1. Lesson One of the Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Book of Daniel

The Book of  Luke, The First Trail of Christ before Pilate - Lesson 236


The trials of Jesus Christ before the Jewish authorities are over.

The resounding verdict is guilty before Annas, guilty before Caiaphas, guilty before the Sanhedrin.

But the Jews have no power beyond pronouncing him guilty and therefore they turn to the Romans, the powers that occupy their land.

They hate the Roman occupiers but if the occupiers can be used for their benefit the Jewish authorities will not hesitate to do so.

Luke 3:1 tells us of the Roman authorities in power in those days.

Israel was ruled by Tetrarchs who reported to the Emperor in Rome, Tiberius Caesar.

The country was divided into four parts,

Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Jerusalemís province,

Herod was the tetrarch of Galilee where Christ chiefly ministered,

his brother Philip was the tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis,

and Lysanias was the tetrarch of Abilene.

Our text in chapter 23 of Luke portrays the three trials of Jesus Christ before the two Tetrarchs who were pertinent to these trials, Pontius Pilate and Herod, both in Jerusalem at this time of Passover.

Of course their presence in Jerusalem at this time was providential.

I want to read an account about the history of Pontius Pilate from J. W. Shepardís book, The Christ of the Gospel, 1971), pp. 582-583.

"Pontius Pilate was the Roman Procurator (an imperial agent of Rome with financial and administrative powers) from 26 to 36 A.D.(he was in Israel 6 years after the crucifixion). He resided ordinarily in Caesarea, but during the feasts was accustomed to be present in Jerusalem, so as to quickly suppress any disorder. He was born in Seville, Spain, was twice married, having abandoned his first wife to marry Claudia, the daughter of Julia, the prostitute daughter of the Emperor Augustus. After a checkered political career as procurator, he was banished by Caligula on account of his cruelty and inability to maintain order, to Vienne, Gaul, and at Mount Pilatus he ended his life by suicide. He was a typical Roman ó stern and practical. He had a contempt for religious superstitions and traditions, and an imperious desire to rule with a high hand, compelling obedience. He had not tactfully managed his government, and soon became odious to the Jews and Romans. He planted his standards on the citadel on his first entry to the city, regardless of the religious feeling of the people, prohibiting all images. The people were greatly incensed at the standards, bearing the Emperorís image, and requested their removal. Pilate at first condoned their request, and threatened them later with violence; but, with extreme persistence, the Jews won out and the Governor submitted. Later, when he would have constructed an aqueduct for supplying the city with water, he made the serious blunder of defraying the cost from the Temple treasury. When the people revolted, he suppressed the tumult with great cruelty. Just a short while before the trial of Jesus, he had a company of Galileans in the Temple court and mingling their blood with their sacrifices, a thing which sent a shudder of religious superstition and horror through the whole nation."

The second Tetrarch involved in the trial of Christ was Herod Antipas.

Herod Antipas became Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea (4 B.C.Ė39 A.D.)(till 9 years after the crucifixion). He built the purely Hellenistic city of Tiberias over a cemetery and lost favor with the Jews because of this "unclean" capital city. After renouncing his first wife he married Herodias, the former wife of his half brother Herod Philip, who brought her daughter Salome with her to Antipasí court.

When John the Baptist accused Antipas of adultery, the king, after Salomeís dance and at the instigation of Herodias, had him beheaded in prison. This Herod Antipas was Jesusí earthly king who Jesus called "that fox", and Pontius Pilate later sent Jesus, during the trial, to Herod, who happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. Herod Antipas ordered his soldiers to mock Jesus and sent him back to the Roman procurator (Luke 23:6-16).

He is the Herod of the gospels and died in exile in the year 39 A.D.

We find in verses 1 through 25 three scenes.

Scene one in verses 1-7 takes place in the presence of Pontius Pilate.

Scene two in verses 7-12 takes place before Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee.

Pilate in scene 1, appears to have breathed a sigh of relief after finding out that the Jews were presenting him with a problem to be solved by Herod Antipus.

This was because Jesusí alleged offenses seem to have occurred in Herodís jurisdiction, the Galilean region to the north.

He was prone to wash his hands of problems and to pass them along to others.

He will end up doing this literally as reported by Matthew, bowing to the Jewís pressure to put Jesus to death in spite of his belief that Jesus was not guilty.

Matthew 27:22,  When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

Scene three in verses 13-25 takes us back, once again, to the judgment seat of Pilate, whose relief was very short, again finding himself the one who must make the decision concerning the accusations made against Jesus.

There are repeated pronouncements of Jesusí innocence, by Pilate with Herod taking no action against Him either.

In spite of these opinions of Pilate and Herod, Jesus continues to be mocked and beaten, and will soon be put to death as a common criminal, while one of the nationís most dangerous criminals will be set free.

This of course is the natural expression of the natural man.

To choose the evil and to shun the good.

But Pilate allowed himself to be used even though he had the full power of Rome behind him.

He would have had little difficulty enforcing his will on the people, but he chose the political way, a way of advantage to him.

He chose to give the mob their way, even though this meant the death of an innocent man.

He said "I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it."

Having full Roman authority to oppose the Jews and stop this mob action he lost any innocence he claimed.

We will try to cover the first of these trials today so let us read Luke 23:1-7,  And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. 2And 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. 3And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.

(New American Standard "It is as you say.") The New King James, "It is as you say."

4Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. 5And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. 6When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. 7And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herodís jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

There is no scripture that would lead us to believe that Pilate was in on this conspiracy.

Mark tells us that Jesus was put on the cross at 9:00 AM.

This would mean that the judicial proceedings must have begun quite early that morning.

Mark also tells us that the Sanhedrin reached their verdict that Jesus was guilty "very early in the morning" (15:1), and then he immediately moves on to say that they bound Jesus and led Him away, taking Him to Pilate.

We can accurately believe that Pilate was disturbed very early in the morning seeking his agreement that Jesus was guilty so as to crucify Him before the day goes by, because the Sabbath was only 12 hours or so away.

So no doubt Pilateís sleep was disturbed by the group that had come to his house to seek his favor and support in putting Jesus to death.

We know from Matthew that his wife shared with him her dream which provided a warning to Pilate to have nothing to do with this just man.

The Jewish leaders have no evidence except the affirmation of Jesus that he is the Messiah, but that would be a Jewish religious matter to Pilate and of no convincing value.

But they are aggressive in their approach to Pilate expecting that Pilate will simply yield to them and give them what they want.

They have no evidence but they press three charges against our Lord anyway thinking that is enough to convince Pilate to do their will.

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.

The charges are constructed to appeal to Pilateís Roman sense.

They are political charges meaning charges against the state.

The charges against Jesus were:

(1) stirring up unrest and rebellion: "perverting the nation"

(2) opposing taxation by Rome

(3) claiming to be a king.

These charges were very serious crimes against the state, crimes which could not be brushed aside, and crimes which would have brought the death penalty.

History teaches that the Jews had lost the freedom to carry out capital punishment some 40 years before this.

However we know from the book of Acts that this did not hinder them from stoning Stephen so their obedience to this law was selective.

In the case of Jesus they knew that the people of Israel were hostile to this act so they chose to seek Rome to do their dirty word.

Let Rome take the heat for Christís death was their chant.

But Pilate is not so pliable.

Roman rulers were not prone to be caught up in being used by one Jewish faction against another.

Matthew reports that Pilate knew this was taking place.

As Matthew records in Matthew 27:18,  For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.

They envied the growing popularity of Jesus.

In other words he knew that this man was a threat to their place and they wanted him to solve this problem for them.

He saw Jesus standing before him, already beaten and bloody from the abuse that he had received from the temple guards during the night (Luke 22:63-65).

From Pilateís perspective this beaten and bloody man certainly did not appear to be dangerous.

Pilate passed right over the first two charges.

If Jesus were a revolutionary, perverting the nation, the Romans would have known about Him already.

In other words he was not on the Romanís most wanted list.

Most likely Pilate had already had intelligence about Jesus and had concluded that He was no threat.

Pilate knew revolutionaries, but Jesus was not one of them.

There was nothing in the Roman files which suggested that Jesus had ever implied that the Jews should not pay their Roman taxes.

There was nothing secretive about this man whatsoever for it was common knowledge that the taught publicly, day after day, so that His teaching was a matter of public record (cf. Luke 22:52-53)?

So the only charge that had any interest to Pilate was the last charge.

And it seems that the last charge was the charge that most disturbed the Jews.

And so Pilate passed over the first two charges, asking Jesus only to respond to the question: Was He was "the king of the Jews."

Now Jesus did not speak around or avoid answering this question but clearly said: "It is as you say."

Pilate does not seem surprised by this answer.

He had no doubt experience with other Messiahs claimers who had made this same claim.

And most likely he knew this title was what the disciples of Jesus had been using to announce Him to Israel.

It appears from Pilateís handling of this situation his response to Jesus was from the attitude that this man is just another from a long line of religious crackpots.

In other words his claim that he a king means nothing as far as Rome is concerned.

He sees no political threat to Rome or to his rule.

There does seems to be, during the course of Pilateís interrogation, that he actually begins to fear Jesus or at least fear putting him to death.

He has heard his wifeís warning to have nothing to do with this man, he has heard the Jews cry for his death and he tries to get out of this sticky situation.

Pilate announced his verdict, but his verdict was not what the Jews wanted to hear.

Luke 23:4,  Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.

In effect, Pilate had just functioned as a one-man grand jury.

He had listened to the charges and to the evidence, and he did not approve an indictment.

There was insufficient evidence to prove that Jesus was a criminal, worthy of the death penalty, which these leaders wanted.

This conclusion of course did not calm the Jews for they continued to insist on having what they came for - a guilty verdict punishable by death.

They protested, insisting that Jesus "stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching, starting in Galilee, and now reaching all the way to Jerusalem."

But in protesting again they had given Pilate some wiggle room for Pilate heard the word Galilean and immediately saw an out from this predicament.

They had revealed that Jerusalem was the last place where Jesus had created some great unrest.

But He was not a Judean, a man of Jerusalem, but a Galilean.

This was where His ministry began.

Most of Jesusí ministry had been in Galilee, and therefore Pilate saw an out and ruled that this case was really not in his jurisdiction.

This conclusion has been a prosecutorís joy throughout the centuries in getting rid of sticky cases that do no good for oneís career.

So the case was sent to Herod the Tetrarch, for he was the one who ruled over Galilee.

And so Jesus, along with the religious leaders and the rest of the crowd, were sent, still early in the morning, to get a judgment from Herod.

Pilate, no doubt congratulated himself for disposing of this sticky problem.

He had done what his wife said to do and he had not been the one to totally stop the purposes of the Jews.

In fact, he had succeeded in passing the buck to a man he really didnít get along with anyway.

How fortunate it was that Herod was also in Jerusalem at this time (cf. Luke 23:7).

I can just imagine Pilate thinking of how great this solution was as he contemplated a nice quiet breakfast.

Most likely he was very glad to get rid of these Jews with their complicated religion and their irksome problems.

But it was not to be for Pilate for Satan was not done with him.