[Matthew 27:22-26] Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Crucify Him!” And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!” When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This is the twelfth session of Hell sermon series. Before I get to the main message, let me tell you of a story about a grandfather and a grandson. It’s the story of the 12th king Ahaz and the 14th king Mannasseh of the southern kingdom of Judah. Ahaz was dedicated to worshipping idols and did many evil things. As a result, the protection of God departed from him, and many countries including Aram, the northern Kingdom of Israel, Edom, and Philistine attacked southern Judah. It was in retribution for their sin. The grandson, Manasseh, also followed a similar path as his grandfather. Soon, the Assyria attacked them, and Mannasseh was captured and taken to Babylon in chains. Until this part, the circumstances of these two persons are similar. But in the crisis, these two persons showed different reactions. When faced with calamity the grandfather, King Ahaz, did more evil. 2 Chronicles 28:22-23 first part says, “Now in the time of his distress this same King Ahaz became yet more unfaithful to the LORD. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Aram helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” All of the misfortune had come upon him as a result of idolatry and standing against God. So, how foolish was it that he wanted to serve idols even more! Furthermore, he gathered together the utensils of the house of God, he cut the utensils of the house of God in pieces; and he closed the doors of the house of the LORD and burned incense to other gods. As a result of this foolish act, Ahaz couldn’t even be buried in the tombs of the kings of Israel. On the contrary, Manasseh repented before God when he was taken as a captive being a king of a nation. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 says, “When he was in distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.” When he humbled himself and prayed to God in a difficult situation, God permitted him to recover his throne and also gave him the heart to acknowledge God. When Mannasseh was committing sins, he worshiped idols and did detestable things even more than the Canaanites that were driven out from the land. Now, he commanded that the people cast away their idols, build up the altar of the LORD and serve the God of Israel. The later days of his reign were so very good that his good works were also recorded. Are any of you in a difficult situation, or is there anyone whose heart is heavy-laden? I hope you will realize the will of God and follow it. Even if you have caused hardships upon yourself due to sins or unwise acts, such hardships will turn into chances for you to come closer to God but you have to repent and turn back. But if you still follow your own will and dwell in sins while you are in difficulties, you will only face greater hardships. Recently, there have been many of you who are repenting to destroy the wall of sin after listening to the messages about blessings and hell. Those who repent also testify that, they couldn’t receive any blessings before, but since they have repented, by God’s blessings everything goes well with them now. I hope you will forcefully follow the will of God. In doing so, I pray in the name of the Lord that you will dwell in the peace and blessings of God.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the last session, I explained to you about a punishment of the third level in the Lower Grave. It was the messenger of Hell slicing the flesh of a person. Those who have committed grave sins such as standing against men of God or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will receive the third level punishments. Among them is Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judah at the time of Jesus. Israel at the time of Jesus was under the reign of Roman Empire. Pilate was the governor commissioned by the Rome who was governing Israel. And since Israel was under the occupation of the Roman Empire, they didn’t have the right to execute anybody. Therefore, to be able to execute Jesus, they had to get the death sentence passed by the law of the Roman Empire. Namely, they needed the permission of Pontius Pilate. This is the reason why the Jews brought Jesus to Pilate and accused Him. Pilate knew that the Jews were trying to kill Jesus out of their envy. And so he tried to save Jesus. But he was afraid that there would be a huge revolt of the people asking for Jesus’ crucifixion. If anything like that happened in his jurisdiction, he would have been held accountable for that by the Emperor, and he could have lost all his fame and authority. So, he finally gave up the innocent Jesus for crucifixion. He chose the way of death by giving the death sentence to sinless Jesus, and it meant he decided the punishment he was going to receive later. Matthew 27:26 says, “after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.” Jesus was handed over to the soldiers of Pilate, and he was scourged all over his body before the crucifixion. And Pilate who allowed this is also being scourged by the messengers of hell in the Lower Grave. The whips that the Roman soldiers used were lethal weapons with the pieces of metal or bone imbedded in the edges. Once the strong and merciless Roman soldiers swung the whip, it would surround the whole body to rip off the skin. And the metal piece at the end of it would pierce deeply into the body. When the soldiers snatched the whips back again, the flesh would be ripped off by the whip. In the Lower Grave, Pilate is being flogged in a similar way. What is more horrifying is that the messengers of hell would flog him whenever people living on earth speak the name of Pilate. Even at this moment when I mention his name he has to be whipped. Also, in the beginning part of this service, we recited the apostle’s creed. In the apostle’s creed we say that Jesus ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate’. All around the world, how many people would recite this apostle’s creed in worship services and other meetings? Every time Pilate has to be flogged. When so many people mention his name at the same time, the speed and the power of the flogging dramatically increase. In this kind of a case, other messengers of hell would come together to flog him. Even though his skin and flesh are already torn apart, the messengers of hell would scourge him as if they are competing with each other. When the flesh falls off, his white bones would be exposed. Later, the whips penetrate and tear the bones and the marrow is ripped out. Whenever he is flogged, Pilate wants to plead with people saying, “Please do not call my name. I have to suffer every time you do that.” But Pilate does not have any way to plead or appeal his pain. It’s because his tongue that gave the death sentence to Jesus was pulled out. Luke 23:23-24 says, “But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted.” What is special is that the bodies recover after being tortured in the Lower Grave, but only the tongue of Pilate cannot be recovered at all. This is a symbol of the curse. Because Pilate cannot speak, he cannot even speak about his pain. His name remains as the name of the cursed one, and it will be called by so many people continuously until the day of the Great Judgment. Every time his name is spoken, Pilate has to receive the flogging by messengers of hell that are incomparably more cruel than the Roman soldiers. His pain only increases. Brothers and sisters, when he gave over Jesus for crucifixion, he washed his hands and said to the Jews. “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And the Jews replied, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” The Jews received the retribution as they had professed.
Their history is the history of continuous suffering. In less than 40 years from the crucifixion of Jesus, Jerusalem was conquered by the General Titus of Roman Empire. So many Jews were massacred and the survivors were spread all over the world. They were persecuted and discriminated against wherever they went. Especially, a great number of Jews were killed by the Nazis during the World War 2. History evidences how great the price of shedding the blood of Jesus was. Also, according to the spiritual law, we can see how precisely their evil words would be realized. Seeing this history, we may think Jesus was crucified solely because of the Jews. Of course, their part is great, but it doesn’t mean Pilate was innocent. Even though the Jews’ request was strong, Pilate had the right not to crucify Jesus, only if he wanted to follow justice until the end. Even though he wanted the Jews to be responsible for Jesus’ death and he wanted to say he was innocent, he still handed the death sentence to the sinless Son of God, and this sin would never disappear. Moreover, Pilate had many chances to escape from the situation and not participate in the evil act. Meeting Jesus directly and indirectly, Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. As the governor he had many spies all around his jurisdiction to keep watch and control Judea. He heard about the signs and wonders that Jesus performed through those spies. He also knew what Jesus was preaching. Because Jesus was a very influential figure to the Jews, he called Jesus to talk to Him, too. These things were written in ‘Pilate’s Report’, an official report of Pilate to the Roman Empire. Pilate admitted that Jesus was not the kind of criminal who had to be put to death. Luke 23:14 -15 says, “behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. “No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.” Jesus was being questioned, but He still tried to help Pilate understand and make the right choice. John 18:33-34 writes the conversation between Pilate and Jesus at that time. Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Then Jesus asked back Pilate. “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” And Pilate was surprised. Pilate knew that Jesus was not an ordinary person as he heard about Him and met with Him. He felt the spiritual dignity from Jesus which he couldn’t feel from any other king. Pilate asked Jesus whether He was the King of the Jews not just because of the accusation of the Jews. Pilate himself also wanted to know about Jesus. Jesus knew exactly what Pilate wanted and asked the question that hit the mark, and he was amazed. Jesus tried to save this soul of Pilate even when His sufferings of the cross were about to begin. If Pilate could feel the heart of Jesus, and if he at least listened to the voice of his conscience, he wouldn’t have gone the way of sin. And this was not the only chance God gave to Pilate.
The night before Pilate gave the death sentence, Pilate’s wife had a dream about Jesus. And she earnestly asked Pilate not to have anything to do with the death of Jesus. Of course, Pilate also wanted to set Jesus free. But the rough Jewish people and the cunning leaders were not easy persons to death with. John 19:12 says, “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.'” Pilate tried to choose the right way to some extent, but when he was under pressure, he decided to join the sinners. Namely, he changed his mind when his position and life were threatened. He had many chances like above, but Pilate did not hold on to such opportunities. He eventually gave Jesus the sentence of crucifixion, and Pilate is still receiving the punishment of flogging as the retribution of his sin. In the next session, I will explain to you about how the King Saul is being punished in the Lower Grave.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Pilate did not decide his destiny just by one mistake at one moment. Pilate had already stored up many evil and unrighteous things in his heart. He had cunning heart that could change any time to gain personal advantage. He had an unrighteous and cowardly heart that he did not do the right thing even though he knew what was right. The evil and unrighteousness that had accrued in him finally bore the fruit of sin. He bore the sin of killing the Son of God who was completely innocent. How many people today do unrighteousness like Pilate? They don’t have any hesitation to commit unrighteous acts if it is beneficial for them. They accuse others and try to kill others just to survive. They say, “This much is OK,” even though the sin is not trivial at all. It’s because people’s consciences have become numb as the world is more and more full of sins. Just like Pilate blamed Jews for his unrighteous and cowardly act and washed his hands, they blame others and yet they say it ‘isn’t their fault and they couldn’t help it’. But in any case, you can never blame others for your evil deeds. Especially, it is even more so when your actions stand against a man of God and disrupting the kingdom of God. All men have freewill and they can choose between good and evil. And the responsibility for their choices solely lies on themselves. The result of their choices is either the happiness in Heaven or the punishments in Hell. I hope you believers will keep this fact in mind. Pilate is regretting very much now that his tongue was pulled out due to his craven words and he is being flogged. He blames himself so much thinking, “Why did I do that?” He forsook the way of righteousness to enjoy good things on this earth for a moment, and how tragic are the consequences he brought upon himself! He tried to keep his social power and fame even by doing unrighteous things, but his later days were not comfortable either. There are many stories about the death of Pilate, but most convincing is one that says he was taken to Rome for killing many innocent Samaritans in his jurisdiction. It is said that while he was waiting for the court trial he finally killed himself. His body was thrown into the Tiber River but the river flooded often and his body was later thrown into a lake in Alps. A mountain near that lake is called “Pilate’s Mountain”, and it is very famous for bad weather like thick fog. People say it is because of the cursed soul of Pilate. Therefore, when we find any heart of untruth like greed, little bit of selfish desire, cunning mind, or craven heart, we shouldn’t just neglect them. The names of the Jews who shouted to crucify Jesus are not even mentioned in the Bible, unlike Pilate. They were just ordinary individuals. But because of the evil of each person, how great was the sorrow their acts caused! Many of them welcomed Jesus with cheering as their king when He was coming into the city of Jerusalem riding a donkey. Many of them probably received healing from Him, heard the word of life, and witnessed signs and wonders through Him. But when they saw Jesus who stood like a criminal at the court of Pilate, they changed their attitude completely. They heard and experienced many things through Jesus, and they knew that He did only good things, but when things were not favorable for them, they simply betrayed Him. How sad it is that they finally crucified the Son of God, the Savior who came to save them! James 1:15 says, “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Therefore, we should pull even the roots of evil in heart and we have to be able to choose the right thing and the good thing all the time. The world is becoming darker, and increasingly stained with sins. To that extent, the temptation of sins becomes stronger. To win the victory in this world, we have to have the full armor of God. I pray in the name of the Lord that you will have the breastplate of righteousness, which is the truly righteous heart, so that you will always win the victory.