In our current series we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. In previous weeks we’ve been looking at how Christ was humbled in order to bring us salvation. We’ve seen that Christ was humiliated throughout his life on earth and also by his death which involved Judas’ betrayal, the disciples’ desertion and the world’s rejection. This week I want to show that Jesus was also humiliated by the condemnation of Pilate.
When a ruler judges you worthy of punishment, it is a humiliating experience. To be called up before a judge is terrible in itself, even if you are not condemned at the end of the trial. To go before a judge means you have to bear an intense scrutiny of your life and often endure terrible accusations being made against you. And it is all usually done in a very public way for everyone to see.
Jesus experienced such humiliation while on earth. After his trial before the chief priests, Jesus was taken to the local governor, named Pilate, for execution. Mark records: ‘Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate’ (Mark 15:1). Then after some deliberation, Pilate hands Jesus over for execution: ‘Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.’ (Mark 15:15).
Although such a judgement by a leader is naturally humiliating, it is even more humiliating when we consider the particular case of Christ.
Firstly, Jesus’ condemnation to death was particularly humiliating as he was innocent of any crime. Pilate himself even repeatedly declared Jesus’ innocence: ‘I find no basis for a charge against him’ (John 18:38); ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him’ (John 19:4); ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him’ (John 19:6).
Secondly, Jesus’ condemnation to death was particularly humiliating considering who Jesus was. For example, Jesus was the creator who made Pilate – the created presumed to judge his creator! Jesus was the Son of God who deserved the utmost respect from Pilate. Jesus was the judge of the world who was then judged worthy of death. So can you imagine how humiliating it was for Jesus Christ, the Creator, the Son of God, the judge of the earth to be publicly declared worthy of death by one of his creations?
So why would Jesus humble himself in this way? Because of our sin we deserve to be humiliated for eternity in hell. But thankfully Jesus takes the eternal humility we deserve so we can have eternal glory instead. This eternal glory comes by trusting that Jesus was humiliated for you, even by Pilate’s ill-founded judgement that he was worthy of death.
Do you trust in Christ’s humiliation for you so that you will have eternal glory in heaven?