When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.”’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier.
In Philippians chapter 2 we read that Jesus ‘who, being in very nature God… made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…. he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!’.
If we think for a moment what that might look like, it probably wouldn’t be long before we turn to the Passion narratives, and this passage from John’s gospel. Here we see that Jesus, who had all the standing in the universe to judge, was himself judged by Pilate. Here we see the King of kings and Lord of lords, being announced as king, only for the chief priests to declare they had no king but Caesar. Here we see the one who from his strength could make yokes easy and light, become weighed down with his own wooden cross that would make him stumble and fall. Here we see Jesus, who reigned over creation, now stripped naked with some soldiers dividing out the last of his earthly possessions. Here we see Jesus who having brought such healing and wholeness, has been flogged, whipped, and scourged, now with nails being driven through his hands and feet.
There is a possibility that this was just some sick story of irony; or this could be the most significant moment in the life of the universe since its creation, as the incarnate Son of God was stripped of everything, became nothing, all for love for us. This is the moment when we realise that Jesus would rather go through all this, he would rather suffer under Pontius Pilate, be crucified, die and be buried in this most brutal way – he would rather do all that, than spend another day in the glorious heavenly realms as King of the universe without you. This is the cost of great love. The cost of a grace that forgives my sin.
By his wounds I am healed.
Thanks be to God.
Lord Jesus, Thank-you. Were the whole realm of nature mine, that would be an offering far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. Amen.
(words from Isaac Watts, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’)
The Rev’d Paul Robinson is the minister of The United Church in Rhyl