The Gospel of Luke - Part 99
The Trial — Luke 23:1-25

November 25, 2007
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

 Review:

Last week, Terry finally finished Luke Chapter 22 for us. I thought we would never finish Chapter 22.

Remember that the last few verses of Luke Chapter 22 fit better with Chapter 23 since they deal with the first of the serious of hearings and interrogations that Jesus went through before His crucifixion.

At this point Jesus is very alone. After his arrest, all of the Disciples headed for the hills, they fled for their safety. Only Peter sneaked around the edges of the crowd and even he denied that he was a part of the group or that he even knew Jesus.

Several lessons ago, I handed out a sheet that listed the events preceding the crucifixion of Jesus and showed you where they are recorded in the various gospels. This week I am handing out the part of that document that deals with the series of interrogations.

Remember that Jesus appeared before the Chief Priest, then before the Sanhedrin, then before Pilate and then Herod and then back before Pilate again. Last week you studied His appearance before the high priests and then before the Sanhedrin. This morning we see Him before Pilate for the first time. That is where Luke chapter 23 starts.

Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.” When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. —Luke 23:1-7
Verse 23 tells us that ... the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.

There are about 50 references to Pilate in the Gospels.

The Life application Bible Notes tell us that:

Pilate was the Roman governor for the regions of Samaria and Judea from A.D. 26-36. Jerusalem was located in Judea. Pilate took special pleasure in demonstrating his authority over the Jews; for example, he impounded money from the temple treasuries to build an aqueduct. Pilate was not popular, but the religious leaders had no other way to get rid of Jesus than to go to him. Ironically, when Jesus, a Jew, came before him for trial, Pilate found him innocent. He could not find a single fault in Jesus, nor could he contrive one.
The Ryrie Study Notes tell us that:
Pilate was the Roman prefect, or governor, of Judea (usually referred to as procurator), to which position he was appointed by Tiberius in A.D. 26. He was in charge of the army of occupation, kept the taxes flowing to Rome, had power of life and death over his subjects, appointed the high priests, and decided cases involving capital punishment. He was a capricious, weak governor who let personal and political considerations outweigh his awareness that justice was not being done in Jesus’ case. He did not want another report to get to Rome that he had offended Jewish customs or could not control a situation — charges against him made to Tiberius earlier.
Unger’s Bible Dictionary tells us that:
It was the custom for the procurators to reside at Jerusalem during the great feasts in order to preserve order, and, accordingly, at the time of our Lord’s last Passover Pilate was occupying his official residence in Herod’s palace. It was to the gates of this palace that Jesus, condemned on the charge of blasphemy, was brought early in the morning by the chief priests and officers of the Sanhedrin, who were unable to enter the residence of a Gentile, lest they should be defiled and unfit to eat the Passover (John 18:28). Pilate, therefore, came out to learn their purpose and demanded the nature of the charge.
John records:
Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” —John 18:28-29
The Gospel of John goes into the most detail concerning the conversations between Pilate and Jesus. The primary reason that the Sanhedrin brought Jesus before Pilate was because only he had the authority to sentence someone to death. Matthew records an interesting event related to Pilate where his wife warned him to “have nothing to do with that righteous Man.”
Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” —Matthew 27:19
Pilate ignores her warning.

What accusations did the religious leaders make against Jesus?

Notice that the religious leaders don’t focus on the charge of blasphemy. Instead, they try to twist the accusations into terms that would be offensive to Pilate, where he would consider Jesus deserving of death.

And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” —Luke 23:2
The second two charges are the amplification of the first — “subverting our nation”.

The first specific example — forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar — is totally false. In fact, Jesus said just the opposite:

Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” —Luke 20:22-25
The second charge is true — Jesus did claim to be Christ, the king. However, the religious leaders don’t mention that Jesus said that His kingdom was a spiritual, not political, kingdom. Jesus said that His kingdom is “within you.”
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” —Luke17:20-21
In fact, when the people sought to “come and make Him king by force”, Jesus withdrew away from them.
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. —John 6:15
Pilate asked Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” —Luke 23:3

Jesus clearly responds that He is Christ, the King. Luke records little of this conversation between Jesus and Pilate. John’s Gospel gives a more detailed account of this conversation: 

So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. —John 18:29-38
Back in Luke:
Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” —Luke 23:4

 

Pilate’s conclusion that there is no basis for the charges against Jesus is easier to understand after reading John’s account. Pilate understood that Jesus was not making any political claims nor was He rebelling against Roman authority.
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. —Luke 23:6-7
Pilate seems happy enough here to “pass the buck” to Herod, doesn’t he?  Both Pilate and Herod made it a practice to reside in Jerusalem during times of Jewish religious celebrations. Only Luke mentions this appearance of Jesus before Herod. The other Gospels focus just on Jesus before Pilate.

So now we go before Herod.

And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. —Luke 23:7-12
There are several different “Herods” mentioned in the Bible which makes it pretty confusing keeping track of who’s who:
  1. There is Herod the Great who was king of Palestine. He is the Herod who ruled when Jesus was born; he sought to kill Him by ordering the deaths of all baby boys in Bethlehem.
  2. Then there is Herod Antipas who was the son of Herod the Great and “tetrarch” (ruler, governor) of Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD Jesus called him a “fox.” This Herod was responsible for killing John the Baptist. Herod Antipas is the Herod mentioned in this passage, here in Luke 23, to whom Pilate sent Jesus.
  3. There is also Herod Agrippa I who was king over Palestine, 37-44 AD He was the one who had the Apostle James killed in Acts and put Peter in jail in Acts.
  4. Then there is Herod Agrippa II was a tetrach, 50-70 AD. Paul was on trial before him in Acts.
Let’s look at what we learn about Herod in these verses.

Herod wanted to see Jesus perform some miracles, apparently not to prove who He was but that He would entertain Herod. Jesus refused. In fact, Jesus refused even to talk to Herod, even though He spoke extensively with Pilate before and after this meeting with Herod. This shows that Herod’s heart was so hardened toward the Lord that nothing He might do or say would change Him. Herod shows the hardness of his heart by leading his soldiers in ridiculing Jesus.

Why do you think Jesus refused to talk to Herod here?  Let’s see what we can learn from in these verses.

  1. That being interested in Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is spiritually tender-hearted;
  2. That Jesus doesn’t “perform” or act according to our expectations; Herod expected Jesus to answer questions and perform miracles, but Jesus did nothing that Herod desired; we come to Jesus on His terms; He doesn’t come to us on ours.
Then Jesus is sent back to Pilate.
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. —Luke 23:13-25
The Ryrie Study Notes tell us that:
Pilate was the Roman prefect, or governor, of Judea (usually referred to as procurator), to which position he was appointed by Tiberius in A.D. 26. He was in charge of the army of occupation, kept the taxes flowing to Rome, had power of life and death over his subjects, appointed the high priests, and decided cases involving capital punishment. He was a capricious, weak governor who let personal and political considerations outweigh his awareness that justice was not being done in Jesus’ case. He did not want another report to get to Rome that he had offended Jewish customs or could not control a situation—charges against him made to Tiberius earlier.

His headquarters were in Caesarea, the city Herod built on the Mediterranean in honor of Caesar Augustus. He had a palace in Jerusalem and was in the city at Passover time, when crowds would be huge and trouble always possible. Ryrie Bible Study Notes

What stands out to you about Pilate in this passage?   Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people... —Luke 23:13

For some reason, Pilate allowed a crowd of people to be present in addition to the religious leaders. Maybe Pilate thought the people would support Jesus. After all, the people praised Jesus when He entered Jerusalem. Instead, the people (no doubt incited by the religious leaders) clamor for Jesus to be crucified

And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. —Luke 23:14-15
In Luke’s account of Jesus second appearance before Pilate, he shows clearly that Jesus was innocent. Pilate considered Jesus innocent and repeatedly sought to convince the Jews that Jesus should be released.
A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” —Luke 23:22
Three times Pilate tries to get the people to agree to Jesus just being punished and released rather than being killed. Mathew records:
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. —Matthew 27:15
Apparently Pilate had a tradition of releasing one prisoner at Passover each year. Pilate allowed the people to choose who would be released. In this passage, Pilate is trying to convince them to release Jesus.  Instead, the people choose Barabbas as the one to be released. All four Gospels mention Barabbas. Barabbas had apparently led a rebellion against the Romans as well as committing murder. Ironically, Barabbas is guilty of the very crime, leading a rebellion, that Jesus is accused.  The Innocent One died that the guilty one might go free. How’s that for symbolism? There is no further reference to Barabbas in the New Testament, no indication that he later became a believer.

Matthew’s Gospel includes information about two incidents related to Pilate here that are not mentioned in Luke:

  1. Pilate’s wife:
    Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” —Matthew 27:19
  2. Pilate’s washing:
    So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. —Matthew 27:24-26
Finally, Pilate gives in to the demand of the crowd. It is at this point, Pilate symbolically washes his hands indicating that he wants nothing to do with this decision. This act has come become a figure of speech in English (“I wash my hands of this matter”) to indicate someone who is trying to excuse themselves of all responsibility related to some person or issue.

Jesus was innocent but He was not simply a victim of circumstances. Jesus died according to the will of God, not the will of people:

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” —John 10:17-18
Though God’s purposes were at work here, each person is responsible for their responses to Jesus. Pilate, Herod, Barabbas, the religious leaders — they all had the opportunity to believe in the Lord if they so chose. Herod didn’t listen to anyone. Pilate chose to listen to the crowd rather than listen to the Lord. He didn’t even listen to his wife, did he?

Who are you listening to? On what basis are you making decisions, choosing how you will live?

Let’s be sure that we are listening to Jesus and His Word and not the world.

__________

Next Week: Luke 23:26-49 — Jesus is Crucified