Examining Jesus closely and trying to assess this man who was already beaten and battered, Pilate went before the crowds and said he could find no wrong worthy of death. so he sent him off to receive forty lashes from the Roman soldiers. But in meting out punishment, the soldiers took great pleasure in making the lashes more brutal than normal, using metal strips and prongs akin to those used in warfare. And they used a heavier hand than most, leaving the King of Kings in a heap on the ground with rips and tears all over his body. A normal man could not have survived the beatings but Jesus, of course, was no normal man, but a Man and God in one.
Pilate had been told by his wife that Jesus was a good man and that they would be cursed if they put Him to death, but he also knew that the Jewish leaders would cause trouble if he didn't give them what they want. The quickest way to be recalled to Rome was the inability to control insurrection and Pilate knew that if that happened, he would either live out the rest of his life in disgrace or be put to death. But as he looked down on the wounded Jesus, he couldn't force himself to come up with the words so he decided to try to shift the blame to the priests. And he gave them a choice of who should die, Jesus, who had done nothing wrong or Barabbas, a brutal convicted criminal.
When given the choice, the priests led the crowd in yelling, "Barabbas", with all joining in. They had planned it this way, for none of those recognized as followers of Jesus were allowed into the courtyard at this still early hour, and the priests knew they could raise the crowd which would follow them. Reluctantly, Pilate had Barabbas released and the convict mocked and laughed at Jesus when he departed the scene.
Next Pilate asked what the crowd wanted done and Caiaphas led the crowd in yelling, "Crucify Him." Crucifixion was the standard death penalty issued in capital punishment cases, particularly brutal, and Pilate succumbed to the pressure of the crowd, symbolically washing his hands and saying that he wanted not. So, the sentence was issued.
Jesus was removed, taken to a side courtyard where the guards mocked him and beat him some more and then placed a crown of thorns on his head, roughly pushing the heavy thorns into his scalp. He was stripped of clothing except for his loin cloth and then told to carry his own cross through the narrow and uphill streets toward Golgotha, where he would die. The heavy wood cross was almost to much for him to bear since he has shed much blood and was further weakened by dehydration in hot sun, but he labored on despite several falls.
Continually beaten mercilessly, the chief legionnaire wanted to speed up the travel so when Jesus next faltered, he picked Simon the Cyrene out of the crowd to help Jesus carry His Cross. They finally made it to Golgotha where Jesus was placed on the Cross roughly with large spikes used to anchor his hands and feet.
He was raised and in place by nine in the morning, parched and dying slowly, as a crowd gathered, including mother Mary and Mary Magdalene. They were grief-stricken as they saw their Lord looking down at them with the agony clear on his face. Others shared their sadness while even more, especially the Sanhedrin in attendance and some of the Romans, mocked his pain.
As the slow agony continued, one of the two thieves that Jesus was positioned between, mocked Him, asking why He didn't save himself. But the other, a man who recognized the special nature of Jesus and what He stood for, asked Him for mercy. Jesus promised this second man a place in paradise with Him when. It was just another example of Jesus' forgiveness and what it means for us Christians who believe.
In addition to telling the sinner on the cross that he would join Him in paradise, Jesus spoke six other times. His final words were simple and clear.
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. - John 19:30
An interesting twist to the story comes here when Joseph of Arimathea, himself a rich member of the Sanhedrin, asked Pilate for permission to remove and bury the body in his own grave. And he was assisted by Nicodemus, another Sanhedrin member, who had openly questioned the Chief Priest about why Jesus wasn't give a fair trial. Nicodemus had visited with Jesus at night during the preceding days to ask Him questions about His message. He seemed moved by what he heard. Nicodemus also assisted in the burial by providing the spices for the body. Both men could have been condemned by the Chief Priest for what they did, yet they were unafraid.
Were these two men secret believers? The Bible doesn't clearly say but the Gospel of John deals with them favorably so that very well could be a clue that they were. We'll be back with the rest of the story on Resurrection Sunday, the real name for the day of His walking out of the grave.