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Matthew 27:11-26: Jesus Stands Before Pilate

Posted by adventbiblestudy on August 29, 2012


Matthew 27:11-26 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.” (12) But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. (13) “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. (14) But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. (15) Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd–anyone they wanted. (16) This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. (17) As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you–Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (18) (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.) (19) Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” (20) Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. (21) So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!” (22) Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” (23) “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” (24) Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” (25) And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death–we and our children!” (26) So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

In past few hours Jesus had been arrested, tried and convicted without any credible witnesses. Caiaphas and his closet followers reviewed every detail of their plan. It was difficult for Caiaphas to maneuver, every detail was discussed before his trusted followers and the priest he knew were plotting his failure. Caiaphas thought of himself as a cunning man worthy of his role as high priest. No one dared challenge him during his rise to power. He knew his opponents were patiently waiting for a challenge like this to come. They watched his every move like a lion looking for their prey to show a sign of weakness and a distraction before striking. Caiaphas thought to himself, this old lion is not ready to lie down just yet. He wanted them to understand no one could match his brilliance when it came to planning every detail in an event such as this.

Caiaphas and the other priests followed at a distance as the Roman guards escorted Jesus across Jerusalem. At last they made their way to Pilate’s palace just as the sun was beginning to rise. The Roman soldiers looked tired and uninterested. They did not know who the prisoner was. After years of service they learned to harden their emotions. Although they though this one was rather strange, different. Not once did this prisoner proclaim His innocence, plead for mercy, or offer a bribe. They gave it little thought.

As they entered the palace court Jesus looked up at the columns and colorful banners displayed to signify major victories. On one side stood a row of gods placed between the pillars which were honored by the Roman’s. The other side displayed a number of conquered gods. Behind Pilate’s judgment seat hug a row of banners honoring the battles won by the general appointed governor of Judah. Jesus looked up above the open walls of the court. Just above the walls He saw Satan’s angles gathering to watch the scene. Looking beyond them into the heavens He saw the host of Heaven gathering to watch God’s plan of salvation unfold before their eyes.

In the past an assignment to Judah was looked upon as a banishment from Rome. The constant Jewish rebellions caught the attention of the Roman emperor and senate. They knew if the Jewish uprising was not dwelt with in a decisive manner, other nations may look upon it as a sign of weakness. To attract the best general and commanders to deal with the situation, Rome built an elaborate palace to offer a bit of comfort in what was known as the wasteland of the world.

When Caiaphas reached the gate of Pilate’s palace he stopped and raised his arms as a signal to the priests following him. It appeared they were afraid to enter the palace courtyard. They gathered around in a small circle as if discussing the matter. Behind them a group of Jesus’ followers were gathering. Those who listened to Jesus wondered if the display by the priests was merely for show, or if they suddenly discovered they were about to break one of their own doctrines.

Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.” Pilate was confused by Jesus’ answer. As he looked up he saw the priests gathered at the gate. He demanded they come forward to present their case. Pilate felt offended by their actions. The priests woke him early in the morning, then refused to enter his court. Pilate waited a moment then sent his guards to bring the priests forward.

The priests gathered at the entrance of the court discussing a pressing matter. According to their doctrine a Jew become unclean if he entered the home of a gentile This was the day before the Passover, the most important festival of the year. An unclean Jew was forbidden to take part in the Passover services. None of the priests wanted to give up the right to celebrate Passover. It was time for Caiaphas to exert his authority. He knew which priests supported him and which were his opponents. He began choosing a contingency to enter Pilate’s court. All of them were considered Caiaphas’ opponents.

The Roman guard approached the priests. Caiaphas ordered the guards to take the priests he personally pointed out. The priests had no choice. Some of them struggled. This was a good sign Caiaphas thought to Himself. Unexpected evidence of Caiaphas’ lack of involvement. It gave an impression the priests wanted nothing to do with Jesus’ trial.

As soon as the priests stood before Pilate, they began accusing Jesus. Pilate noticed Jesus did not change His expression or attempt to defend Himself. Pilate had conducted hundreds of trials and thought he had seen and heard everything. He expected Jesus to be like the rest of the accused prisoners who came before him. Some pleaded for their lives. They expressed remorse, made promises, pleaded innocent, accused and placed blame on others, and even offered brides, but Jesus remained silent.

A bewildered Pilate sat in his judgment seat looking at the accused. He rose, walked around Jesus, stood in front of Him trying to read His eyes. Pilate considered himself a good judge of character. Reading people helped him rise through the ranks in Rome. As He looked at Jesus, he saw a face that had no need to defend Himself. Pilate knew an innocent man stood before him. How could he proclaim this man innocent if He would not defend Himself? The only thing Pilate could think of was to give Jesus the opportunity to speak for Himself. Pilate thought this would be a quick trial and he could go about his business for the day. He asked Jesus, “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.

Pilate looked out across the court. He noticed the high priest standing at the gate, stoking his beard, a sense of pride on his face. Pilate knew his battle was not with Jesus, but Caiaphas. Pilate looked back at Jesus thinking He was nothing more than a pawn in the struggle for power and control between himself and the high priest. Caiaphas basked in ever victory. Not today Pilate thought to himself, not if I can help it. Pilate made his plans.

Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd–anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. Pilate knew the people would never choose Barabbas. His capture and execution were one of the few points him and the Jews agreed on over the years. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you–Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message. Before the crowd had a chance to answer Pilate raised his hand to demand silence. Pilate opened the note from his wife. “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” Pilate had to reconsider the situation. He of course agreed with his wife, and thought it strange to receive her note. How could she know what was going on? No one told her who the prisoner was, or what the trial involved. Pilate looked up from the note at Jesus, before his eyes scanned the row of gods.

Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. Pilate had no way of knowing he was helping Caiaphas gain his objective. All of Caiaphas’ opponents were standing in front of him. This allowed Caiaphas to initiate the next step in his plan. Caiaphas sent the remaining priests throughout the crowd to spread the message. He told his priest to tell any story, offer any bribe, anything to get them to ask for Barabbas’ release.

After reconsidering every option the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd aided by Satan’s agents shouted back, “Barabbas!” The answer shocked Pilate. He looked at Jesus with a look of horror in his eyes. Jesus looked back at him Pilate wanted to tell Jesus he was trying to save Him. Pilate, the old warrior could not understand how a man in Jesus’ positions could not fight for his life.

What Pilate could not see was the demon standing behind him orchestrating a chores of, “Barabbas, Barabbas, Barabbas,” as other demons scattered among the crowd lead out the shouts. Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate looked to the other side of the courtyard at the conquered gods wondering which one of them was responsible for this situation. It didn’t matter, why would Pilate fight a god for one man’s life? But he still had his pride. “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob led by unseen forces roared even louder, “Crucify him!”

Jesus focused on the scene beyond the courtyard. He stared up into the Heavens, looking at an image of the glory He was about to enter. His mind remained steadfast on the future. He imagined the look on the faces of those coming up to meet Him in the clouds. The image gave Him the strength He needed for the moment.

Jesus attention was moved back to Pilate’s movements in the courtyard. Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” Pilate noticed Jesus’ head lower. He watched as Jesus stood in silence. Jesus knew the outcome of the responsibility that came with it. The vision of His return was shattered by thoughts of the future the Jews were about to choose. All the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death–we and our children!” Jesus also knew His future included Judging those in the court, also their children. Jesus began to pray for them, the disciples and others the Spirit was preparing to send to them. There was still time for them. Their sins against Him could be forgiven, but if they denied the Spirit and ignored the message about to given to the world, their lives would be lost.

As Jesus wept tears filled His eyes. Being bound in chains He could not wipe them. He looked around the court at the blurred images before Him. It seemed strange to Jesus, He found it difficult to determine the Jews from the demons standing along side of them. Seeing no other alternative Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.

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