The Gospel of Luke:a commentary & meditation

Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"

Scripture: Luke 23:1-25

1 Then the whole company of them arose, and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he  himself is Christ a king." 3 And Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" And he answered him, "You have said so." 4 And Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, "I find no crime in this man." 5 But they were urgent, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place." 6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign  done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length; but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then, arraying him in gorgeous apparel, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; 15 neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him; 16 I will therefore chastise him and release him."
18 But they all cried out together, "Away with this man, and release to us Barab'bas" -- 19 a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. 20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; 21 but they shouted out, "Crucify, crucify him!" 22 A third time he said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him." 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

Meditation: How do you treat Jesus and his claim to be the one true King and Ruler of the universe?  The religious leaders charged Jesus with blasphemy because he called himself the Son of God.  But since they did not have the power to put him to death, they brought him to the Roman authorities to have him tried and executed.  The charge they brought before Pilate, however, was political rather than religious.  They leveled three accusations which were completely false:  First, that Jesus agitated sedition.   Second, they said that he encouraged people to not pay taxes to Caesar.  And third, he assumed the title king.  Pilate, being a shrewd politician, passed Jesus off to King Herod who had juridiction over Jews from Galilee.  How did Herod treat Jesus?  As a contemptible spectacle.  To Herod Jesus was a joke!  He refused to take Jesus seriously.  He mocked Jesus' claim to be king by robing him in "gorgeous apparel".  How easy it is to brush Jesus off as being of no importance.  How difficult and challenging to accept his claim to be King and Ruler of heaven and earth.  How important is Jesus to you?  Does he have your undivided loyalty and submission?

Pilate's verdict was swift and clear when Jesus was brought back to him.  He told the religious leaders to their face that he found in Jesus "no crime deserving death".  We know from the gospel accounts that Pilate made no less than four attempts to avoid condemning Jesus.  He told the Jewish leaders to take Jesus and settle the matter themselves (John 19:6-7).  He tried to refer the case to Herod.  He tried to get the Jewish leaders to receive Jesus as a prisoner who was granted release at Passover time (Mark 15:6).  And then he tried to compromise by offering to scourge Jesus and then release him.  The Romans were noted for their impartial justice.  What coerced Pilate to sentence a just man to death?  Blackmail!  John's gospel records that the Jewish leaders told Pilate: "If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend; everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar."  The last thing Pilate wanted was a report back to Rome that he supported a dangerous man who was inciting the people to accept him as their king and to revolt against Roman authority.  The last thing Rome would accept was civil disorder.  So Pilate relented to avoid having a charge brought against him to Rome.  Pilate was a ruthless leader, but he lacked one important quality, the courage to do the right thing.  He sacrificed justice to save his face and his job.  Are you willing to sacrifice reputation and position for truth and justice?

"Lord Jesus, you suffered injustice and abuse for our sake.  By your cross you have redeemed the world and won for us pardon and reconciliation.  Give me courage to always choose what is right and to avoid what is evil."

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 (c) 1999, 2000 Don Schwager