All Current Classes Podcast
We provide a podcast of all the current classes in one podcast to make it easy to never miss a Bible class. Just copy the following podcast URL into your podcast app. www.deanbibleministries.org/podcasts/allcurrent.xml
Indictment: He is the Son of God
John 19:1-14; Matthew 27:22-26
Matthew Lesson #183
December 31, 2017
“Father, we’re thankful that we have Your Word to go to, that as David wrote: it is a lamp unto our feet and a light into our path. Father, we’re thankful that You have given us Your Word to guide and direct us, to instruct us, to challenge us.
“Father, above all, to reveal to us that we are indeed sinners: we are wicked, we are evil in the sense that our nature is corrupt, and we are born with no knowledge of You.
“We are born under the corruption of Adam’s sin, and we are under the penalty of eternal death, but You and Your grace provided a perfect salvation. You provided redemption, You provided forgiveness of sins at no cost to us, and indeed it cost You everything.
“As we study through the events of our Lord’s arrest, the trials, and His crucifixion, we should be impressed with what He went through: the depths and the profundity of His suffering beyond anything we can ever imagine. That He did all of this out of love for us and a desire to provide this perfect solution to the sin problem.
“Father, we pray that God the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of our soul to the truth of Your Word today as we study, and we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to John 19. We will spend the majority of our time in John 19:1–15 today because this information that is here is not provided in the Synoptics—in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It fits into the period after the episode with Barabbas, which we studied last Sunday morning.
Before we get started, while you’re finding your place in John 19, just a reminder, I’ll be leaving this week to go to Kiev. I appreciate your prayers as I travel.
While I’m gone we will have a couple of substitute teachers. I will always want to encourage you, when I’m gone—I know there’s a tendency on the part of everybody’s sin nature to say, “Well, Robby’s not here, I’m just not going to go—I can live stream.”
But when there is a guest speaker, it is important for people to be here and to provide an audience.
The two Tuesday nights I’m gone, John Williamson’s going to be covering for me. John, as you know, is a seminary student. He’s somewhere around his fourth year, going through seminary. At this time, it’s important to give seminary students opportunities to teach.
There is only one way you learn to get comfortable in the pulpit and to teach, and that is to be in the pulpit and teach. You don’t come out of seminary knowing how to be comfortable teaching, and it’s important to give young men opportunities to do that.
I had very few [opportunities]. In fact, when I went through seminary—in seminary itself, in your four years at Dallas Theological Seminary—you had a grand total of seven 15-minute messages that you gave. That’s it.
That’s not going to give you much experience or a lot of opportunities to really develop. It just comes as you do it. I thank God daily that no one has copies of any of the cassette messages of my first 10 years. I have one of my very first, and it’s lost somewhere in the attic, and may it remain so.
John’s covering for me, and I thought John did a great job the last time he covered for me, and he really has a handle on certain things. He does a good job. Brannon Howse, who is the founder and director of an Internet ministry called Worldview Weekend will be covering two Thursday nights.
Wayne Martin will cover the third Thursday night. Wayne has been in the ministry. He’s been a pastor for many, many years. He’s recently been an assistant pastor and pastor to the seniors at Bridge Point Bible Church, and he just retired from that position about a month ago.
He is part of the Friday morning pastors’ group that we have that go through many different things. I first met Wayne, I think was in the early 80s, 80 or 81, something like that, so I’ve known him for many, many, many years. He does a very good job, is very solid, on the Gospel.
Please give these folks your support when you come to class on those nights while I’m gone.
In John 19, as we have studied, the choice was given by Pilate: he’s trying to get out of crucifying Jesus. He’s under tremendous pressure by the religious leaders to crucify Jesus, but he can’t find any fault with Him. Again and again, he is coming out to them and saying, “I can’t find any fault with this Man.”
He’s trying to give them a choice with Barabbas. Barabbas is more than just a thief or robber. He is one who has been a rebel against the Roman Empire. In some ways, he was functioning in a Messianic way that was how the crowds expected the Messiah to perform, not like Jesus was performing. He didn’t fit their preconceived notions of how a Messiah should act.
Barabbas wasn’t a part of just a criminal gang; it was among many who wanted to overthrow Rome. Pilate doesn’t want to release him; he doesn’t think the people would want him because of the nature of his crimes. He’s a murderer, and he is stunned that they choose him over Jesus. So, he is going to release Barabbas and that occurs at the end of John 18.
What we have seen in our study is that in the first six trials, the religious trials, the indictment against Jesus was: He made Himself to be the Son of God, to be the Messiah, to be the Son of David. By claiming to be the Son of God, He has committed, in their eyes, blasphemy, but He doesn’t actually utter the name of God, so it’s a bogus charge.
But it’s the only thing that they’ve been able to come up with since none of these dozens of witnesses that they trotted out could agree with each other on what Jesus has done. It’s interesting that what they are indicting Him for is actually the truth. He has made Himself out to be the Son of God, and He is the Son of God, and that is going to become even clearer in the last part of this last trial.
Because when they first came to Pilate, they came with a charge—not a religious charge—because they knew that that would not impress a Roman authority at all. They don’t care anything about the religious issues in Judaism. So, they shifted and made the charge that He made himself out to be the king, and of course, this would put Him in a position of threatening the authority of Rome and the authority of Caesar.
What happens here in the intensity of the moment—and this is an intense period; this is a mob that is shouting and screaming for Jesus’ blood. They do not want to be reasoned with. They are well beyond reason. They hate Jesus with every ounce of their being, and they are screaming and shouting for His crucifixion. Pilate is doing everything he can to try to placate the crowd without giving them Jesus.
When he comes out in the midst of this section that we’re studying in John 19, the Jews dropped the pretense of the political charge, and once again, they fall back on the indictment that He has made Himself to be the Son of God.
So, they are making clear they’re charging Him for what He claims to be and what He actually is. They are rejecting God. They are rejecting the Messiah. They are rejecting salvation. It becomes clear, even though they have claimed to be followers of God, they, like so many religious people, really do hate God, and they hate the truth. This is what comes out in these trials.
I pointed out there were six trials. The first three are religious trials. First before Annas the former high priest who is still the power behind the high priesthood. Then his son-in-law, Caiaphas, and then before the whole Sanhedrin. It is that trial before Caiaphas, the second one that is conducted before sunrise, where they get Jesus to admit that He is the Son of God, and that’s going to be their charge of blasphemy. It really doesn’t fit the Old Testament pattern of what blasphemy is, which is taking God’s name in an empty manner or taking His name in vain.
Then that is followed by the three trials. First Pilate, then he sends Him to Herod Antipas, and then Herod Antipas sends Him back to Pilate.
The scenario that we’ve seen: I’ve put these maps up. This is the wall. The purple wall here’s a wall after the time of Jesus. This brown line wall here is the wall as it existed at the time of Jesus. The expansion occurs some seven years after the crucifixion.
Just to give you a little perspective, the distance from the gate here to Golgotha is about 75 yards. It’s not very far. Down here near what is today the Jaffa Gate is where the praetorium is located; this is Pilate’s headquarters.
We saw last week on this map: the Temple was on the east side of Jerusalem, and we’re located here. Herod’s fortress was next to the praetorium in this area, and then it is this area right over here where you have Golgotha located. So, it’s very close. This is probably no more than 100 yards from the praetorium over to Golgotha.
At the conclusion of the episode with Barabbas, Pilate says to the Jewish masses, “What shall I do with Him?”
I concluded with this last time, and that’s the question that everybody has to decide, is what are you going to do with the claims of Jesus?
They have rejected Jesus, and they are screaming, “Let him be crucified!” It’s a chant. They are highly emotional and on the verge of violence. This is mob action at its very worst.
Pilate just can’t understand this. He asked the question, “What evil has He done?” And, of course, they don’t respond to that, they just continue to chant louder and louder, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
John 19:1, “Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged Him.”
He’s attempting a compromise; what he wants to do is give them something. He’s going to punish Jesus in some way, but he’s trying to avoid having to crucify Him.
At the time that this is written, when it says, “they scourged Him,” people knew what that meant. People today don’t know what that means. It was extremely violent and bloody. The Roman scourge or flagrum or flagellum is a horrible instrument designed to inflict pain.
I have it pictured here: it has a wooden handle that is large enough to maintain a good grip. There would be several leather thongs coming out from it, maybe as many as eight or nine, and woven into those leather thongs were pieces of rock and bone and metal and glass.
The strips of leather might be as long as four or five feet, giving the lector, the one wielding the whip, opportunity to whip. Those leather thongs would wrap around the body, would wrap around the torso, so that He’s not just getting ripped on the back, but it would wrap around and rip the front as well.
With those various pieces of metal, it was designed to tear the skin off, designed to rip through the musculature, designed to create as much damage and trauma as possible. In fact, in the flagellation that preceded crucifixion, it was common for the criminal to die before he ever made it to the cross. So, this is what we’re talking about here.
There’s also a Jewish scourging that takes place; this is not the Jewish scourging. The Jewish scourging involved 39 lashes. The mandate in the Mosaic Law was no more than 40 lashes, and so the Jews, in the attempt to keep themselves from miscounting and going beyond 40, they would only go to 39.
Paul talks about this several times, that he had been whipped or flagellated according to Jewish flagellation a couple of times. But this is a Roman flagellation which was much, much worse and designed to completely devastate and destroy the individual, the victim.
Sometimes that victim would be stripped down to absolutely nothing. Sometimes they would just have a little bit on. They would be tied to a pillar with their arms over their head. Sometimes they would be bent over a post, different positions depending on what was available.
Here it appears that Pilate is not intending the full force of a scourging because he will stop it after a while. It’s not designed to kill Jesus. He’s trying to avoid that. So, this is just enough to satisfy the bloodlust, he hopes, of the crowds.
It also involved a beating, and we know that from this passage, and that they were physically punching Him, slapping Him, and hitting Him as hard as they could. What we learn from these passages is that when they do this, they’re doing this in front of the other Roman soldiers in order to bring out all of their anger and hostility. They were professional torturers, and so they were doing all that they could.
Not only the physical violence, but also to humiliate Him, to mock Him, to deride Him, to do everything they could to not only devastate and destroy a person physically, but also to do it emotionally and psychologically.
They take a crown of thorns; picture is here. There are various guesses by different people as to what plant was used. They went outside somewhere near the praetorium room and found just whatever thorn bush was available that they could weave into thorns. We don’t know what kind of bush it was.
If you’ve been to Israel, I know some of you have, you know that there are a number of different plants that have some incredibly impressive thorns on them. Thorns that are 1½ to 3 inches long. We don’t know which one they used.
I was reading about this in one resource, and the claim was that for a country the size of Israel, there are more thorny plants than in any other country of that size, so they had their options of many different types of thorns.
They are mocking Jesus, and they’re going to put this on His head. This is the third mockery that we’ve seen in these trials. The first mockery is described in Luke 22:63–65, which occurred after the second religious trial. These were the Jews who were mocking Jesus.
The second mockery, which came after the fifth trial, is described in Luke 23:6–12 after the trial before Herod Antipas, when they put a white robe on Him, and again, mocking His claim that He was the King of the Jews. They’re going to dress Him up like a king, and they are going to ridicule Him and abuse Him verbally, and then He’s beaten. So here they put the crown on Him; also, they put a purple robe on Him.
Now what’s interesting is when you look at John and you look at Mark, they use the word “purple.” If you look at Matthew, Matthew uses the word “scarlet,” and so why do you have this difference? I believe the best explanation I’ve been able to find for this is that it was probably a faded soldier’s robe, and it may have been purple to begin with. Now it’s faded and it looks more scarlet. The colors sort of blend together, so that it could have been described by either term.
They are putting this robe on Him in order to simulate the robe of royalty, and so it may have been a good robe to begin with, but it is not a royal robe at this point. They are just grabbing a robe that is nearby, discarded from one of the soldiers.
Then they begin to come up to Him and beat Him in John 19:3. They come up to Him and say, “Hail, King of the Jews,” and to give Him blows in the face. The verb there is in the imperfect tense in the Greek, which means it is continuous action. They’re just pummeling Him. They’re beating Him over and over again, and they’re not holding back. The reality is that they would have probably broken His jaw; they could’ve broken His cheekbones. It was a violent form of punching.
The result of this was that His face would have become bruised with the crown of thorns forced down on His head, blood was running down His head. The beatings would’ve produced more bleeding, and as most of you know, whenever you have any sort of cut on your head, and it can just be a very small scratch, you will bleed profusely.
There’s a lot of blood and bruising, and Jesus’ face would be swelling, and He would become unrecognizable. At that point, Pilate goes out to placate the crowd again in the hopes that he can convince them of Jesus’ innocence, and this is his fourth declaration of Jesus’ innocence.
John 19:4, “Then Pilate went out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.’ ”
Again and again, he is stating there is no fault in Jesus.
John 19:5, he brings Him out before the crowd. “Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, ‘Behold, the Man!’ ”
This is a dramatic scene. Jesus is bloodied. He’s covered in bruises. He’s covered in blood and spittle. His hair is wet, matted, and caked with blood. His body has been whipped. That’s, of course, covered by the robe. He is almost unrecognizable.
The saying of Pilate, at this point, “… Behold, the Man …” is a phrase that has come down to us in Latin Ecce homo. If you walk the traditional site in Jerusalem, coming in from the Lion’s Gate or Stephen’s Gate, you will walk along the Via Dolorosa there, and then you will come to a plaque on the wall that says, “Ecce homo.”
This is not where, I believe, it occurred, but much of the older view was that the praetorium was located on the northwest corner by the Marc Anthony barracks by the Fortress Antonio, and that this was where Pilate had brought Jesus out. I don’t think it was there. I think it was, as I said earlier, on the west side of the city of Jerusalem at that time.
He is making a fourth attempt to release Jesus, and again, refuses to pass a Roman sentence on Him. When this happens, John 19:6, “… they cried out …—the chief priests and officers—‘… Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘you take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.’ ”
Pilate knows that they need his permission to crucify Him. When he says, “You take Him and crucify Him,” there’s a heavy level of sarcasm there because he knows and they know that they cannot do that.
So, they get very frustrated that this point, and they say in John 19:7, “We have a law and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself the Son of God.”
This is an interesting and fascinating point here because today you have so many people, liberal theologians, who say, “Well, Jesus never really claimed to be God.” It was very clear from what is stated in the Gospel accounts that the reason that He is crucified is because He claimed to be the Son of God.
The chief priests, the Pharisees, the Sadducees all understood that He had claimed to be God when He made statements such as in John 10:30, “I and the Father are One.” It was clear to the religious leaders that He was claiming to be God.
When you look at other passages in the Gospels where Jesus said that “before Abraham was I AM” using the present tense of that word “I am” that that indicated deity, because the root verb of the name for God, Yahweh, comes from the verb “to be,” and the name Yahweh means “I AM Who I AM.”
So, for Jesus to say “before Abraham was …—not ‘I was,’ but—“… I AM,” He’s making a claim to deity, and they understood that, and immediately reached down to pick up stones to stone Jesus.
They understood this, and that was the reason. Now the veil comes off, and what they are rejecting is Jesus as Messiah. They are rejecting God’s offer of salvation. They rejected the offer of the kingdom, and this shows the evil that is in the soul of unbelievers. They are resisting God, they hate Christ, they hate the Gospel: they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
One classic example of this evil in the Bible is Saul of Tarsus, that he hates these followers of Jesus so much that he gets a commission from the Sanhedrin to go execute, to kill Christians, and to arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem.
While he is on that mission to Damascus is when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. It is at that point that he became saved, when Jesus confronted him with what he was doing, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
It was clear that this is the point, this is the issue. This is the question for everyone to answer: Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God who came to die on the Cross for your sins? If you believe that, then you are saved, and you have eternal life. If you do not, then you are not saved, and you are under eternal condemnation.
John 19:8, when Pilate heard this saying, he comes under further conviction, and he is afraid.
Now remember the episode we looked at last time that in the middle of his interchange with Jesus, there’s a pause and his wife came out. John’s the only one who tells us about that. His wife comes out and she says you need to be careful with this guy. He is a just man.
There is a tradition in history—I don’t know if she was saved or not—but there is a tradition in history that she became saved, that the wives of many Roman soldiers in that period became believers, and it’s possible that at this point she came to understand that.
I don’t know, but we know from some biblical examples and also from historical examples in literature that there were many among the Roman aristocracy where the wives became believers. Nevertheless, she understood that there was something different about Jesus. Once she says that to Pilate, he’s already at a point where he is uneasy about this whole situation, and now that the religious leaders have said that He claimed to be the Son of God, he becomes more afraid.
I believe there is a testimony that God has placed in the soul of every person that, according to Romans 1, everyone knows that God exists because God placed that knowledge, Scripture says, within them, and He made that knowledge evident to them.
On the basis of that general revelation witness and on what is happening in front of him, Pilate is very clear. It’s becoming clear in his soul that there’s something more going on here. I think that that is important. These statements of Scripture show that he is just as culpable, and just as guilty for the death of Jesus as the Jewish religious leaders.
That’s important for understanding this question of who’s to blame for the crucifixion of Jesus. Sadly, throughout the history of the church, there have been too many who have thought that the Jews were to blame and to use that as a justification for anti-Semitism. We will come back to that in just a little while. Pilate is just as guilty.
Now he goes back into the praetorium and wants to have another interrogation of Jesus. He begins to talk to Him and asked Him three basic questions here to clarify who Jesus is.
John 19:9, “… ‘Where are You from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer.”
Jesus has already determined Pilate is negative. He’s not going to respond to the truth. He had sarcastically said in his previous interrogation, “What is truth?” He’s rejected truth, so Jesus is not going to answer him, because there’s no real desire on the part of Pilate to know the truth, so Jesus gives him no answer.
There are times when we are talking with unbelievers, or we are giving the Gospel or we are presenting truth that we have to know to shut up. Not to say anything, because they’re not responsive. They really don’t want to hear, maybe they just want to have little intellectual engagement; maybe they just want to be stimulated a little bit, whatever it is.
I’ve known people like this. They talk to you about Christianity and the Bible over and over again, and our optimism is we just hope maybe they’re positive, but after 20 or 30 years, they’re not positive, they just want something else. There comes a time when we just don’t give an answer.
Jesus didn’t give an answer. His whole demeanor and response to this interrogation is so different from anyone else. Any other person who’s unjustly indicted is going to react in self-defense. They are going to say, “That’s wrong! That’s a lie! They shouldn’t say that!” They’re going to become angry. As fear mounts in their soul, they get angrier and more frustrated and more defensive.
None of that comes from Jesus. He’s calm. He’s relaxed. He’s in control of the situation, and He knows that nothing He says is going to change the situation, so He keeps silent.
Then Pilate says—can you imagine this? He’s the procurator, he is the governor, and the issue here is life or death, and he’s not getting any response from Jesus. John 19:10, “… You’re not speaking to me?” He just can’t comprehend this. “Why are You not speaking to me? I have Your life in My hands” is what he is saying. “Don’t you know that I have power to crucify You and power to release You?” I can end all this right now. I have this authority.
Then Jesus says this—and the tone here is important. He’s relaxed. He’s calm. He is stating a basic fact. And probably the way He says it is as convicting to Pilate as it can possibly be. He’s not saying this in a threatening manner. He’s not reacting in anger. He is just going to state a simple basic fact. Basically correcting him, John 19:11, He says, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given to you from above. Therefore, the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
What He is saying there is that, you have power but “… the one who delivered Me …” That could be referring to the religious leaders, or it could be referring to Judas. “… has the greater sin.” They are the ones who trumped up these charges.
But you’re the one who’s been given this power from above to be able to do this. It doesn’t come from you. He focuses on this spiritual authority that He has set forth, and God is the One who’s really in authority over Pilate.
John 19:12, “From then on Pilate sought to release Him ...”
The idea here is he’s going to go out and try to negotiate a few more times with the religious leaders, but he’s met with anger, he’s met with a stone wall. They’re not going to talk, they’re not going to negotiate, and they cry out in John 19:12. “If you let this man go you are not Caesar’s friend”—you are instead against Caesar. “Whoever makes himself a king speaks out against Caesar.”
They’re reminding him of the political charge.
This is Pilate’s fifth attempt to release Jesus, and once again, they are unwilling to negotiate this. The reason that he is so intimidated is because he is now in a position where he no longer has a protector in Rome.
This is in AD 33. One of the powerbrokers in Rome was Sejanus, who was the head of the praetorium guard, and he and Pilate were friends. Sejanus was elevated to a critical position in Rome when Tiberius basically retired. At that point, Sejanus had all the actual de facto power in Rome.
As he used that, he became ambitious and desired to take over complete rule. He conspired with some others against the Emperor to take control, and that conspiracy was discovered, and Sejanus and his co-conspirators were all executed. Anyone who was close to them would be under suspicion.
Pilate was very concerned about his position and his safety and being able to maintain his job, so this was indeed a real threat. He knew that he was possibly being watched and under investigation, and so the last thing he needed was for the word to get back to Rome that there was someone who claimed to be king, and he did not shut down that conspiracy.
John 19:13, “When he heard this, he brought Jesus out, sat Him down and he …”—that is Pilate—“… sat down on the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.” This is where he would make his ruling.
John 19:14 this was a “… Preparation Day of the Passover …” This is an important term because it indicates timing here. It is the Preparation Day of the Passover. It’s the day that the sacrifices would be made for the Passover lambs, and so it is early on that particular morning. This would’ve been on the 15th of Nisan.
“And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ ” So he presents Jesus as their king, but they have totally rejected this, and now he is giving in to their pressure to crucify Jesus.
They react, John 19:15, “But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ ” There’s sarcasm there. Because they have rejected Him, he knows He is not really a king, and he is, as it were, poking fun at them through this sarcasm. They responded by saying, “… We have no king but Caesar!”
John 19:16, “Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.”
One thing I want to go back to here is a statement that is made earlier, prior to this by the Jews. As Barabbas is being released, and again they’re asking for crucifixion, this is before this final stage of the trial. In Matthew 27:25, we’re told that “… the people answered Pilate and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’ ”
This verse has been taken out of context and has been grossly abused in church history. It is a verse that has frequently been used to support the claim that the Jews alone are responsible for crucifying Jesus; and are thus, guilty as a race and deserving of the hatred and the punishment of Christians because they are the “Christ killers.”
This view came into prominence towards the midpoint of the third century. Around AD 200 to 250, it began to gain ground in Christianity. Prior to that, many of the Christians were ethnically Jews. In fact, a religious sociologist at Baylor University, has done a lot of work on this, just from a totally demographic standpoint. Along with others, he cites a number of sources on this.
The claim is that by AD 200—so this is 100+ years after the apostles—no less than 50% of Christians in the Roman Empire were of Jewish ethnicity. Now that may surprise you, but when you look at the Apostolic period, and you look back to, especially those first days following the day of Pentecost, thousands upon thousands of Jews became Christians. They would have taught the gospel to their children and their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren.
When Paul and others went to various places, they would start at the synagogue giving the gospel. Peter is writing in 1 and 2 Peter to Jewish-background believers. James is writing to Jewish-background believers. Hebrews is writing to Jewish-background believers. All of those mid-first-century Jewish-background believers would have had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They were ethnic Jews, but they were raised in Christianity, and they use a lot of documentation to emphasize that.
By AD 200 you start to see a split between the Gentiles and the Jews. With the rise of allegorical interpretation, there becomes more and more of a split that occurs within the church. Early testimony in the AD 100s indicates that a lot of Jewish Christians without sacrificing the doctrine—because they were comfortable, there was no split or antagonism—would be in synagogue on Saturday and church on Sunday.
You don’t yet have the rise of anti-Semitism. There are elements of it that are coming up between AD 100 and 200, but it begins to coalesce in the early 200s with the rise of allegorical interpretation—departure from literal interpretation—and culminating in the legalization of Christianity by Constantine in the Edict of Toleration in AD 315.
That sort of ends the transition period, and from that point on, you just have a full-bore hostility between the Jews and the Christians. This became a foundation for what is one of the largest blights on the history of Christianity, and that is Christian anti-Semitism—known as Replacement Theology. That’s what undergirds it. That is the claim that when the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, that God rejected them as His people permanently and totally, and they are now under a curse.
To properly understand this—and we will trace this through some other things that happen as we go through the end of Matthew’s Gospel—is that there is a judgment on this generation that is made by Jesus in Matthew 12. By rejecting Him as Messiah, He says that the religious leaders have committed the unpardonable sin: blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
Now the unpardonable sin is not rejecting the gospel. Rejecting the gospel is something that can happen today. Paul rejected the gospel dozens if not hundreds of times before he finally accepted the gospel. So, rejecting the gospel isn’t unforgivable. Christ died for every sin.
The sense of unforgivable is that they reached the point of no return in that generation—that once they rejected Jesus’ offer of the kingdom, it wasn’t going to be offered anymore. And it would set in motion the judgment of God on Israel that would culminate in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70.
Unforgivable sin is not unforgivable in that you can never have eternal life. It was unforgivable in that it would set in motion a course of discipline in time for the Jewish people, and that was the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
This is the judgment that they are taking on themselves in verse 25 is “we and our children are responsible,” and their children would suffer the judgment of AD 70. This is all historical. It’s not national. It is not ethnic. It’s not racial.
We see the same thing comes up from what Jesus says, and we will look at this a little more next time. Luke 23:28, when Jesus is carrying the cross on the way to Golgotha, there are the wailers—the professional Jewish wailers from Jerusalem—who are following Him and weeping and wailing, and He turns to them and says, “…Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t wait for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
See “you and your children” are the ones who are going to bear the divine discipline for rejecting the Messiah.
Luke 23:29, “For indeed, the days are coming, in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breast which never nursed!’ ”
Why would that be? Because the suffering that was going to come on people’s children, because when the country was overrun and so many were killed, it was their children who were going to bear the brunt of that discipline in time.
Luke 23:30–31, “Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ And to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”
That seems a rather cryptic statement. It is actually based on a passage in Ezekiel 20:47, and the idea there, the green wood is that which is good and growing in productivity, and Jesus is the green wood. If they’re going to do this to a just man, then when they are in full sin and injustice, how much worse it will be. It’s an a fortiori type of argument, and Jesus is saying, “If I suffer this much when I’m innocent, how much more are you going to suffer who are guilty.”
Christian anti-Semitism has nothing to do with this situation. It has to do with what the consequences are in time and in history for the Jewish rejection of Jesus as Messiah.
What we know is when an individual rejects Jesus as the Savior, they’re condemned already because, as John says in John 3:18, “… because they have not believed in Jesus, the Son of God.”
That is the issue in the gospel: that it’s not good works, it’s not how religious you are. The issue is simply belief in Jesus Christ as Savior.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to continue this study, to see the intensity of the hostility toward Jesus. The anger, the resentment, the horrible treatment He received in His humanity through the beatings and the scourging, the ridicule, the hostility, making fun of Him, the emotional and psychological abuse that was part of these trials and part of all of the things that were going on: the God of the universe Incarnate is being ridiculed by the creatures He loves and for whom He is going to die.
“Father, we cannot fathom all that was going on there, but we do know that this was necessary for our salvation. That we are given this salvation—that which Christ did on the Cross for us, forgiveness of sin—not because of who we are or what we’ve done, but because of who God is, because of His love for us and His desire to solve our problem completely and totally. And He did it all for us.
“Father, we pray that anyone listening who’s never trusted in Christ the Savior would do so, would respond to the gospel, would believe that Jesus died for them and thus receive the eternal gift of eternal life that can never be taken away.
“Father we pray for us who are believers that once again we might be impressed with all that was done for us, and that God the Holy Spirit would use that to challenge and motivate us to live for the Lord and to live in light of the purpose for which You have called us: to be a light to the world in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”