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Pilate Condemns Jesus

Pilate assembled the chief priests and other Jewish authorities.

Pilate: You presented this man to me as a rabble-rouser, but I examined Him in your presence and found Him not guilty of the charges you have leveled against Him. Herod also examined Him and released Him to my custody. So He hasn’t done anything deserving the death penalty. I’ll see to it that He is properly whipped and then let Him go.

[It was the custom for Pilate to set one prisoner free during the holiday festivities.]

Crowd (all shouting at once): Away with this man! Free Barabbas instead!

Crucifixion is a favorite Roman punishment for insurrectionists, slaves, and prisoners of war. Anyone daring to defy the power and authority of Caesar is executed in this public and humiliating way. Jesus indeed is a revolutionary. He doesn’t come to proclaim a new religion, but a new kingdom—a new way of life. He is indeed a threat to Caesar’s way of doing things, a way that co-opts the religious leaders.

Jesus’ revolution is a peaceful revolution. He doesn’t advocate the use of violence—in fact, when one of His disciples uses the sword to try to protect Jesus from arrest, Jesus heals the “enemy” and rebukes His disciple. So Jesus doesn’t support the regime of Caesar or follow the usual violent path of revolution: He leads a revolutionary revolution—in a path of love, healing, justice, and reconciliation.

Jesus appropriates and transforms the symbol of their power into a symbol of His greater power. He makes the cross not the icon of violent domination, but the reverse. By hanging on the cross and speaking of forgiveness, Jesus shows that there is a greater power at work in the world than the power of domination: it’s the power of God’s saving and reconciling love.

Barabbas had been imprisoned after being convicted of an insurrection he had led in Jerusalem. He had also committed murder. Pilate argued with them, wishing he could release Jesus, but they wouldn’t be silenced.

Crowd (shouting): Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

Pilate (countering a third time): Why? What has He done that is so evil? I have found in Him no offense worthy of capital punishment. As I said, I will punish Him and then release Him.

But they would not relent. They shouted louder and louder that He should be crucified, and eventually Pilate capitulated. So he pronounced the punishment they demanded.

He released the rebel and murderer Barabbas—the insurrectionist they had pleaded for in His place—and he handed Jesus over to them to do with as they desired (vv. 13-25, The Voice).

Strange Bedfellows

So the whole council got up and took Jesus to Pilate. They brought accusations against Him.

Sanhedrin: We have observed this man leading our nation astray. He even forbade us to pay our taxes to Caesar. He claims to be the Anointed One and a King Himself.

Pilate: Are You the King of the Jews?

Jesus: It’s as you say.

Pilate (to the chief priest and crowd): I find this man guilty of no crime.

Sanhedrin (growing more intense): He has been stirring up discontent among the people all over Judea. He started up in Galilee, and now He’s brought His brand of trouble all the way to Jerusalem!

Pilate: Just a minute. Is this man a Galilean?

When Pilate learned that Jesus was indeed Galilean—which meant He was officially under Herod’s jurisdiction—Pilate sent Him over to Herod, who was currently in Jerusalem. Herod was fascinated to meet Jesus for he had heard about Him for a long time. He was hoping he might be treated to a miracle or two. He interrogated Jesus for quite a while, but Jesus remained silent, refusing to answer his questions. Meanwhile the chief priests and religious scholars had plenty to say—angrily hurling accusations at Jesus.

Eventually Herod and his soldiers began to insult Jesus, mocking and degrading Him. They put expensive clothing on Him and sent Him back to Pilate. This ended a long-standing rift between Herod and Pilate; they became friends from that day forward (vv. 1-12, The Voice).

Interesting that it wasn’t until persecuting Jesus that Herod and Pilate could see eye-to-eye.

Categories: herod, jesus, luke, Pontius Pilate

Outline of Luke 23

  1. Jesus is condemned by Pilate
  2. Barabbas is freed
  3. Jesus and two criminals are crucified
  4. Joseph of Arimathea requests Jesus’ body
  5. Jesus is buried

Hit Where It Hurts

Pilate was mired in Jesus’ innocence, an angry mob, and Caesar.

The mob shrewdly forced Pilate to condemn Jesus because Jesus was King of the Jews.

Since Pilate’s directive was to protect Caesar’s interests, and since a kingdom has room for only one king, Jesus had to die.

Power From Above

Pilate took steps to have Jesus released, but Jesus’ accusers presented convincing arguments to prevent Pilate from carrying out his plan.

Judas was more culpable than Pilate in this situation because God himself gave Pilate the authority to condemn Jesus.

Characteristics of Jesus

Ecce Homo ("Behold the Man"), Antoni...Image via Wikipedia

  1. God gives life
  2. Testified before Pontius Pilate
  3. Will reappear on earth
  4. Blessed
  5. Sovereign
  6. Top King
  7. Top Lord
  8. Immortal
  9. Surrounded in unapproachable light
  10. Never seen by humans
  11. Honored
  12. Eternal ruler
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