We are chipping away at the narrative Matthew provides for us in his Gospel regarding the accounts leading up to Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. We started at the Last Supper, progressing to Jesus’ arrest, two ecclesiastical trials and Judas’ fate. Once Jesus was declared guilty and worthy of death, He was transferred from the High Priest’s Place to the Roman Court of Pilate.
Mt 27:1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. 2 They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
He is Pontius Pilate, the fifth governor of the Roman Empire’s province of Judaea. He served under the Emperor Tiberius from approximately 26-27 to 36-27 AD. He enjoyed the power of a supreme judge. As an example he had the sole authority to pronounce the death sentence upon a prisoner. Because he governed with rigid force to get his way, there was no love lost between him and the Jewish religious leaders. He often provoked the Jews and Samaritans to riot. By the end of his 10 year reign he stood trial in Rome for cruelty and oppression. Legion says an emperor made him commit suicide.
1) A provocative question.
Mt 27:11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Our record tells us that Pilates asks Jesus a question that could only have been motivated by the Jewish Religious Leaders. How else would he know to ask Jesus whether He was “the king of the Jews”? Although the previous two trials and this one is played out, Jesus knows what must be done and when it must be done. His response is not … “I am” … but … “Yes, it is as you say”! Although Jesus was King of the Jews because He as the Godman is King of all kings … the provocation comes because in the Roman Empire’s mind, only the emperor was king. He was deified. To claim to be king meant treason. Note Jesus never claimed to be king … He said … “Yes, it is as you say”! Yet Pilate claimed Jesus said that.
2) Jesus was a threat to the Jewish Leaders.
Mt 27:12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
Although Jesus gave no reply to the accusations metered out against Him, He remained silent as Isaiah prophesied
Isa 53:7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
The great problem the Jewish leaders had was that Jesus was not orthodox! He was straight down the line Biblical but He was not true to manmade (orthodox) religious doctrine. He was a threat to them. They lost crowds of followers throughout the land because of Jesus’ three year ministry stint.
3) Pilate’s indecision.
Mt 27:15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.
On the one hand he wanted to let Jesus free, but on the other hand he realized that his fate as governor was in the Jewish Religious Leaders hands. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was underway with the Jewish Passover starting that night. He was afraid of them … how could he get out of this predicament? Suddenly a bright idea comes to mind … offer them an option. Free a convicted criminal (notorious prisoner) or a guiltless man (Jesus). (See verse 18 … they envied Jesus and Pilate knew this.)
4) Pilate’s wife gets involved.
Mt 27:19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
She was panicking. The dream she had must have been traumatic and fears for both her skin and that of her husband … but by this time Pilate had already made the offer to the Religious Leaders. We need to understand that God’s will must be accomplished. People play their roles in the realization of Jesus’ execution and they will be held responsible … but God’s will and timeline and rescue plan must be achieved!
5) Mob justice. Don’t ever think that mob justice is a modern thing. It happened right here. Mob justice always starts with agitators … and in this case it was the Religious Leaders.
Mt 27:20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
This is so sad because the Chief Priest above all ought to have known the Scriptures relating to Messiah. Especially in the face of speaking under inspiration:
Jn 11:49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
Jn 18:14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.
6) The court of public opinion:
Mt 27:21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Release the criminal and crucify the innocent one called the Christ!
7) You get what you ask for with God!
Mt 27:24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
Pilate, the ruthless tyrant plays right into the Religious Leaders hands. Now he is in a corner and wriggles his way out saying he is innocent of Jesus blood (death). He is wrong because he held the power. All he is remembered for is permitting this barbaric act. See the Apostles Creed! What follows is astounding:
Mt 27:25 All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
They accept responsibility for Jesus’ murder … though they deny it. The Bible is proof! O yes, Jesus’ blood is on the that nation. They put Jesus to death. They are no longer God’s people as a nation. All believers, Jews and Gentiles who believe and receive Jesus as Lord are God’s People. No more Jerusalem and no more temple, sacrifices and priests as these are fulfilled in Jesus.
Thank You Jesus for taking the fall for us. Amen.