Christians have historically used the Easter season to focus on the journey of Jesus toward Jerusalem and on His death there for our sins.
In Baptist life, we have traditionally held revival meetings during this season and these meetings have often been a great time of focus for us in terms of renewal and refreshing. I also think this season truly challenges you and me to be renewed by the Spirit. We are called upon to reflect and meditate on the fact of our Lord’s suffering and death on our behalf.
In John 18 and 19 we find a moving account of Jesus’ trials and crucifixion. In John 18, after Jesus was arrested in the garden, He was taken to Annas, who was technically not the High Priest, though he had been High Priest before. They led Him to Annas first because he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year. We then read that Annas (18:19) questioned Jesus and His disciples about His teachings; and that Jesus in the presence of Annas (and no doubt also Caiaphas) was struck by one of the temple guards, who no doubt thought that Jesus had been insolent in His response to Annas.
They then took Jesus to Caiaphas (18:28). Although we are not given an account of the trial before Caiaphas, we know that He was there. Jesus was then led from Caiaphas into the Praetorium and we are told, “It was early.”
“It was early.”
We know from historical records that the industrious Roman official was an early riser. It may well have been that by custom and by practice the Jews knew that if they wanted to have any audience with Pilate, they must do business with him early in the day.
There is also a certain amount of irony in the word ‘early’ because John, the Gospel writer, has already told us that when Judas went out to betray Jesus, it was night. It was late; the powers of darkness would soon have their day.
Now we read that it is early. John may well be telling us here that the dawning of salvation is to be very soon.
The word early also has significance in the fact that the Jews needed to do away with Jesus quickly because Passover was to be celebrated that very evening. (Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper the night before but that was not, strictly speaking, the Passover meal.) This particular day, John tells us, was the day of preparation for the Passover. It was the day upon which the Passover lambs are to be slaughtered. All business needed to be completed by noon on the day of preparation for the Passover before the slaughtering of the Passover lambs in the temple began. Read about the Lamb of God here.
The Jews hurried to push along the progress of Jesus’ trial and execution. They took Him before Pilate early in the morning.
Jesus’ accusers were ritually clean.
Then we read at the end of John 18:28, “And they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium.” The Jews themselves did not enter Pilate’s residence because doing so would have rendered them ritually unclean. It was customary for the Jews to think of the home of the Gentile or the home of the heathen as a place of ritual uncleanness. If they were ritually unclean, they would not be able to eat the Passover meal which would be celebrated that evening. So they took Jesus, as it were, to the door of the residence, but they would not enter in.
Pilate did not want to have Jesus killed. He repeatedly took Jesus back to the Jewish leaders, telling them that he could find no reason to execute Him. The Jewish leaders were insistent, and they did not back down from their demand that Jesus be crucified.
Why didn’t Pilate want to have Jesus killed? I’ll say more about that in my next blog post, when I’ll continue to take a close look at John 18 and 19 in preparation for the Easter season.
- Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews
- Saving the Savior: Pilate’s Failed Attempt
- “In spite of that, we call this Friday good.”
The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon Dr. Sloan delivered at Tallowood Baptist Church on March 18, 1990.