The week of passion: Judgment, condemnation and crucifixion

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While still speaking with His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him many people with swords and clubs, on behalf of the chief priests and elders of the people" (Matthew 26:47). . Because the government of Israel was religious, the priests functioned at the same time as the rulers of the people. That is why Christ was taken immediately to the residence of Annas, former high priest, where he was held until a good group of the council met in the house of Caiaphas, current high priest and president of the Sanhedrin or the highest court of Israel. It was in the house of Caiaphas, in the middle of the night, that the religious trial itself began.
And although the process was just beginning, several irregularities had already been committed. On the one hand, the arrest had to be made by the voluntary action of the witnesses they were accusing, not by the authorities that would judge the case. In other words, the judges could not act at the same time as a public force. Nor was it admitido to judge a man who could be condemned to death to prove his guilt during the night.
But the religious leaders of Israel were in a hurry to condemn Jesus before dawn, probably to take care of the reaction of the crowd that was in Jerusalem celebrating Passover. They knew very well that the crowds tend to be very fickle and that they could have unexpected reactions when they learned of Jesus' arrest. It was better to wake up with the news that the Lord had already been judged and condemned. This also allowed them to gather only the Sanhedrin group that was against Christ, leaving out the few who could hinder the process, as would have been the case of Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea.
But there was something more crucial still involved in all this. The Roman government had removed from the Sanhedrin the right to apply the death penalty in case an accused was found guilty. In such a case, they had to judge him first in a religious court, but the sentence had to be confirmed and executed by a Roman authority in a civil court.
The problem was that Easter was celebrated that day; so that they had to get Jesus to be condemned and executed early in the morning, before sunset, in order to participate in the religious festival "with a clear conscience." No wonder Christ merienda said of them that a gnat was being swallowed and a camel was swallowed.
The first part of the religious trial consisted in presenting the witnesses who accused the accused, a task not easy in a trial of this type; if the testimony was found to be false, the law demanded that the accused be acquitted immediately and that the witnesses be sentenced to death by stoning. In the case of Jesus, the same judges who were supposed to judge the case without partiality, were in charge of looking for false witnesses who testified against him (compare Mt. 26: 59-60a). Finally, two witnesses appear whose testimonies seem to have some weight (verses 60b-61); but even these witnesses did not agree with each other (Matthew 14:59).
Meanwhile time continues to advance and Caiaphas begins to realize that the process was stagnating. So he decides to make use of a desperate and totally illegal recourse: to find a way for Christ to incriminate Himself: "Do not you answer anything? What do these witness against you? More Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God" (Matthew 26: 62-63).
When someone was put under oath, he had no choice but to respond. So Christ was forced to break His silence: "Jesus said to him: You have said it; And I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God's power, and coming in the clouds of heaven "(estar 64). In an obvious allusion to Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13, the Lord not only confirms to be the Messiah and the Son of God, but He tells Caiaphas and all His accusers that the day would come when things would be completely the inverse: He would be the Judge and they the accused.
Of course, Caiaphas must have felt devilishly relieved. And pretending to be horrified by such blasphemy, he tears his clothes saying: "He has blasphemed! What more need do we have of witnesses? Here it is, right now you have heard his blasphemy. What do you think? And they answered and said, He is guilty of death! "(Matthew 26: 65-66). What happened next was absolutely grotesque and savage: "Then they spit on his face, and they punched him, and others slapped him, saying: Prophesy to us, Christ, who is the one who struck you" (Mt. 26: 67- 68).
This happened around 3 o'clock on Friday morning. Somewhere in the palace of Caiphas they had him held for another 3 hours until sunrise; then the Council met again to ratify the verdict that had been pronounced a few hours earlier and thus fulfill the requirement that a haber verdict could not be pronounced at night (Luke 22: 66-71). But the process was not finished yet. Now it was necessary for Christ to be condemned by a Roman authority. So he was brought before the prosecutor around 6:30 am.
That Roman procurator was Pontius Pilate, a man whom history points to as an uneducated, cruel soldier with very little common sense, who probably came to the position of procurator of Judea and Samaria for having married Claudia Prócula, illegitimate daughter of the third wife of Emperor Tiberius, and therefore, granddaughter of Caesar Augustus. He was recommended to that position by one of the trusted men of the emperor named Sejanus, and began his administration in 26 d. C. He abhorred the Jews to death, and the Jews hated him; They accused him of all kinds of crime, of mismanagement, robbery and cruelty. But this was the man appointed by providence to deal with the case of Jesus.
John tells us in his Gospel that the first thing Pilate does, following the Roman procedure, was to ask the charges they had against the Prisoner; To which the Jews respond annoyed: "If he were not an evildoer, we would not have given him to you" (John 18:30). Obviously, that does not answer the restlessness of Pilate, so he says sharply: "Take him, and judge him according to your law." To which the Jews replied: "We are not allowed to kill anyone" (John 18:31).
What, then, is the accusation? Basically three: that Jesus perverted the nation of Israel, that it incited them not to pay taxes to the empire and that it claimed to be a King. Now, notice that that was not the reason why Jesus was condemned at the Council that dawn; but they knew that an accusation of blasphemy would have no validity before a Roman procurator, so they presented him before Pilate as an enemy of Rome. Pilate enters the Praetorium again to question the Lord, but this interrogation ends up unleashing a psychological war inside this cruel and superstitious man, as we shall see in a moment.
Pilate asks Jesus: "Are you the king of the Jews?" (John 18:33). To which the Lord answers with another question: "Do you say this for yourself, or have others told you about me?" (John 18:34). In other words: "Do you ask me if I am a King based on what my accusers say? So the answer is: No, I'm not the kind of king they suppose. But if you are asking me for yourself if I really am a King, then I would answer Yes. "
"Pilate answered him: Am I a Jew? Your nation, and the chief priests, have given you to me. What have you done? Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; But my kingdom is not from here. Pilate then said to him: Then, are you king? Jesus answered: You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came to the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice. Pilate said to him: What is the truth? And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no crime in him" (John 18: 35-38). At this point of the game Pilate seems to be quiebro confused as to the nature of Jesus, but he does not seem to have any doubt about His innocence, and so he makes it known to the people, who again cry out for their condemnation.
At that moment something unexpected happens that intensifies the psychological struggle of Pilate. Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Pilate's wife sends him an urgent note asking him not to have anything to do with the sentence of that Just One, "because today I suffered a lot in my dreams because of him" (Mt 27:19) . For a superstitious man like Pilate that note could not go unnoticed. His wife would not dare to interrupt him, unless he had had a dream too vivid, and probably very frightening. So Pilate is determined to find a way out of this case without having to condemn Jesus, but he does not know how.
Until some in the crowd began to shout that Christ was stirring up the people, "teaching throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee" (Luke 23: 5). Upon hearing the word "Galilee" Pilate thought that he could get rid of the matter by sending the case to Herod, who was the governor of that region and who was in Jerusalem at that time of the feast. But Herod also finds nothing against Him worthy of death, so he forwards the case to Pilate, who merienda again ratifies the innocence of the accused (Luke 23: 13-15).
The shouting returns again, and another idea occurs to Pilate. It was customary at the Feast of the Passover to release some prisoner, the one the people asked for; and Pilate astutely put the people to choose between Christ and a famous and despicable prisoner named Barabbas, assuming logically that the people would prefer Jesus. But previously instructed by the priests, the crowd cries out to release Barabbas and condemn Jesus (Luke 23: 18-19). Once again, Pilate confirms before the people that he finds no crime in Him. But the Jews continue to cry out for Him to be crucified (Luke 23:21).
Pilate then changes his tactics and decides to mistreat Jesus in such a way that the crowd quenches his thirst for revenge and desists from his desire to see him crucified. So, ignoring all the rights of the accused whom he himself has declared innocent, he ordered the soldiers to whip him. The commentator Hendriksen describes in detail what that punishment implied: "The Roman scourge consisted of a short wooden handle to which several straps were attached with the ends provided with pieces of lead or bronze and very sharp pieces of bone. The scourges were dropped especially on the back of the victim, who was naked and stooped. Generally two men were employed to administer this punishment, one lashing from one side, another from the opposite side, with the result that sometimes the flesh was lacerated to such an extent that internal veins and arteries and sometimes even the bowels were visible. and the internal organs appeared between the cuts. "
But Pilate was completely wrong to think that the sight of so much pain would calm the cruelty of the people. Instead of feeling compassion, the hatred of the Jews increased even more when they thought that a man so disfigured by blows would claim to be his Messiah: "When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, saying: Crucify him! Crucify him! Pilate said to them, Take him and crucify him; because I do not find crime in him. The Jews answered him: We have a law, and according to our law he must die, because he made himself Son of God. When Pilate heard this, he was more afraid 2 (John 19: 6-8). Pilate was already afraid, but now the fear had increased. The superiority of Christ on the one hand, the note of his wife on the other, and hearing now that He pretended to be the Son of God, was too much for him.
So he enters the Praetorium again, and very probably full of anguish he asks the Lord: "Where are you from?" (John 19: 9). But the Lord does not answer a single word. Pilate, then, decides to hide his fear by bragging: "You do not talk to me? Do not you know that I have the authority to crucify you, and that I have the authority to let you go? Jesus answered: You would have no authority against me, if it were not given to you from above; therefore, he who has given you to me has sin "(John 19: 10-11).
Pilate's emotional apparatus is reaching its limit and the Jews realize it. So they decide to play one last letter: "Since then Pilate tried to let him go; but the Jews cried out, saying: If you let this one go, you are not Caesar's friend; everyone who becomes king, Caesar opposes. Then Pilate, hearing this, brought Jesus out, and sat down in the judgment seat at the place called the Pavement, and in Hebrew Gabata. It was the preparation of the Passover, and as the sixth hour. Then he said to the Jews: Behold your King! But they shouted: Out, out, crucify him! Pilate said to them: I will crucify your King? The chief priests answered: We have no king but Caesar "(John 19: 12-15).
Feeling cornered, he says in the Gospel of Matthew that Pilate "took water and washed his hands before the people, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just man; there you go And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children" (Matthew 27: 24-25).
There are two things that stand out in this story: Jesus was condemned to be innocent through a completely flawed procesal process, but He made the decision not to defend himself. Christ was silent before the religious leaders of Israel (Matthew 26: 62-63), before Pilate (Mark 15: 3-5) and before Herod (Luke 23: 8-11). There was fulfilled that prophecy that had been uttered by the prophet Isaiah some 700 years before: "He was distressed, and he was afflicted and did not open his mouth; as a lamb he was taken to the slaughterhouse; and as a sheep before its shearers, he was silent, and he did not open his mouth "(Isaiah 53: 7).
It would have been very simple for Him to point out all the violations of the Jewish and Roman laws that had been committed in the process. But he did not defend himself, because despite His innocence, He was substituting guilty sinners who deserved to be condemned. That Friday morning Christ assumed our guilt in silence, not before the tribunal of men, but before the tribunal of God. The just died for the unjust, as Peter says in his first letter (1 Peter 3:18). And in the providence of God, the best illustration of that exchange is found in this same story in the person of Barabbas.
Marcos and Lucas tell us that Barabbas was a murderer and a seditious man; and Juan adds that he was a thief. If there was someone who deserved the death penalty, it was without a doubt Barabbas. But suddenly things take an unexpected turn. When Pilate puts the people to choose, they ask him to release Barabbas. By one of those mysteries of providence the destiny of this man is irrevocably linked to that of Jesus. If Jesus is absolved Barabbas is condemned; but if Christ is condemned, Barabbas is acquitted. Their life depends on their condemning Jesus.
Finally the strange verdict is proclaimed: Christ is innocent, but he must be crucified. And Barabbas receives absolution. And it does not take much imagination to visualize what probably happened that day. While Mary was tearing her soul to see her innocent Son suffering the horrors of the cross, in the house of Barabbas they received the incredible news that this thief, homicidal and seditious, had been freed.
I wonder if Barabbas was one of those who contemplated the crucifixion that day, and if looking at Jesus hanging on the tree it will have crossed his mind that this place had been reserved for him. Barabbas is a perfect illustration of what really happened in that judgment and on that cross. Christ was not there because of Him, but because of us. He was imprisoned, judged and condemned to die in the court of men, so that we could be absolved in the judgment seat of God.
"The just (died) for the unjust, to bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). Or as the prophet Isaiah wrote, 700 years before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Surely he took our diseases, and suffered our sorrows; and we felt him scourged, wounded by God and dejected. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was crushed for our sins; the punishment of our peace was upon him, and by his wound we were healed. We all went astray like sheep, each one went his way; but the LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all "(Isaiah 53: 4-6).

Author: Sugel Michelén
He studied for the ministry in 1979. Later he was sent by the Biblical Church of the Lord Jesus Christ (IBSJ), in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to the city of Puerto Plata, to begin a work there. But at the end of 1983 he was called to be part of the IBSJ pastor corps, where he serves the Lord since then, regularly exposing the Word on Sundays. He is also the author of the blog All Thought Captive.

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