Jesus Faces Pontius Pilate
Jesus’ hands were tied behind his back as He stood in front of the clamoring group of religious leaders. They waved their fists at him and shouted insults and accusations. Jesus had just been arrested and this trial was set up quickly in the middle of the night. The priests and elders were anxious to kill Jesus and indeed before morning they pronounced Him guilty of death because He had admitted that He is the Son of God. (Matthew 26:64)
When Judas saw that the religious leaders had condemned Jesus, he began to worry that perhaps he had done wrong by charging money for helping Jesus’ enemies arrest Him. Judas knew the religious leaders were plotting to kill Jesus when he joined forces with them. But now he could have been worrying that God might hold him accountable for scheming as to how to arrest Jesus while pretending to be His devoted disciple!
Judas ran back to the chief priests and elders and told them that he didn’t want the thirty pieces of silver after all and that he had betrayed “innocent blood”. The religious leaders laughed at him and said: “What is that to us?” (Matthew 27:4) Judas in desperation threw the pieces of silver down on the temple floor and ran away and hanged himself. The chief priests took the silver pieces and later bought a plot of land to bury strangers in and named the field the “Field of Blood,” since it was paid for with blood money!
When morning came the religious leaders bound Jesus and dragged him out to be judged by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. The nation of
was under Roman rule back then,
and it was unlawful for the Jewish people to condemn a person to die unless the
death sentence was approved in a Roman court. Israel
When Jesus arrived in Pilate’s court, all hell broke loose and vile hatred spilled over in the courtroom! Hate in the name of God?? The mob of religious leaders began waving their fists and angrily accusing Jesus of one crime after another. Pilate needed to know how bad He was. Since Jesus claimed to be a king He might pose a danger to
. One priest after another took the stand
criticizing Jesus for blasphemy and lying about what an evil man He was. And all the time Jesus stood there looking
down at the floor and not saying a word. Rome
“Don’t you hear all of the terrible things they are saying about you?” Pilate asks Jesus. “Aren’t you going to stand up for yourself?” But Jesus just stood there! He just stood there and never said a word! He never defended Himself! Never countered any of the lies told about Him! Never tried to protect His reputation! Scripture says that Pilate was very impressed with Jesus.
About this time Pilate’s wife interrupts the session and she runs over to her husband crying and whispers something in his ear. She has just wakened from a dream about Jesus. She tells her husband that Jesus is a just man and she warns and begs Pilate not to be a part of sentencing Jesus to death. Dreams were believed to be messages of divine revelation and indeed this one was I believe.
Pilate dismisses his wife and her dream and turns to Jesus and asks Him: “Tell me, are you the King of the Jews?” And Jesus answers: “It is as you say.” (Matthew 27:11) Pilate asks Jesus: “You are a King then?” And Jesus answers: “You are right I am a king. For this cause I was born and for this cause I have come into the world. That I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37) And then Pilate looks at Jesus and asks the question: “What is the truth?” (John 18:38a)
What is the truth? Pilate’s question regarding truth rings down through the millennia. The answer is that Truth is not a principle. Truth is a Person. Truth is Jesus Christ. One of the clearest and best-known statements of Jesus is: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6
Notice that Jesus says, “I am the truth…” He does not say that truth is a religion or a ritual or a set of rules and regulations. He says “I am the Truth.” Truth is Jesus Christ. This is what separates Jesus Christ from every other leader of every other faith. Other leaders have said, “I am looking for the truth,” or “I am teaching the truth,” or “I point to the truth,” or “I am a prophet of the truth.” But Jesus comes out and says, “I am the Truth.”
A lot of people say, “I think Jesus was just a great teacher.” But He could not be just that. No great teacher would claim to be God if he wasn’t. Either Jesus is fooling 2.3 billion people who call themselves Christians and believe a lie, or Jesus was insane when He said He was the Truth – or Jesus is who He said He was. We Christians dare to believe that Jesus is the Truth. that He is our Savior – the Way and the Life. We step out and believe and then it happens! We are never the same again. We are born again – changed. He didn’t just go about
thousand years ago healing and changing people and performing miracles. He is doing it still in us today in our hearts!
Pilate likes Jesus and believes that He is innocent. He wants to save Him and believes that the religious leaders are just trying to have Jesus put to death because they are envious of Him. (Matthew 27:18) But Pilate may disregard his conscience to please the religious leaders. He has to work with them and he doesn’t want more political uprisings. That wouldn’t look good on his record. So what is he to do? Will Pilate do what he believes is right and use his power to stop this injustice – this murder - or will he take the easy way out and please the crowd? What do we do in these kinds of situations?
Each year the Romans practiced the custom of releasing one prisoner back to the Jewish people. At these times the Jewish people could choose which prisoner they wanted to have freed from prison. A crowd had gathered as Pilate announced that he found no fault in Jesus. And hearing this the crowd went wild and yelled back angry insults.
One of the prisoners named Barabbas was a notorious murderer and Pilate thought that the crowd would never think of releasing him. So Pilate had the guards drag Barabbas out in chains so that both Jesus and Barabbas were standing together in front of the crowd. Jesus stood there silently in chains with his head hanging down while Barabbas swore and spit and tried to kick a guard. Then Pilate called to the crowd: “Which prisoner do you want me to release to you? Barabbas the murderer or Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:17) .
Pilate was sure the Jewish people would choose Jesus over Barabbas. Hadn’t Jesus gone about healing so many of these same people? Why would they want to kill Him? And then surely the Jewish people would not want a hardened criminal and murderer like Barabbas living in their midst! But to Pilate’s surprise the crowd shouted back “Barabbas” “Barabbas” “Release Barabbas to us!” Scripture says “the chief priests and elders had persuaded the crowds that they should ask for Barabbas to be released and to crucify Jesus.” (Matthew 27:20) And the people were too lazy to think for themselves but they just did what their leaders told them to do! Do we ever do that today?
Pilate was amazed and disappointed. “Then what do you want me to do with Jesus?” he yelled back at the enraged mob. “Crucify him, crucify him!” They all shrieked back at Pilate shaking their fists and jumping up and down! And Jesus stood there silently before them with his head hanging down. “What evil has he done?” Pilate screamed back. But the crazed mob had gone into a frenzy of hate! Hate and more hate spilled out everywhere. “Crucify him, crucify him!” was their answer. And they shrieked it out again. .”CRUCIFY HIM, CRUCIFY HIM.” The mob was stirred up now and running around yelling and grabbing their clubs and waving their swords and Pilate feared they could start an uprising!
So Pilate gave in to the angry mob and told them that they could have their own way. He asked for a bowl of water and he sat down and washed his hands in front of the crowd and announced to them all: “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” (Matthew 27:24b) And the pumped up crowd agreed that this death was on them. Then Pilate released Barabbas to the crowd and he ordered the sorrowful Jesus to be whipped and sent Him away to be crucified.
God foretold these terrible events seven hundred years before they happened through the prophet Isaiah. Let’s listen: “He is despised and rejected by men. A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . He was wounded for our sins and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace is upon Him. And by His stripes we are healed. “(Isaiah 53:3-5,)
And then we can almost see Jesus standing there silently with his head down when we read more of Isaiah’s prophecy of old. “He was oppressed and afflicted yet He opened not His mouth. He was led away as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living. And for the sins of the people He was striken. (Isaiah 52:7-8)