Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Pilate - March 29, 2017 - Fifth Mid-Week of Lent - Text: Matt. 27:13-65; Mark 15:1-44; Luke 23:1-52; John 18:29-19:38
We begin this week as we have begun every week with the reminder that we call the Word of God the “Good News” and rightly so, for it is the good news of salvation for all who believe. This year during the season of Lent through Easter Sunday we are hearing of the events surrounding the suffering and death of Jesus through the different characters of those involved in the events. Prayerfully we are getting a better understanding of the personalities and thus the reasons for the specific actions of the characters through actual Biblical statements and “quotes” of each person.
Last week we got to know the mother of our Lord Jesus. We reviewed some of the experiences of Mary and how she continually pondered all the things that she heard, saw and experienced especially the Lord’s calling her to be the mother of Jesus and gifting her with the strength she needed for her calling.
Our main focus for this evening is around the character of Pontius Pilate. Pilate was the Roman authority in the territory of Jerusalem when these events were taking place and he is the one who heard Jesus’ case and handed down the death penalty. Pilate had been privately interrogating Jesus. And we are told that afterward, “Pilate came out to [the Jewish council] 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.’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’ ‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled” (John 18:29-32).
Pilate was not really interested in these matters between Jesus and the Jewish rulers, yet he had to hear the case anyway. Concerning what took place in the court we are told, “And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.’ So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no basis for a charge against this man.’ But they insisted, ‘He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.’ On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies” (Luke 23:2-12).
The account continues as Pilate attempts to have Jesus released. We read, “Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.’ With one voice they cried out, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’ (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ For the third time he spoke to them: ‘Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.’ But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed” (Luke 23:13-23). Interestingly enough, it may or may not have been this crowd that was there when Jesus came into town earlier in the week and they sang praises to Him.
The account of the trial continues inside the palace where the interrogation continues. “Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’ ‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’ Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ ‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked” (John 18:33-38a). It appears that Pilate and the people of his day had as much trouble getting a handle on this issue of truth as people do today.
We pick up the trial back outside the courthouse. We hear that in fact Pilate tried to free Jesus by using the tactic of offering to release Jesus instead of a known criminal and one with a history of violence. We are told; “With this [Pilate] went out again to the Jews and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, ‘No, not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they struck him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’ When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’ The Jews insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace”(John 18:38b-19:9a). It is evident that Jesus had a profound affect on Pilate and he did all he could to have Him released..
The trial resumes in Pilate’s chambers where Pilate tries to get Jesus to help him and to defend Himself, but to no avail. It might have appeared to Pilate that Jesus had a death wish. The questioning continued, “‘Where do you come from?’ [Pilate] asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, ‘If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.’ When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. ‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’ ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified” (John 9:9b-16a). It was against Pilate’s better judgement and wishes, but what held the day was whether Pilate would be held accountable or if he would let Jesus be held accountable. So, it was Jesus death instead of Pilate’s political fortune.
We move to the events of the crucifixion. “So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews,” but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written’” (John 19:16b-:22). In an attempt to save face and to get the upper hand, this time Pilate remained firm, but it was too late for Jesus.
Unfortunately Pilate’s involvement in this case still did not go away. “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away” (John 18:38). “Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid” (Mark 15:44-47).
Finally, Pilate is involved one more time; “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise again.” So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’ ‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how’” (Matthew 27:62-65).
Pilate seems to be a man who was looking after his own political interests. Certainly he was interested, or showed some concern for Jesus, but in the end it was either Pilate or Jesus and Pilate chose himself. Interestingly enough, in his historical novel, Pontius Pilate, Dr. Paul Maier suggests that perhaps in his later days Pilate may have even come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, but we cannot know for certain. Pilate was a pivotal character in our salvation in that he is the one who sentenced Jesus to the penalty which should have been ours, death. Yet, Jesus paid the price for Pilate’s sins as well as ours. We can no more blame Pilate than we can ourselves for these events. Thanks be to God that He can and did use the means necessary to bring us forgiveness, life and salvation. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.