Pilate On Trial


John 18:28-32 Jesus' trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then He was taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn't go inside because it would defile them, and they wouldn't be allowed to celebrate the Passover.

29 So Pilate, the governor, went out to them and asked, "What is your charge against this man?" 30 "We wouldn't have handed Him over to you if He weren't a criminal!" they retorted.

31 "Then take Him away and judge Him by your own law," Pilate told them. "Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone," the Jewish leaders replied. 32 (This fulfilled Jesus' prediction about the way He would die.)

It was a very trying night, earlier Jesus was in the garden in great agony about the cup that he would take from his father, after that Peter rose up in rebellion with the sword to try to stop God's plan and then in the early morning hours Peter was on trial by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest.

The illegal process that led to Jesus being crucified began at the house of Annas where Jesus was interrogated informally before being sent to Caiaphas to stand before the Sanhedrin. The high priest found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and therefore he should die but not the normal death sentence of stoning that the Jews normally used. They determined that Jesus would go to the Romans for his punishment of death by crucifixion.

Jesus would stand before Pilate, then Herod and then Pilate again, the Roman courts could not come to a conclusion as quickly as the Jewish courts had. The leaders of the Jews had reached their decision long before Jesus was betrayed with the kiss, but the Roman courts didn't even take the charges seriously until after Jesus returned to Pilate for a second time appearance in his court.

“What Is the Accusation?” (John 18:28-32)

Pilate didn't understand the charges or why Jesus was so incredibly hated, he didn't have any idea why Jesus was being denied justice or a fair trial, he didn't know why crucifixion was necessary when the religious leaders were so quick to throw stones at an adulteress woman. Why wouldn't they just take care of the matter themselves?

The Jews were so quick to make accusations that they didn't really think it out very well. Pilate listened to their confusion as they tried to decide what to say against Jesus. Their turmoil was perfectly contrasted by Jesus' calmness.

Pilate listened to Jesus talk about his kingdom being in some other realm and he is clueless. Could he be a philosopher? Is he a fake, pretending to be the Messiah? There have been plenty of other guys that have tried to be the Messiah but this guy isn't like any of them lunatics.

“Are You the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33-38)

Pilate did not realize the significance of that question and how important it is to answer it correctly. This trial is actually Pilate's trial, he would have to answer that question for himself, it a question we all need to take seriously.

John 18:37-38 Pilate said, "So You are a king?" Jesus responded, "You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true." 38 "What is truth?" Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, "He is not guilty of any crime.

So he is a king and he thinks he knows what truth is, for centuries the Roman and Greek philosophers have debated this and haven't decided the answer and now this Jesus says he knows, none of this makes sense to Pilate. If he is a king and he knows what truth is then why won't he tell the truth to defend himself?

Pilate kept saying the words that they could not accept, the more he said "not guilty" the more agitated the Jews became. The religious leaders and the crowd could not be appeased and so now Pilate is the man that is on trial. Would he stand up against an angry mob to do what is right and let Jesus go free?

Death by crucifixion is the only outcome that will appease this angry mob, there have already been some problems that have gotten back to Rome, if this turns out bad then Pilate will lose his job.

“Shall I Release the King of the Jews?” (John 18:39-19:7)

Since Pilate and Herod both had found no reason to continue the prosecution then it should be time to release the prisoner. Right? Well maybe not. What if they have a choice between Jesus and a real criminal? That should get Pilate out of this mess. Right?

The crowd wasn't going for Pilate's attempts to avoid the issue so Pilate decides that an innocent man that hasn't been proven guilty of anything should be severely beaten and tortured as a prelude to being released.

Isaiah 53:7-8 He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth. 8 Unjustly condemned, He was led away. No one cared that He died without descendants, that His life was cut short in midstream. But He was struck down for the rebellion of My people.

The soldiers were not content with just using a whip to scourge Jesus. He would be stripped and clothed with a robe and a crown of thorns as they hailed him the king of the Jews, the wounds from the whip would sting even worse as he took blows from the fist of the soldiers as they continued to strike him.

What a travesty of justice! He was innocent, yet He was treated as though He were guilty. (John 18:22, Matthew 26:67, John 19:1-3, Mark 15:19)

“Where Are You From?” (John 19:8-16)

The Jewish leaders add to the accusations that Jesus calls himself the "Son of God." From Pilate's reaction you can tell that he took those words a lot more seriously than the Jews ever did. Maybe Pilate thinks that the reason Jesus is so calm about this trial is because he really is a god and he will do something fantastic soon to get himself out of this mess.

There were plenty of stories of the god's having sons that came down to earth, the Romans and Greeks both had myths, in Pilate's mind he had a very good reason to be afraid of Jesus. (Acts 8:10, 12:22, 28:6) All of this is already traumatic enough and then Pilate's wife comes into the story and gives him a warning from a dream that she had. (Matthew 27:19)

It takes more than human sentiment to bring the lost sinner to salvation If sinners who actually saw Christ in His suffering did not repent, what hope is there for people twenty centuries later who only read about His agonies?

-Warren Wiersbe

Pilate must be thinking "enough already!" He is overwhelmed that the Jews still want him to kill an innocent man even after all of the torture Jesus has already been through. After several attempts to get Jesus released he is worn down and ready to give in.

"Look, here is your king!" (John 19:14)

Pilate was a weak, self serving man who hoped to find a happy compromise that would get the Jews to shut up and go away without causing any damage to his world. For his own gain he denied justice to the prisoner and allowed him to be brutally abused before he tries to have him released again.

Pilate's words were full of sarcasm and irony as he presented Jesus to them but they didn't take Pilate's words seriously. A little later Pilate would post the same declaration on the sign on Jesus' cross which only made the people more outraged.

"Crucify Him!" (John 19:15)

The Jews reject Jesus as king, they had looked forward to a new ruler to come and rescue them, a man from the lineage of King David, a man that would do great things and have amazing wisdom but even though Jesus was all of that he still wasn't the man for them. The peoples court renders a verdict and Pilate makes it official.

Matthew 27:22-23 Pilate responded, "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?" They shouted back, "Crucify Him!" "Why?" Pilate demanded. "What crime has He committed?" But the mob roared even louder, "Crucify Him!"

Jesus would die for being exactly who he claimed to be, Pilate was ruthless enough to get rid of Jesus so that his world would go back to normal. Sadly Pilate isn't the last man to treat Jesus this way.

Too many of us are confronted with Jesus and we make the wrong decision, we try to get rid of him or avoid him, some of us even listen to other people's opinion about him and allow ourselves to be swayed in the wrong direction.

Each of us needs to look closely at the man and the incredible amount of evidence that proves that Jesus is God. I pray that you reach the correct verdict.