A Friend of Christ or Caesar?John 19:12-16 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 15, 2015 • JOHN - The Life and Light Revealed
Are you a Friend of Christ or Caesar?
2-15-15 John 19:12-16 Lesson 113
Good morning everyone. If we could take our Bibles and open them to John 19:12; we’re going to try to look at this morning verses 12-16. The title of our message this morning is the following: Are you a Friend of Christ or Caesar? Here we are in John’s Gospel, toward the very end of it, moving into that section of it which deals with Christ’s death and His resurrection, which is really the heart of Christianity. That’s when people say what are you going to teach after John, my answer is I have no idea because I’m totally focused on these chapters because if we miss these chapters because we’re looking forward to another book, which will come eventually, we miss the whole thrust of the Christian message.
So we have been taking our time through John’s Gospel, looking at the events surrounding Christ’s death; His arrest, His various trials, and we find our self really at the final part His final trial, if you will, before this man, Pilate. We’ve seen Jesus scourged, we’ve seen his first encounter with the Jews; we’ve seen Pilate and Jesus talking, last week, in verses 8-11.
And we find ourselves today in verses 12-16 where really what we have going on here is Pilate’s second encounter with Christ, or Christ’s second encounter with Pilate. Pilate is not only speaking with Jesus but he is going to go outside and speak one final time to the Jews, these unbelieving Jews who have turned Christ over to Pilate for execution. Pilate is going to have one more round of conversation with them before he hands down a sentence. So Jesus has been not formally sentenced yet; everybody is waiting on Pilate to sentence Jesus. Pilate, as we are going to see today, has a great internal struggle taking place inside of him. Really what Pilate wants to do is avoid making a decision.
He thinks he can do that by releasing Jesus so he attempts to release Jesus, verse 12, but the Jews say “Crucify Him.” Then in verses 13-14 he makes a second attempt to release Judas but they say once again, “Crucify Him,” and then finally as you go down to verse 15 and verse 16 the whole cycle repeats itself again. So three times he tries to release Jesus Christ and three times it’s to no avail, and finally Pilate makes a decision.
But notice, if you will, verse 12, notice how Pilate is trying to wriggle his way out of the problem. It says in verse 12, “As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him,” now as a result of what? Well, it goes back, really, to the prior verse that we looked at last time where Jesus says to Pilate, when Pilate said to Jesus don’t you know I’m the one that has the authority over you. Remember what Jesus said? You would have no authority over me unless it was given to you from above. I believe it’s beginning to dawn on Pilate, who this man, Jesus Christ, actually is. That’s why it’s very interesting in verse 8, it says, “Therefore when Pilate heard this statement,” that’s the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God, “when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.” So had been afraid already and now it’s accelerated, and this fear that Pilate is in continues to accelerate as he’s being forced to make a decision.
We continue on there in verse 12 and notice the reaction of these hard hearted unbelieving Jews to Christ. It says: “As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, ‘If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” You can’t release this man, the Jews say, because this man is claiming to be a king which is an act of insurrection against Rome. So the Jewish leaders remind Pilate that because Jesus claimed to be a king if Pilate released Jesus then Pilate would find himself in big trouble with a man named Tiberius Caesar, this man, Tiberius Caesar being over Pilate.
You’ll notice a very interesting word shows up there in verse 12; you’ll notice the word “friend.”
“If you release this Man, you are not friend of Caesar.” Now this word “friend” has not been introduced to us for the first time here in John’s Gospel. You might remember the first time the word was used was in John 15:15, where Jesus was speaking to the disciples in the Upper Room. Remember this verse, John 15:15, Jesus says, “No longer to I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known unto you.”
There is such a thing, Jesus has told these disciples, as being a friend of God, as being a friend of Jesus Christ. This would be a person, as we have defined it, who has not simply trusted in Christ for salvation but is continuing to walk with Christ contrary to the pattern of the world. Friendship with Christ, another name for this might be discipleship, friendship with Christ we are told in the Upper Room has a price tag, because just a few verses later Jesus said this in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
Why is it that friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ makes one an enemy of the world system? The answer to that is essentially what John revealed in his other book; John wrote five New Testament books, total, but one of the other books he wrote is 1 John and in 1 John 2:15-17 this is what John says: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
The world system, as we have talked about in this series, is being masterminded and controlled by none other than the devil himself. The devil has borrowed time that he is living on; his defeat is all but certain, but in this unique period of time that we find ourselves, where Satan has already been convicted but not yet punished, he is orchestrating the atmosphere, the philosophy if you will, of the world system. That’s why any human being that desires to become a Christian and really begins to walk out their faith through discipleship finds themselves out of sorts with the world system. You find yourself being judged, to a large extent, by the world system.
But the opposite is true, isn’t it? If a person is in love with the world system they find themselves being judged by God. Who would you rather be judged by, the world or God? I think the answer to that is obvious. But James, the Lord’s brother, says this: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility towards God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” [James 4:4]
The more intoxicated we become with the world system the more we move further and further away from God. The more, even a Christian who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, becomes worldly in their thinking they move farther and farther away out of fellowship with God. In fact, Paul had people in his ministry and in his life that were very clearly believers and I know they were believers because they were co-ministers with Paul. And yet towards the end of their ministries they became worldly and drifted away from the Lord and Paul. Paul talks about this in the final book that he wrote, called 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy 4:10 says, “for Demas, having loved the present world, has deserted me,” I had a friend, I had a co-laborer, a co-minister and we stood together. And yet, this man, became intoxicated with the world system and he has deserted the Lord and consequently he has deserted me.
What is happening here with Pilate? He is having to make a choice, if you will; is He going to be a friend of God or a friend of Caesar? Well, what did it mean if you were a friend of Caesar? Essentially a friend of Caesar was a legal title that was bestowed upon Caesar’s friends and allies; it was almost like a badge of honor. And no doubt Pilate, who was functioning under Caesar, had his eyes on that prize because he had his position there as governor in Judea because of an authority granted to him by Caesar.
And yet if Pilate were to follow Jesus Christ, if he were to yield to these convictions that he is under, what would have happened to his career? What would have happened to his limelight? What would have happened to his prominence? And you see, we all, as Christians, face this constantly. The world system, just because you’re a Christian does not lose its pull over us. We have to make a concerted effort over and over and over again to follow the Lord Jesus Christ so we can become all that He has called us to become. We have to make a choice over and over again to have our minds renewed by the things of God, Romans 12:2 tells us, so that we will not be pulled in the direction of the world system and consequently be neutralized. [Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”]
Would you rather be judged by God or would you rather be judged by the world? I think at the end of the day I’d rather be judged by the world because the world’s judgment, as harsh as it can be, as the world system tries to marginalize us, as the world systems teach to make fun of us, as the world system calls us right wing fanatics, as the world system calls us members of The Flat Earth Society, we understand that everything the world hurls our direction is temporary, but the affirmation and the friendship of God is eternal. If there’s something that I have discovered, and it’s not a novel discovery at all, it’s just something in my life that I come back to over and over again, that if I’m really going to walk with Jesus Christ I have to make perpetual stands on a host of issues, over and over again.
I’m reminded of what the prophet, Elijah said to those that were thinking about worshipping Baal, in 1 Kings 18:21, “Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’” And we so often are hesitating between two opinions on a host of matters because making a decision is difficult, because once we make a decision we incur the judgment of somebody, either the world system or God.
How many applications are there to this point? There are so many ways to apply this text. The latest thing that I can think of is a movie that came out recently, over Valentine’s Day weekend, Fifty Shades of Grey, I did not see the movie of course, but everything I know about the movie, based on reviews, is what you would call soft pornography. It is very interesting to me to watch the deterioration of our culture in this area of sexual morality. I often go back sometimes and watch the old black and white I Love Lucy shows, and is it not interesting that in those shows Ricky and Lucy are always portrayed in separate beds, even though they’re married. And today the more we move into this area of movies, the more we move into this area of Netflix, the more we move into this area of You Tube, it’s rare to find sexual morality promoted.
I cannot tell you how many people I know, if I were to read the names it would take the rest of the sermon time, how many men of God I know that are trapped or ensnared by pornography. Many of them have lost their ministries because of this pornographic addiction. The thing about pornography, once you look at it you can’t stop looking at it. Why is that? Because the man or the woman in that pornographic image is really not them. Did you know what? It’s air brushed; in fact, if you took the model out of that picture and compared them to the picture they are actually not exactly the same; it’s them but it’s a tightened sexualized rendition of them. And looking at that material over and over again, what does that produce? It produces dissatisfaction with your spouse because he or she obviously cannot compete sexually with that image that somebody has created. And consequently the obsession with pornography, the viewing of pornography, I believe has done more, not only to destroy ministries but to destroy Christian marriages and the joy that God would have us to experience within the context of Christian marriage because of images that are in our minds. And you may say to yourself, well, you know I’m single, I’m not married yet.
But you see, let me tell you something about pornography: pornography is worse than poison. If you get poisoning, like food poisoning or something of that nature, eventually that poison will leave your system. The mental images that go into a person’s mind never leave. Those images are always there your entire life; they are always there to dial back into at any inopportune moment. And that’s why this viewing of pornography, this giving ourselves over and over again to sexually explicit material, and I realize that there is different degradations in this, some call it soft porn, there’s a difference between hard porn and so forth. But soft porn, based on a book title I read some years ago, soft porn plays hardball… soft porn plays hardball! Why is that? Because you, as a single person, are preparing yourself for your spouse and once you begin viewing that material those same images are going to be going through your mind over and over again as you interact with your future spouse. So whether you’re married or single it has a detrimental effect, not only on your current marriage and current satisfaction with your spouse but also your future spouse.
And isn’t it interesting that this movie, the Fifty Shades of Grey is a blockbuster; I mean, it is wildly popular. And how difficult it is for the Christian to say no to that because you are going upstream, you are going against the world system; what’s wrong with you is the idea, why aren’t you accepting this movie, why aren’t you viewing this movie, why aren’t you promoting this movie. And that’s what I’m talking about related to perpetual stands that the child of God has to take over and over again, not just in this area of sexuality but in many, many areas that I could speak of. How long will you waver between two opinions? Are you going to be a friend of Caesar and the world system or are you going to be a friend of God?
Pilate is facing that very thing. It’s dawning on him who Jesus is and yet there is this pull in the opposite direction to do the wrong thing because he has, in his mind, his own self-interest. At this point Pilate is no longer pursuing justice but he is pursuing self-interest. And notice once again Pilate tries to spring himself free of this dilemma, and this is the natural inclination of people. We don’t want to make choices about hard things and difficult things so we simply seek to get out of making a choice. You see Pilate trying to wriggle loose again.
Notice what it says there in verse 13, it says, “Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew,” it has this name “Gabbatha.” So Pilate brings the Jews out to where they were. Where were they?
Well, you might recall back in verse 28 the Jews were outside the Praetorium, or Pilate’s headquarters, they did not want to enter into Pilate’s headquarters for fear of ceremonial defilement. So Pilate and Jesus are inside, these unbelieving Jews are on the outside and so Pilate sees yet another opportunity to get out of making a choice, here’s what I’ll do, Pilate thinks to himself most likely, I will bring Jesus out in His weakened condition, after all, He’s already been flogged, after all the crown of thorns has already been pushed into His cranium, His head, His skin, once these Jews see Jesus in this weakened condition they’ll say okay, you can let Him go. And I will be, Pilate thinks to himself, away from the horns of a dilemma, so the Jews can see Him in His weakened state I will bring Him out.
They bring Him out to this place called the judgment seat and to me this is a great irony because these people all think that they are sitting in judgment of Jesus. They all think they’re making some sort of determination about whether this man lives or dies. And I believe John, at this point, wants us to remember John 5:22, which says this: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” The One who has been entrusted with all judgment, the One who will render all decisions in the ages of eternity, the One who will give the final verdict on everything, He Himself, Jesus Christ, is being judged by men. How ironic that is.
And all of these people, Pilate and these unbelieving Jews probably felt like they were in control of the situation. And there is no doubt that people today largely feel the same way. As the gospel is presented to them and they are making, in their minds, a decision, they believe, to a very large extent that they are the arbiters, and in reality it’s the exact opposite. One of these days in the future Jesus will be the judge of everything and so we delude ourselves into thinking that we are, in fact, judging Him (in a certain sense we are but let’s not forget about the fact that who we are sitting in judgment on) the One who will judge all things.
It is interesting to me that the Hebrew word is brought out here by John. It says there in verse 13, “The Pavement, but in Hebrew” is “Gabbatha.” That probably means height, open place, it also could mean the backside of a house, it’s describing this area where Christ was. And this helps us understand why the gospel of John was written. We need to develop a sensitivity regarding why different books of the Bible are written for different reasons. John, as we have said over and over again, based on his purpose statement, which occurs at the end of John 20, was written to the unbeliever. Beyond that, John, because he consistently translates or explains Hebrew terms, it is not only written to the unbeliever but it is written to the Gentile. In other words, the Gospel of John was written to the person that knows the least about the things of God. They have no relationship with God, they have no knowledge of the nation of Israel and John, consequently, has to keep explaining terms. Now Matthew does not explain terms. He doesn’t translate or explain Hebrew expressions. Why is that? Matthew is written to a different audience, to a Jewish audience. John, on the other hand, is written to an unbelieving Gentile audience.
Well, why go into all this information? Because once you develop a perspective about why different books of the Bible are written you know how to minister the Word of God appropriately, because as I have said before, one of the things that will happen to you in your Christian life, I can almost guarantee it, is people will come to you and they will say I know that you are a Christian, I am an honest inquirer, or investigator of the things of God. There are people actually that are objective and honest about it and they will come to you and they will say what should I read? And most Christians, when they are hit with that question are not equipped to give an answer. They send them off into the latest Christian best seller; they send them off into God help us, Joshua or Leviticus or Numbers or Exodus, which is enough to choke a mule.
I’m not being disrespectful towards the Word of God; I’m just saying that Chronicles, and all of these books, are very difficult. When you are presented with that question you assign to them the book that the Holy Spirit gave for the least knowledgeable person, the least churched, the least aware of Christianity and Judaism and eternal truth. You give them the book of John because God assigned the book of John for a purpose, to reach that lost person with the gospel, to penetrate through their minds exactly who Jesus Christ is.
There are countless testimonies I have heard of people that have come to Christ through studying the Gospel of John. I’ve heard people say this, it is so clear, why didn’t somebody tell me this earlier, how Jesus, with His eternal truths, has cut through all of my preconceptions, and false assumptions and misunderstandings, I can clearly see who He is based on reading John’s Gospel.
One of the things also that’s worth pointing out here and John is talking about, Hebrew words and translating them, is that the average person that lived in the first century, in the land of Israel, probably knew four languages; the first language they knew is Greek. Why did they know Greek? They knew Greek because of Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great, in between the testaments, came forth and he, about 323 B.C., right in there, he brought in what was called Hellenization, where he was seeking to make a monolithic Greek culture. Everybody therefore, at that point, began to honor, appreciate and respect the Greek language. I personally believe that that was the hand of God because the book of Galatians, chapter 4:4 says that “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son….” Jesus came into the world at the right time. The world was set up for Jesus Christ.
One of the things that was set up in the intertestamental period was the Greek language. Why is Greek so significant? It is significant because it is one of the fullest dialects known to man. In fact, in English we have one word for love (a good thing to think about following Valentine’s Day), in Greek there are three possibly four words for love describing it in all of its nuance forms. The right language was in place to record the revelation of God’s Word. In fact, you might be interested to note that there was even a Hebrew Bible translation from the Greek, known as the Septuagint, sometimes called the LXX after the Roman numeral 70, because it was translated by 70 scholars in 70 days according to tradition, to translate Hebrew into Greek, 200 years before Jesus even showed up. There was not just the Hebrew Bible but there was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, something called the Septuagint. Why? Because of what Alexander the Great had done in terms of Hellenization and making Greek the normal Lingua franca, as we might call it; you need to read the Bible in your own language, so we need the Septuagint.
Now a second language that people spoke in this time was Hebrew. We know this from the Old Testament, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. And in fact, in the book of Acts, Acts 22:2 you’ll discover Paul using two languages. It says this: “And when they heard,” this is Paul testifying before the Jews, “when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became quiet.” Normally he spoke a different language, perhaps Greek and as I’ll show you in just a minute Aramaic, but he broke out into Hebrew and that got all of the Jew’s attention.
Certainly Hebrew was active in the land of Israel because John is translating these various Hebrew words for the benefit of those not living in the land of Israel. You’ll find translations in John 20:16; John 5:2 and also as I’ll show you in a little bit, John 19:17. [John 20:16, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means, Teacher).” John 5:2, “Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.”]
Now if that weren’t enough, there was yet another language that people were conversant in in the land of Israel, this is what we call Aramaic. Daniel 2-7 is not written in Hebrew; most of the rest of the Old Testament is written in Hebrew but Daniel 2-7 is written in Aramaic as is, or are parts of the book of Ezra. And one of the things you’ll discover is that the Apostle Peter had three different names. His Hebrew name was Simon, that was the name he had before Jesus changed it. In Luke 22:31 Jesus says this: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.” Peter, you’re acting like your old self, therefore I’m going to call you by your old name.
Names in the Bible are highly significant because when God names somebody that is a revelation of their destiny. That is why when you study the Bible and you see a name change, for example, in Genesis 17 I believe it is, from Abram to Abraham, that is a revelation of Abraham’s destiny as the father of many nations, which is what Abraham means. Peter was named little stone; Petros, masculine noun, little stone, he did not name Peter Petra, big stone. Why is that significant? Because the Roman Catholic church, as you might know, teaches that Pete was the first Pope, and Jesus built the church on Peter, the first Pope, but you see, that dog won’t hunt, as Dr. Toussaint used to tell us, because when you study that in Matthew 16 you’ll see Jesus using the word Petros for Peter, but when He talks about the rock He uses petra, which means large stone, a neuter noun. Jesus never built the church on Peter; praise God for that because in the next second Peter opened his mouth and Jesus said “Get behind Me, Satan.” What Jesus built the church on is the confession that came out of Peter’s mouth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Peter had a Greek name, Petros, little stone, even though this man was a man of great instability. He’s the one that sunk, remember, when he was walking out on the water. He’s the one that denied the Lord three times. He is the apostle with the foot shaped mouth, as I like to call him, because he’s always putting his foot in his mouth. Yet Jesus named him, not based on what he was but what he would become. Isn’t it great that God looks at us, not as we are but what we will one day be in Him? And Peter, of course, became that pillar of the church, Galatians 2:9 says, and he was actually crucified. [Galatians 2:9, “and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”] He was actually crucified; this man of instability was crucified upside down, according to tradition, to glorify God. He became that rock and he also had an Aramaic name; his Aramaic name is Cephas, and you’ll see that there in 1 Corinthians 9:5. [“Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?”]
Peter has three names, Hebrew—Simon; Peter—Greek; Cephas—Aramaic. You see, this was quite common. And there is actually a fourth language that I believe people were conversant in and that was Latin, brought largely into existence through the influence of Rome. In fact, if you jump down to verse 20 of John 19 you’ll see it was what was inscribed over the cross of Christ and it says this: “…and it was written in Hebrew, and also Latin and also Greek.” So right there in verse 20 you see three of the four languages that people spoke.
Why can’t we have a normal pastor? Why do you have to bring up things like this? One of the reasons is because I want us to develop a point of view, or a perspective on the world of the Bible in which we spend so much time studying. And it is quite interesting to note that the disciples, and I believe the Lord, spoke three, probably better said, four languages. This also is relevant because February 12 is the birthday of Charles Darwin. You say what in the world does this have to do with Charles Darwin? I believe it was last Sunday, if I have my calendar right, maybe it’s this Sunday, is Charles Darwin Sunday; it’s a movement to celebrate the life and the legacy of Charles Darwin. One of the things that’s shocking to discover is that 500 churches are involved in celebrating the life of Darwin.
Now you will notice that we did not celebrate Darwin Sunday today or last week. Why is that? Because Darwinism is… what you have to understand about it is a worldview, it is not simply a biological theory but it brings with it an entire world view. What, then, is Darwinism? It is “from the goo to you by way of the zoo,” is the best way I can describe it. Or from the goo to the zoo to you, over supposedly billions and billions and billions of years.
Now when you think about that for a minute the worldview simply is this; things started off simple and have become complex over time. That idea, in and of itself, is what is dogmatically taught in secular anthropology because the view that we receive from media, from academia, from literature is always this: man started off very simple. In fact, he couldn’t even speak, the poor guy. He could maybe grunt, he could maybe scribble a few things on the cave wall or wherever he was living. And poor man didn’t even know what fire was until lightning struck. And the true people of intelligence, the true people of sophistication are us because we are living so far away in time from simple man. So consequently we are tempted to look at the people of the Bible, we are tempted to look at ancient man as somewhat of a simpleton, not very smart, not very intelligent, not really having it altogether because he’s a little bit closer to the monkeys than we are.
And may I just say to you that that worldview, as I am describing it, is 100% contradicted in the Bible. In fact, biblically that worldview could not be more further from the truth because the truth of the matter is if you want intelligence you go back in time. Modern man is the simpleton; ancient man, going back into biblical times, I believe, had intellectual abilities far beyond our own. We see evidence of it here in this chapter, John 19, where people in the time of Christ were fluent and conversant in four languages. As Americans we’re conversant in one, because that’s all we have to know. But you see, if you were living back in time where you had to know all four, I guarantee you, you would pick up those languages. Ancient man was not a simpleton; ancient man was not a fool. Ancient man had intellectual capacities far greater than our own.
In fact, look at man before the flood. This is what it says in Genesis 4:22, it says, “As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron,” bronze and iron? But I learned in my anthropology class that the bronze age didn’t dawn until the third century B.C. and it lasted until the twelve hundreds B.C. and then came the iron age. Iron doesn’t come on the scene, according to secular anthropology until 1200 B.C. roughly, until about the sixth century. In other words, we had to wait and wait and wait until man evolved to the point where he could become active, not just with bronze but also iron. In fact, we had to wait several millennia for this to happen, at least two millennia.
And here come Genesis 4:22, destroying all of our presuppositions by talking about people in Genesis 4 had an ability to work in both bronze and iron. [Genesis 4:22, “As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron….”] What am I trying to say? What I’m trying to say is simply this: as we have moved throughout history and we have moved further and further from God. What has happened is our intellectual capacities have deteriorated. Why is that? Because this is what your Bible says in Proverbs 1:7, and be careful about shouting out the answer when I say “fill in the blank” because most people get this wrong. Proverbs 1:7, the thesis statement of the book of Proverbs, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of” people say wisdom, it doesn’t say that, it says that somewhere else but not there at the beginning of the book of Proverbs, it says, “The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge….”
What is knowledge? Solomon wrote that, look at the knowledge that Solomon possessed. Look
at his abilities in poetry, look at his abilities in finance, look at his abilities in politics, look at the proverbs that he wrote. When you get into 1 Kings 4 you’ll discover Solomon had acumen in zoology and animals. He is the one that said, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” If a person comes to God and deposits themselves before God in humility, watch what happens to their intelligence ability; it begins to increase because now their mind is working the way God set it up. And as we move further and further from God what actually happens has happened to us is the intellectual capacities that man has have deteriorated. Romans 1:21-22 says, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
We look back on ancient man as if he’s a simpleton; in reality they were living closer to the time
of creation than we are; they are the ones that have the smarts. They are the ones that had the intelligence; that is why being conversant in four languages was not a big deal for them. But to us it would be an intellectual feat to master two languages, let alone four. I teach in a college, every semester when I teach Man, Sin, Salvation I say this: who knows what the Federalist Papers are? I’m lucky in a classroom to get one or two hands to go up—the Federalist Papers, weren’t those written way back at the founding of America? Weren’t those written for scholars? I mean, those are really academic resources.
The fact of the matter is the Federalist Papers, written by Hamilton, Madison and Jay, setting out the parameters of our Constitution so that New York would ratify the Constitution. Those were written to the level of a farmer. The farmers in that day were reading these things. In fact, here’s a little excerpt from a professor that we’ve had speak here, Dr. John Eidsmoe, it’s about him, and it says this: A law professor in Alabama currently requires his law students to read the Federalist Papers, and why not? Before those students can become attorneys they will swear an oath to uphold the Constitution; so why not learn about the intent of the documents they will swear to uphold. Those law students, enrolled in graduate level studies, regularly complain to their professor about the difficulty of their reading work. He nods sympathetically and responds, ‘I understand. This book was not written for someone at your educational level; this book was written for the common, average, upstate New York farmer of 1787. Perhaps someday you will attain the educational level of those early New York farmers.”
Before you laugh too hard, let’s take a test; shall we? This test was given to fourth graders in 1862; this was long before the Department of Education. This was in Chicago, this was probably in the days of community organizing and things of that nature, but let’s see how many of these we can answer. How many degrees of longitude are there? How many degrees wide are the temperate zones? What is a watershed? Name the principle animals of the frigid zone? Name the different races into which mankind is divided? What is a monarchy? (I’d get that one right, that’s one out of six). What portion of the people on the globe are pagans? What portion are Christians? March 27, 1862 you have thirty-five minutes, it says right here in the fine print, to complete the exam.
See, we look at those questions and most of us couldn’t even answer, perhaps… maybe we’re lucky to get one or two right, but fourth graders picked up all of these things with great ease. This is a look at SAT scores, and what you’ll see is the competency level of people prior to the year 1962-1963, that’s what that bold stripe indicates, and then you’ll notice after 1962-1963 you see a precipitous drop in SAT scores, and we ask ourselves well, what in the world happened that was so significant in 1962 and 1963? Was there some sort of cataclysmic event? Was there an earthquake? Was there a disease? I mean, what exactly happened? And the answer is very simple: 1962 and 1963 is the day or the year that the Supreme Court threw God out of the school; no more Bible reading in school, no more prayer. You know, my mother, who grew up in the Houston area, she tells me of a time in history which is so removed for me, where her teacher would open up the classroom in prayer and read to little kids from the book of Psalms. Today you can’t come close to doing something like this.
And what does the Bible say? “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” [Proverbs 1:7] If you remove God from the equation the intellectual capacities of people begins to deteriorate radically. And while all this is happening we are blind to it because we have technology. We have microwave ovens; we have Facebook; we have the internet. Prior generations didn’t have those things so we must be smarter. Do you know why we have all of those technological innovations? Because we are living the latest in history so we have knowledge capital handed to us from prior generations. Every generation builds on a millimeter of what prior generations have done, and we just took the knowledge that was given to us and built on it a millimeter. And we have all of these technological gismos and consequently we think that we’re smarter than every group of people that have ever lived. And the reality of the situation is we are intellectually dumber; we’re the dumbest generation that has ever lived, in terms of our intellectual capacities.
I believe this, and I grade papers every semester, and if you’re looking for a horrifying experience I invite you to help me grade papers. What people do is they can’t spell, they cannot write out basic words. Why? Because they’re so busy texting with the abbreviations, and our own President used the word yolo, I didn’t know what yolo meant, I had to look it up, it stands for, in case you don’t know, you only live once, yolo. Well, instead of writing “you only live once” on a paper you just write the word yolo on there, you don’t know how to spell out the phrase, you don’t know how to spell out the words. Grammar, syntax, reading capacity, all of these things have deteriorated with modern technology. They have not made us smarter; they have made us more or less sophisticated.
And that’s why on Darwin Sunday I make a point of why these people, back in biblical times, spoke four languages, at least in the land of Israel. What is Darwinism? It is this idea that we started off simple and we have become more complex over time; that is the worldview, that is the paradigm that most people think. I’m just trying to tell you biblically it’s the exact opposite. May God help us!
We go down to verse 14, “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King!” These, of course, are events happening on Passover, we’re told that also back in verse 28. Why is it so significant that these events regarding the crucifixion of Jesus Christ are taking place on Passover? Because Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover typology. That’s why John, as he is writing to a non-Jewish audience keeps reintroducing this idea of Passover. And that’s why Pilate keeps saying He’s innocent. Over and over again Pilate says He’s innocent of all charges. Why is that? Because on Passover, going all the way back to Exodus 12, your lamb shall be unblemished. How could Jesus fulfill that imagery if He Himself was not sinless?
Later on in John’s Gospel we will see that Christ’s legs were not broken; that is right out of Passover, that is right out of Exodus 12:46 where God said, regarding the Passover Lamb, “nor are you to break any bone of it.” [Exodus 12:46, “It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.”] There’s a reason why John is bringing up the things that He is bringing up. There is actually a method to his madness.
Look at verse 14 and this is what it says: “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; and it was about the sixth hour.” Oh no, we have a problem. Why do we have a problem? Because Jesus, according to Mark 15:25 was placed on the cross about the third hour or 9:00 a.m. Mark 15:25 says, “It was the third hour when they crucified Him.” So therefore Pilate sentenced Him on the sixth hour. How can you have the execution of Christ before His sentence has even been handed down? And one of the things to understand is there are people out there that can’t wait to find a contradiction in the Bible. Why does Peter Jennings run Easter specials against Jesus Christ? Why doesn’t he run them against Shakespeare? Or somebody else in history? Why is the attack always on Jesus Christ? Because in the Bible there is something called accountability. This book is different than any other book you’ll ever read because it demands that God’s creatures be accountable to God. Shakespeare doesn’t do that, so the obsession is always to attack Christianity, to attack the Bible over and over again.
And we watch these things happening and we say it’s so unfair. Well, of course it’s unfair. Look at what the Bible claims; if you didn’t know Christ or have any relationship to Him I believe you, as W. C. Fields once quipped, would be “looking for loopholes.” People are always looking for loopholes, and yet these contradictions are so easily explained if you give yourselves to them, the solutions. I recommend a book by Gleason Archer, called Bible Difficulties, where he explains over and over again so called contradictions in the Bible. He explains that contradictions in the Bible really aren’t contradictions. How do we explain this contradiction with Mark’s Gospel? Well, it’s very simple; John used a Roman reckoning of time where the sixth hour is 6:00 a.m. Mark, on the other hand, and the Synoptic Gospel Writers used the Jewish reckoning time. Or another possibility, John used the Judean method of reckoning time where you begin a day at sunset, while Mark and the Synoptics used the Galilean method of time where the day begins with sunrise. You see, there is no contradiction at all, and yet people will gravitate towards these things in an attempt to discredit the Bible.
I have people all of the time that say that book is filled with contradictions, at which time I usually just like to pass it across the table to them and say show me one. And what you’ll discover is most people can’t, they are just repeating a propaganda line. But even when a contradiction (supposedly) is there what you discover with studies is it really much of a contradiction at all. Three men are blindfolded and they are touching different parts of an elephant, and one man is touching the foot of the elephant and he says it feels like five lumps. Another man is touching the elephants and he says it feels like a tube. And another man is touching the elephant’s side and he says it feels like a giant wall. And at first glance you would think all of those testimonies are contradicting one another and then you take the blindfold off and there is no contradiction, they are just touching different sides of the same animal.
Lawyers constantly are skilled at this harmonizing different testimonies of witnesses. You use the same skill in the reading of the Scripture. But Pastor, don’t you know that Jesus, or Judas, in Matthew 27:5 hung himself? And don’t you know that Luke in Acts 1:18 says, of Judas, “…falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.” [Matthew 27:5, “And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.” Acts 1:18, “Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.”]
By the way, why would Luke tell me that? He was a doctor; those are things that are interesting to him. That’s why Luke, in Acts and Luke talks more about the prenatal activities of Jesus and John the Baptist in their mother’s womb than any other writer because Luke is a doctor; God used the personalities of these men. Matthew talks more about what than any of the other gospel writer? Money! In fact, only in Matthew’s Gospel is it recorded that Jesus and Peter went fishing and they caught a fish and there was a coin in its mouth, and Jesus says I want you to take the coin out of the fish’s mouth and I want you to use that to pay your taxes. And I say I wish the Lord would work with me that way. But you see, only Matthew records that event. Why? It fits Matthew’s personality because Matthew was a tax collector. [Matthew 17:27, “…go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”]
You know, Peter talked more about water than any other apostle, and the flood. That makes sense because he is a fisherman. God, when He used these men to record His message, He did not override who they were; each of them has a unique personality, temperament, background, skill set and He used what they were because ultimately, at the end of the day, God was the author of all of those things in those men as well, wasn’t He?
So Luke is telling us that when Judas died his body fell off a cliff and his intestines gushed out, and people say well, that contradicts Matthew 27:5, he hung Himself. Well, that’s not much of a contradiction when you think about it. Could not Judas have hung himself on a branch, perhaps that branch was very near a cliff or perhaps was hanging over a cliff, the branch could have broken after Judas had died, therefore his corpse would have spilled into the ravine, hit the rocks and his intestines would have gushed out. That is no contradiction at all. There’s a very easy way to harmonize that. Yet you, as a believer, have to become skilled in this to be an effective witness for God, because people will throw these things at you constantly. And at some point we have to stop being victims of conversations and start studying things.
I, early on as a Christian wanted to go out and defend Jesus, and I had so many questions thrown at me I couldn’t answer, and I was intimidated, I’d better not open my mouth about Jesus anymore. But you see, that was the best thing that ever happened to me? Do you know why? I started to study, and the more I studied I realized that there were answers and I said to myself, all right, I didn’t do so great answering the questions this time around, but come hell or high water the next time that question comes my direction I’m going to be ready. It’s a matter of equipping ourselves in the things of God so that we can be effective witnesses for Him.
You’ll notice there, also in verse 14, Pilate says, “Behold, your King.” Here is Jesus in His weakened state; are you sure you want me to execute this man, Jesus Christ. Isn’t it interesting how even unbelievers make accurate theological statements. Jesus was the King! It reminds me very much of John 11:49-50 where Caiaphas, one of the unbelieving Jews, made this statement: [49b, “‘You know nothing at all,  nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.’” We’ve got to kill Jesus so the Romans don’t get mad at us, is what he is trying to say. But what came out of his mouth was one of the most astute theologically accurate descriptions of the substitutionary atonement of Christ; Caiaphas was a prophet and did not know it.
God is so in control of these events that are taking place here in John 19 that even unbelievers are giving accurate theology. And we think our lives are somehow outside of God’s control. No they’re not; nothing is outside of God’s control. At a time in history where it looked as if things were most out of control God was actually in the most control. And that’s true with your life as well, and mine; our times are in His hands.
But notice again the reaction of these unbelieving Jews, verse 15, “So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him,” they say it twice, “crucify Him!” Notice the repetition, the hardness of their heart is continuing. Pilate makes another feeble attempt here at rescuing Jesus Christ. “Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’” Look at Him in His weakened state? Look at Him in this mocked purple robe we put over Him. Look at Him with the crown of thorns? Do you really want me to execute this guy? Is this man such a threat to you? Pilate is trying to get out of making a decision. And again, here’s the turning point, verse 15, the second part of the verse, “The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but” who? “Caesar.” We will not have this man to reign over us.
All the way back in the time of Moses, this is what God said in 1406 B.C. to the Jewish people, 1,500 years in advance this is what God said: “You shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses. [Deuteronomy 17:15, “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.”]
It was always incumbent and an expectation upon the nation of Israel to enthrone the right King and how this nation has had a habit of getting it wrong over and over again. In fact, the first king they picked was a guy named Saul. Why do they want Saul? We want to be like all the other nations. Gee Israel, I thought you were supposed to be different, God didn’t bring you into existence just to be like everybody else. But we want to be like all the other nations and it says there in 1 Samuel 8:7, and Samuel is speaking, God is speaking to Samuel, “…for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me” from being king over them.
And consequently the nation of Israel has done it again; Saul, they should have never picked Saul to begin with because their kings are supposed to come from which tribe? Judah, Genesis 49:10. [“‘The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”] Saul came from the wrong tribe, Benjamin. And yet they enthroned the wrong man. The right man comes we will not have this king to reign over us, and this is the reason why the Jewish nation is in a state of blindness, under discipline as I speak.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:15-16, “But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart;” that’s the state of the Jew,  but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” What a glorious thing it is to see a minority of Jews come to Christ, but that is not the pattern. The majority situation is they are in a state of blindness judicially because of what we had happen there in the first century. “We will not have this man to reign over us.”
But isn’t it interesting that God has a way of taking lemons and turning them into lemonade. Through that transaction Jesus was killed and in the process He paid the sin debt of the entire world. God took a tragic thing and turned it around for a positive, as only God can do.
Well, if God did that then how can He hold the Jews responsible? The reason is because the Jews still made a choice; yes, God used it for good but they still made a choice. Peter talks about this in Acts 2:23, of Jesus, “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross….” Who killed Jesus? Was it God the Father or the Jews? And the answer is yes. They nailed Him to a cross and made a decision but when they were making the decision they were fulfilling a script that was ordained before the foundation of the world. You say, well how can God pull off something like that? Because He’s God. Only God can take the free moral will of His creatures in rebellion and use those very decisions to accomplish His will. What a God! And we will, throughout the ages and eons of time glorify Him on His dealing with man.
And yet God does not leave the earth without a witness of Himself, He’s created the church, or the body of Christ, which is us; we are made up of those who have trusted in the Messiah that the nation of Israel has rejected.
What is the conclusion of the whole thing? Verse 16, and with this we’re finished, “So He then” that’s Pilate, “handed Him over to them to be crucified.” We have just moved from accusation to conviction. Now Jesus is formally sentenced. Why? Because Pilate had a choice to either appease Caesar or appease God and sadly, for him, he made the wrong choice. He decided to fold the tent for what the world system and what security and getting ahead in life would do for him rather than doing what is right.
How many of you are doing the exact same thing? God is convicting you of something in your life and He says you need to turn from this and we keep saying if we do I’m going to have to give up X, Y and Z and the world system will come down on me. May I just say to you that it’s far better to be judged by the world than it is to be judged by God. How long will you waver between two opinions? Some of you are here today and you have no idea if you’re in a relationship with Jesus or not. Why is that? Because you’ve never responded to His offer of forgiveness, which is what we call the gospel. You know, one of the greatest things, if not the greatest thing that you can do to make a break with the world system is to trust in Jesus Christ. At that point your whole position changes from a citizen of the world system to a citizen of heaven and the coming kingdom of God.
How do we do that? We do that through the gospel; the gospel is good news. Why do we call it good news? We call it good news because God has done it all, He’s paid the full penalty for our sins and we simply receive what He has done as a free gift. Biblically there is only one way to receive a free gift and that is through faith. Faith is another way of saying trust. It’s another way of saying reliance upon. It’s another way of saying have confidence in. We rely for the safekeeping of our soul expressly and totally in the promises of Jesus Christ and His provision. Once that happens you’re a Christian.
And the Holy Spirit has come into the world to convict men and women of their need to do this. No doubt as I am speaking the Holy Spirit has some of you under conviction. Our exhortation to you at Sugar Land Bible Church is to believe the gospel; trust in the gospel, it is a private transaction that takes place in the arena of the heart and of the mind. It is something only between you and God; it’s not something you have to walk an aisle to do, join a church to do, give money to do but it’s something that takes place between you and God and our exhortation, the best you know how, is to trust in this gospel. And if you’ve done that or are doing it, then whole eternal destiny is changed. If it’s something that you need more information on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.