THE CIVIL TRIAL BEGINS
Please turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 15, as we will conclude the religious trial and begin the civil trial under Pilate. And keep in mind that this religious trial broke Jewish law upon Jewish law, but to the Sanhedrin, that was of no concern. They were on a mission to have Jesus put to death, this thorn in their side, and if they had to break a few of their own laws to do it, so be it, they were justifying their actions!
1. First Jesus was on trial before Annas, then Caiaphas, who was the high priest. And the charge against Jesus was Blasphemy, He claimed to be God. Once they gathered their charges against Jesus, they brought Him in front of the religious leaders or the religious council, the Sanhedrin, and they all agreed on the charges. Blasphemy was a capitol crime, and it was punishable by stoning the person to death.
2. The problem was that Rome took away their right to execute their criminals, they could not put anyone to death. Yet, from time to time they broke the law and stoned people, like Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church. Now the interesting thing is, back in Genesis 49:10 we are told, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people." The scepter was the right to rule and have full control, and Shiloh means "to him whose right it is or until peace comes." In 5 AD, when the Romans took away the Jews right for executing capitol crimes, many of the Jews mourned, stating that Gods Word had failed, the Messiah had not come and the scepter has departed from Jerusalem. Little did they know that a child named Jesus was growing up in Nazareth, Shiloh had come!
3. Thus, their only choice now was to send Jesus to Pilate to have Jesus put to death by Rome. In fact, in Luke 23:1 we are told, "Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate." Why did they need all those people to follow along with them? They wanted to show Pilate they were serious about this. Jesus needed to be put to death. They were trying to intimidate Pilate. Now the question is, "Could Pilate be intimidated?" I think so!
4. Pilate was governor over this area from 26 AD to 36 AD, a very difficult area to control, for the Jews did not want to be ruled by anyone. And when Pilate first came into town, he did not start off too well. He rode into town with his men who were carrying flags with Caesars face on it. To the Jews this was idolatry, the very thing that caused them to go into captivity in Babylon, and thus, they wanted nothing to do with it. So they rioted and revolted, many coming to the home of Pilate, which was in Caesarea along the Mediterranean Sea. And Pilate, trying to put this rebellion down, threatened to cut off their heads. They responded by rolling down their shirts! And the Jewish people sent a letter to Rome complaining about Pilate and what he was doing. Strike one!
5. Later on he tried to build a better water system, but he didnt have enough money to do it, so he took the money from the Jewish treasury, and of course that did not go over too well. More riots, more death, and another letter to Rome complaining about Pilates activities. Strike two!
6. Then, in 36 AD some fanatics were following this so-called prophet to Mount Gerizim, in Shechem, and these followers were going to look for artifacts from Moses, but Pilate wanted this to end. So he sent his troops and many were killed. Another complaint, Strike three, hes out! Pilate was called back to Rome and on the way he mysteriously died, some say he committed suicide.
7. So at this point in his life, Pilate already has two strikes against him. In no way does he want to upset the Jews anymore, so this is going to be tough for Pilate because he is going to find no fault in Jesus, and yet, because of the crowds, he cant let Him go!
8. John fills in some more of the details for us, so lets look at John 18:28, which says, "Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover." Because of the feast, Pilate was in town, staying at the Antonia fortress which was located on the northwest corner of the temple mount. That is where the Roman soldiers stayed, because if there was going to be trouble, it would start on the temple mount area, like we are seeing today. Now it is also interesting to note that these Jewish religious leaders were concerned about breaking the Jewish law by going into the judgment hall on the feast day, but they never gave it a second thought that all night long, at the religious trial, they were breaking many of their own laws! That is how religious people are - SELF-RIGHTEOUS!
Then, in John 18:29, we are told, "Pilate then went out to them and said, What accusation do you bring against this Man?" Pilate is going to go back and forth from Jesus to the people like a yo-yo. They had Pilate where they wanted him, and they were going to pull his strings to get what they wanted. Then, in John 18:30 we read "They answered and said to him, If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you." It is a sarcastic response. "Of course He has done something wrong, why else would we have brought Him to you!" is what they were saying. And keep in mind that it is around 6 AM at this point, early in the morning.
In John 18:31-32 we see Pilate give it back to them. We read "Then Pilate said to them, You take Him and judge Him according to your law. Therefore the Jews said to him, It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death, that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die." You see, their cards were out for all to see, they wanted Jesus dead! The problem was that they lost the right to execute capitol crimes so they came to Pilate so he could carry out their dirty work. Also, note that the Jews would stone people while the Romans crucified them. Thus, to fulfill Psalm 22:16, "They pierced My hands and feet," Jesus was going to be put to death by Rome!
At this point, we are told in Luke 23:2 "And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King." You see, Rome didnt care about their religious beliefs, the charges that Jesus blasphemed God. So they came up with charges against Jesus that went against Rome, that he was perverting the nation - leading a revolt against Rome. He said He was going to set us free, but not in the sense they thought. He did not forbid the Jews from paying taxes, in fact He said they should give to Caesar that which was Caesars and to God that which was Gods. And He never was a king in the sense they were accusing Him of, they were looking for a king to lead them in a revolt against Rome. Now think about this for a minute. If Jesus did do these things, the Jews would not have turned Him in, but hid Him! Again, they lied, and justified their actions!
1. John 18:33-34 picks up on this in more detail. It says "Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, Are You the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this about Me?" Jesus puts Pilate on trial here. "Do you want the truth or are you just mocking what you have heard?" Jesus certainly didnt look like a king, He was beaten up, no royal robes. Then, not to be put down, John 18:35 tells us "Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?" Pilate tells Jesus that His own people have put Him on trial, and for what reason? You see, Pilate was not interested in the truth, he was a man of the world, even though the truth was right before him!
Then John 18:36 tells us, "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." Jesus is speaking of a spiritual kingdom at this point, that He would rule and reign in the hearts of men. It was not a kingdom that they were expecting! John 18:37 goes on to say "Pilate therefore said to Him, Are You a king then? Jesus answered, You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Jesus was born a king and came as the Son of God! Then in John 18:38 we read "Pilate said to Him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, I find no fault in Him at all."
Pilate is not looking for the truth, he doesnt even wait for Jesus to answer the question, but goes back out to the people. His statement was a critical one. You see, Pilates mind was already made up, he had no choice. The crowds made him respond contrary to what he saw. And like a yo-yo, he goes back to the people, finding no fault in Jesus and yet had no choice in the matter, or so he thought.
2. People today do the same thing with Jesus. They know the truth, but because of people pressure, peer pressure, they trample the Lord under foot, put Him to death in their own lives!
1. Now the Jews kept accusing Jesus of many things He did that were wrong. Luke 23:5 says "But they were more fierce..." they wouldnt let go, they were more intent on having Jesus put to death!
1. Why didnt Jesus answer them? Why didnt He stand up for Himself? Because He did nothing wrong! Get the picture here. The crowd is foaming at the mouth accusing Jesus of these things, and Jesus is silent like a lamb being lead to slaughter. And Pilate sees it all! He saw the difference in them, and he marveled at it all. But there was nothing Pilate could do, for to release Jesus would have meant strike three for Pilate, your out! How do you look when you are fighting you battles? Foaming at the mouth, or like Jesus?
2. But there is an out, or so he thinks. In Luke 23:5-7 we are told "But they were the more fierce, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place. When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time." Herod Antipas was governor over the area of Galilee, and he too was in town. So like a hot potato, he passes Jesus over to Herod. This is the son of Herod the Great and the same Herod that had John the baptist put in prison. If you remember, John spoke out against Herod, for he married his brothers wife. And as much as Herod liked to listen to John when he was in prison, he is no longer interested in the truth, he wants to be entertained! Luke 23:8 tells us "Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him."
Many today wanted to be entertained, but they dont want the truth because then they will have to act accordingly to it, and Herod was no different. Again in Luke chapter 23 we are told, "Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate." Luke 23:9-11.
Jesus did not respond like Herod wanted Him to, so Herod mocked Him and sent Him back to Pilate. This was the second civil trial that Jesus was involved in. The first one was before Pilate, then to Herod, and now He will go back to Pilate for the third and final trial. And Luke 23:12 tells us "That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other." Jesus does bring people together, both for good and for evil. Here we see them join forces to fight against Jesus.
3. For every person, we are putting Jesus on trial in our lives. And the decision we make will either put Him on the throne of our hearts or we will cut Him off from our lives. I pray that you chose the truth, that you open your heart to the Lord and ask Him to rule and reign on the throne of your heart. If you dont, you will go the way of Pilate and Herod, separated for eternity from God in outer darkness!
4. Next week we will conclude this civil trial before Pilate, which then will lead us to the cross of Calvary!