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Jesus Before Pilate and Herod

We are continuing to meditate on the last hours that led up to the crucifixion of Christ. When the elders and priests brought Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor, the accusations changed from blasphemy to one of revolt against Rome and the refusal to pay taxes to Caesar.

2And they began to accuse him, saying, "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king." 3So Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. 4Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man." 5But they insisted, "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here." 6On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. 9He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer (Luke 23:2-9).

The corrupt elders knew that they could not get Pilate to render judgment on Jesus with an accusation of blasphemy, so they accused Christ of subversion against Caesar and teaching the people not to pay taxes to Rome. This allegation was an outright lie. Jesus had answered earlier to give to Caesar what was Caesar's and to God what was God's (Luke 20:25). They also added that Christ claimed to be a king (Luke 23:2) and that He had been subverting the nation (v.2), the very thing of which Barabbas had been found guilty. Barabbas was accused of murder and rebellion and was being held in Pilate’s residence, the fortress Antonia.

Pilate wasn’t stupid. He knew what was happening. He knew the actions of the religious elite were out of envy (Mark 15:10), but he was put into an awkward position. He was under pressure to quell any riots that could arise against Rome, but he also saw the deviousness of the Jewish ruling leadership in trying to get him to kill Jesus when he could see no wrong in the man. Added to this moral dilemma with which he was wrestling, his wife came to him with a bad dream. Her dream concerned Jesus:

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” (Matthew 27:19).

When the ruling priests let it slip that Christ was from Galilee, an area known for subversion to Rome, Pilate thought that he could pass the buck to Herod Antipas, who had jurisdiction over that area. He thought to let Herod be the one who would convict Christ. He saw this as his way out of a difficult decision, so he sent Jesus to be questioned by Herod (v. 7). However, when they dragged Jesus before Herod, Christ answered none of his questions.

After Herodias, Herod’s wife, had manipulated him into killing John the Baptist, something died within Herod. His heart had grown hard, and, whereas, once he would listen to spiritual things with John the Baptist, now all he wanted was a religious show. After Herod had tried for some time to have Jesus astound him with His miracle-working power, he finally gave up and sent Him back to Pilate. Herod’s conscience was seared by his rejection of truth (1 Timothy 4:2). It is a sad day when our conscience is no longer open to hear the truth of God’s Word. Pilate, at least, was open to spiritual things, saying to Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). If you have an enquiring mind concerning spiritual things, consider the fact that God has put that questioning and enquiring mind in you because He is calling you to Himself. Keith Thomas

Taken from the series in the Gospel of Luke, study 62 Jesus Before Pilate and Herod


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