Monday, April 16, 2007



Now in the 23rd chapter of Luke we come to the Roman trials Jesus faced: Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king." So Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "You have said so," Jesus replied.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man." But they insisted, "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here."

On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends-before this they had been enemies.

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him."

With one voice they cried out, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!" (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

For the third time he spoke to them: "Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him."

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

The trials before the Roman authorities started with Pilate (John 18:23) after Jesus was beaten. The charges brought against Him were very different from the charges in His religious trials. He was charged with inciting people to riot, forbidding the people to pay their taxes, and claiming to be King. Pilate found no reason to kill Jesus so he sent Him to Herod (Luke 23:7). Herod had Jesus ridiculed, but wanting to avoid the political liability, sent Jesus back to Pilate (Luke 23:11-12). This was the last trial as Pilate tried to appease the animosity of the Jews by having Jesus scourged. The Roman scourge is a terrible whipping of 39 lashes. In a final effort to have Jesus released, Pilate offered the prisoner Barabbas to be crucified and Jesus released, but to no avail. The crowds called for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. Pilate granted their demand and surrendered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:25). The trials of Jesus represent the ultimate mockery of justice. Jesus, the most innocent man in the history of the world, was found guilty of crimes and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Talk about going along with the herd!

All those who go on pilgrimage to Israel will visit the site of Caesarea by the Sea. And at that site archaeologists found an inscription naming Pontius Pilate as the Prefect of Judea. This was a military title for a commander of 500 to 1000 troops. He is mentioned by Josephus, Philo, and Tacitus, and, of course, in the Gospels. He is appointed in 26 AD with the support of his mentor, Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard. Pilate quickly builds a reputation of contempt for Jewish customs and beliefs. He is dismissed by Emperor Tiberius in 36 or 37 AD.

One of my professors, Dr. Hoehner, suggests a motive for Pilate being so pliable under the pressure of the Jewish leadership. He says, "If Jesus is crucified in 33 AD, as many believe, Pilate has only recently received news of the execution of his mentor Sejanus, and may realize that, with his lack of political support in Rome, he must be more compliant with Jewish demands than he had been in the past."

Herod has tried to see Jesus before (9:7-9), understanding him as a sort of John-the-Baptist figure. Now he gets his wish. Unfortunately, Herod isn't interested in truth but in entertainment. He wants to see Jesus perform one of those miracles he has heard about. But Herod takes neither John the Baptist or Jesus seriously. The picture of Herod painted by the New Testament as well as contemporary historians such as Josephus is one of a vain, selfish, and ruthless king. But Herod receives no amusement this day. He asks Jesus numerous questions, but Jesus says nothing.

So, Pilate gave in to the crowd's demands. As was the custom, the Roman authority would release a prisoner during Passover. What is incredible is that Jesus was charged with insurrection and being a rebel against the Roman government. Yet, when Pilate released Barabbas, he was releasing a man who truly was an insurrectionist and a rebel against the government.

This all reminds me of what Peter says about Jesus' actions in the face of these accusations. "But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

Jesus suffered in the following manner: · He committed no sin · No deceit was found in His mouth · He did not retaliate · He made no threats · He entrusted Himself to God · He was willing to hurt in order to heal!

We are to suffer injustice in the same way. Peter says, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, THAT YOU SHOULD FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS. This seems difficult and maybe even impossible, but we'll uncover the bottom line reason for all of this suffering and death to bring about healing to the world tomorrow, when we discuss the crucifixion. Don't miss it!