POSTED 06 NOVEMBER, 2017
“Pilate then took Yeshua and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they began to come up to Him and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and to give Him slaps in the face. Pilate came out again and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.’ Yeshua then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold, the Man!’ So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, ‘Crucify, crucify!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.’”
reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume I
The scene of Yeshua’s humiliation is surely important, as it bears testimony to the unjustified and unwarranted torture He endured, particularly at the hands of Roman soldiers, who mocked the Lord, dressing Him up in a costume as though He were an Earthly king (John 19:1-4). Pontius Pilate, having let this take place, presents Yeshua before the crowd (John 19:5), which broadly exclaims “Put him to death on the stake! Put him to death on the stake!” (John 19:6a, CJB/CJSB). Pilate, being a customary Roman, does not think that any Roman law has been violated (John 19:6b), and so the crowd, and in particular the Jewish religious leaders, specify why Yeshua of Nazareth must be put to death:
“We have a Torah, and by that Torah He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7, PME).
Apparently, according to the Torah or Law of Moses, because Yeshua identified Himself as “the Son of God” (huion Theou), He was worthy of the death sentence. The statement “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (NIV), does require some evaluation, given the titular usage of “Son of God.” Frequently, as is seen from the Tanach or Old Testament, the title of “Son of God,” is one of Messianic significance, given to the King of Israel:
“I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’” (Psalm 2:7).
“He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’ I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:26-27).
A figure like King David could be called “Son of God,” without any hint of Divinity. And so, it is to be fairly recognized that Yeshua of Nazareth, as the Messiah and as a descendant of David, could call Himself the “Son of God” in a similar manner. Somebody calling themselves “the Messiah,” and hence “the Son of God,” would hardly merit the death penalty by the Jewish religious leadership. Only if something greater were involved with Yeshua being the “Son of God,” could the Torah’s direction about blasphemy be possibly appealed to (Leviticus 24:16). Given the close identification and interconnection between Yeshua the Messiah and the God of Israel detailed within the Gospel of John, the crowd that was calling for Yeshua’s execution could only be doing so because they did recognize how Yeshua presented Himself as “the Son of God”—perhaps by various actions, or by various declarations—as being integrated into the Divine Identity. They considered this to be blasphemy. A number of commentators we have been examining concur with these conclusions:
- F.F. Bruce: “Their language presupposes that a claim to be Son of God was ipso facto blasphemous and rendered the claimant liable to the death penalty prescribed in Lev. 24:16, as indeed it is presupposed earlier in this Gospel (cf. 5:18; 10:33). In the OT the anointed king of Israel was son of God by adoption (cf. Ps. 2:7; 89:26f.); but our Lord’s contemporaries recognized (rightly) that much more than this official relationship was implied in the language he used.”
- Leon Morris: “The term ‘law’ is used here, not of the whole Pentateuch, but of one particular ordinance, in this case clearly the law of blasphemy (Lev. 24:16). By this law, they say, Jesus ought to die because He has made Himself Son of God ( 5:18; 8:53; 10:33 for this accusation). It was His religious claims that antagonized them. ‘Son of God’ is an emphatic position. It was nothing less than this that He had made Himself.”
- D.A. Carson: “The language of the Jewish officials, ‘he claimed to be the Son of God’, almost sounds as if the claim itself was sufficient to presume guilt of blasphemy. In many contexts that was demonstrably untrue. The anointed king of Israel was sometimes referred to as God’s Son in the Old Testament (Pss. 2:7; 89:26-27), and in some intertestimental sources ‘Son of God’ is parallel to Messiah (4Q Florilegium…). But Jesus’ opponents rightly recognize that as he uses the title here there are overtones not only of messiahship but of sharing the rights and authority of God himself (cf. 1:34; 5:19-30).”
- Gary M. Burge: “Was it illegal to claim to be the Son of God? This is hardly the case. The king of Israel enjoyed this title (see Ps. 2, 45, 89, and 110), and it appears for the Messiah in various writings of intertestimental Jewish literature (such as Qumran). But the language veils another worry: by ‘son’ Jesus has said more, implying that he bears the authority of God himself.”
There is no immediate reason for Yeshua, calling Himself the “Son of God,” for Him to be condemned to death by the Torah as a blasphemer. However, if Yeshua being the “Son of God” involves His pre-existence of the universe and His integration into the Divine Identity, His being God—then the limited Jewish and Roman mortals depicted in this scene would, from their perspective, have some legitimate reason to sentence Him to death.
 “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death” (Leviticus 24:16).
 Bruce, John, 360.
 Morris, John, 795.
 Carson, John, 599.
 Burge, John, 504.