November 20 “Praetorium”

Praetorium

Pilate’s judgement hall was a place for trials and for punishment.
It was politically necessary for the Roman Governor to do something to placate the bloodthirsty leaders of this strange and mystical land. They pretended to aspire to lofty ideals but on this morning they wanted blood.

The Scourge
Despite his publicly announced verdict of a faultless Jesus, Pilate sent Him into the skillful hands of the Roman soldiers, the Praetorian Guard, for special treatment. They called it scourging, systematic beating with a whip equipped with many sharpened bits of metal, bone, and stone set into multiplied leather strips. Two soldiers took turns administering this pagan justice while an officer counted the blows. The sharp ends of the lashes bit into Jesus’ back pulling back long strips of severed flesh and leaving surface wounds bleeding profusely. As if this weren’t enough, some clever warrior got a novel idea: fashion a crown for this king, one woven of thorns. No doubt the making of this outrage made the hands of the soldier bleed also. When finished, they pressed it hard and deep into His scalp and more blood coursed down the face of Jesus. Another creative killer found a purple robe and draped it over the Savior’s shoulders.

Public Derision
Thus they prepared King Jesus, beaten, bruised, bloody and his body profaned, for the rabid crowd. The soldiers pounded Jesus with their fists and derided Him with mocking “worship.”

“Hail, King of the Jews!”

Thus prepared according to Roman tastes, Pilate announced his plan to the mob.

“Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”

The soldiers brought Jesus out to the balcony in full view. A roar of approval went up from the people. Pilate announced:

“Behold the Man!”

The roar of the crowd coalesced into a specific demand.

“Crucify Him, crucify Him!”

Once more Pilate tried to shift that duty to the Jews and once again they refused the honor. Pilate needed some way out of this nasty business. He asked Jesus to tell him something upon which to base a release. When Jesus did not answer, Pilate lost all patience.

“Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You,
and power to release You?”

Someone signaled for the crowd to quiet down to hear what Jesus might say. Finally, in this unnatural silence, Jesus spoke the truth. The voice that commanded storms and Satan’s legions, diseases and even death, filled the void.

“You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”

As a moan issued from the crowd, Pilate sensed the truth in this; these strange proceedings were beyond his control. He sought some way to release Jesus. The Temple leaders appealed to political realities.

“If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend.
Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.”

Pilate had no answer for this appeal. He took his seat on his throne of judgment and said once more,

“Behold your King!”

The people responded as before with even more violence in their voices and blood in their eyes. When Pilate asked the question again, the leaders led the people in a lie that broke their own covenant with Jehovah.

“We have no king but Caesar!”

And the trial before Pilate was over. The soldiers manhandled Jesus away from the palace toward the place of the Skull.

Scriptures:
John 19:1-16

So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck Him with their hands. Pilate then 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.” Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!” Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, when I read and consider the story of Your Passion, I find I must be still. So much of Your story races along from the Nativity straight through to the Passion but here I must stop and consider this: “Selah!” Lord, give me a quiet, confident spirit when I face the trials of my life. Like Your peace, this is also a gift from You. Dangerous events may swirl all around me and the future may threaten with fear, but I can have a stillness in me, the way You did before Pilate. My life is in Your hands and there is no safer place to dwell. Amen.

Song:
Behold the Man

Words and Music: Jimmy and Carol Owens

1. Behold the Man, Wounded and bruised
Crowned with thorns
He was despised rejected;
He was despised rejected

2. Behold the Man, Man of sorrows,
Acquainted with grief
We hid our faces from Him;
We hid our faces from Him.

Bridge 1
We didn’t know That it was for our sins He died
That it was for our sins He died
That for us the Son of God was crucified
That in love He bore our sorrow and pain
And in love He willingly suffered.

Verse 3
3. Behold the Man, Suffering in silence,
Bearing our shame.
We hid our faces from Him;
We hid our faces from Him

Bridge 2
We didn’t know that this was God the Father’s plan
Born of love to bring
Redemption down to man
That in love He gave His only Son
So that we might be forgiven

4. Behold the Man, Risen in glory coming to reign.
By the Father exalted,
Crowned with glory and honor.

5. Behold the man, King of kings and Lord of lords!
Through all creation Jesus Christ is Lord
He is Lord! He is Lord! He is Lord!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

May 29 “Trials”

Trials

It is the story of the world’s greatest injustice that was in fact the world’s greatest act of mercy.
In the public trials of Jesus, justice was nowhere to be found. First before Caiaphas the High Priest, Jesus was judged by the Sanhedrin, a spiritual trial by spiritual men to determine offences to the spiritual laws of Israel. Later before Pilate He had a civil trial before officers of Roman law who could care less about spiritual things. In common they held a fear of Jesus, the ultimate nonconformist who held a different spirituality and whose citizenship was that of a higher Kingdom. In both cases, Jesus was demonstratively innocent but in both cases, He had to be found guilty.

Caiaphas
Liars came in bunches to testify before the elders. Having had little time to prepare, their stories did not match but that was of no consequence. The outcome was predetermined. Finally a pair of liars accused Jesus of speaking against the Temple threatening its destruction. This was useful for they had heard something like that from Jesus themselves. When questioned about this, Jesus did not answer. To the charge of claiming to be the Son God, Jesus pled guilty. The old man tore his priestly robes and declared blasphemy, seeking to end the trial at once. Suddenly the guards were free to beat Jesus and spit on Him. The council judged Him worthy of death as the tormentors of Jesus continued their unjust work.

Peter
Listening in an adjacent courtyard Peter tried to blend in with the vagrants in the pre-dawn darkness. Three times he was accosted by someone who had seen him with Jesus and three times he denied knowing Jesus at all. Much too early, a rooster in the distance sang his raucous song. The bird awakened the grief within Peter, sending him running away in tears.

Pilate
With daylight, the elders brought Jesus before the Roman Governor, Pilate. Blasphemy was of no concern to Pilate; he just wanted to keep the peace. A man who could stir such unrest must be dealt with.

Judas
These trials sent him back to the elders. He threw the pieces of silver at their feet declaring Jesus to be innocent. They were not moved and refused the money. Judas saw no options, no way out, no way back to the fellowship of his brothers. All he could see was a tree and rope; the price of his guilt.

Barabbas
Before Pilate things were simpler. There were no confusing religious standards of right and wrong; there was just Roman Law. The issue was not His claim to be the Son of God, but that of being King of Jews. When asked directly, Jesus admitted this was so. As testimony grew, Jesus fell silent. Pilate offered, as the custom was, a convicted assassin, Barabbas, instead of Jesus. The crowd demanded Jesus and, although Pilate saw no guilt in Jesus, and over the warning of his wife, he gave Jesus to the Roman soldiers to continue the torment.

The stripes on His back, the abuse from first the Temple guards and then the Roman soldiers, none of these bloody wounds was earned by the Lord. He was innocent of all wrongdoing yet He was judged guilty by the courts of Men. It is the story of the world’s greatest injustice that was, in fact, the world’s greatest act of mercy.

Scriptures:
Matthew 26:36-56; 27:1-

And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end. Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.'” And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?” Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.
Chapter 27
When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor. Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.” Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly. Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They said, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!” Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!” When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, the judgments of men against You were merciless. You were innocent and they were guilty but You took the punishment. It was only the beginning of Your suffering; You were on Your way to Calvary. Lord, I am as guilty as any of the Temple guards or the Roman soldiers. I have been as wrong as the councils of Caiaphas or the courts of Pilate. Yet, now I stand before You as if I had never sinned, so thorough and complete is Your forgiveness! Thank You, O faultless One! Amen and Amen.

Song:
I Find No Fault In Him
Words and Music: Andrea Crouch

I find no fault in Him.
I find no fault in Him.
Yet He was rejected
Despised of men
But I find no fault in Him.

They led Christ to Calvary
But He never said one word.
Just the cries of lost sinners
Was all the Savior heard.
And then they pierced Him in the side
And His blood came streaming down.
And that’s how he purchased my salvation
And I find no fault in Him.

I find no fault in Him.
I find no fault in Him.
Yet He was rejected
Despised of men
But I find no fault in Him.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

February 25 “Pilate”

Pilate cared nothing for the religion of the people. He had two goals: control and peace.
The problem with control was that everybody wanted it. The challenge of peace was balancing all the groups competing for control. As the sun rose and Pilate attended to his morning routine, he had no idea he would make history that day.

The leaders in the Temple held an early morning meeting to prepare their presentation of Jesus to Pilate. How could they present Jesus as a threat, not just to their control mechanisms, but to those of Rome itself? They strengthened the bonds on Jesus’ hands and feet and shuffled Him into Pilate’s court. Hearing their confused case against this beaten, powerless man, Pilate was faintly amused that such a one could cause such a stir. In a voice dripping with irony he asked,

“Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus looked up, his face already showing deep bruises.

“It is as you say.”

It was like a punchline to a joke. Pilate smiled in spite of himself thinking, “Yes, this is the kind of king these miserable people would have!” Choking back his contempt for these accusers, Pilate listened to their conflicting testimonies, accusing Jesus of outrageous but harmless things, matters of great importance to these small-minded leaders but of no consequence to Rome. When Jesus did not attempt to answer their charges, Pilate began to be more interested in this man. He marveled that this one so eloquent in reputation would be so mute in court.

Barabbas
There was a custom at the time of the feast. To appease the people and maintain control without force, a prisoner could be released. They were holding a rebel, named Barabbas, who had committed murder. Pilate offered him to the people. The people, stirred by the priests, called for Jesus instead. Pilate knew that envy was the driving force behind the priests and other leaders. Here was a man they could not control so their fragile peace was threatened. To be sure, Pilate made the question clear:

“What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”

As if on a conductor’s cue, a shout of “Crucify Him!” became a rhythmic chant. Pilate’s protests of the innocence of Jesus could barely be heard over the chant. Pilate, for the sake of control and for the hope of peace, released Barabbas and delivered Jesus to the mob. Roman soldiers tied Jesus to a whipping post and did their worst. They took Him to headquarters to mock Him publicly, stripping Him and putting on Him a purple robe. They twisted a crown of thorns and jammed it onto His head. They struck Him with a rod and pretended to worship Him. Finally tiring of their sport, they removed the “kingly” purple robe, put His own clothes back on Him, and led Him off to be crucified.

Neither Pilate nor the cruel soldiers knew that the blood they spilled that day would someday save the world.

Scripture:
Mark 15: 1-20
Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate. Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered and said to him, “It is as you say.” And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!” But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled. Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion. Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!” Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!” So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified. Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison. And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, sometimes I feel that I am a victim of injustice. Sometimes, for the sake of Your Kingdom, I suffer for the sins of others. This is nothing new. The Bible warns us that we will join the “fellowship of Your sufferings”—suffering when we are innocent. However, none of us will ever suffer the level of injustice that You endured that day, not even close! Yet, You share Your strength to endure with us. Help us take joy in this privilege. With it comes the joy of knowing You better. Amen.

Song:
I Find No Fault in Him
Words and Music: Andrea Crouch

They led Christ to Calvary
And He spoke not one word.
Just the cries of lost sinners
Was all my Savior heard.
Then they pierced Him so deep in His side
Until the Blood came streaming down.
And that’s how Jesus purchased my salvation
And I find to fault in Him.

I find no fault in Him, I find no fault in Him,
Yet He was rejected, despised of men.
But I find no fault in Him.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.