July 26, 2007

From Gabbatha to Golgotha: The Awful Sentence at The Pavement

John 19:13

I became interested in the passage in John 19:13 after watching the movie, The Gospel of John (Buena Vista Home Entertainment/Disney, 2005). In the movie scene, Pontius Pilate is in the courtyard sitting in the judgment seat as Jesus is brought out to him and the angry crowd. It is here that Christ was sentenced as Pilate had already made his politically expeditious judgment in the inner chambers of his palace.

Gabbatha is an Aramaic word that means elevated, or platform. In the Hebrew, it was also called "Pavement," where the judgment-seat (or bema) was placed, from which Pilate delivered our Lord to death. It was a place paved with a mosaic of colored stones and stood on an eminence, so that the judge sitting on his throne might be seen and heard by a considerable number of people. The modern-day bema is the judge’s bench, which is typically elevated and located at the head of the courtroom.

Interestingly, for hundreds of years, scholars used the “myth” of Gabbatha to reject John’s record of Jesus and the trial by Pilate, because there was no historical record of a court called Gabbatha or “The Pavement” in Jerusalem. However, famous archaeologist William Albright revealed that this place was in fact the court of the Tower of Antonia, which was destroyed by the Romans in 66-70 AD. It was left buried when Jerusalem was rebuilt in the time of Hadrian, but it was uncovered during excavations there [William Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, Penguin Books, 1960].

So, when Pilate had sat down in the judgment seat, in the place that is called the pavement, the decision had been made. All that was necessary was to make it official. It may have been the seat of judgment, but it was not the seat of justice. It may have seemed expedient to hand down the sentence but it was certainly not the seat of equity. There is often no justice and equity in the judgments of men.

And bearing His cross, Jesus went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha. The skull has been a symbol of death. This spot was outside of the gates of the city on the side of a hill, which has the appearance of a skull. It was a sad but needful reality: Had not Christ been rejected of men, we would have been forever rejected of God. So, Jesus was delivered into the hands of wicked and unreasonable men and nailed to the cross as the necessary Sacrifice to reconcile men to God.

Consider the cross from five viewpoints:

1. From the viewpoint of God, the cross was the propitiation for sin. There the full holiness and justice of God was satisfied. Now God can forgive man’s sin without violating His justice.

2. From the viewpoint of Jesus, it was an act of obedience unto the will of the Father. Becoming a sin offering and giving Himself as a sacrifice for man's sin.

3. From the standpoint of the believer, it was substitution. He was there in my place, dying the death that I deserved.

4. From the standpoint of Satan, it was a "victory" as he bruised the seed of the woman, but it also became his ultimate defeat as through Christ's death, He destroyed him that had power over death.

5. As far as the world is concerned, it was an unjust, brutal murder.

Christ’s death means life, eternal life for you (John 3:16)! Gabbatha, the Stone Pavement, is a Place of Decision. It is a place mentioned in the Bible where Pontius Pilate judged Jesus. Gabbatha is where the question was first asked and it is the the one Question we must all ask ourselves, "What will I do with this Jesus, called the Christ?"

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