God’s Sovereignty; The Hands of Wicked Men

“Pilate said to them: ‘You take him and, according to your own laws, judge him.’ But the Jews said, ‘We are not permitted to execute anyone.’ This was to fulfill the word of Jesus which he had spoken indicating by what kind of death he was to be executed.’”

(John 18:31-32)

 

Recognizing that this was not a political matter, Pilate returns the verdict that the Jews should handle this matter on their own. Yet, under Roman rule, local courts were not permitted to practice capital punishment apart from the charge of blaspheming the temple. Execution (apart from this one exception) was something that the Romans kept to themselves. These Jewish leaders, thus desiring to put Jesus to death, recognized that they needed to have Pilate’s blessings and, as mentioned already, they desired to have someone to blame were the people to be upset at this execution. It is sad how often politics shows up in the realm of the church.

This is significant, though, John points out, not just because of the ones who will put Jesus to death, but in terms of the way in which Jesus would die. Typically, Mosaic law demands death by stoning (John 10:31-33); the Romans practiced crucifixion. Jesus had predicted his death by the hand of Gentiles (Matthew 20:19; Luke 18:32) but also that he would be lifted up like Moses did the bronze serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14; 12:32-33). In fact, the Apostle Paul goes as far as to connect Jesus’ execution with Deuteronomy 21:23 which speaks of one who is hung from a tree being cursed by God (Galatians 3:13) — a sign that Jesus bore the curse for us in his death (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Predictions of his own death may seem rather minor to us as we have heard and read these words over and over many times. But Jesus’ predictions of his death are just one more sign that he was actively in control over all aspects of his life and even of his coming death. There were no accidents nor were there any surprises — this is God’s economy, not man’s. As Isaiah wrote, ‘Yahweh delighted to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). It is God’s design that is ultimately being worked out here, though by the hands of wicked and lawless men (Acts 2:23).

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