Lesson 118: Jesus Before Pilate the Second Time
Matt 27:15-31, Mark 15:6-20, Luke 23:13-16
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 118. Welcome! After the council voted on that Friday morning and Jesus was taken to Pilate; you will remember, Pilate learned that Jesus was from the province of Galilee and as a result Jesus was sent to the governor of Galilee, Antipater Herod, who was there in the city of Jerusalem. Whether Herod was staying in the guest room at Pilate's castle or in a swanky hotel up town, we don't know. However, in either case it apparently took only a matter of minutes to take Jesus to Herod. And you will remember, Jesus would not perform for Herod as the foxy king wanted. So, Herod soon had Jesus returned to Pilate. Luke said, "the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together; for before they were at enmity between themselves." (Luke 23:12). Even though the two kings disagreed on other matters, they both could see that Jesus was innocent. It was the Jewish leaders that wanted Jesus killed. IT IS NOT proper to say the Jews wanted Jesus killed. It was the leaders and councilmen that had conspired together to do this thing. In Mark 12:37 it was said, "the common people heard him gladly." We must realize also some council members disagreed with the outlandish consensus of the council. But, they were in the minority and could prevail nothing. We've met one councilman already, Nicodemus, back near the end of John ch. 7. And we shall meet another before our study is complete. It is important that you understand this point. I recall some years ago, when I lived and preached in Fort Lauderdale, Florida that a young Jewish man was sent from the carpet company to lay some carpeting for us. While talking with the young fellow, he made the statement that all protestants (in his words) accused the Jews of killing Jesus and he said that was unfair. He was shocked when I told him I whole-heartedly agreed. He expressed to me that he thought the word "Jew" carried with it a stigma among all Christians today. He said he had been told THAT and even SOME had expressed that to him. It's important for us to understand that it was really a few renegade Jewish leaders at that time who wanted Jesus dead. Although, these priests and councilmen persuaded the masses momentarily on that occasion and got their way to accomplish this atrocious act of murder of the Son of God; it doesn't make Jews today any more responsible for murdering Jesus than the most gentle Gentile among us. The book of Hebrews, (in ch. 6:6) teaches us that we can, today, crucify the Son of God afresh and put him to an open shame in a spiritual sense. But, no one today acquires this guilt because of their race. It's because of our attitude, not our race. So, Jewish blood in your veins doesn't make you an enemy to Christ and Christianity, certainly not. Jesus was a Jew! Jews may reject Jesus; but, Jesus doesn't reject Jews, certainly not. It was through the Jews, that God gave us Jesus, the King of God's kingdom, who is going to be our judge in the last day.
Let's begin our reading in Luke ch. 23. Let's take a small chunk of Luke ch. 23, beginning in v.13. We'll read down through v.16, Are you ready? Luke 23:13-16. Let's read. "And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people; and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him." Alright, this was Pilate's first verdict. Pilate said he found no fault in this man as touching those things whereof ye accuse him. Yet, Pilate wanted to please the Jewish leaders. So, although Pilate found no fault in Jesus, he was willing to have Jesus chastised before releasing him, i.e. to have him whipped, we would say. Pilate was trying to work out a compromise with the Jewish rulers; it didn't have to be justice, so far as Pilate was concerned. Pilate was willing to compromise a little justice; if he could keep the masses happy. Then Pilate and his advisors, trying every political tactic they knew, fell upon a plan to manipulate the Jewish rulers into releasing Jesus. Now, the Roman officials were in charge, you understand. Pilate, supposedly administering the Roman law, was the supreme court, so-to-speak. He could rule as he saw fit, and he could over-rule as he saw fit. It had been a custom at that feast in years past, that the Roman governor would release a Jewish prisoner unto them upon this feast day each year as a political favor of good will toward the Jews. Where, when or how that custom came about is anybody's guess. So, you can see that playing politics with justice wasn't anything new. But, Pilate thought he saw where he could use this custom as a political lever to accomplish a little justice and please the Jews too. So, Pilate undoubtedly thought like this, I'll give'em a choice. I'll let'em choose between a real criminal, and Jesus. That'll put the burden on their back. Undoubtedly, Pilate thought, they will be FORCED to release Jesus. But, Pilate didn't please anybody. Pilate got caught in his own political trap. Let's read some more. Let's go to Mark this time. Mark 15:6. Please put your eyes on Mark 15:6. We'll read down through v.20. Let's read. "Now at that feast he released unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they desired. And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them. But Pilate answered them saying, Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews? For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him for envy. But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him. And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified. And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Pretorium; and they called together the whole band. And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, and began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshipped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him." This must be some of the saddest words in history. Re-read v.15.. "so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him to be crucified." Can you imagine such politics with a man's life? Any man's life, and this was the Son of God. The One that the God of heaven sent to mankind to teach mankind, the wishes and commands of their Maker, their Creator. Many of our politicians today in America will promise just about anything, and do almost anything for one more term in office where they set their own salary and use public funds to buy more votes for the next election. Pilate knew he had to keep the Jews CONTENT. Do you see that word in v.15? Quite clearly, that was far more important to Pilate, than justice. Pilate knew that his job as governor of Judea largely depended upon his ability to keep the Jewish leaders CONTENT. He knew that if a few complaints got to the Emperor Tiberius' ear, Pilate's job was in jeopardy. To Pilate, it was the way the system worked. Life was cheap. So, if you have suffered a few injustices here and there; don't think you're the first. I told you what the criminal lawyer in Mississippi named Wing concluded when he studied the trial of Jesus. He said, "there had never been, nor shall there ever be, in the annals of criminal laws and. rules of equitable procedure." So, when the writer of the Hebrew letter said that Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." You better sit up and listen. That's not just good reading material, that's not just good Sunday School material; Jesus had to deal with more injustice, and more cruelty, than you and I can ever imagine. He was our example and he did it without sin (Heb. 4:15).
Let's read Matthew's account. The reference is Matt. 27:15. We'll begin in Matt. 27:15 and read down through v.31. So, are you ready? Beginning in Matt. 27:15. "Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate knew that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him." Alright, notice in v.15, Matthew tells us the custom of releasing a prisoner at the feast had allowed the Jews to pick the prisoner they wanted released, "whom they would" is the words at the end of v.15. So, Pilate undoubtedly selected the vilest prisoner he could find. Mark said Barabbas had committed murder during an insurrection, i.e. a riot or a revolt against authority. Jesus on the other hand had healed hundreds and had taught against violence. Governor Pilate's wife had undoubtedly heard, of Jesus, her dream would reveal she had most likely heard of Jesus. Probably in connection with the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and likely much more. Jesus had been in the general, central Judean area for about six months. We know that Herod had heard of Jesus, and it's most likely that Pilate had heard many things also over the previous months. Notice that Pilate couldn't believe the choice of the Jews. Matthew records that Pilate asked the question twice, v.17, Pilate said, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus...?" Then in v.18, Matthew explains that Pilate "knew that for envy they had delivered him." Then down in v.21, Pilate asked the question again: "Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?" Then look back at v.20, "the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus." Then v.24 said, "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing..." Is it true that Pilate could prevail nothing? Well the point is that Pilate couldn't persuade the Jews. But, Pilate could still have given justice, had he been man enough to do it. His little hand washing exercise made the point very well, that Pilate disagreed with the Jewish leaders. But, in another sense it also said to the Jews, I can be bought. I'm willing to play your game if you won't give me a hard time with the emperor. It tells us, therefore, that Pilate was very conscious that he was trading justice for political favor.
Now in the moment or two that we have left, let's do something bazaar. Take a moment and go behind the scenes with your imagination. Let's look at the trial from Barabbas' point of view. Mark 15:7 said that Barabbas "lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him." Barabbas was not only a murderer, he was the leader of a band of murderers. Barabbas was in chains someplace there around the Roman palace. It must have been about 8 AM that Friday morning as the crowd began to gather around Pilate's judgment throne. Matthew used the word "multitude" at least twice, v.20, v.24. Barabbas, from his cell, could undoubtedly hear the yelling of the crowd. Barabbas knew his days were numbered. He anticipated it was just a matter of time until he would be on a Roman cross. An escape was virtually impossible. The guards would have to pay with their own life if they should let such a thing happen. But, as Barabbas was lying there in chains, he must have began to hear his name shouted by the multitude. He must have perked up and listened more and more intently, as the crowd began to shout louder and louder "give us Barabbas." He must have thought, they're demanding that I be lynched right here and now. Surely, I'll be bleeding to death in a few minutes. Or maybe, I'll be on a Roman cross at sundown. But, then as the moments passed like hours, Barabbas may have been able to hear the governor faintly saying something to the people. The shouts got louder. A little later as Barabbas1 pulse was racing away; he could hear the guards coming near. One or two soldiers probably stood outside Barabbas' cell with spears, swords and shields as a couple more sword-carrying Roman soldiers came into his cell and began to unlock his chains. Barabbas must have said within himself, I'll soon pay for my crime with the death I deserve. But, then the soldiers began to remove his chains from his wrists and ankles. The soldiers conveyed a message something like this: The governor is releasing you! You can go! You're free! IT IS TRUE, that Jesus took Barabbas' place on the cross, that Friday morning. But, it's equally true that Jesus took my place and your place on that cross. It's the gospel message. Jesus died for us. Barabbas got a civil reprieve; but, you and I can have eternal life, if we will but obey the gospel message. Paul said, "we have redemption THROUGH [Christ's] blood, the forgiveness of sins..." (Eph. 1:7). Jesus was a sacrifice offered for the whole world. Not only is that true for the people in the Christian era, i.e. since the time of Christ. Jesus died for those back under the old testament as well. Read Heb. 9':15. We'll continue our study in our next lesson. Have a good day!