John the Baptist declared, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). That was a loaded statement made by John. This was not a nickname given to Jesus. This statement revealed that Jesus has come to fulfil the types and prophecies of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament we read of the Passover Lamb, the Sacrificial Lamb, and the Suffering Lamb.
As Jesus stood before Pilate on trial, two unmistakable realities shine forth. The first is that He is the Sovereign Lord (18:28-40) and the second is that He is the Sacrificial Lamb (19:1-16). The next phase in Jesus’ trial before Pilate begins in the following verses,
“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands” (19:1-3).
The flogging that Jesus experienced was both a brutal and harmful punishment. In carrying out such an act, the soldiers would take the person to be flogged stripping them of their clothes and tie them up to a pole. The instrument used to perform this was a wooden handle with leather straps attached to it. These straps would contain sharp pieces of bones, stones and metals. The prisoner was then lashed numerous times (usually until the solider was exhausted or when they were commanded to stop) with their back torn open. This was a horrible punishment, and some of the victims did not survive this. There is no wonder why Jesus later on was unable to carry the wooden cross by Himself to the place of crucifixion. In addition to this lashing, the soldiers weaved together long sharp thorns and placed it on His head forming a mock crown. They arrayed Him in purple and scornfully said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They then stuck Him in the face. The prophet Isaiah 700 years earlier prophesied concerning Christ by saying, “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance” (Isaiah 52:14). With all that in view, we now come to the passage and we will see three descriptions of Jesus revealing that He is the sacrificial lamb.
Sermon Summary: In this passage we will see three descriptions of Jesus being the sacrificial lamb.
1. HE WAS A SPOTLESS LAMB (19:4-6)
After the horrible treatment of being flogged and mocked, Pilate said on two occasions, “I find no guilt in Him” (19:4, 6). In the midst of accusations and lies, Pilate was able to look at Jesus and declare his innocence. Going beyond Pilate’s appraisal of Jesus, this statement points to something far more significant. Jesus Christ was without sin and therefore He was the spotless Lamb of God. This is what qualified Him to be the substitute for sinners at the cross. We are all sinners and this makes us all guilty in God’s sight. No amount of outward reform can take away our sin and make us acceptable in God’s sight. This is why Jesus came to be our sinless substitute. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
When the Jews celebrated the Passover meal, it was the Lord’s requirement that a one-year-old male lamb without blemish (Exodus 12:5) was selected, killed and then cooked. The fact that it was a lamb without blemish was important because this is a picture of the One who would give up His perfect life for our salvation.
In addition to this, the lambs that were sacrificed by the priests in the sacrificial system were also to be without blemish. Again, this points to the fact that the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ was one of a perfect life. The writer to the Hebrews said, Jesus offered Himself up to God without blemish (Heb. 9:14).
As Jesus stands in trial, what John wants us to see here is that He stands there as the spotless Lamb of God who is without sin. He stands there in our place. We deserve judgment. In Him is no guilt and He has done no wrong. This means that He qualifies to take the place of sinners because He is a worthy and acceptable sacrifice.
2. HE WAS A SILENT LAMB (19:7-11)
After Pilate had said to the religious leaders “Take him yourselves and crucify him” (19:6) they replied, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God” (19:7). Their charge against Jesus was blasphemy and the law they have in mind is Leviticus 24:16 (“Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death”). This law required the stoning of an individual who blasphemed against God. It is noteworthy that they did not mention this. This is yet another example of their convenient use of Scripture. They will obey it when it suits them thus revealing their hypocrisy.
The reference to Jesus claiming to be the Son of God jolted Pilate and “he was even more afraid” (19:8). Combined with the dream that his wife had, his superstitious beliefs, and his observations of Jesus he was scared. For this reason, “He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer” (19:9). The silence of Jesus here says a lot. Back in Isaiah 53:7 we read concerning the suffering servant, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth”.
Why was He silent? This silence reveals a few things. Firstly, it is a silence of judgment. This is the kind of answer Pilate and those who are against Him deserve. Jesus had already made it clear who He was in the previous phase of the trial. Secondly, Jesus knew that there was a time to speak and a time to be silent. We often will err on either side and rarely get the correct balance. But our Lord Jesus Christ displayed perfect wisdom. Pilate then asks Jesus, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” (19:10). Jesus now chooses to break His silence by telling Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (19:11).
3. HE WAS A SLAUGHTERED LAMB (19:12-16)
After hearing Jesus’ words of conviction Pilate sought to release Jesus but the Jewish crowd cried out “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar” (19:12). This corrupt crowd didn’t really believe this, but this was a way to make Pilate choose between his conscience and his career. He then brings Jesus out and sits on the judgment seat (19:13). In his final attempt to release Jesus he said to the crowd, “Behold your King!” (19:14). With all the charges made against Jesus and the attempts to make Him out to be an insurrectionist, it is as if he said, “Look, this beaten, bruised and bloodied man, is your king”. Perhaps he thought that the crowd would stop now and accept this as a sufficient punishment. Instead, the crowd roared, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” (19:15a). Pilate responds by asking, “Shall I crucify your king?” Revealing their hatred and hypocrisy the chief priests would not stop until Jesus was slaughtered. They said, “We have no king but Caesar” (19:15b). Pilate now goes against his conscience and chooses his career. John writes, “So he delivered him over to them to be crucified” (19:16).
Jesus is now to be led as a lamb to the slaughter. Why is this going to happen to Him? It is not because He was defeated, but it is because of our sins.
This passage provides us with a few lessons. Firstly, you cannot be neutral concerning Jesus Christ. You are either for Him or against Him. This is demonstrated in Pilate. He saw with his own eyes that Jesus was innocent. But because he was unwilling to embrace the truth, his apparent neutrality fell to pieces. He had to choose between his conscience and his career, and he chose the later. Sadly for him, things didn’t work out well in the long run. The day is coming where Pilate, and every person that rejected Jesus will stand before Him in judgment. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
The second lesson in this passage is that though Jesus was horribly mistreated and mocked by wicked people, He did this as a sacrificial substitute for us. This means that when it comes to the judgment of God He stood in our place. He died in our place. He is the substitute for all sinners who would come to Him by faith and trust Him alone for the forgiveness of their sins. All of our sins that separate from our holy and majestic Creator were placed upon Him and He was punished for us.