The mass-murders (genocide) of Christians and others in the Middle East today bear a stark resemblance to what happened to the Lord, Jesus Christ. This is because Satan cannot stand the existence of God, His Son, or His people. His fury demands nothing less than brutality and barbaric acts. It has to be this way, because he and his minions have no argument worth putting forward. Though Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, he nevertheless sent him back to the vicious Jews for the inevitable penalty based on a false accusation.
Christians in Britain today are threatened by the same mindless violence and intolerance from sexual perverts, from government, as well as from religious fakes whose only argument is ‘kill them’! For many years I have warned Christians that if they have unsaved friends, they should not be surprised if those ‘friends’ turn on them at some time, no matter how ‘close’ they appear to be (they cannot be truly close because there is no spiritual connection at all; their thinking and motives are entirely different and sinful). The time of ‘friends’ and even superficial ‘Christians’ turning on us all is now very close indeed, because Satan will use anyone (including those who were once very friendly) to bring us down.
If we are true to God and witness to these unsaved people (who, says scripture, we should not be too close to anyway), then we are already open to their potential hatred. This is what Christ promised His followers.
Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
Pilate had nothing against Jesus, and even knew Him to be innocent. Yet, he had Him scourged. I would suggest that there is nothing in the biblical record to say that Pilate had any hatred for Jesus, and we should not misinterpret it. Rather, Pilate was well aware of the danger to himself if the Jewish rulers complained to the Emperor.
(Pilate was a tough, hard man, but he was also judicious. I have no doubt that the duplicity of the Jewish rulers really angered him, but he felt it was not his place to argue against them. All he wanted was to keep Judaea quiet as possible. His decision to scourge Jesus was a political, not a personal, one. Another reason for this decision was that he only commanded a small Roman force, which could never accommodate any response to a possible Jewish uprising. Only the overall ruler in Syria could do that by sending legions from the north. At any rate, any trouble would cause the Emperor to question Pilate’s ability to rule. Pilate was from the Equestrian order of military governors, so was of lower social rank, and did not wish to be sent to Rome for questioning).
He had Jesus scourged by his Roman soldiers. Though a serious response in itself, it was only meant as a sign that Pilate had no part in any Jewish punishment. He hoped it would suffice. Scourging was whipping. The Jewish method was to use three long thongs of knotted leather. Sometimes each thong had small stones or metal spikes attached along its length. This whip was used to deliver 39 individual ‘stripes’ – 13 on the bare chest, and thirteen on the back of each shoulder.
The purpose of scourging was not so much a punishment, as a means of finding out why a man was accused. That is, Pilate needed to see if Jesus would buckle under such vicious treatment and admit to a crime. If He did, He would be delivered to the Jews anyway. The whipping by a Roman soldier would have been severe, for Roman soldiers were known for their brutality, especially as they had no time, as pagans, for the Jewish God, Who they saw as a myth.
Because Pilate had no feelings one way or the other concerning Jesus, he not only ordered His scourging, but he allowed the soldiers to mock Him. They quickly weaved a crown of thorns and made Jesus wear a robe (possibly a cloak) of purple, the colour reserved for kings. It is highly possible that by allowing this, Pilate, who knew Him to be innocent, hoped the Jews would be satisfied by a public humiliation of the Lord. Though this is speculation, it is a reasonable thought, given the political situation and the hatred of the Jews.
The crown was weaved roughly from brambles that had long thorns. This, too, was meant to mimic the plaited garland worn by Roman emperors, as yet another humiliation. Some think the brambles were from a weed (Zizyphus spina Christi) that grew abundantly in the area to a height of about twenty feet. It had flexible branches that could easily be entwined into a crown. However, the most likely weed is thought to have been the qundaul vine (from the Arabic), which was, and is, also pliable and has thorns about 1.5 inches long. The Romans would not have been adverse to ramming it onto Christ’s head, causing extensive bleeding and pain to Jesus, but mirth in the soldiers.
But, these rough men were not yet finished with Christ, for they also ‘smote him with their hands’ (verse 3). This primarily refers to slapping Him hard on the face. It also includes beating with a rod. This seems to fit the description of Jesus’ face after the event, as one whose facial features were unrecognisable, being nothing but a bloodied mess. To top their pagan dismissal of Jesus and to heap even more humiliation on Him, the soldiers mocked by shouting ‘Hail. King of the Jews!’ They did not realise that all this was not humiliation to God, but a confirmation of Jesus’ honour and Lordship, a fulfilling of prophecy.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.
After this, Pilate sent Jesus out to the Jewish rulers, saying that Jesus had done no wrong in his eyes, so surely this punishment was enough. When Jesus stumbled forward wearing the thorns and robe, Pilate said ‘Behold the man!’ Pilate had no conception of Jesus as God, but only as an innocent man.
But, the wicked rulers would have none of it; they had come too far to let the situation slip away from them. Their only reaction was to shout ‘Crucify, crucify’! (The word ‘him’, as in ‘crucify him’, was inserted, correctly, by translators to aid reading fluency).
At this, Pilate decided not to interfere, and said they could take Him to be crucified… but that he himself found Him to be innocent. He had had enough of this profound hatred and bickering. If handing Jesus over to death was going to keep the Jews quiet, then it would be an answer to the problem. Even today, when wicked men scream abuse and demand ultimate penalties for those they hate, and for long enough, authorities will capitulate, though they know the penalties are rough and illicit. They will even enshrine it in law (which is not true law), to satisfy the wicked men who demand it. Make no mistake, our enemies in the West today would easily demand our deaths if they could get away with it… and such a penalty might still come soon.
The words seem odd, for Pilate said ‘...crucify ye him: for I find no fault in him’. This might seem to say that he wanted Jesus to die BECAUSE He was innocent. The conjunction, ‘for’, means what it says, however, we should understand it in its Jewish context. In which case it can be interpreted as ‘yet’, or ‘as the case stands’. Throughout his involvement, Pilate was against this Jewish falsity, and keen for the release of Jesus.
The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;
And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?
Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
In an effort to justify their demand, the Jewish rulers gave a ‘reason’ (in reality it was not justification but a rationalisation; an excuse used by many in the churches today to cover their heresies and errors) – Jesus said He was the Son of God, and by Jewish law any such claim was punishable by death. The fact that Jesus proved His divinity many times was just cast aside for the sake of their legalistic ideas: they should have accepted that He was the Messiah because of the many proofs. So, the Jewish rulers abused their laws to kill Jesus, the Messiah, and Pilate allowed it, to free himself of their potential uprising or complaint to Caesar, if he did not comply.
We now have a very interesting observation – that Pilate was ‘afraid’ when he heard their accusation. The word ‘afraid’ means to be terrified. Why should this tough Roman, with pagan beliefs, suddenly be terrified?
It could have nothing to do with the accusation itself, for he wanted nothing to do with what he knew to be a trumped-up charge. There can only be one answer. Given the context – the realisation given by God to his mind and heart, that this was the Son of God. Pilate must have inwardly experienced the awe of God’s presence, without understanding what it was. Have you ever feared something or someone without knowing why? For Pilate this was nothing less than the fear of God, but, as a pagan, he did not really know how to respond.
Filled with this dread, Pilate went back to where Jesus was. This time, He did not ask WHO He was, but ‘Where have you come from?’ He wanted to know Jesus’ origin. This time Jesus stayed silent.
Pilate was agitated by this and said ‘Why don’t you speak to me? Don’t you understand that I have the power to either crucify you, or to release you?’ His words here suggest that, if pressed, he could indeed release Jesus and ignore the Jews, even if it meant unrest. He WANTED Jesus to give him a reason to release Him. But, of course this would not agree with prophecy.
Jesus’ answer must have shocked and intrigued Pilate, who by now was much less confident than when he first met Him. It is obvious that Pilate had a feeling something was happening, and it was greater than himself. Jesus told Pilate that he had no power at all, unless it was first given to him ‘from above’. That is, from God/’above’. It does not mean ‘from Rome’.
This answer unsettled Pilate, even though Jesus told him that the greater sin was with the Pharisees who sought His death. (This one text, spoken by Jesus Himself, tells us that the idea that ‘all sins are equal’ is not correct. Sins are only equal in the matter of salvation. There are degrees of sin before and after salvation, as is evidenced in many verses of scripture. In this case the greater sin is by those who wished to murder Him; the ‘lesser’ sin is by Pilate). In other words, though Pilate is still culpable, God viewed the Pharisees as the bearers of His wrath.
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.
And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!
But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.
Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.
When Jesus told him this, Pilate tried harder to get Him released. There is an element of belief in this; Pilate’s heart was troubled. But, the wicked Pharisees cried out for blood! In a sense, though responsible for the passing of the death sentence (because only a Roman ruler could authorise it), Pilate’s sin was far less than the sin of the Pharisees. He was just the political pawn successfully used by the Jews to bring about the end they had wanted for Jesus for the past three years.
The Jews were already well rehearsed in how to deal with Pilate and had prepared their argument in advance. This implies that they KNEW their charges were false, but needed a backup plan. They reminded him that Caesar would not see his act as friendly towards Rome. How? Because, they said, Jesus “made himself the king of Judaea, and so is treasonous’. There was no way that Pilate could combat that. He was forced into a corner and knew he had no other options, even though he felt great fear about what was happening. Yet, it was all part of what HAD to happen.
Now came the moment of judgment, signified by Pilate sitting down in the great hall, which was called Gabatha/the Pavement. Gabatha is Aramaic (though some say it is Hebrew, which it is not). The Greek name is Lithostrōtos. It is reference to the paved area before the judgment seat but, more pertinently, it refers to the large paved area outside the hall. The Sanhedrin met in an area known as the Pavement, which was half inside the hall and half outside. It seems likely that Jesus was made to stand before the judgment seat, but in the outer part of the hall, so that everything was made public.
Pilate spoke to the Pharisees, saying ‘Behold your king!’ I do not believe he was mocking Jesus. Given the words that passed between Jesus and him in private, Pilate would hardly have been scornful. It seems that Pilate actually meant what he said – This IS your king. To me this is a reasonable assumption. We are told that it was the sixth hour, at the preparation time of the Passover.
(We have hitherto thought that perhaps this referred to the period after the Passover meal, the feast of unleavened bread. We are not sure. The feast itself lasted six days. It is therefore possible that the meal Jesus had was one of the meals eaten every night for those six days, and that what was coming was the final paschal supper. Or, as has already been suggested, the time of unleavened bread. In which case both references to the Passover would be correct. It should be noted that the sixth hour is variously interpreted by scholars).
Pilate’s statement was not what the Pharisees wanted to hear! Like all who have a predetermined agenda in their minds, they shouted for death. As we might say colloquially today, ‘The red mist descended’. They cried ‘Away with him...’. This has several meanings, including the obvious – remove Him! It can also refer (in this case, inadvertently) to being elevated... such as would happen during crucifixion.
They called for Jesus’ death, but Pilate gave what appears to have been a genuinely concerned answer: ‘What! You want me to kill your king?’ I do not see this as sarcasm, but as Pilate’s own belief that Jesus was, after all, a king, or at least claimed to be. The Pharisees, though, who SHOULD have accepted Jesus as the Messiah, were murderous: ‘We have no king but Caesar.’
This was, in essence, a treasonous thing to say; it was treason in the light of their religion and allegiance to God alone. It was certainly treason in the eyes of all who wanted to break away from Rome – and there were many of these. But, the hatred of the Pharisees led them to murder, not acceptance. They wanted to retain their perceived power and authority, even though they were mere puppets.
Their answer clinched it, for Pilate could not resist such their outward claim to be subject to Rome and not to a Jewish king (though they had several in various parts of the country. It was not an earthly king they rejected, but the Messiah as King of kings).
I can almost hear Pilate’s sigh as he reluctantly handed Jesus over to the murderous Pharisees, who led Him away.
And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.
And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.
This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
Jesus was forced to carry the cross to His place of crucifixion. Some insist that by ‘cross’ is meant the bar across the top of an upright stake. However, the word ‘cross’ or stauros was merely the instrument used to kill a person, or a reference to the kind of death it was used for. It does not necessarily mean a stake with an horizontal bar. The primary meaning is an upright stake with a pointed end. In scripture the cross, then, was an upright stake. The idea of a stake with a cross-piece was brought into being about three centuries later, to accommodate the beliefs of pagans. Hence the tau, or cross as we now see it, though it is incorrect and part of Roman paganism.
Jesus carried His stake through Jerusalem, and into the immediate outer area of the city, called Golgotha (skull). It was apparently just outside one of the city gates, a small hill.
The text simply says ‘Where they crucified him’. Each side were two criminals, also crucified. Theirs was a ‘genuine’ judicial killing for crimes committed. It is probable that their crimes were bad, for crucifixion was usually reserved for the worst criminals.
Pilate had ordered a sign to be put on top of the stake/cross of Jesus. If the Jews were successful in their demand, at least he could write something that conveyed his own belief! The sign read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews’. And so everyone who saw it knew what Jesus died for. The sign was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. (The order of these languages is argued about, but see my article on this issue).
Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.
Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
The Pharisees had not yet finished with Jesus, though He was already almost dead. This is how sinful people are – they want not just our death, but our humiliation and character assassination! Though not experiencing anything like the final hours of Jesus, I have known intense continuing attacks, even after my enemies have had their way. They wanted, and still want, full crushing obliteration of my body and soul. This is Satan at work, enflaming wicked, unsaved minds.
The chief priests complained to Pilate. Note ‘chief priests’ in the plural. There were a fairly large number of them. The Chief or High Priest was chosen annually, but all the previous ones retained their titles. They objected to the words written by Pilate – that Jesus was the King of the Jews. They demanded a more subtle title... that “He SAID He was the King of the Jews”, thus reducing the title to a mere personal opinion of Jesus.
The chief priests were not content to watch Jesus die – they wanted Him to be disregarded in the minds of His followers. Oh how Annas must have laughed – for it was he who owned the various commercial booths in the Temple courtyard, the same ones overturned by Jesus!
I can imagine Pilate’s fury, even if he did not show it. He simply denied them a change of title on the board above Jesus’ head. ‘I have written what I have written, and that’s final!’. Many Christians today will submit to enemies, even within the churches, who demand that they obey their particular beliefs. This should never be so. If we hold to beliefs we honestly know to be scriptural, then no power on earth should cause us to shift.
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.
They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
The emphasis now moves from the chief priests to the common soldiers on Golgotha, who were sitting around after their morning’s work. These were Roman soldiers, not Temple guards. We know this because a centurion was in charge of them. We also know there were four soldiers on duty at that time, for each garment and item was distributed amongst the four, including His sandals.
His outer coat, however, was of excellent quality, woven without a single seam, making it quite desirable. Recognising its quality, the soldiers did not want to lose the opportunity to have it, so decided to cast lots. Though it might seem a random act, it was actually a fulfilment of prophecy (Psalm 22).
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, stood nearby. Her son was in mortal agony, and she was in soul agony, the kind any mother would naturally feel for her son. The actions of the soldiers only made things worse for her. She was a virtuous woman, having been chosen as a maiden to bear the child. Though she had other children, Jesus was special, so His death to her was a worse agony.
Mary (or, more correctly, her name was Miriam or Maria; Miriam is the better translation for the name is rooted in the Hebrew, Miryam) had a sister of the same name, Mary, the wife of Cleophas. They were the parents of the Apostle James the Less. Mary Magdalene (often a woman whose name has been abused by many in the churches) stood with them, being one whose life was transformed by Jesus. The apostle John also stood with them.
As they silently wept, Jesus saw His mother and spoke to her, telling her to accept John as her own son. Mary would have been about 49 or 50 at that time. Likewise, Jesus spoke to John, saying that he was to look upon Mary as his own mother. In this way Jesus took care of his mother. John accepted this charge and thereafter Mary lived in his own home. Do we similarly look after the saints who need help?
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Jesus now knew His time of death was close, for everything He came to earth to do was now finished. He called out that he was thirsty. Near the crosses the soldiers had a pot filled with vinegar. This was a mixture of sour wine and water, which had a sharp taste, usually the drink of common Roman soldiers. Earlier Jesus refused to drink this rough wine offered by a soldier, because it would have dulled the pain. All Jesus needed was to wet His lips. A soldier dipped a sponge tied to hyssop. The ‘sponge’ was not the sea-kind, but a fungus that was able to soak up liquid. Hyssop was a bunched-up plant used by Jews in ritual sprinkling. The branch of which was offered to the mouth of Jesus.
As soon as this was done, Jesus said ‘It is finished’. This was a very poignant statement, for it means everything was now at a close, His whole reason for coming to earth, at the command of the Father, was now completed. Thus, the entire original Gospel era was now brought to an end. It would be continued as a copy by the Apostles and by all preachers to this day. It also meant that His body was now ready to die – no man took His life from Him: Jesus gave up His life willingly and at His own command. He simply bowed His head and made His own body lifeless.
He had accomplished everything He set out to do, with His Father’s loving approval, so He no longer had a reason to stay on this earth. It would soon be time for the Holy Spirit to fill the gap left by His death. God does not leave us alone in this wicked world!
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
It was close to the start of preparation for the feast-day, so in a bizarre type of morality, the Jews could not allow bodies to remain hanging into the time of the feast-day, which was also a special sabbath day (that is because it was the Passover). We are only told of three crucifixions – there may have been more. They all had to come down... but dead.
In a disgusting parody of religious fervour, the Pharisees asked Pilate to make sure the legs of the hanging men should be broken, to hasten their deaths. On non-special days bodies would have hung for a long time, allowing dogs, wild animals and birds to eat the flesh. But, twisted religious thinking did not want this during Passover! Once the legs were broken, the men would die swiftly, and could be removed from the scene. Even today, religious men have peculiar unholy ideas, believing them to be true, their cold hearts showing an outward zeal for God.
As ordered, the soldiers broke the legs of the thieves either side of Jesus. When they came to Jesus they saw He was already dead, so did not break His legs. Even this was prophesied (Zec. 12:10). However, one of the Roman soldiers decided to stab Jesus’ side with his spear, the wound pouring forth water and blood. This action by the soldier was not according to custom, yet it again fulfilled prophecy, for the spear was aimed at the heart; blood gushed out because Jesus was only just dead, thus proving He was not just in a swoon; the water was probably from His lungs. Some have spiritualised ideas about this blood and water, but without proofs we cannot use them.
John was there and testified to all the facts, for the sake of the other apostles and those who would later believe the Gospel.
And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
After Jesus died, one of Jesus’ disciples, Joseph of Ramah or Arimathaea (the birthplace of Samuel, Mount Ephraim), a member of the Sanhedrin, asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body. Before this he was afraid of his fellow Jewish leaders and would not show his allegiance to the Lord. (Even now, though a very small and insignificant example, many who believe what we write in our ministry do not openly show their acknowledgment of us, for fear of rebuke from their fellows!) Pilate agreed and Joseph gathered up Jesus’ body for removal.
Another member of the Sanhedrin, the one who secretly visited Jesus at night, Nicodemus, then came forward with material to embalm Jesus with; a hundred pound weight of myrrh and aloes. In this time a hundred pounds was 1200 ounces. This substantial amount contained the myrrh, a costly perfume from Arabia, and aloes, from India and China. They could be used for other purposes, but in this case, for embalming the body of Christ. They were melted down to form a thick liquid.
We are not sure if ‘they’ (in verse 39) refers only to Joseph and Nicodemus, or to others. They wound burial cloth around Jesus after first washing Him, and covering Him in the spices, according to Jewish custom. They did this in a place not named, perhaps a house. Notice that the burial cloths were wound around Jesus’ body, not just laid over Him.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
A garden adjoined Golgotha, a place of rest amidst the dead. In that garden was a new, unused sepulchre/tomb, owned by Joseph. Both Joseph and Nicodemus worked fast to get Jesus ready for burial, so as not to corrupt the Jewish day of preparation for the feast. The same zealous Jews did not seem to accept that He was murdered by them! What mattered was that they should obey their strict laws!
They embalmed and wrapped the body and quickly placed Him in the tomb. And, as we know from other texts, the opening was covered by a large round stone. We also know that Temple guards were placed outside the tomb, to make sure no-one tried to remove the body to use it for propaganda purposes. In itself this was a wonderful testimony, that Jesus had in fact died, and was buried.
© June 2015
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
Please 'Make a Donation' to support the work of Bible Theology Ministries