He Did It for Us: Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
Pilate wanted nothing to do with the trial of Jesus, because He considered it as a purely Jewish problem, and he told the Jewish authorities to judge Jesus by their own law.
The trial and crucifixion of Jesus is a story of hypocrisy and raging hatred. It is also the story of the power and majesty of Jesus.The Jewish religious authorities wanted to get rid of Jesus permanently because He was causing problems for them by teaching the truth about God’s love and forgiveness, while they were teaching about a vengeful God who punished anyone who fails to strictly obey the law. They saw that he had drawn a huge following, and that made them jealous and afraid. They saw that Great crowds followed Jesus wherever He went, and that made them afraid that He might start a rebellion that would bring the Roman military down on the Jews.
Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem was the final straw that set the high priest and other authorities on a course to kill Jesus. The hypocrisy and hatred of these men can be seen all through the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. In all of this, keep in mind that it was the duty of the high priest and the Sanhedrin to ensure obedience to the law, but in actual fact, it was them who broke the law, not Jesus.
They started breaking the law, when through the treachery of Judas, they managed to capture Jesus at Gethsemane at night and bring Him before Caiaphas, the high priest, for trial. Matthew 26:57 tells us that, those who arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. Verse 59 tells us that this was a meeting that included the high priest and the whole Sanhedrin.
All of this took place at night, during the Passover celebration, and all of this was in direct violation of Jewish law. The law said, “All criminal cases must be tried during the daytime and must be completed during the daytime. If there is not enough time in one day, the trial must be adjourned until the following day. Criminal cases could not be tried during the Passover celebration at all.” This trial took place at night, and it took place during the Passover celebration. Clearly, the law was broken.
The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews. It was composed of Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and elders of the people; it numbered seventy-one members; and it was presided over by the High Priest. For a trial such as this, a quorum was twenty-three.
Besides breaking the law by holding a trial at night and during Passover, the Sanhedrin was also violating Jewish law in that they met in the house of Caiaphas.
William Barclay tells us in his commentary that no decision of the Sanhedrin was valid unless it met in its own meeting place, the Hall of Hewn Stone in the Temple precincts.
John 18, verses 28 – 30 says, “Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man? If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you."
If it was early morning when Jesus was taken to the Roman governor, then it had to have been during the night that the Sanhedrin had finished its trial of Jesus and found Him guilty. They were now handing him over for punishment. This is an additional violation of the Jewish law which said, “Only if the verdict was Not Guilty could a case be finished on the day it was begun; otherwise a night must elapse before the pronouncement of the verdict, so that feelings of mercy might have time to arise.” Are we starting to see what hatred can do?
Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane before any charges were brought against Him. This was a violation of the law. They again broke the law when members of the council searched to find two witnesses who could agree in their testimony against Jesus. This was because a man could only be condemned on the testimony of not less than two witnesses who were in agreement as to the crime, and the witnesses had to come forward by their own choice; they were not to be coerced.
Late in the questioning by the high priest, Jesus gave an answer that resulted in the charge of blasphemy. Here again, the law was broken, because under the law a man could not be condemned on his own testimony.
Those who tried Jesus were the Sanhedrin whose duty was to teach and uphold the law. But all of their honoring of the law went out the window because their hatred was so great they were willing to do anything to see Jesus dead.
But there was yet another sign of their hypocrisy. John tells us that “because they wanted to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace of Pilate; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.” What hypocrisy!!! They were perfectly willing to break every rule in the book to get Jesus convicted, but now they wanted to avoid the ceremonial uncleanness that would result from their entering the home of a Gentile.
Having finished their illegal trial, and having found Jesus guilty, they took Him to Pilate. Why Pilate? They wanted Jesus dead, and under Rome’s rule, only Romans could administer the death penalty, although on occasion the Jews did take things into there own hands, as they did when they stoned Stephen for preaching the gospel. In such cases, the Romans usually looked the other way.
There was an additional reason why the Jews wanted the Romans to be involved with eliminating Jesus. If the Sanhedrin tried to kill Jesus themselves, there was a great danger that Jesus’ thousands of followers might rise up in rebellion. If the Romans tried Him and executed Him that danger would disappear. So Jesus was taken to Pilate.
Pilate wanted nothing to do with the trial of Jesus, because He considered it as a purely Jewish problem, and he told the Jewish authorities to judge Jesus by their own law. They responded that they had no right to execute anyone.
Luke tells us that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, but Jesus refused to say a word to him. After a half-hearted attempt by Herod to get Jesus to answer some questions, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Do you get the feeling that neither Pilate nor Herod wanted to be involved in the condemnation of Jesus?
If they wanted the Romans to execute Jesus, there was a legal difficulty the Jews had to find a way around. You see, the Romans would only execute a criminal who had violated Roman law. The Jews, in their kangaroo court, had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, a crime that was punishable by stoning under the Law of Moses, but not under Roman law. If they wanted the Romans involved they had to charge Jesus with a crime against Rome.
Pilate examined Jesus and found Him guilty of no such offense so he tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews knew something about Pilate and his relationship with Rome. They knew that he had been in trouble before and had only a weak hold on his position in Jerusalem.
They said to him, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” In other words, they told Pilate that if he refused to execute Jesus they would report him to Rome and that would be the end of his career.
Pilate again questioned Jesus and could find Him guilty of nothing. He told the Jews that He found no fault in Jesus, but when Jesus was brought out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe that Herod had put on Him, the Jews started shouting, “Crucify! Crucify!
An exchange followed that really unnerved Pilate. He asked why Jesus should die. When the Jews responded that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, Pilate was made more afraid. He had already talked with Jesus who had told Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world. Now the Jews said that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Pilate, like so many of his time, was very superstitious, and he certainly had no desire to be involved in killing the Son of God. Even of a God, he didn’t believe in.
Now, when he takes Jesus back into the palace and starts asking more questions, Jesus remains silent until Pilate says that he has the power of life or death over Jesus. Then comes another blow.