Hail, King of the Jews!

Matthew 2729 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I publish a suggested Scripture reading each day along with some devotional thoughts on the passage. However, on Sundays I only post a suggested reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along. We are currently reading through the life of Christ.

Reading the Word

Matthew 27:27–31 (ESV)

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Parallel Text: Mark 15:17-20

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Choosing Sin over Righteousness

Let Him Be Crucified

Let Him Be Crucified – Public Domain

Reading the Word

Matthew 27:15–23 (ESV)

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Parallel Texts: Mark 15:6-14; Luke 23:17-23; John 18:39-40

Understanding and Applying the Word

Pilate had a custom that he likely used to improve public relations. Each year he would release one prisoner at the request of the people. In this case, he gave them the option of Jesus or Barabbas, who was “notorious, a murderer , and an insurrectionist” (cf. Mark and Luke). We are also told that Pilate knew the real reason the Jewish religious leaders had brought Jesus to him was a result of envy (verse 18). Jesus was drawing crowds and gaining influence among the people. Surprisingly, given the serious nature of Barabbas’ crimes, the request was for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus. When asked what should become of Jesus, the crowd cried out, “Let him be crucified!”

The people were given a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. They chose Barabbas the true criminal and requested that Jesus be killed. At first this seems surprising. Why would the people want Jesus killed? But this is a reflection of the story of Scripture. When given a choice between sin and righteousness, the world chooses sin. Jesus, the righteous, exposes our shortcomings and brings our condemnation into focus. Barabbas, the sinful, is just like us and is no threat to us. He makes us feel better about ourselves. So when the world came face-to-face with One who was truly righteous, we murdered him. That’s how much we love sin. That’s how much we need a Savior.

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The Innocent for the Guilty

sky sunset person silhouette

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Reading the Word

Luke 23:13–16 (ESV)

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore punish and release him.”

Parallel Text: John 18:38

Understanding and Applying the Word

Pilate informed the religious leaders that both he and Herod had found no guilt in Jesus. He had done nothing wrong to deserve the death penalty that the chief priests were calling for. There are two things that are interesting to note about this. The first is that the religious leaders were not happy about this ruling. The second is that even though Pilate admitted that Jesus was not guilty of any wrongdoing, he was still willing to punish him before releasing him. What was the purpose of punishing him if he was innocent? Surely, it was to appease Jesus’ accusers.

We see clearly that Jesus was an innocent man who was going to be sentenced to die as a criminal. This is the message of the gospel. Jesus, the sinless and innocent one, died as a substitute for sinners. We are all guilty before the holy Creator and without the means to do anything to clear our name. Thankfully, Jesus paid the price that none of us could by giving his sinless life as a substitute. He bore our penalty. For those who repent of their sin and call out to Jesus in faith, there is pardon and reconciliation with God.

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me

(Before the Throne of God Above – Sovereign Grace Music)

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The True King

close up portrait of lion

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Reading the Word

Luke 23:6–12 (ESV)

6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Pilate sent Jesus to Herod hoping that doing so would relieve him of having to deal with Jesus. Herod had been wanting to see Jesus because he had heard about the miracles Jesus’ had been performing. Herod hoped Jesus would perform for him. For Herod, Jesus was entertainment. However, Jesus would not comply and remained silent. This led Herod and his guards to mock Jesus, dress him up, and send him back to Pilate. Doing so must have amused Pilate because he and Herod became friends as a result.

Herod wanted Jesus to perform on demand, but he would not. The Creator and Lord of all is not under the authority of any man. He does not bow to our commands. Herod believed he was in control and had authority over Jesus, but the exact opposite was true. Jesus was the one in control and he was the one with all authority. We too must remember this. God does not perform on demand for us. We do not control him. When we go to him, we may ask, but we must always remember that God answers us according to his plans and purposes. We can trust those plans even when they are not ours because we know he is loving and good. As C. S. Lewis wrote in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe about Aslan the lion who represented Christ:

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

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So You Are a King?

John 1837 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 18:29–38 (ESV)

29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was accused by the religious leaders of claiming to be king. The Jewish leaders said this because of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. They rejected Jesus’ claim and when they brought him before Pilate, they knew that such a claim would not sit well with the Romans because it would be a power grab. The leaders were hoping that such an accusation would make the Romans want to execute Jesus.

Pilate asked Jesus if he was “King of the Jews.” In response, Jesus explained that his kingdom was not a worldly kingdom. It is not made up of geographic borders and military strength. Jesus’ kingdom is made up of all who believe in him and his truth. When Pilate realized that Jesus was not a threat to Rome, he went out and told the religious leaders that he did not find any reason that Jesus should be condemned.

When we read this, it is clear that Jesus was going to the cross even though he was guilty of no crime. The reason the Jewish leaders wanted him put to death was because they had rejected him as their Messiah, even though he was the fulfillment of all that God had promised. But we see how we might be a part of Jesus’ kingdom. When we recognize the truth of Jesus’ words and turn to him in faith, we enter the kingdom of the Messiah, the kingdom of God. And the King in this kingdom is Christ, who laid down his life in love for his people, so that they could have life. What a great King!

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Quiet Confidence

man standing in the middle of road

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Reading the Word

Matthew 27:11–14 (ESV)

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Parallel Text: Mark 15:2-5

Understanding and Applying the Word

Pilate was amazed as he questioned Jesus. He was amazed because of the outrage of the religious leaders. How could Jesus cause such heated feelings that these men would want him put to death? He was also amazed because Jesus remained calm and collected even in the midst of the accusations and looming condemnation. How could Jesus seem so confident during all of this?

In the eye of the storm that was raging around him, Jesus stood confidently trusting in the Father. Jesus knew he was going to the cross. He knew that he had to die. He did not panic. He did not plead for his life to be spared. He stood in quiet confidence. This amazed Pilate.

Believers should also be marked by confidence. We may face difficult things in life, but we know what the future holds and it is good. It is very good. We will be with the Lord forever in a world without sin and suffering and death. We are confident because we trust in the plans and purposes of God. Our confidence should be something that others notice about us. As Peter wrote in his letter:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:14–15, ESV)

Let us go forward in confidence, proclaiming the goodness of God and trusting in the future he has promised.

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Decisions Have Consequences

Judas Returns the Money

Judas Returns the Money – Public Domain

Reading the Word

Matthew 27:3–10 (ESV)

3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Judas, the one who had betrayed Jesus, felt regret when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He knew that he had participated in condemning an innocent man. As a result of his regret, Judas went to the priests to try to return the money and remove himself from the equation. However, it was too late. The priests brushed him off and refused to take back the blood money. Judas went out and committed suicide by hanging himself.

Judas made decisions that had eternal consequences. He had heard the teachings of Jesus and witnessed his great miracles, but Judas had rejected Jesus. He had failed to repent and turn to Jesus in faith. Instead, he saw a way to use Jesus for profit by turning him in to the Jewish authorities. We all must make a decision on what we will do with Jesus. Will we reject him or will we turn to him as our Lord and Savior? We must carefully consider our decisions because they too will have eternal consequences.

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King of the Jews

Mark 152 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish devotional insights on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ in 2019. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Mark 15:1–5 (ESV)

1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Jesus Must Die

Jesus Led from Caiaphas to Pilate

Jesus Led from Caiaphas to Pilate – Public Domain

Reading the Word

John 18:28–32 (ESV)

28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Jewish religious leaders did not have the authority to put Jesus to death, so they took him to the Roman authorities to get them to do it. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, was informed that Jesus was doing evil and deserved death. Pilate preferred to let the Jewish leaders work this out on their own, so he told them to judge Jesus based on their own law. However, that was not good enough because the religious leaders wanted nothing short of Jesus’ death.

It is amazing to see how strongly these religious leaders wanted Jesus dead. They could have punished him in their own authority in many ways, but that was not good enough for them. Jesus had to die, even if they had to go to the Romans and falsely accuse him. Jesus simply could not be tolerated any longer. We see this same hostile reaction to the teachings of Jesus today as people go to great lengths to keep all references to Jesus and his teaching out of the public square. It is a curious thing how strongly people react against Jesus. It reminds us just how sinful mankind is and how much we desire to go on sinning. Praise God for his abundant grace and forgiveness for sinners like us.

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No Interest in Truth

John 832 b [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 22:63–71 (ESV)

63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. 64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.

66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 26:67-68; Mark 14:65; John 18:22-24

Understanding and Applying the Word

Councils and leaders are supposed to gather to determine truth. However, the council that examined Jesus had no interest in the truth. They were willing to accept false testimony to accuse Jesus, but they were unwilling to listen to Jesus’ statement about being the Christ. This was no real search for truth. It was a group that had already decided that Jesus had no place in their lives, so they were going to remove him using whatever means necessary.

As Jesus’ followers today, we must prepared for the same reaction to Jesus. We are charged with the mission of going into the world and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord and Savior, but many resist the message. The sad thing is, most of those who reject Jesus will never make an honest attempt to uncover the truth about who he is. Why is this the case? Because many simply do not want Jesus, who confronts us in our sin and calls us to repentance. It is much easier to stick with the lies and mock Jesus than let the truth turn our world upside down. As Jesus’ followers, we must continue to proclaim the gospel because it is the most important truth there is. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world.

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