A deranged peasant or the Son of God?

Early in the morning, they brought Jesus to the Roman governor, Pilate. The governor came out impatiently perplexed as to why such matters needed his attention.

“What charges are you bringing against this man?” he gruffly asked.

With offended arrogance, the religious leaders responded, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate saw through their game. They already found Jesus guilty so why bother the governor with the matter?

With sarcastic condescension, Pilate ordered, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

Pilate didn’t want to be bothered.

But the religious leaders objected saying, “But we have no right to execute anyone.”

There is no end to their hypocrisy. They tried to kill Jesus on more than one occasion.  However, they wanted Jesus to be crucified so that he would appear to be cursed by God (see: Galatians 3:13).

Once again, Pilate found himself in an aggravatingly familiar dilemma.

The Jewish people under his jurisdiction were notorious for disturbances. And he didn’t want trouble with Caesar for failing to keep peace in the region. If he doesn’t placate their wishes, the religious leaders might cause an uproar. Word might travel to Rome about Pilate’s inability to maintain order in Judea.

So Pilate went back inside the palace and summoned Jesus. Then with demeaning sarcasm, Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Emphasis must have been on “you.” It seemed like a bad joke. But is also served as a dig at the jewish leaders.

Ignoring proper judicial procedure, Pilate asked Jesus to testify against himself. So Jesus asked where the witnesses were.

“Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?”

This angered Pilate. With a tone of disgust, he asked, “Am I a Jew?” “Your own people and chief priests 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 Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Pilate responded, “You are a king, then!”

The goal of charging Jesus with claiming to be a king was to accuse him of disloyalty to the Caesar (as if loyalty to Caesar matter to the religious leaders).

Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“Truth?!” Pilate thought. What does any of this have to do with truth? Pilate cynically retorted, “What is truth?”

Disgusted with the whole matter, Pilate went out again to the Jewish leaders and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”

Such a judicial rendering from Pilate should have ended the proceedings. But knowing it wouldn’t satisfy the bloodthirsty mob, Pilate said, “… it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover.”

Condescendingly, he asked, “Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” Do you want your king?

The religious leaders responded with indignation, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” In a twist of historical irony, we learn that “Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.”

Why does Pilate want to wash his hands of Jesus?

Pilate’s superstitious conscience was on edge regarding Jesus. But Pilate was ultimately a self-serving pragmatist mainly interested in preserving his position. So although he found no charge against Jesus, he vainly tried to placate the angry mob by ordering Jesus to be beaten.

Pilate first let the soldiers have some sadistic fun with Jesus as they twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe, put a mock scepter in his hand and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” as they beat his face and spit on him.

After Jesus was whipped with the dreadful scourge, thinking this would satisfy the bloodthirsty mob, Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.”

How could Jesus receive a beating and be declared innocent of any charge? Justice did not matter to the religious leaders or to Pilate.

When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” As if to say, “Look, he is no threat to anyone.” As blood ran down his face, swollen from the fists that repeatedly pummeled him, his flesh flailed from the scourge, Pilate presented Jesus as a pathetic harmless man.

But “as soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’

Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’

The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’”

Son of God?

When Pilate heard this, his superstitious conscience went into overdrive. The historian tells us that Pilate “was even more afraid.”

Shaken with uncertainty and fear, Pilate went back into the palace and asked for Jesus, “Where do you come from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. With a quivering indignant voice, Pilate asked, “Do you refuse to speak to me?”

He warned Jesus by asking him, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

But 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.”

At first Pilate probably viewed the claims of Jesus as the pathetic fantasies of a deranged peasant. But he wasn’t completely sure. When he asked Jesus, “Where do you come from?” it’s possible that mention of Jesus claim to be the Son of God, triggered Pilate’s polytheistic worldview fearing that he may have just ordered a god to be beaten.

To make matters worse for Pilate, his wife sent him a message saying, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

Not surprisingly, from then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free.

Pilates dilemma remains today.

What should we do with Jesus? Ever since Judas betrayed and sold Him, Jesus continues to be sold. People market him in books, movies, new gospels, Davinci codes often trying to change him or domesticate him — to make him like us, less than us or, at least, as bad as us.

  • Pilate repeatedly said, “I find no fault in Him” (John 18:38; 19:4).
  • Judas said, “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4).
  • The criminal crucified next to Jesus said, “We are getting what we deserve but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:39-42).
  • The Roman centurion said, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).
  • The apostle Paul wrote, “God made the One who knew no sin to be sin…” (2 Cor. 5:21).
  • The apostle John said of Jesus, “…in Him is no sin.” (1 John 3:5).
  • The apostle Peter said, “Jesus did no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).

Jesus is not an option to be considered. Humanity is obligated by God to respond.

If a person chooses to be indifferent to Jesus, it will be considered the same as rejecting Him.

On the other hand, if we turn to Jesus Christ to save us from our sins and be our Lord in life, we have this promise from him: “whoever comes to me I will never drive away …For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:37-40).

Steve Cornell


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