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There are some revelations that must be spoken into this world in order to ensure that the law of the double witness is fulfilled. Such necessity was seen at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the people, quoting Psalm 118:26, shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38).
When some of the Pharisees objected and tried to silence them, Jesus said in Luke 19:40, “If these become silent, the stones will cry out!” The prophecy in Psalm 118 had to be fulfilled, and in this case, the fulfillment came when the people spoke those words at the proper time.
So also was it when Pilate presented Jesus to them, saying, “Behold your King!” (John 19:14). Whether he was aware of it or not—because much prophecy is spoken inadvertently—Pilate fulfilled the prophecy in Zech. 9:9, which reads,
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation [yasha], humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Jesus had indeed been presented to the “daughter of Jerusalem” when He came humbly, riding a donkey. The literal Hebrew text tells us that “He is just and YASHA, humble, and mounted on a donkey.” The word yasha is the root word (verb) of the noun Yeshua, Jesus’ Hebrew name. Yasha means “to save or deliver.” Hence, the text of Zech. 9:9 not only tells us that the Messiah is victorious but it also identifies the One riding on the donkey: “He is… Yasha.”
Perhaps if Pilate had not prophesied, “Behold, your King,” the very stones on The Pavement would have cried out, for this was the historic moment that Zechariah’s prophecy was to be fulfilled. It signaled the Messiah’s victory and triumph in His first mission, which was to “save His people from their sins.” In Matt. 1:21 the angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream,
21 She [Mary] will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
Though it appears to most men that Jesus failed in His mission, Jesus actually succeeded. The Jews were expecting a messiah who would save them from Roman rule, but the divine plan was to save them from their own sins, which had brought about their captivity in the first place.
Ironically, the crowd demanding Jesus’ crucifixion proclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15). The statement asserted that Jesus was not the messiah who would or could deliver them from Roman rule.
Secondly, they asserted their allegiance to Caesar to bring contrast to Jesus’ supposed sedition against Rome.
Pilate was not fooled by this. But he had been beaten by the blackmailers who had suggested that he might not be a friend of Caesar. So Pilate was forced to do precisely what his wife had warned him against. Luke 23:24 confirms this, saying, “Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted.”
Matthew 27:24, 25 says,
24 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.” 25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
This is today one of the most controversial passages in Scripture. When Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ,” was released in 2004, they were forced by Jewish pressure to keep the people’s statement untranslated from the Aramaic, so that those watching would not know what was said. Modern apologists have been trying for a long time to put blame on the Romans. But as I have shown already, the Romans did not have the divine authority to offer sacrifices.
Even so, when we look at the crucifixion through God’s eyes—and even through Jesus’ eyes—we understand clearly that the people were acting blindly, not knowing that they were proving that He was indeed the Messiah. By not knowing the Messiah’s mission, they fell into the plan without knowing what they were doing.
Hence, there are two ways to view the statement, “His blood be on us and on our children.” On the negative side, it was their way of accepting liability for rejecting Him as the Messiah. On the positive side, they were covering themselves with the blood of Jesus, thus prophesying the success of His work on the cross to “save His people from their sins.”
As for Pilate, he had familiarized himself with some aspects of the divine law in order to know better how to rule and to judge the people. We see from Matt. 27:24 above that Pilate was familiar with the law in Deuteronomy 21, a law which prophesied of Christ. When a man was killed near a town, and there were no witnesses to testify, the elders of that town were to cleanse the land by killing a heifer (which was a type of Christ).
In essence, this was the lawful way of making Christ the victim of the unsolved murder, in much the same manner as all of the sacrifices did. Apparently, Pilate was familiar with this law, although he knew nothing of its New Covenant application. Deut. 21:6-9 says,
6 And all the elders of that city which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley; 7 and they shall answer and say, “Our hands have not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it. 8 Forgive Thy people Israel whom Thou hast redeemed, O Lord, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Thy people Israel.” And the bloodguiltiness shall be forgiven them. 9 So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.”
Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. In washing his hands, he not only declared that he was not responsible for Jesus’ death but also asserted that this was a case of unresolved murder. In other words, a murderous crime was being committed. The people accepted his proclamation of innocence by taking upon themselves the liability for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Many years later, toward the end of Paul’s fourth missionary journey to Spain and Britain, he returned to Macedonia by way of Helvetia (Switzerland). The 29th chapter of Acts tells us that Paul stopped at Mount Pilatus, where he received revelation:
22 And a voice came out of heaven, saying, “Even Pilate hath escaped the wrath to come, for he washed his hands before the multitude at the blood shedding of the Lord Jesus.”
For a longer account of this, along with the story of how the 29th chapter of Acts was discovered in an old Greek manuscript, see my book, Dr. Luke: Healing the Breaches, Book 8, chapter 12.
John omitted the story of Pilate washing his hands, though he makes it clear that Pilate was not guilty, nor did he allow his Roman soldiers to do the work of crucifixion. In fact, Pilate was able to show his displeasure one more time. John 19:19-22 says,
19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 20 Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews’.” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
Their insistence on changing the wording was because the Hebrew wording presented the acronym YHVH, which was the sacred Name. The Hebrew inscription read:
Yehoshua Hanatzri Vemelech Hayhoodem
Anyone passing by would have recognized this immediately and might have had second thoughts about casting a stone at His face.
It was also customary for the list of crimes to be written down and nailed to the cross so that all who passed could read the charges against the one hanging on the cross. The chief priests wanted Pilate to change the writing to say that Jesus was being crucified for claiming to be the King. But Pilate insisted that the charges were that He was indeed the King sent from YHVH Himself.
This practice was something that Paul mentioned later in Col. 2:14,
14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Many, not knowing the common practice in that day, have interpreted this to mean that Jesus nullified the law by dying on the cross. But Paul was referring to the inscription on the cross that Pilate had written to show the reason why Jesus was being crucified. It was not to annul the law but to cancel our “certificate of debt.”
The “certificate of debt” was the record of sins that had brought about His condemnation by the court. Such certificates were nailed to the cross on which the sinner was crucified. All sin is reckoned as a debt, as we see in so many of Jesus’ parables. Hence, Jesus paid the debt for Adam’s sin, and by extension, He paid the debt incurred by every sin in the entire world (1 John 2:2).
The added inscription (YHVH) above His head fulfilled the prophecy given when Abraham was about to sacrifice his only son on Mount Moriah. Abraham spoke by faith in Gen. 22:8, saying, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
Indeed, God sent His Son, Jesus, to provide for Himself the Lamb that alone could take away the sin of the world. So whether or not Pilate knew what he was doing, he bore witness to the divine plan by writing the inscription on the cross which bore the acronym of YHVH. At the base of the cross was nailed the accusations against Christ. This paper was not intended to put away the law but to uphold it.
John also lets us know that Jesus was not crucified within the city walls but “near the city.” Likewise, when applied to believers identifying with Christ, Heb. 13:12-14 says,
12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 So, let us go out to Him outside the camp [i.e., outside Judaism], bearing His reproach. 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
We seek a city other than the earthly Jerusalem. We seek the same city that Abraham sought, which was a heavenly city (Heb. 11:16), and which is represented, not as Zion but as Sion. It is Mount Hermon, the place where Jesus was transfigured and the origin of sonship itself (Heb. 12:22, KJV; Deut. 4:48).