Take Him Away!
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 19:15a (Holman) But they shouted, “Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!”
The trial had now become nothing more than a two-way shouting match. Pilate and the crowd were the only ones interacting. Pilate had nothing more to say to Jesus. The Governor was probably ashamed to face his prisoner.
John 19:15b Pilate said to them, “Should I crucify your king?” “We have no king but Caesar!” the chief priests answered.
These words of blasphemy may be the most ludicrous statement ever made by the leaders of Israel. God’s people have only one real king, YHWH (Judges 8:23; I Samuel 8:7; 12:12). To hear the chief priests here would cause us to think the King of Heaven had abdicated His throne.
Israel’s highest glory had been her allegiance to YHWH. It gave the nation an air of grandeur in the midst of oppression. When Romans first entered Palestine, the Jews fought valiantly because they believed YHWH alone was their ruler. They paid a high price in blood for this principle, and tenaciously clung to it even under the yoke of Roman oppression.
The religious leaders hated Rome, but hated Jesus even more. To be rid of Jesus, they were willing to abandon everything their religion held near and dear. They sacrificed their integrity in order to sacrifice Jesus. To have His blood, they willingly renounced even God Himself.
These men who had despised the reign of Rome suddenly transformed themselves into champions for Caesar. Tiberius suddenly gained new guardians of his right to be emperor. The chief priests renounced the Holy One of Israel to declare allegiance to a sexual deviant. Tiberius kept a harem of boys with whom he regularly practiced every type of perversion imaginable. The religious leaders claimed a preference to having a child abuser as their king than to having God’s Son as their Messiah.
The religious leaders’ statement was another irony. Their words had deeper meaning than they realized. It was reminiscent of Caiaphas saying it was expedient for one man to die for the people (John 18:14), of Pilate saying he could find no guilt in Jesus (John 18:38), and of Pilate saying to the crowd, “Behold your King” (John 19:14). The chief priests spoke a truth far beyond their intention.
They made this rash statement only to be able to crucify Jesus. None of them actually believed what they were saying, but their words were a true statement of their actual condition. By rejecting Jesus they were proving they did not want to give homage to God.
The official spokesmen of Israel proclaimed with their own mouths that they had abandoned the most precious tenet of their ancient faith. The nation had lost its essence. They were renouncing the right to call themselves the people of God. The religious leaders were as pagan as any Gentile, as much unbelievers as they deemed the Romans.
Their own words indicted them. Rebelling against God’s authority always enslaves. What they preferred above Christ became their scourge and plague. They wanted no King but Caesar. This is exactly the fate God gave them over to.
They wanted Caesar. To Caesar they went. God let them have as much of Caesar as they would ever possibly desire. Their destruction was ordered by one Caesar (Nero in 67 A.D.), begun by one who became Caesar (Vespasian), and completed by another who became Caesar (Titus).
John 19:16a So then, because of them, he handed Him over to be crucified.
Pilate struggled to choose his convictions or to compromise himself. The latter prevailed. He sentenced to death a man he had thrice declared innocent.
John 19:16b Therefore they took Jesus away.
The religious leaders “took” Jesus. They received Him. The word is the same as was used in John 1:11, “His own received Him not.” They rejected Christ for life, but received Him for death.
John 19:17 Carrying His own cross, He went out to what is called Skull Place, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.
The cross was a long piece of timber, usually neither seasoned nor hewn. Jesus grew up in a carpenter’s shop. He knew what it was like to carry timber and to hear the hammering of nails. Soon His body did both.
He bore His cross, and expects us to bear ours. A Sunday School teacher once asked his pupils to stand one at a time and repeat a favorite text or hymn. One of the young men had been ostracized by his family because of his belief in Jesus. He quoted, “Jesus, I my cross have taken. All to leave and follow Thee.” These words had deep meaning to him. They were his testimony.
We will never have to bear as heavy a burden as Jesus did. “He bore that end of the cross that had the curse upon it; this was the heavy end; and hence all that are His are enabled to call their afflictions for Him “light,” and “but for a moment” (Henry).
John 19:18a There they crucified Him . . .
Crucifixion, punishment for slaves, pictured extreme humiliation. It was used on free persons only for the most hideous crimes. The cross was a sadistic form of execution, a torturer’s delight.
Cast your gaze on Jesus crucified. “Look wistly upon sin in this glass, and love it if thou canst. For our sins were the nails and ourselves the traitors that fastened Him to the tree. Pilate and his soldiers, Judas and the Jews, were all set a-work by us. Learn to lay the blame on thyself” (Trapp).
Jesus was punished because we deserved to be punished. Condemnation was placed on God’s only begotten Son that God’s adopted sons might be spared.
He bore it all that we might be able to come to God. His hands were stretched open, as if beckoning us to come; His arms were stretched out, as if preparing to embrace us when we come.