Jesus Before Pilate
In our previous message we saw how the Jewish Sanhedrin acted as a lynch mob bringing Jesus to Pilate, the Roman Procurator of Palestine, to be sentenced to death. In John 18:29-30 we learn that when Pilate asked them for the charges, they disrespectfully answered him by saying “If He were not a malefactor we would not have brought Him to you.” They rudely ignored Pilate’s request for their charges against Jesus by implying to Pilate, “How dare you question our integrity.”
PILATE WAS NO DUMMY!
He was a shrewd politician. He knew of the popularity of Jesus with the Jewish masses. He had observed how the crowds honored Him. He knew Jesus had just destroyed the Jewish priest’s lucrative temple business by overthrowing the money changer’s tables and loosing the sacrificial birds and animals from their cages and pens.
According to Matthew 27:18 we know that Pilate was well aware of the religious differences and the bitter envy of the Jewish leaders towards Jesus So in John 18:31 Pilate turned Jesus back to the Jewish leaders with the instruction to “Judge Him according to your own religious laws.” A charge of blasphemy was of no concern to him.
THE SANHEDRIN CHANGE THEIR CHARGES AGAINST JESUS.
So the Jews switched the charges from blasphemy to the political charges that Jesus was inciting insurrection against the Roman government. Since it was Pilate’s responsibility to keep peace in the land, they decided that political charges might concern Pilate more than their earlier charges of religious blasphemy. Of course their political charges were lies and Pilate knew it.
Shrewd Pilate could see right through their charade. If Jesus had been fomenting Jewish insurrection against the Roman Empire, the priests would have been the first to stand alongside of Jesus. They and all of Israel hated the Roman oppression with the high taxes. Pilate knew that; so did not take their charges seriously.
The Sanhedrin feared the masses. If they killed the popular Jesus, they would have a riot on their hands. However, if Rome killed him; then they could lay the responsibility on the Romans.
Also Pilate feared the Jews. As keeper of the peace (Pax Romana), the last thing he wanted was a riot throughout the land. He feared the Sanhedrin for they led and controlled the people.
Also I believe Pilate feared the power of Jesus. There was something about Jesus that made him feel uneasy and that struck fear to his heart.
WHY NOT STONE JESUS?
When Pilate turned Jesus back to the control of the Sanhedrin, why did they not go ahead and stone Jesus, as was their custom with prisoners facing capital offenses?
I’ll tell you why. God would not allow it. Long before, it had been prophesied that Jesus would die by being lifted up on a cross. See John 12:32 and Psalm 22. Though the Romans were not aware of it, they were fulfilling Scripture by crucifying Jesus, the most excruciating form of torture and death devised by man. In fact, the very word, “excruciating” comes from crucifixion.
So the Sanhedrin ignored their capital offense charge that Jesus was a blasphemer and they manufactured new charges, bold-faced lies, that they hoped would gain Pilate’s attention. You can read the new charges in Luke 23:2.
1. We found this fellow perverting the nation. Lie # 1
2. He forbade paying taxes to Caesar. Lie # 2. What Jesus actually taught about paying taxes is found in Luke 20:20-26
3. He claimed to be King. Lie # 3. When the people tried to make Him king, He refused to allow it. John 6:15. The fact is that Jesus came into the world to be the Lamb of God to die for the sins of the world. One day He is returning to this earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to reign. For details of this go to my series on PROPHECY
Isn’t it amazing that God tolerated this terrible mistreatment of His beloved Son, Jesus? If it were not for His long-suffering nature, He would have struck them dead instantly. Instead, He used their hatred to bring about the sacrificial death of His Son for our sins.
PILATE’S VERDICT: NOT GUILTY!
Based on the weak charges of the Sanhedrin, Pilate gave his verdict on Jesus. “I find no fault in Him.” Luke 23:4 Two more times, Pilate repeated this NOT GUILTY verdict. Luke 23:13-14 and 23:20-22.
PILATE TRIES TO “GET THE MONKEY OFF HIS BACK”
Back track to Luke 23:1-7 The pressure is building on Pilate to execute this man Jesus, who appears to him to be innocent. As the Sanhedrin continues to try to convince Pilate of Jesus criminal behaviour, they let it slip that some of His ministry was in Galilee.
A light flashes on in Pilate’s mind when he hears them mention the region of Galilee. He immediately thinks of the puppet king, Herod, who was given jurisdiction over that region. Pilate’s thought was, “GREAT! I will pass Jesus on to Herod and let him deal with this “monkey” that the Sanhedrin is trying to attach to my back.”
Herod, who ruled in Galilee, was presently in his palace in Jerusalem on the occasion of the Passover. So Pilate dispatched Jesus to Herod. We will deal with Jesus and Herod in our next article in this series and then later return to Pilate’s intensely interesting dialogue with Christ.
In the meantime, keep in mind that Pilate is dealing with a Man whom he is convinced is innocent of any crime.
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