Jesus’ Trial before Pilate!
Now Caiaphas is high priest at this time. The sacred office he occupies has been corrupted for more than a century by Jewish collaboration with Greeks and Romans. Reformers are few, and they have been unable to cleanse the high office from its pollutants. Because of this, many Jews have stopped coming to the temple.
How can God’s holy habitation on earth be pure if its primary representative is coddling the enemies of Israel?
Caiaphas knows he needs friends in high places to put an end to Jesus, so he turns to Pilate, the Roman governor. It is Pilate’s job to look out for Roman interests in Judea. He is an irritable man, unnecessarily cruel and intentionally provocative. Many Jews will die on his watch. For Pilate, Jesus is just one more.
Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked,
“What is your charge against this man?”
What Is the Accusation?
Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover. So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this man?”
“We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.
“Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them.
“Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied. (This fulfilled Jesus’ prediction about the way he would die.)
John 18:28-32 (NLT)
As soon as the Sanhedrin had voted to condemn Jesus, the officers took Him to the palace where Pilate was living during the Passover season. It was customary for the Roman governor to be in Jerusalem during Passover in case there were any outbursts of Jewish nationalism.
The religious leaders did not hesitate to condemn an innocent man, but they were careful not to be defiled by walking on Gentile ground! It would be tragic to be ceremonially defiled during the seven days of Passover!
It was logical for Pilate to ask for the official accusation. Instead of stating the charges clearly, the Jewish leaders “beat around the bush” and probably made the astute politician suspicious. Luke 23:2 lists three “official charges”:
- He led the nation astray;
- He opposed paying tribute to Caesar; and
- He claimed to be the Jewish Messiah and King.
Pilate was not anxious to get involved in a Jewish court case, especially at Passover; so he tried to evade the issue. After all, if the prisoner was creating problems for the Jews, let the Jews try Him under their own law. Rome had permitted the Jews to retain a certain amount of jurisdiction, especially in matters relating to their religious laws and customs. (See Acts 18:12-16 for another example.)
But had the Jews alone-judged Jesus and found Him guilty, He would have been killed by stoning; and God had determined that the Son would be crucified (see John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-33). Jesus was to bear the curse of the law and become a curse for us; and in order to do this; He had to hang on a tree (Deut. 21:22-23; Gal. 3:13). The fact that the Romans allowed the Jews to stone Stephen to death indicates that Rome was lenient with the Sanhedrin on some capital cases (Acts 7:57-60).
When you seriously consider the three accusations against Jesus, you quickly see that they were completely unsupportable. For one thing, He had not “subverted” the nation, either politically or religiously. Of course, He had publicly denounced the Pharisees and their hypocritical religious system, but He was not the first one—or the only one—to do that. Jesus had blessed the nation and brought them new hope. The fact that some of the militant Jews saw in Him a potential King (John 6:15) was not our Lord’s fault, and He fled from all such political demonstrations.
As for opposing paying tribute to Caesar, He taught just the opposite! “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” He said, “and give to God what belongs to God.” (Matt. 22:21).
He did claim to be King but not in a political sense. Even His own disciples did not fully understand these truths until after His resurrection (Acts 1:1-8). It is no wonder the common people sometimes misunderstood Him (Luke 19:11). Of course, the Jewish religious leaders were groping for any piece of evidence they could find on which they could build a case; and they were even willing to secure false witnesses!
To Be Continued…