individual who betrayed Him (Judas Iscariot) is greater.
12 As a result of this Pilate (Pilatos[G]) dismissed (apoluo[G]) Him, moreover the Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend (philos[G]) of Caesar (Kaisar[G]: severed); everyone who makes himself out a king opposes Caesar.”
Pilate temporarily dismissed Yeshua to the care of the Roman guards but was immediately faced with a poignant reminder of fealty to Caesar. The phrase “Friend of Caesar” is said to have been a title used of those who were held in Caesar’s good graces.
13 Therefore when Pilate (Pilatos[G]) heard these words, he brought Yeshua[H] out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in a language of the Hebrews (Hebraisti[G]), Gabbatha[A] (mosaic pavement).
Pilate, who had based his entire reasoning regarding the case of Yeshua on the crime of opposing Caesar’s kingship, had convinced himself that the assertion of the Jewish religious leaders was confirmation of the necessary verdict. Therefore, he had Yeshua brought back out from the holding cell where he had temporarily sent Him.
Pilate sat in the seat of judgement on the platform known as Gabbatha in Aramaic (a language of the Hebrews) ready to pass judgement on Yeshua.
14 Now it was a time of preparation (paraskeue[G]) for the Pascha[G] (Chagigah[H], Temple Passover sacrifices); it was about the sixth hour (6am Roman time). And he said to the Jewish religious leaders, Judeans (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]), “See (eido[G]), your King (basileus[G], Melekh[H])!”
“The sixth hour” is an exception in Yochanan’s recording of time. Here the sixth hour obviously refers to the sixth hour according to Roman reckoning as determined from 12am. Whereas, elsewhere in his gospel Yochanan uses the Jewish standard for measuring time. This can be explained by context. The trial of Yeshua was conducted according to Roman law and therefore the time is described using Roman reckoning. In most other cases because Yochanan is conveying a Jewish gospel to a primarily Jewish audience he uses the Jewish method of reckoning time. Mark’s gospel records that the crucifixion began at the third hour according to Jewish time keeping (9am), three hours after Pilate’s pronouncement of judgement against Yeshua.
“See, your King!” This taunt is clear evidence of Pilate’s unrepentant heart and his insidious motives. He knows that the Jewish religious leaders hate the idea of Yeshua being king of the Jews and that they will demand Yeshua’s death in response to Pilate’s mocking proclamation.
15 So they (the Jewish religious leaders) shouted out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify [drive stakes into] (stauroo[G]) Him!” Pilate (Pilatos[G]) said to them, “Shall I crucify [drive stakes into] (stauroo[G]) your King (basileus[G], Melekh[H])?” The chief priests (archiereus[G], hakohaniym[H]) answered, “We have no king (basileus[G], Melekh[H]) but Caesar (Kaisar[G]: severed).”
Once again Pilate pushes home his advantage over the religious Jewish leaders with whom he is locked in a political power struggle. He repeats his previous taunt posing it as a question “Shall I crucify your king?”
We note that it is a select group among the priests, “the chief priests” that answer with the chilling and ironically blasphemous claim “We have no king but Caesar.” The literal meaning here would be that the two chief priests (Annas [retired] and Caiaphas) spoke this phrase.
16 So he (Pilate) then handed Him over to them to be crucified.
Pilate handed Yeshua over to the Roman soldiers tasked with performing the crucifixion. If Pilate believed Yeshua innocent he had every opportunity to deny the religious leaders access to Him, and every opportunity to hold Him quietly for a while and then release Him. Instead he handed Yeshua over, not to the Jewish religious leaders but to his Roman soldiers.
17 They (Roman soldiers) took Yeshua[H], therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in a language of the Hebrews, Golgotha[A] (Skull).
Historically speaking it seems that those undergoing crucifixion in first century Roman occupied Judea were tasked with carrying the cross beam of their execution stake. We know from Mark 15:21 that Yeshua carried his own cross beam only part of the way to Golgotha at which point Shimon of Cyrene (a Grecian Jew) took over.
The location of Golgotha is debated but was most likely situated outside the first century Jerusalem city walls to the north west.
An interesting Midrash from the 9th century C.E. describes the Messiah as undergoing a similar experience to that of Yeshua. It seems that within the rabbinic Judaism of the 9th century C.E. there were those who either practiced Messianic faith quietly or had adopted and syncretised Messianic ideas.
“In the seven years prior to the coming of the son of David, they will bring iron beams and load them on his neck until his body doubles over and he cries and weeps. Then his voice will rise to the highest places of heaven, and he will say to God, 'Master of the Universe, how much can my strength endure? How much my spirit, my soul, my limbs? Am I not flesh and blood?' It was because of this suffering of the son of David that David wept, saying, 'My strength is dried up like a potsherd' (Psalm 22:16(15)). During this ordeal the Holy One, blessed be he, will say to the son of David, 'Ephrayim, my true Messiah, you took this suffering on yourself long ago, during the six days of creation. And right now, your pain is like my pain [due to the destruction of the Temple].' At this the Messiah will reply, 'Now I am at peace. It is enough for a servant to be like his master.'" -Pesikta Rabbati 36:2
It is interesting to note that the latter portion concerning creation affirms the teaching of Yochanan (John) 1 and Revelation 13:8.
18 There they crucified [drove stakes into] (stauroo[G]) Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Yeshua[H] in between.
Cf. Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27–28,32, Luke 23:33
The Gospel of Mark interprets this as fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12
“Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.” -Isaiah 53:12 NIV
19 Pilate (Pilatos[G]) also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “Yeshua Hanatzriy Melekh Hay’hudiym[H]” (Yeshua the Nazarene King of the Jewish People). 20 Therefore many of the Jewish people (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) read this inscription, for the place where Yeshua[H] was crucified was near the city (Jerusalem); and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek.
Pilate wrote this inscription to both taunt the Jewish religious leaders and make clear his legitimate reason for allowing the crucifixion to go ahead. If Yeshua was King of the Jews then He was a threat to the sovereignty of Rome in Judea and a usurper of the authority of Caesar. This was a capital crime.
Contrary to the now prolific Messianic mis-teaching regarding the sign above Yeshua’s head, the Holy Name of God YHVH is not represented. The mis-teaching adds the Hebrew (or Aramaic) “AND” (vav/waw) to the title in order to make it say what the authors’ of this mis-teaching want it to say so as to force the text to meet their albeit altruistic conjecture.
The text of John’s gospel in Greek, and when translated into Latin and Hebrew in order to properly represent the sign hung above Yeshua on the cross reads “Yeshua the Nazarene King of the Jews” and not “Yeshua the Nazarene AND the King of the Jews”.
The difference is plan. “Yeshua HaNatzriy Melekh Yehudiym” does not offer the possibility of the acronym YHVH because there is no “V”. In reality it produces the acronym YHMH (Not the Holy Name). Nor do the other gospels record the title as “Yeshua the Nazarene AND the King of the Jews”. Matthew writes “This is Yeshua King of the Jews”, Mark writes “This is the King of the Jews” but omits “Yeshua”, and Luke writes “This is the King of the Jews” but omits “Yeshua”. Therefore, not only is the YHVH acronym mis-teaching not seen in the Scriptural text of Yochanan (John’s gospel) it is even less tenable in the synoptic gospels.
NB: The Aramaic text doesn’t include the definite article either:
ישוע נצריא מלכא דיהודיא
Yeshua natzraya Malka diy’hudaye
The forced and fabricated attempts of Messianic teachers to make the Holy Name fit into the title above Yeshua’s head is foolish and unnecessary. It causes seekers of truth to identify it as a fabrication and thus reject both the conclusion and the Messiah’s Divine identity. Thus it becomes a stumbling block to non-Messianic Jews and Gentiles alike.
As described by Isaiah the prophet Yeshua is ImanuEl (God with us) regardless of whether the Divine Name is present as an acronym in the title hanging above Him during His crucifixion. There are numerous other valid Scriptural passages that affirm Yeshua’s deity, the multiple I AM statements of John’s gospel notwithstanding.
“For to us a child is born,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be upon His shoulder.
His Name will be called
Pele Yoeitz (Wonderful Counsellor),
El Gibor (Mighty God)
Aviyad (My Father of Eternity),
Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace).
6 Of the increase of His government
and shalom there will be no end--
on the throne of David and over His kingdom--
to establish it and uphold it
through justice and righteousness
from now until forevermore.
The zeal of Adonai-Tzva’ot
will accomplish this.” -Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) 9:(4)5-(5)6
“14 Therefore Adonai Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, the virgin will conceive.
When she is giving birth to a son,
she will call his name Imanu El.
15 He will be eating curds and honey
by the time he knows to refuse evil
and choose good.” -Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) 7:14-15
Therefore, it is a flawed and pointless exercise to attempt to force some hidden affirmation of the fact by manipulating the inspired text of the Scripture.
21 So the chief priests (archiereus[G], hakohaniym[H]) of the Jewish people (Ioudaios[G], Yehudiym[H]) were saying to Pilate (Pilatos[G]), “Do not write, ‘Melekh Hay’hudiym[H] (The King of the Jewish People)’; but that He said, ‘Aniy Melekh Hay’hudiym[H] (I am King of the Jewish People)”.’” 22 Pilate (Pilatos[G]) answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Once again Pilate stands by his decision to write the plaque because it best suits his purposes. We note that Yeshua never said “I am the King of the Jews” but “You say so”, in response to Pilate. This is yet another false claim made by the chief priests.
Copyright 2020 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.