“Everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.” Luke 18:31b-33
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate …
Who was Pontius Pilate and why would his actions be included in an essential expression of Christian faith? Let’s begin with the fact that Pontius Pilate was a real Roman governor and judge. The purpose of noting this is that the record of Christ’s suffering is not one of mythology and legend. The sufferings of Christ were real, and the effect of His real atoning sacrifice will be our real eternal salvation. Through Jesus we are delivered from the penalty of sin and death.
Jesus’ entire ministry was directed toward the cross. The cross was the cup of suffering and wrath that He would drink to the bottom. It is essential to note that Jesus was innocent in His suffering; he was falsely accused. The gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion record that the Jews pressed for His crucifixion from unbelief in His claim to be the Son of God, and from jealousy of His popularity with the masses. From Pilate’s perspective, crucifying Jesus was the most politically expedient way to calm a riotous crowd and consolidate his political power. Pilate even admitted publicly that Jesus was innocent. However, all these conflicting and sinful motives ultimately worked out the purposes of God that Jesus might be put to death in His innocence as the Lamb of God.
The sufferings of Christ were atoning and substitutional. Jesus was pierced for our transgressions crushed for our sins (Isaiah 53:5). The sufferings of Jesus unto death were more than sufficient to pay the price of justice before God. Jesus suffered according to the will of God, but Jesus was motivated by love – a love for you and me. Obligation and duty were not His motivation. Jesus went to the cross for the “joy” set before Him of accomplishing the salvation of His beloved children (Hebrews 12:2, John 1:12).
However, the sufferings of Christ were not only physical. In His death, the wrath of God toward sin was poured out on Jesus. In His just anger, God the Father turned His favor and face away from Jesus. Jesus was forsaken on the cross because of the sins of the world counted against Him (Matthew 27:45-50). In His resurrection from the dead, Jesus overcame death.
By grace through faith, we are not destined for the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). We are sparred by the substitution of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-12)! We will receive the blessing and reward of being counted righteous in Christ! Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate so that we might not have to face death and judgment before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Jesus, we will receive eternal life, a place in the Kingdom of God, a place of welcome at His table … but not yet.
It is the will of God, that as we live this life, we take up our cross and join Jesus in His sufferings. By sharing in difficulty and hardship, we do not expect to rise above the station of Jesus Our Savior. We expect in this life we will be poured out for the sake of accomplishing God’s will. Like the Apostle Paul, we count all that the world has to offer as loss in light of the opportunity to have eternal life and personal relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord. “The way of glory comes through the way of the cross” (Mohler). The fullness of the Kingdom of God will not come in this life. His Kingdom is not of this world. Now is a time of sowing, a time of labor, a time to be poured out to accomplish the will of God. Now is a time of dying to self, a time to go into the world making disciples of Jesus Christ, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.
As we go into a time of the Lord’s Supper this Sunday, consider reading over the words written long ago by Isaac Watts in the hymn “When I Survey the Wonderous Cross.” Consider Jesus who suffered under Pontius Pilate. He suffered for you that you might be forgiven of your sins and have eternal life.
May you believe in Jesus today!