Sapphire Sky

November 15, 2015

Before the Governor

Filed under: theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 2:14 pm

thorn-of-crown.jpg~original

During the Roman time of peace in the first century (the Pax Romana), Rome would allow the provinces a level of self-government. This self-government allowed vassal kings to rule over their own provinces as long as they swore allegiance to Rome.

Herod (also known as Herod the Great) ruled all of Palestine until his death in 4 BC. After Herod’s death, his kingdom was divided among his three sons: Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip. Philip ruled the regions to the East, Antipas ruled Galilee and Perea, while Archelaus ruled Judea and Samaria.

Archelaus proved to be the worst of the three sons. He was corrupt and inefficient and by 6 AD, the Jews had begged Rome to replace him. The Romans removed Archelaus and replaced him with a series of governors (also known as procurators). These governors were Roman commanders who were responsible for governing the regions and reporting to Rome.

The Roman governor over Judea from 26-36 A.D. was a man by the name of Pontius Pilate. Pilate had problems with the Jews from the start. On three separate occasions, Pilate had caused such a riot among the Jews that Rome had to directly intervene [6].

On the first occasion, it was customary for the Roman governor to enter the city with his banners and the Roman standard, consisting of an eagle and the bust of Tiberius Caesar. The Jews would not allow the bust of Caesar, believing that the image of the emperor was an idol. Previous governors had obliged the Jews by removing the bust of Caesar, but Pilate refused.

The Jews followed Pilate through the streets of Jerusalem, begging him to remove the image of Caesar. They then followed him back to his home in Caesarea and pursued him for five days, protesting the image. Finally, Pilate brought all of the Jews into the amphitheater, surrounded them with soldiers and demanded that they stop their protest. The Jews all bared their necks and told Pilate to go ahead and kill them. Pilate was defeated. He knew that he could not massacre these Jews without getting in trouble with Rome so he had to back down and remove the image of Caesar.

On another occasion, Pilate needed funds to build a new aqueduct into Jerusalem, so he raided the temple treasury. The furious Jews rioted and Pilate sent his soldiers among them, dressed in common clothes. Upon his signal, the soldiers pulled out their swords and began to kill the Jews around them. The massacre of the Jews reported in Luke 13:1 may have been from this occasion.

On a third occasion, Pilate had shields hung in Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. The shields had the picture of the emperor, which the Jews believed to be an idol. The Jews protested the images to Caesar and Pilate was ordered to take them down.

The Roman governor had two jobs: collect taxes and keep the peace [1]. Tiberius Caesar cared little about what happened in the provinces as long as the money and stability remained consistent. But the governor was in trouble if the revenue stopped or if Rome needed to send in troops to crush a revolt.

Pilate was already in trouble with Rome because of the Jewish revolts under his leadership. His position in Rome was even more tenuous since his sponsor in Rome had been executed shortly before the trial of Jesus Christ. Pilate knew well that one more problem would cause him to lose his position and likely his own life.

This was the context when the Jewish leaders brought their prisoner to Pontius Pilate. Pilate’s home was in Caesarea, but he came to Jerusalem to oversee the city during the Passover celebration. It was there, at Pilate’s temporary abode in Herod’s palace [7], in the early morning hours that the priests came to him with their case.

The Jewish leaders had tried their prisoner but they needed the Romans to execute him (see here). They wanted Pilate to order this man’s crucifixion.

This trial was no surprise to Pilate. Pilate was holding court in the early morning hours (probably about 4:30 a.m.) out on the pavement in front of his residence. The Jewish leaders must have prepared him that they would be bringing Jesus to him.

“What are the charges?”, asked the governor.

The Jewish leaders responded that they would not have brought the man if he was not guilty. When pressed further, they brought a list of charges including misleading the nation and claiming that He was a king.

The charge of being a king got the governor’s attention. The Romans feared any types of insurrection in the provinces and there was no room for a new king. But Pilate was also suspicious of the Jews. He took Jesus away for a private conversation, asking him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus’ response unnerved Pilate. “Are you asking this for yourself or you only interested in the charges?” Pilate seemed to dismiss the question as an issue for the Jews. But Jesus continued, “My kingdom is not of this world”. In other words, “My kingdom does not come by force”. He is not going to start a war with Rome. His kingdom is a kingdom of truth.

Pilate emerged from the private conversation announcing that Jesus was not guilty. He would declare Jesus’ innocence five times during this trial. Furthermore, two additional witnesses testified to Jesus’ innocence: Herod Antipas and Pilate’s wife.

Pilate realized that he was in a difficult position. He knew that the Jewish leaders demanded that he execute an innocent man. If he gave in to them, he would have violated Roman justice and empowered his enemies. He was interested in hearing about this man, but he could not afford a riot from the Jews by setting Him free.

Pilate then began a series of attempts to free Jesus without starting a riot from the Jews. Any riot would bring swift retribution back to him from Rome.

 

First Attempt: Send Jesus to Herod

Pilate learned that Jesus was from Galilee. Gallilee was Herod’s (Herod Antipas’) jurisdiction and Herod was also in Jerusalem at that time. Pilate sent him to Herod. Perhaps this could become Herod’s problem. Not only would this absolve Pilate of any blame, but the Jews had less power over Herod. Herod would be free to render judgement with much less pressure from the Jews.

Herod looked forward to meeting Jesus but was soon disappointed. Jesus did not perform any miracles, nor did he reply to any of Herod’s questions. Herod and his soldiers mocked Him, put him in a fancy robe, and sent Him back to Pilate.

 

Second Attempt: Compromise with the Jewish Leaders

Pilate called together the leaders of the people and announced that neither he nor Herod had found Jesus guilty. Pilate offered a compromise. He found the man innocent, yet he offered to punish Him and release Him.

Luke’s gospel account says that the Jewish priests and elders would not change their mind. Jesus must be killed.

 

Third Attempt: Trade Jesus for a Criminal

The Jews had a tradition of freeing one prisoner at Passover. Pilate attempted a shrewd political move by offering to release a criminal for this Passover. He appealed to the Jewish people, who were enamored with Jesus, and gave them two choices for a prisoner to release.

He could either release Jesus or Barabbas. Barabbas was a known robber, insurrectionist, and a murderer. Surely the people would want to release Jesus over this man!

But the priests and the elders had influenced the people. When Pilate presented them with the question, they all shouted to release Barabbas and have Jesus crucified!

 

Fourth Attempt: Appease the mob with torture and humiliation

Pilate had Jesus scourged. This horrible beating was the first step of the Roman execution. The goal of the scourging was to cut open the prisoner’s back in order to maximize the pain and agony when hung on a wooden cross.

After Jesus was scourged, the Roman soldiers twisted together thorn branches in order to form a mock crown. They pushed the thorns on to his head and placed a purple robe on his bleeding back. The soldiers then mocked Him, pretending that he was a king, and hitting Him with their hands.

Pilate then presented the bleeding and bruised Jesus to the people, still in His crown of thorns and purple robe. Pilate said, “Behold the man!”. Surely this man is no threat!

Pilate even tried to reason with the crowd but they only became more agitated. They shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!”

 

Response by Jesus

The Jews told Pilate that Jesus must die because according to their law, He was guilty of blasphemy. He made Himself out to be the Son of God.

Pilate brought Jesus into the headquarters for another private conversation. Pilate was looking for an answer from Jesus that would help release Him, but Jesus was silent.

Jesus replied to Pilate that the only authority over Him had been granted by God Himself. The most wicked one is not Pilate but the high priest (Caiaphas) who had brought Him to Pilate and demanded His death.

 

Threats by the Jews

Pilate tried to release Jesus after talking with Him, but the Jews made a final threat. They would report Pilate to Caesar if he released Jesus. Pilate knew that he was already in trouble with Rome, and so he gave in.

Pilate took water and washed his hands before the crowd. He used the same ritual from the Old Testament for an unsolved murder to say that he was free from the guilt of this man. The Jews quickly jumped in to accept any guilt for Jesus’ death.

Jesus was handed over to the Roman soldiers for further torture and abuse while they prepared for the crucifixion.

 

Remember!

Jesus was our example for how to answer for our faith:

1 Timothy 6:13-16

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

“Either the blood of Jesus is on our hands, or the blood of Jesus covers our hearts” – Stephen Davey [8]

 

Previous Post: Before the High Priest


John 18:28 – 19:16a

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.


Matthew 27:2, 11-31

And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.

Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.


Mark 15:1b-20

And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.


Luke 23:1-25

Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”

But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas” — a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.


 

First Roman trial before Pilate

John 18:28
Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.

Matthew 27:2
And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.

Mark 15:1b-20
And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate.

Luke 23:1
Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.

The Jewish leaders had concluded their proceedings and determined that Jesus deserved death. However, the Jewish courts were unable to take a life (see here). They needed to bring their charges to the Roman governor in order to carry out their sentence.

The Jews would not enter the house of a Gentile lest they be unclean for the Passover celebration. This was the the worst of hypocrisy! They had assembled a mock trial in order to murder an innocent man, yet they are afraid that a gentile’s house will make them unclean in God’s sight!

“The problem with religion – you can be holy on the outside but a killer on the inside.” – Stephen Davey [8]

 

John 18:29-32
So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Luke 23:2
And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”

The Jews did not want the Roman governor to question charges. They were essentially saying not to question their charges but to put him to death as they asked.

Luke’s account gives a list of false charges that they claimed against Jesus. The only one of these charges that had any truth was that He was the Christ, who was a king.

Jesus had said that he would be ”lifted up” in John 3:14, John 8:28, John 12:32-33

 

John 18:33-38a
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

Matthew 27:11
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.”

Mark 15:2-5
And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”

Luke 23:3
And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”

The only one of the charges that apparently got Pilate’s attention was Jesus’ claim to be king. Pilate called Jesus into his headquarters for a private conversation, where he directly asked if He was a king.

Pilate asked an official question but Jesus response was personal. He asked Pilate if he wanted to know because of the charges against Him or if Pilate wanted to know for himself. His kingdom is a kingdom of truth and not one will be fought by violence. Pilate had nothing to fear from Him.

 

John 18:38b
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Luke 23:4
Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”

During the trial, Pilate stateed five times (on three occasions) that Jesus was innocent:

  • After the first meeting with Jesus here (Luke 23:4, John 18:38)
  • His conclusion after sending Jesus to Herod (Luke 23:14)
  • After having Jesus beaten and mocked by the soldiers (John 19:4, Luke 23:22; John 19:6)

 

Matthew 27:12-14
But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Mark 15:3-5
And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Luke 23:5
But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

The chief priests were constantly accusing Jesus to Pilate, but like in the Jewish trial (see here), Jesus kept silent. We see that Pilate reacted with amazement to Jesus’ silence.

 

Second Roman trial before Herod Antipas

Luke 23:6-12
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

Pilate’s first attempt to get out of his difficult situation is to send Jesus to Herod. Once he heard that Jesus was from Galilee, he sent Him over to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem. Not only would this absolve Pilate of any blame, but the Jews had less power over Herod. Herod would be free render judgement with much less pressure from the Jews.

It is likely that both Pilate and Herod were staying at Herod’s palace in in Jerusalem, so it would not have been far to bring Him to Herod.

Herod was glad to see Jesus, hoping to see a miracle. He may also have been hoping to absolve his own conscience from executing John the Baptist (see Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-17; Luke 9:7-9). But Jesus did not perform any miracle for Herod, nor did He answer any of Herod’s questions. Herod’s amazement turned to ridicule and they ended up mocking him. Herod even put a splendid robe on Him before sending Him back to Pilate.

“Herod seems to have been relieved that John the Baptist was not come back to trouble him, and when he is unable to extract anything at all from Jesus, he simply falls in with the mood of the mob, subjects Jesus to mockery and derision, and returns Him to Pilate.” – Doug Bookman [1]

“It was a mark of reconciliation (or might be viewed as such) between himself and the Roman, and in a manner flattering to himself, since the first step had been taken by the Governor, and that, by an almost ostentatious acknowledgement of the rights of the Tetrarch, on which possibly their former feud may have turned.” – Alfred Edersheim [2]

 

Third Roman trial before Pilate

Matthew 27:15-16
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.

Mark 15:6-8
Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them.

Barabbas was a notorious prisoner. He was imprisoned for robbery, insurrection, and murder. He may have led a band of robbers which included the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus.

Barabbas was an insurrectionist — the very thing that the Jews had charged against Jesus to Pilate!

Barabbas’ name means literally, “Son of the Father”. The term “Abba” (i.e. “Father”) was the title for a famous rabbi. Therefore, Barabbas was probably the son of a famous rabbi. Some of the older texts give his full name as Jesus Barabbas. He was literally a “preacher’s kid”. [3]

“Barabbas belonged to that class, not uncommon at the time, which, under the colourable pretence of political aspirations, committed robbery and other crimes. But these movements had deeply struck root in popular sympathy.” – Alfred Edersheim [2]

The Jews had a tradition of releasing one prisoner as part of the Passover celebration. Pilate had apparently kept this tradition for the Jews and allowed them to request a prisoner to be released.

“The Mishnah, a Jewish commentary on customs, informs us that this practice was to illustrate their deliverance from bondage in Egypt by the blood of the Passover lambs that died in order to protect their homes from the death angel …. The Jews were effectively saying, ‘As we celebrate the death of the lambs and our former deliverance, we will allow one prisoner to be released, illustrating that the ransom for his release has been paid in the blood of the lamb.’” – Stephen Davey [3]

 

Luke 23:13-16
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”

Pilate called together the leaders of the people and announced that neither he nor Herod had found Jesus guilty. Pilate’s second attempt to get out of his situation was to offer a compromise. He found the man innocent, yet he offered to punish Him and release Him.

Luke’s account also shows the first witness to Jesus’ innocence. Even through his mockery, Herod did not find Jesus guilty of any charges.

 

John 18:39-40
But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Matthew 27:17-21
So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

Mark 15:9-11
And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.

Luke 23:18-19
But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas” — a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder.

Pilate attempted a shrewd political move with the people for his third attempt to get out of his difficult situation. He knew that the Jewish leaders hated Jesus but He has been popular with the people. Pilate relied on the Passover custom where he would release a prisoner. He gave the people two choices: he would either release Jesus or he would release Barabbas, the notorious prisoner.

Matthew’s account shows the second witness to Jesus’ innocence. Pilate’s wife sent him a message to have nothing to do with this “righteous man”.

To Pilate’s surprise, the people cry out to release Barabbas! The chief priests and the elders had persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to destroy Jesus.

“The nation of Israel curses Jesus Christ while Pilate’s pagan wife is convinced that he is righteous” – John MacArthur [9]

 

John 19:1-3
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

Pilate was not able to appease either the Jewish leaders or the Jewish people. He sent to have Jesus scourged and mocked.

The Roman scourging was the first step of the execution. The weapon, or flagellum, would tear open the prisoner’s back, allowing the wood from the cross to dig deep into the open wounds.

“Their weapon was a flagellum, which was a whip-like tool with a short wooden handle and long leather straps. The straps were braided in varying lengths and pieces of metal and bone were sewn, at intervals, into the braided leather.” [4]

There is a lot written about the torture and the horror of the Roman scourging. Prisoners have been brutally tortured and killed by the scourging experience. However, it is important to note that the Romans wanted the prisoners to linger for days on the cross. The cross was a painful and public spectacle for any who dared to oppose the power of Rome! The Romans would not want to beat the prisoners severely enough to shorten their life on the cross. Therefore, the scourging that Jesus received would not have been as horrible as we are often led to believe. It would not have brought Him close to death. [1]

Roman citizens (except for deserting soldiers) were exempt from scourging (see also Acts 22:25-29).

Pilate then allowed the soldiers to mock Jesus with a crown of thorns and a purple robe.

“He caused thorns and thistles to be brought forth (Gen. 3:18). The thorn is the fruit of the Curse, and Jesus was about to be made a curse for those who so basely treated Him and for all men, that all who would trust in Him might be redeemed from the curse of the law.” – H.A. Ironside [10]

 

John 19:4-6
Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

Matthew 27:22-23
Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Mark 15:12-14
And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.”

Luke 23:20-23
Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed.

Pilate’s fourth attempt to get out of this situation was to use Jesus’ pain and humiliation as a way to satiate the bloodthirsty mob. Jesus was now bruised and bleeding, and was dressed like a mock king with his purple robe and crown of thorns.

Pilate says, “Behold the man!”. It is as if he was saying in mockery, “Surely this man is no threat!”

“As the Roman procurator presented the brutalized Jesus to the crowds, he said, ‘Behold, here is the man you charge with being a dangerous insurrectionist, the man whom you insist I execute in order to protect and safeguard the Roman empire. Look at him – can you maintain this charge against such a beaten and bloody man?’” – Doug Bookman [1]

But the crowd cannot be appeased. Pilate tries to question why they want HIm dead, but they only shout louder — “Crucify Him!”

 

John 19:7-11
The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

Pilate was still trying to free Jesus when the Jews took the offensive. They told Pilate that Jesus must die according to Jewish law because he made himself the Son of God. This scared Pilate even more so he summoned Jesus for a second private conversation.

Why did the term, “Son of God” scare Pilate? Some commentators have proposed that the superstitious Pilate interpreted this to mean that Jesus was a demigod, just like the demigods in Roman mythology. However, a better explanation is that Pilate realized that this was not a legal issue but a religious issue. Pilate was in trouble with Rome because he had so poorly handled the Jews’ religious scruples in the past and he could not afford another problem with the Roman emperor.

Once again, Jesus is silent before Pilate’s questions. Pilate says that he has the authority to release Jesus or to crucify Him. Why then does He not answer? Jesus replied to Pilate that the only authority over Him has been granted by God Himself. It is part of God’s plan that Jesus be here at Pilate’s court that day.

Pilate is not the wicked one here. He is acting out of ignorance (Acts 3:17), but the wicked one is the high priest (Caiaphas) who has brought Him to Pilate and demanded His death.

 

John 19:12-15
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Pilate tried even harder to release Jesus after his private conversation, but the Jews were insistent. They then forced Pilate to do their bidding with his main weakness. They knew that Pilate was in trouble with Rome. If he allowed Jesus to go free, then they will report him to Caesar!

Pilate knew that another report to Caesar would mean the end of his position and likely the end of his life. He brought Jesus out one more time as a last appeal, “Can this be your king?” [1]. But the Jews shout even louder, “Crucify Him!”

Ironically, the priests swore allegiance to Caesar. They disavowed any Messiah who may come from God and said that they will have no king but Caesar.

The time was about the sixth hour. By Roman time reckoning, it was therefore about 6:00 a.m (see here). The Day of Preparation was Friday, the day before the Sabbath, on the Passover week.

 

John 19:16a
So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

Matthew 27:24-26
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Mark 15:15
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Luke 23:24-25
So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

The crowds were insistent. A riot was forming and they had threatened to tell Caesar if Pilate did not comply. Pilate gave in, but not before performing an Old Testament Jewish ritual to absolve himself of guilt.

The Old Testament law (Deuteronomy 21:1-9) prescribed what to do for an unsolved murder. The elders of the town would offer a sacrifice and ceremonially wash their hands, testifying that they were innocent of the man’s blood. In the same way, Pilate washed his hands and said that he was innocent of Jesus’ blood.

The Jewish people answered to Pilate that Jesus’ blood will be on them and on their children. No man can hold his children responsible for his own wicked deeds, yet the Jews attempted to pronounce such a curse on themselves. This was literally fulfilled nearly 40 years later, when the Roman legions destroyed the city of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Acts 5:28 is an ironic comment by the Jews. The same Sanhedrin that had brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate was then persecuting the apostles for teaching about Jesus. They say, “you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us”!

Pilate then released Barabbas and sent Jesus to be crucified. The scourging mentioned in Matthew and Mark’s account is probably the same beating that Jesus had already received (see above for John 19:1).

“Pilate took three steps in an attempt to exonerate himself. First, he washed his hands and declared that he was innocent of any guilt. Second, he stated clearly that Jesus was a just person, that is, not worthy of death. Third, he offered to punish Jesus and then release Him, but the rulers would accept no compromise.” – Warren Wiersbe [5]

 

Matthew 27:27-31
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Mark 15:16-20
And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

While they were preparing the crucifixion, the entire Roman cohort gathered around Jesus, mocking Him and abusing Him.

Matthew’s account says that they put a scarlet robe on him, Mark’s account says that the robe was purple. It was likely an old faded garment that was reddish-purple [5].

John’s gospel account puts the purple robe and the crown of thorns earlier in the narrative (John 19:1-3). Therefore, the purple robe and crown of thorns either happened twice or Matthew and Mark are reporting summaries of all of the Roman tortures here.

“The soldiers spat in His face, as the Jews had done in the house of Caiaphas. Jew and Gentile were one in their rejection of Him.” – H.A. Ironside [10]

 


 

[1] Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, Lecture 14. http://www.bookmanministries.com/

 

[2] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book V, CHAPTER XIV. THE MORNING OF GOOD FRIDAY.

 

[3] Stephen Davey, A Foretaste of Freedom, Matthew 27

 

[4] Stephen Davey, Death By Crucifixion, John 19

 

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, Matthew 27:1-31, pages 79-82

 

[6] John MacArthur, Jesus Before Pilate, John 18:28-38

 

[7] We do not know the exact location of Pilate’s residence in Jerusalem. Some believe that he may have been in the Fortress Antonia next to the temple, but the majority of scholars believe that Pilate stayed in Herod’s palace on the Western Hill of Jerusalem.

Herod’s palace is also closer to both the High Priest’s Palace (where Jesus had been tried by the Sanhedrin) and to the residence of Herod Antipas. Since all of the Roman trials completed by 6 a.m., the closer location (at Herod’s palace) seems more likely.

 

[8] Stephen Davey, The Verdict of Rome, John 18:29-19:15

 

[9] John MacArthur, What Shall I Do with Jesus? Part 2, Matthew 27:19-26

 

[10] H.A. Ironside, Chapter 27, The Condemnation and Death of the King, Matthew 27

 

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2 Comments »

  1. […] was first scourged, being beaten so severely that his back was cut open, exposing raw flesh (see here). The victim himself would carry the wooden crossbeam through the city to the place of execution. […]

    Pingback by The First Three Hours | Sapphire Sky — November 29, 2015 @ 8:59 pm

  2. […] Three early morning trials by the Romans (Matthew 27:2,11-31; Mark 15:1-20; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:28-19:16) […]

    Pingback by Events of the Passion Week | Sapphire Sky — March 26, 2016 @ 1:50 am


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