279 - Three Roman Trials
OCTOBER 6 - Nº 279 Matthew 27:11-26; Mark 15:1-15; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:39-40; 19:1-16
According to the Jewish leaders, Jesus had committed blasphemy by claiming to be the Son of God. The penalty under Jewish law was death. However, Israel was under Roman rule, and the Romans would not allow their subjects to execute anyone. Only they could enforce capital punishment. So early in the morning the Jews dragged Jesus to the palace of Pilate, the Roman governor, hoping to get a formal conviction. When they arrived, the Jews refused to enter Pilate’s palace. Entering a Gentile’s residence would make them unclean according to their religious laws, and they would not be able to sacrifice their Passover lambs later that day. So, Pilate came out to them. He asked, “What charges do you bring against this man?” “He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar,” they lied. “And he says he is a king, which is treason against the Emperor of Rome,” they added. (They had conveniently switched their accusation from blasphemy to treason—which was punishable by death according to Roman law.) “He should die for this, but we aren’t allowed to put him to death.” Pilate turned to Jesus and asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” “Yes,” Jesus replied, “but my kingdom is from another place. I am in this world to bring truth.” “What is truth?” Pilate exclaimed as he shook his head. After more interrogation, Pilate went out to the religious leaders and declared, “He is not guilty of any crime!” This made the Jews angry. “He stirs up the people all over Judea with his teaching,” they insisted. “He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” Pilate realized he might be able to get out of this difficult situation if he turned Jesus over to Herod Antipas, the Roman ruler in Galilee where Jesus had spent most of his life. Conveniently, Herod happened to be in Jerusalem that week. Herod had heard a lot about Jesus and was anxious to meet him. So, he was pleased when Pilate sent Jesus to him. Herod asked Jesus many questions, but Jesus remained silent. Herod decided to send him back to Pilate. He could find no fault with him either. When Pilate returned to the Judgment Hall in his palace, his wife sent him a message, “I had a dream about that man you have on trial. Do not do anything to him. He is innocent,” she warned. Pilate knew that it was customary to allow the people to choose one prisoner to be released each year during the Feast. He decided he would give the Jews a choice between Jesus and a notorious murderer named Barabbas. He was sure they would choose Jesus. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd and they began to yell, “Give us Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!” “Then what shall I do with Jesus?” Pilate asked. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” they yelled even louder. To prevent a riot, Pilate released Barabbas and had Jesus flogged. But even that was not enough. The Jewish leaders threatened Pilate, “If you release this man, we will tell Caesar that you freed a man who is guilty of treason.” Pilate turned away and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. They shouted, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” At that point, Pilate turned Jesus over to the Jewish leaders to be crucified.
Just a few days before, some of the same people who yelled “Crucify him! Crucify him!” were shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” What caused them to pivot so quickly? Jesus did not fulfill their expectations. He did not do what they wanted. So, they turned on him. Are you a loyal follower of Jesus? Or do you allow your circumstances to dictate your feelings about him?