As we read about Jesus’ trail in the gospel of John, you will notice there is a verse from Matthew in the middle of those verses. Matthew is the only book that includes this detail. Just warning you so you don’t get confused.
John 18:28-19:16 (NLT)
“Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas (Caiaphas is the High Priest) ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. 29 So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man?”
30 “We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.
31 “Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them.
“Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied. 32 This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about the way he would die.
33 Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime. 39 But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. Would you like me to release this ‘King of the Jews’?”
40 But they shouted back, “No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!” (Barabbas was a revolutionary.)
[Matthew 27:19 (NLT)
19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”]
19 Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. 2 The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. 3 “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.
4 Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” 5 Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”
6 When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”
7 The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. 9 He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. 10 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”
11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”
12 Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”
13 When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). 14 It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!”
15 “Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”
“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.
16 Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus away.”
Notice right from the ‘get-go’ that the Jews and the Roman leaders are in opposite camps. The Jews don’t go into the Roman governor’s headquarters because they don’t want to be defiled. That was an interesting claim since they were trying to murder someone just to get rid of him. So, Pilate right from the start of this trial, is going back and forth between the Jewish religious leaders outside, and the Roman leaders inside the building.
As well, the two sides are arguing about who should be in charge of the trial and verdict. Pilate says since Jesus is breaking Jewish rules, then they should deal with the matter. They reply that only the Romans had the right to execute someone. Now that is not exactly true. The Jews did have the right to stone someone, but the Romans had the right to use more ugly forms of capital punishment such as crucifixion. However, Jesus had foretold the way He would die in John 12: 32, 33: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.” (NASB) It’s interesting that God carried out His plans through some Jewish religious leaders who were so angry with Jesus’ that they wanted Him to suffer as much as possible, and through an empire known for its vicious punishments.
When Pilate questions Jesus, Jesus tells him the truth. “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” “Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” (v. 36, 37) Pilate’s questions to Jesus hint at Pilate’s attitude. Pilate questions him about being a king, and also asks what is truth. That reminds me of a person who finds something just a little strange, something he has to put up with but doesn’t take seriously. Perhaps Pilate thought that Jesus might be crazy, if anything, and was certainly nothing threatening to Roman rule. So he decides that Jesus is innocent and the Jews should go away. However, Pilate has a problem – the Jews won’t go away.
The problem is made more difficult because Israel was restless at this time of year. The Passover was a celebration and remembrance of their freedom from captivity in Egypt. Now they are under Roman rule, and not happy about that. There have been uprisings, and Barabbas was in jail because of his role in an uprising. Pilate wants to keep his job as governor of Israel, and having upset, restless people doesn’t help that situation. You’ll notice that he also has his wife’s warning as well as the Jewish leaders saying that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. That really seems to have made Pilate nervous. What if that were true? But for any rational person, surely it wouldn’t be. So he is caught between ‘a rock and a hard place’.
We have a tendency to blame the Jewish people for Jesus’ death. When you get right down to it, Jesus’ death was caused by the Jewish religious leaders demanding His crucifixion, but also the reluctance of Pilate to stand by what he actually believed. Both Jews and Gentiles were responsible for Jesus’ death, and both were saved by His sacrifice. He wasn’t just the King of the Jews. He is our king as well.
The sin that led to His death is still evident today. The Jewish leaders wanted to be in control, and they were furious about Jesus’ challenge to their rules and regulations and the importance they attached to themselves. They preached a ‘work yourself to heaven’ kind of religion. If you tried hard enough, you’d be just fine. Don’t we hear those ideas today? Things like the importance of doing well and being in control, or the philosophy that people who try hard are successful. Pilate’s wish to keep his important job made him willing to compromise on what he knew to be right. Again, today, it’s so tempting to take the easy road and just get along with everybody – don’t ruffle anyone’s feathers. We still need a saviour today. We really can’t look back and blame the people who were actively involved in Jesus’ death. We are guilty too. You are guilty. I am guilty.
Our song for today is Is He Worthy? by Chris Tomlin