Easter Devotional | 2024 - Day 1

Jesus Is Condemned to Death

By Dr. Ben Lovvorn

“Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.” ~ Matthew 27:26

In this devotional series, we’re reflecting on the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering that Jesus endured as He went to the cross. The first station on the Via Dolorosa marks the moment when Jesus was condemned to death. The sentence was passed. But it’s worth taking some time to ask a further question—who condemned Jesus to death? Who put Jesus onto the way of suffering? Who sent Jesus to the cross? 

Your immediate answer might be Pilate. From the earliest days of the church, Pilate was associated with Christ’s suffering and death. The Apostles’ Creed says Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” As a Roman governor, Pilate was the only authority who could give the death penalty. He had Jesus scourged, and then Matthew tells us Pilate “handed [Jesus] over to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26). So there we have it—Pilate sent Jesus to the cross. 

But then again, although the process ended with Pilate, that’s not where it started. Pilate wasn’t so keen on crucifying Jesus. After his examination, Pilate was ready to release Him. But the chief priests and the elders put pressure on Pilate (Matthew 27:20). The Jewish leaders had been plotting to destroy Jesus long before this (Matthew 27:1, 18). Then it must be the Jewish leaders who sent Jesus to the cross.

But the Jewish leaders had some help from the inside. It was Judas Iscariot, one of Christ’s own disciples, who handed Jesus over to them (Matthew 26:47–50). He betrayed His Lord for a bribe (Matthew 27:3). So it was Judas who sent Jesus to the cross. 

But there was more going on. Judas wasn’t acting alone. Scripture says that Satan entered Judas just before he made the fatal deal. Satan’s role in Christ’s death was long foretold. All the way back in Genesis 3:15, God had promised that Satan and Jesus would come into conflict, with Satan striking a blow: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15). Satan, that ancient serpent, sent Jesus to the cross.

But it was Adam and Eve’s sin that preceded this prophecy about Satan. They were deceived, disobeyed God’s command, and deserved death (Genesis 3:1–13). But God spared their lives and provided a way for their sin to be atoned for: by sacrifice. So this must mean Adam and Eve sent Jesus to the cross. 

But if we go back to the story of Christ’s sentencing, remember that Pilate had offered a way out. He appealed to the people directly and asked if they wanted Jesus to be set free (Matthew 27:15). The people were given two options. On one side was Barabbas, a convicted criminal and insurrectionist. On the other side was Jesus. The crowd demanded that Jesus be put to death, shouting “Crucify! Crucify!” Pilate washed his hands in front of them. Their collective response was, “His blood shall be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). It was the people who sent Jesus to the cross. 

But who is included among these people? Was it just those who were there in the first century, those who happened to be in Jerusalem at the time? Scripture says otherwise. Peter says it like this in 1 Peter 3:18, “Christ… died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust . . .” He’s the Just One. But we’re the unjust ones. It wasn’t just Adam and Eve, and it wasn’t just a crowd of first-century Jews who sent Jesus to the cross. It was you. It was me. We sent Him to the cross. Our sins brought about the need for His atoning death. 

And yet still, this isn’t the full story. Jesus is not a passive victim, cut down by evil plots. He didn’t get thrown on death row against His will. He chose this. Scripture says, “for the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus Himself had once said, “no one has taken [my life] away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative” (John 10:18). In a profound sense, the answer we’ve been looking for is Jesus—Jesus sent Himself on the Via Dolorosa. He sent Himself to the cross. 

But there’s an even more profound answer, one that takes us into the mystery of our triune God. The death of Jesus was part of the missio dei, the mission of God, to redeem us and give us eternal life. It was the Father who sent His Son to the cross: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). 

Questions for Thought

  1. Read Matthew 27:15–26. This was the last opportunity given for Christ’s death sentence to be stopped. What stands out about this conversation between Pilate and the crowd? Is there anything ironic about it?
  2. Have you ever spent time dwelling on the fact that Jesus chose to die for you? What difference does this make in how you think about God and how you relate to Him?

Daily Challenge

Read Matthew 26:36–56. Write down a few things you notice about what Jesus was thinking and praying as He went into custody. Reflect on how this deepens your understanding of Christ’s death and sacrifice for us.

Author Bio

Dr. Ben Lovvorn

Executive Pastor

Dr. Ben Lovvorn serves by leading and overseeing the ministries, administration, and operation of First Baptist Dallas. As Executive Pastor, Dr. Lovvorn also provides leadership to the church’s worldwide broadcast ministry, Pathway to Victory, and serves as the President of First Dallas Media, which owns and operates KCBI, one of the most listened-to Christian radio stations in the country. He has served in full-time ministry for more than a decade and is passionate about building the church of Jesus Christ and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Dr. Lovvorn earned a PhD in Christian Leadership in Ministry from Liberty University’s School of Divinity, a Juris Doctorate from Baylor Law School, and a BBA from Hardin Simmons University where he played college football for the HSU Cowboys. Dr. Lovvorn and his wife, Parris, have four sons and one daughter.

Author in Israel