Harmony of the Gospels


(31) First Appearance Before Pilate

Scripture: Matthew 27:2,11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-7; John 18:28-38 (focal passage)

Tom Lowe


Time: Friday of Jesus’ Final Week
Place: Jerusalem

Jesus has been taken to Pilate’s palace by the religious leaders. They need Pilate to give Jesus the death sentence, since the Jews no longer have that authority. Pilate interviews Christ and announces that he is innocent. Naturally, the Jews will not accept that verdict, so they begin to apply pressure to the governor. Pilate hears that Jesus is a Galilean, and because he wants to wash his hands of this matter, he sends Him to Herod who is the ruler there.

John 18:28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.
Matthew 27:2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
Mark 15:1 And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.
Luke 23:1 And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.

The religious trial was ended, and the civil trial is about to begin. The scene is the  [1]hall of judgment or the palace of the Roman governor. The Jews did not want to go into the palace of a Gentile. They felt that they would have been  [2]defiled if they touched a gentile and they would consequently be prevented from eating the Passover. It did not seem to bother them that they were plotting the death of the Son of God. It would have been a tragedy for them to enter a Gentile house, but murder was a mere trifle. They had scruples, but no second thoughts about breaking both Roman and Jewish laws to persecute and kill Christ. They strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel.

Let us now see what went on at the judgment-hall. Here is Augustine’s remarks: O impious blindness! They would be defiled, forsooth, by a dwelling which was another’s, and not be defiled by a crime which was their own. They feared to be defiled by the praetorium of an alien judge, and feared not to be defiled by the blood of an innocent brother.  Poole remarks, “Nothing is more common than for persons overzealous about rituals to be careless about morals.” The Savior’s arrest and proceedings of the night had been kept so secret that there was yet no flocking together of the common people (in addition it was still early in the morning before the multitudes were in the streets). The Jewish leaders were so afraid of the people that they obviously did their best to prevent the masses knowing what was going on. This was the reason why they arranged everything with such feverish haste.

The expression “that they might eat the Passover” probably means the feast which followed the Passover. The Passover itself had been held on the previous night.

The phrase “and it was early,” is explained as follows. A Roman court could be held after sunrise. But because the situation was critical, Pilate would be ready to open the court, say, between 4:00 and 5:00 A.M. (some say between 2:00 and 3:00 A.M.) when most people were in their beds; and so there would be less danger of opposition from the people that were for Christ. At the same time, they had their agents out rounding up those they could influence to cry out against him.

An early trial before Pilate was not without problems for the Sanhedrin officials, because a whole day must intervene between their sentence and execution. For this reason they go at once to Pilate. If he agrees to execute he can fix the time. So they transferred the breach of their law from themselves to him. There were other reasons for why the religious rulers wanted to get Jesus condemned in the Roman court, and executed by the Roman power.
1. So that He might be put to death legally, according to the present constitution of their government, since they became a province of the Roman Empire.
2. So that He might be put to death without causing a riot. If they could involve the Roman government in the matter there would be little danger of an uproar, since the people feared their Roman masters.
3. So that He might be put to death in a way that disgraced Him. The death of the cross, which the Romans commonly used was terribly humiliating, and put an indelible mark of infamy upon the victim, and sank his reputation for ever.
4. So that He might be put to death without them being disgraced. It was a horrible thing to put one to death that had done so much good in the world, and therefore they were willing to throw the responsibility upon the Roman government, and save themselves from scandal and the disapproval of the people. Actually, they were more afraid of the scandal than they were of the sinfulness of their actions.

Observation: The apostle Mark must have been a southerner since his Gospel says “they carried Him away,” while Mathew, Luke and John says “they led Him away.”

John 18:29  Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

Their pompous adherence to the Law prevented their entering a polluted house, uncleansed from leaven: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15).

Pilate, the Roman Governor, gave in to the religious scruples of the Jews by going  [3]out to where they were. He began the trial by asking them to state the charge against this Prisoner; “What accusation bring ye against this man” This was a logical question. The Jews had not prepared a formal indictment. They wanted  [4]Pilate to accept the fact that they would not bring a person to him if he were not a malefactor (evildoer).

Considering that Pilate was serving as a magistrate, we ought to give him his due; therefore, he should be commended for three things:
1. His diligent and careful handling of the issue.
2. His willingness to humor the people by leaving his place of honor in order to gratify their scruples. He might have said, "If they are unwilling to come into me, let can go back where they came from.
3. His adherence to the rule of justice, by demanding they tell him what He is charged with doing.  Suspecting that the prosecution would be spiteful, he asks, "What accusation bring you against this man?’’ What are the crimes you have charge him with, and what proof do you have? It was a natural law before it became a Roman law—No man should be condemned unheard. (See  [5]Acts 25:16, 17). It is unreasonable to arraign or sentence a man when there is no bill of indictment made against him.

The fact that Roman troops were used at the arrest proves that the Jewish authorities communicated something about this case to Pilate in advance.

John 18:30  They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor (evil doer), we would not have delivered him up unto thee.

Their answer was bold and rude. They said, in effect, that they had already tried the case and found Him guilty. All they wanted Pilate to do was to pronounce the sentence, but they didn’t present him with any proof that He was worthy of death or imprisonment. Pilate’s question was reasonable: What accusation bring ye against this man? But they could not have answered him with more contempt even if it was absurd. These religious rulers were conceited and proud of themselves, and of their own judgment, and so they believed their judgment was all the evidence that Pilate should need to sentence Jesus to death; what could be more arrogant?

It is clear from the answer they gave that they hated Jesus. Right or wrong, they wanted Him designated a malefactor, and treated as one.  It has been well documented that the Jewish leaders also hated Pilate because of his harshness and the fact that he was a Gentile ruling over them.

We are to presume a man innocent until he is proved guilty, but they have presumed him guilty, although He could prove himself innocent. They cannot say, "He is a traitor, a murderer, a criminal, a rabble-rouser,’’ but they do say, "He is an evil-doer.’’ Could one be an evil-doer who went about doing good?  If only they would have called those whom he had cured, and fed, and taught; whom he has rescued from devils, and raised from death; and asked them whether or not He was an evil-doer.

Luke 23:2 And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.

Some of the charges the council (Sanhedrin) brought against Christ were obviously false. But if Pilate could be convinced that these charges were true, he would not have hesitated to condemn Jesus to death. Most likely, however, he at once became suspicious that the Jewish accusations were false.

Here is the indictment drawn up against Him, in which they pretended to have an allegiance to Caesar, so they might suck up to Pilate, but it all boiled down to hatred of Christ, and nothing else. They misrepresented Him:
1. By saying that He made the people rebel against Caesar. It was true, and Pilate knew it, that there was a general uneasiness in the people under the Roman yoke, and they wanted nothing more than the opportunity to shake it off. Now they wanted Pilate to believe that Jesus was actively provoking that general discontent, which, if the truth was known, they themselves were the aiders and abettors of it. They said, We found this fellow perverting the nation; as if converting them to God’s new dispensation (the current age of grace) was the same as turning them against the civil government. Actually, nothing tends more to make men good subjects than making them Christ’s faithful followers. Christ had in point of fact taught that they ought to give tribute to Caesar, though he knew there were those that would be offended at Him for saying it; and yet He is falsely accused of forbidding to give tribute to Caesar.
2. By making him a rival with Caesar. The irony of this is that the very reason why they rejected Him, and would not accept Him as the Messiah, was that He did not appear in worldly pomp and power, and did not set up an earthly kingdom, or offer to do any thing against Caesar. But this is what they charged Him with, that He said, he himself is Christ a king. However, when His followers wanted to make Him a king ([6]John 6:15), He turned it down; although, by the many miracles he wrought he made it appear that if He would have competed with Caesar He would have been an easy winner.

John 18:31  Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

Pilate, who was unaware that the Jews want to kill Christ, tried to evade responsibility and throw it back on the Jews. If they had already tried Jesus and found Him guilty, then why didn’t they sentence Him according to their  [7]law? The answer of the Jews was very significant. They said, in so many words: “We are not an independent nation. We have been taken over by the Roman power. Civil government has been taken from our hands, and we no longer have the authority to put anyone to death.” Their answer was evidence of their bondage and subjection to a Gentile power. Furthermore, they wanted to shift the revulsion of Christ’s death onto Pilate.

Some think that Pilate complimented them by acknowledging the remains of their power, and allowing them to exert it, but, he limited them saying, "go as far as your law will allow you, and, if you go further, you will be guilty of breaking Roman laws.’’ He wanted to please the Jews, but he was not willing to do what they requested.
Now they grow less disrespectful and more submissive, and admit that "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death."  They could punish Christ (beat Him, scourge Him, etc.), but that was not enough, they wanted His blood. It is thought that their power to execute capital punishment was taken from them by the Romans, because they had not used it well, or because it was unwise to place so much power in the hands of a conquered and yet an unsubdued people.

John 18:32  That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.

Verse 32 may have two different meanings: (1) In  [8]Matthew 20:19, Jesus had predicted that He would be delivered up to the Gentiles to be killed. Here the Jews were doing that very thing to Him. (2) In many places, the Lord said that He would be “lifted up” ([9]John 3:14; [10]8:28;  [11]12:32, 34). This referred to death by crucifixion. The Jews used stoning (which broke bones) in cases of capital punishment; whereas crucifixion was the Roman method. Thus, by their refusal to carry out the death penalty, the Jews unknowingly fulfilled these two prophecies concerning the Messiah (see also  [12]Psalm 22:16), and at the same time insured That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled. The overruling hand of God can be seen here, working to bring about His eternal plan. No word of Christ shall fall to the ground; he can never either deceive or be deceived. Even the chief priests, while they persecuted Him as a deceiver, had their spirit directed by God to do what would prove Jesus’ predictions to be true, when they could have taken other measures they might have defeated his predictions. Now we know that there are three reasons for why Jesus had to be crucified by the Romans:
i. To fulfill prophesies, such as “none of His bones would be broken ([13]John 19:36-37).
ii. To include both Jews and Gentiles in the collective guilt for the deed ([14]Acts 2:23; 4:27).
iii. By crucifixion, Jesus was “lifted up” like the snake in the dessert ([15]John 3:14).

John 18:33  Then Pilate entered into the [1]Judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art (are) thou (you) the King of the Jews?
John 18:34  Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

Matthew 27:11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.
Mark 15:2 And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.
Luke 23:3 And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.

Pilate, after he had conferred with the chief priests at the door to his palace, went into the judgment hall, and ordered that Jesus be brought to him for a private interview. He would not examine him in front of the crowd, where he might be disturbed by the noise. The charge made against Christ by the religious leaders was that He claimed to be the King of Israel. Pilate asked Christ point blank, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He may have asked this question with sarcasm, since it seemed ridiculous that this seemingly helpless prisoner, who looked nothing like a revolutionary leader, would think of Himself as the King.

The question was designed to ensnare Him and to find out something that could be used as grounds for the accusation: "He said He was the king of the Jews?" He is referring to that king of the Jews who has been talked about and expected for so long; the Messiah. Since the Jews had not proved that He ever said it, he would pressure Him to say it now, so that he could proceed based upon His own confession. The Jews were looking for a political king and He was not at that moment their king. Pilate set aside any prior conversation with the Jews, because he knew they were prejudiced against Christ. He simply wanted to know, what hast thou done?

Christ answers Pilate’s question with a question of His own; Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? In effect, He was saying, “As governor, have you ever heard that I tried to overthrow the Roman power? Has it ever been reported to you that I proclaimed myself a King who would undermine Caesar’s empire? Is this a charge which you know by personal experience, or is it just what you have heard these Jews saying?”

Pilate was bound by his office to take care of the interests of the Roman government, but he could not say that this was in any danger, or suffered any damage, from any thing our Lord Jesus had ever said or done. He never appeared in worldly pomp, never expressed a desire to have worldly power, never acted as a judge; never before was He accused of any traitorous ideology or practices, nor any thing that might give the least shadow of suspicion. If Pilate had been as inquisitive as he ought to have been in this matter, he would have found that the true reason why the chief priests were outraged against Jesus was because he did not set up an earthly kingdom that was opposed to Roman power.

John 18:35  Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

 There was real contempt in Pilate’s question, “Am I a Jew (with stress on the “I”)?” He implied that he was too important to be troubled with such a local Jewish problem. But his answer was also an admission that he knew of no real charge against Jesus. He only knew what the rulers of the Jews had said. So he emphatically says, “Thine own nation [the nation that is thine] and the chief priests delivered Thee unto me. What hast Thou done?”

Christ had asked Him Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me (v. 34)? "No,’’ he says; "am I a Jew? Do you think I am involved in this plot against you?  I don’t know anything about the Messiah, and I don’t want to know, and I certainly don’t want to be involved in a dispute over whom the Messiah is and who is not.” Pilate’s reply to Jesus showed what the Romans thought of the Jews.

Christ asked him if his information came from others. "Yes,’’ he says, "Your priests told me and their testimony ought to be believed; and therefore I have nothing to do but to proceed upon their information.’’

Christ had declined answering that question, Art thou the king of the Jews? And therefore Pilate puts another question to him, "What hast thou done? What provocation have you given to your own nation, and particularly the priests, to make them so violently opposed to you? Surely there cannot be all this smoke without some fire, what is it?’’

John 18:36  Jesus answered, My  [16]kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

The Lord confessed He was a King. But not the kind of king the Jews accused Him of being, and not the kind that would threaten Rome. Christ’s kingdom is not advanced by human weapons. If it was His disciples would fight to prevent His capture by the Jews. Christ’s kingdom is not from here, that is, not of this world. It does not receive its power or authority from the world, and its aims and objectives are not carnal.

Christ, in his reply, gives a more full and direct answer to Pilate’s former question, Art thou a king? He explains in what sense he is a king, but not the kind of king that would be dangerous to the Roman government; not a secular king supported by secular methods.

Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. It is the kingdom of heaven, and belongs to another world. Christ is a king, and has a kingdom, but not of this world. Even the disciples did not fully understand these truths until after the resurrection. One day, He will return and establish a righteous kingdom on earth (Daniel 7:13-28). Pilate’s concern was the source of this kingdom: where did Jesus derive His authority?

Christ’s kingdom is here now, in a spiritual sense and concerning it we can declare:
1. It did not rise from this world, but the kingdoms of men arise out of the sea and the earth ([17]Daniel 7:3;  [18]Revelations 13:1, 11). The holy city comes from God out of heaven ([19]Revelations 21:1). His kingdom is not by succession, election, or conquest, but by the special designation of the divine will and counsel.
2. Its nature is not worldly; it is a kingdom within men ([20]Luke 17:21), set up in their hearts and consciences ([21]Romans 14:17), its riches are spiritual, its powers spiritual, and all its glory is within. The ministers of state in Christ’s kingdom do not have the spirit of the world, ([22]1 Corinthians 2:12).
3. Its guards and supports are not worldly; its weapons are spiritual. Secular force has never been used to maintain and advance it.  It was carried on in a way that was not hurtful to kings or territory; it was not opposed to any kingdom except that of sin and Satan.
4. Its inclination and design are not worldly. Christ did not allow his disciples to aspire for the pomp and power of the great men of the earth.
5. Its subjects, though they are in the world, yet are not of the world; they are called and chosen out of the world, are born from, and bound for, another world. The Bible teaches us clearly that in this present age Christ is gathering out of the world a people for His name ([23]Acts 15:14). This is His church. They are called out of the world to live in the world but not of the world. The time will come when the Lord will completely remove the church from the world. Then when Christ comes in His kingdom He will establish it!

An evidence of the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom is found in His lack of opposition to the government. If He had chosen to oppose the Romans, He would have fought them with their own weapons, and would have repelled force with force. But he did not take this course: If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But, His followers did not offer to fight; there was no uproar, and no attempt to rescue him, even though the town was now full of Galileans, his friends and countrymen, and they were generally armed; but the peaceable behavior of his disciples on this occasion was enough to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.

He did not depend upon worldly help (for he could have summoned legions of angels into his service, which showed that his kingdom was from above). And also, he did not dread worldly opposition, since he was very willing to be delivered to the Jews.

John 18:37  Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should  [24]bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the  [25]truth heareth my  [26]voice.

Pilate wants to know if Christ is really a king, so he scornfully asks “Art Thou a king, then?” with stress on the “Thou.” He was still confused about Christ’s concept of a king and a kingdom. Pilate assumed Christ to be a political king. Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king.” But His kingdom is concerned with truth, not with swords and shields. Although Christ took upon him the form of a servant, yet even then he justly claimed the honor and authority of a king. If He had meant to declare himself to be an earthly king, he would have said, For this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, to rule the nations, to conquer kings, and to take possession of  kingdoms; but that is not why He came; he came to be a witness, a witness for the God that made the world, and against sin that ruins the world, and by this word of his estimony he sets up, and keeps up, his kingdom. It was foretold that he should be a witness to the people, and, as such, a leader and commander to the people ([27]Isaiah 55:4).

Christ explains himself, and shows how he is a king. It was to bear witness to the truth that He came into the world. The truth here means the truth about God, Christ Himself, the Holy Spirit, man, sin, salvation, and all the other great doctrines of Christianity. Everyone who loves the truth hears His voice, and are born again of that truth; and that is how His Empire grows. Christ has authority, His voice has power; everyone who is of the truth (the characteristic of His kingdom) is subject to Him, and listens to His voice.

Pilate probably did not understand the significance of these profound words, but we today can discern some of the meaning Jesus had in mind. He was “born” which indicates His humanity; but He also “came into the world” which indicates His deity. The fact that Jesus “came into the world” indicates that He existed before His birth at Bethlehem; and this is an important and repeated truth in John’s gospel ([28]John 1:9-10).

Mark 15:3 And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing.
Mark 15:4 And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.
Mark 15:5 But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marveled.

Matthew 27:12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
Matthew 27:13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
Matthew 27:14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.

 The chief priests poured out a torrent of charges against Jesus, but He answered nothing, “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa 53:7). Pilate couldn’t get over His poise in the face of such overwhelming accusations, so He asked Him why He didn’t defend Himself, but Jesus refused to answer His critics, which Pilate thought was very strange.

There is a time when silence is more eloquent than  words, for silence can say things that words can never say.
1) There is the silence of wondering admiration. It is a complement for any performance or oratation to be greeted with thundering applause, but it is even a greater complement for it to be greeted with a hushed silence which knows that applause would be quite out of place. It is a complement to be praised or thanked in words, but it is even a greater complement to see a look in the eyes that says there are no words that can be found.
2) There is a silence of contempt. It is possible to greet someone’s statements or arguments or excuses with silence which shows that they are not worth answering. Instead of answering someone’s protests the listener may turn around and walk away, contemptuously leaving them unanswered.
3) There is the silence of fear. A man may remain silent for no other reason than he is afraid to speak. His cowardice may keep him from saying the things he knows he ought to say. Fear may gag him into a shameful silence.
4) There is the silence of the heart that is hurt. When a person has been really hurt and wounded he does not break into protests and angry words. The deepest sorrow is a dumb silence, which is past anger and past rebuke and past everything speech can say, and which can only silently show the look of sorrow.
5) There is the silence of tragedy, and that is the silence that is the most silent, because there is nothing left to say. THAT WAS WHY JESUS WAS SILENT. He knew there could be no bridge between himself and the Jewish leaders. He knew there was nothing in Pilate to which He could ultimately appeal. He knew that the lines of communication were broken. The hatred of the Jews was an iron curtain which no words could penetrate. The cowardess of Pilate in the face of the mob was a barrier no words could pierce. It is a terrible thing when a man’s heart is such that even Jesus knows it is hopeless to speak. God save us from that!

Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? Yes, he did hear; and still he hears all that is said unjustly against his truths and ways; but he keeps silence, because it is the day of his patience (long-suffering), and he does not answer, as he will shortly ([29]Psalm 50:3).

He believed that Christ was innocent, and perhaps he had heard that never man spake like him; and therefore he thought it was strange that he had not one word to say for himself. The Jews’ real grievances against Jesus were religious, and they tried Him on that basis. But religious charges carried no weight in the court of Rome. Knowing that, when they brought Him before Pilate they made three political charges against Him (Luke 23:2): (1) He was a revolutionary who posed a threat to the empire; (2) He urged people not to pay taxes, therefore undermining the prosperity of the empire; (3) He claimed to be a King, therefore threatening the power and position of the emperor.

In Matthew’s Gospel we hear Pilate interrogating Him on the third charge. Asked if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus answered that He was. This brought forth a torrent of abuse and slander from the Jewish leaders. He would not dignify even one of their charges with an answer. Probably never before had the governor seen anyone remain silent under such attack. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent ([30]Eccles. 3:7), and we must exercise discernment. One thing is for sure: no matter what He said, they would not have believed Him. Due to our sin we have become liable to the judgment of God, and were to be brought before his bar; therefore Christ, being made sin and a curse for us, was arraigned as a criminal. Pilate would judge Christ as a guilty criminal, so that God might not enter into judgment against us. It is certain that Jesus had to die for our sins. But that Fact does not at all remove the guilt of the Sanhedrin and of Pilate ([31]Acts 2:23).

Mark’s account briefly reports that Pilate marveled, but in  [32]John 19:8–12 he is pictured with “fear” attempting to free Jesus.

John 18:38  Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.
Luke 23:4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.

It is difficult to say what Pilate meant when he said to Him, “What is truth?” Was he puzzled, or sarcastic, or interested? No doubt, he was still confused about the spiritual purposes of Christ. All we know is that the Truth Incarnate stood before him, and he did not recognize Him. Pilate, now satisfied that Christ is not a political threat to the Roman authorities, declares Christ to be innocent. Then he hurried to the Jews with the admission that he could find no fault in Jesus at all.

This was certainly a good question, and could not have been asked of anyone who was better able to answer it. Truth is that pearl of great price which the human understanding has a desire for and is looking for; and one cannot rest until he has it.

When we search the scriptures, or listen to the preaching of the Word, we should ask ourselves, What is truth? and then pray, Lead me in thy truth, into all truth. But the sad truth is that many who ask this question do not have patience and steadfastness enough to stick with their search after truth, and some do not have enough humility and sincerity to receive it when they have found it ([33]2 Timothy 3:7). That causes many to deal with their own consciences; they ask it, "What am I?’’ "What have I done?’’ but will not take time for an answer.

Our Lord was treated as if He were the worst of malefactors, but he never merited such brutal treatment, and that aggravated the sin of the Jews that acted against Him with so much violence.

If a prisoner has had a fair trial, and has been declared innocent by proper judges, especially if there is no reason to suspect them of partiality in His favor, he must be believed to be innocent, and his accusers are bound to go along with it. But our Lord Jesus, even though he was found not guilty, is still belittled and labeled a malefactor, and the religious leaders still thirsted for his blood.

Luke 23:5 And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.

When Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews, He answered that He was. Pilate did not interpret His claim as any threat to the Roman Emperor. After a private interview with Jesus (John 18:33–38a), he turned to the chief priests and to the crowd saying that he could find no fault with Him. That only served to rally the mob; they became more insistent, accusing Jesus of stirring up disloyalty, beginning in despised Galilee and going all the way to Jerusalem.

Some of the charges the council (Sanhedrin) brought against Christ were obviously false. Several times Pilate pronounced his verdict, I find no fault in this man. However, the Jewish leaders grew angry (vs. 5) and they actually succeeded in intimidating Pilate ( [34]John 19:12).

The fury and outrage of the prosecutors continued. Instead of being toned down by Pilate’s declaration of His innocence, they were more exasperated and fierce than before. We do not find that they had any particular facts to reveal or any evidence that would prove their charges; but they resolved to go on with their campaign against Christ, and they will do it with noise and confidence. And they will say, even if they cannot prove it: “He stirs up the people to rebel against Caesar, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.” He did stir up the people, but it was not due to any thing divisive or rebellious, but to every thing that was virtuous and praiseworthy. He did teach, but they could not charge him with teaching any doctrine that tended to disturb the public peace, or make the government uneasy or jealous.

Luke 23:7 And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

When Pilate heard the word Galilee, he thought he had found an escape route for himself. Galilee was Herod’s jurisdiction, and so Pilate tried to avoid any further involvement in this case by turning Jesus over to Herod. It so happened that Herod was visiting in Jerusalem at that very time.

Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great, who massacred the infants of Bethlehem. It was Antipas who murdered John the Baptist for condemning his illicit relationship with his brother’s wife. This was the Herod whom Jesus called “that fox” in  [35]Luke 13:32.

Pilate sent Him to Herod’s court. "Let us send him to Herod,’’ said Pilate, "for Herod is now in town, Besides, he should have knowledge of His cause, since he belongs to Herod’s jurisdiction.’’ Pilate was already sick of the case, and wanted to rid his hands of it, which seems to have been the true reason for sending him to Herod. But it is not the real reason. God ordered it for the purpose of fulfilling scripture, as it appears  in  [36]Acts 4:26, 27, and in David’s Psalm (2:2), The kings of the earth and the rulers set themselves against the Lord and his Anointed, and is expressly said to be fulfilled in Herod and Pontius Pilate.

____________________Scripture Reference and Notes_______________________

  [1]JUDGMENT HALL. The word praetorium is translated “Judgement Hall” in the Authorized Version of the New Testament. In John 18:28, 33; 19:9, it is the residence which Pilate occupied when he visited Jerusalem. The site of Pilate’s prætorium in Jerusalem has given rise to much dispute, some supposing it to be the palace of King Herod, others the tower of Antonia; but it was probably the latter, which was then and long afterward the fortress of Jerusalem. 

  [2]DEFILED.  “to pollute, contaminate, soil” is used in John 18:28  as meaning “ceremonial defilement.”

   [3]Literly, “went outside unto them,” making his concession to their religiousness and his anxiety to avoid disturbance.

   [4]PILATE, PONTIUS [PIE lat, PON chus] — the fifth Roman prefect of Judea (ruled A.D. 26–36), who issued the official order sentencing Jesus to death by crucifixion (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18–19). Pilate was probably an Italian-born Roman citizen whose family was wealthy enough for him to qualify for the middle class. Probably he held certain military posts before his appointment in Judea. He was married (Matt. 27:19), bringing his wife, Claudia Procula, to live with him at Caesarea, the headquarters of the province. Pilate governed the areas of Judea, Samaria, and the area south as far as the Dead Sea to Gaza. As prefect he had absolute authority over the non-Roman citizens of the province. He was responsible to the Roman governor who lived in Syria to the north (Luke 2:2).

  [5](Acts 25:16, 17) To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him. Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.

  [6](John 6:15) When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. 

  [7]Most likely, Pilate was referring to the Jewish nation’s civil laws, but the Jews were concerned more about the popularity of Jesus and losing their positions if the people rebelled against their Roman masters. The religious trial had ended with Jesus being accused of blasphemy for saying He was equal with God.

  [8](Matthew 20:19) And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.  

  [9](John 3:14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 

  [10](John 8:28) Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. 

  [11](John 12:32,34) And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me…34The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? 

  [12](Psalm 22:16) For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

  [13](John 19:36-37) For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not  broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.  

  [14](Acts 2:23; 4:27) Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:… For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,  

  [15](John 3:14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

  [16]KINGDOM. Denotes the territory or people over whom a king rules. It is used in the Bible especially for the “kingdom” of God and of Christ. “The Kingdom of God is (a) the sphere of God’s rule. Since, however, this earth is the scene of universal rebellion against God, the “kingdom” of God is (b) the sphere in which, at any given time, His rule is acknowledged. God has not relinquished His sovereignty in the face of rebellion, demoniac and human, but has declared His purpose to establish it.

  [17](Daniel 7:3) “And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.” This is Daniel’s vision of four great beasts coming up from the sea. (The Great Sea is the Mediterranean.) These represent the four world empires. 

  [18](Rev. 13:1, 11) And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy… And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.  

  [19](Rev. 21:1) And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 

  [20](Luke 17:21) Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you

  [21](Romans 14:17) For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 

  [22](1 Corinthians 2:12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  

  [23](Acts 15:14) Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.  

  [24]bear witness (give testimony).   To be a witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because it was taught by divine revelation or inspiration

  [25]truth. (a) what is true in any matter under consideration; (b) truly, in truth, according to truth; (c) what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth; (d) the true notions of God which are open to human reason without his supernatural intervention; (e) the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians

  [26]voice. (a) the sound of uttered words; speech.

  [27](Isaiah 55:4) Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.  

  [28(John 1:9-10) That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 

  [29](Psalm 50:3) Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. 

  [30] (Ecclesiastics 3:7) A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 

  [31](Acts 2:23) Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:   

  [32](John 19:8–12) When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.

  [33](2 Timothy 3:7) “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  The expression ever learning does not mean that they are continually learning more about the Lord Jesus and the word of God. Rather, it means that they are constantly delving into one cult after another, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. The Lord Jesus is Himself the Truth.

  [34](John 19:12) And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.  

  [35](Luke 13:32) And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.  

  [36](Acts 4:26-27) The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 

Do you have any questions or comments?

 Josh Hempel of Calgary, Alberta, engaged himself in an argument with a Christian about the existence of God. He stated his case against God, then closed the argument with an appeal for God to strike him with lightening if he was wrong. God obliged his request, but seasoned his judgment with grace as he allowed Hempel to recover after being hospitalized.

HomeLife, April 2000, p. 31

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