Matthew 27: 11-26

Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 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.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

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.

Understanding And Applying the Text

Jesus stands before Pilate. Jesus is the creator and the ruler of the entire universe. Yet He stands bound before one of his creators. He is in chains he created. Chains he can uncreate. Yet he stands there in humiliation. This Roman governor believes he is the one in power. He can determine to let Jesus go. Or He can send Him to the cross. This governor is a creature and can become uncreated in a moment by the word to the man standing in front of him. Yet Jesus, the creator of all the universe, stands there silent. When we see things from that perspective the ridiculous of the scene is clear.

Jesus chose to allow them to bind him and stand before an earthly judge. He chose to allow that Pilate to give a sentence of death. He did this so we can approach the throne of God without fear. Christ subjected Himself to this humiliation for our salvation. This was folly to the Greeks and an offense to the Jews. (1 Corinthians 1:23).

The priests chose to bring the charge of sedition. They knew two things. First, it was untrue. Second, it was a charge that would get Pilate’s attention. Pilate’s chief concern was maintaining peace. It is interesting how Jesus spoke to Pilate but ignored the priests. He did not respond to their charges.

Jesus’ silence piqued Pilate’s curiosity. Why would Jesus not respond? These were serious charges. Jesus did not respond because His concern was about doing the Father’s will.

Matthew tells us there was a custom that the governor would release a prisoner at the time of the feast. This custom is not mentioned in any of the Jewish writings. This has caused some to question the account. But it was a Roman custom at the time. So it is probable the Roman custom was used in Palestine as well.

Nonetheless, it illustrated the hatred towards Jesus. Think about all the priests went through to kill Jesus. They needed to arrest Him at night. They held an illegal trail at night. They created false witnesses. They had to create the charge of sedition. They had to get Jesus to Pilate before the streets were busy. They had to convince Pilate Jesus was a threat to the peace.

Pilate wanted to let Jesus go. But he needed a reason. Pilate used the custom of freeing a prisoner during the Passover as his excuse. His choice of Barabbas was to make a stark contrast. There should be no question about who to release. Barabbas’ crime alone should have brought resentment in the people.

Now Pilate was about to let Jesus go. The priest has to work fast. They had to create a mob out of the people gathered. A mob is a true threat to the peace. Mobs don’t think. Mobs don’t reason. Mobs are objects of pure emotion. A mob is like a toddler throwing a tantrum. A clear illustration of this is when Pilate asks what he is to do with Jesus. They yell, “Crucify Him.” When Pilate asks why the mob does not give a reason they yell, “Crucify Him,” again only louder.

The mob did not exist until the chief priest and elders whipped the crowd into a mob. Matthew points out they were the instigators of these proceedings. The crowd was not hostile to Christ of their own accord.

It is hard for the western mind to understand but we are guilty of the group of which we are a part. It could be a nation, family, or church. We bare the guilt along with the others. Here the nation of Israel is guilty of the sins of its leaders. Let us too repent of the sins of our nation.

Pilate’s chief concern was maintaining the peace. So to avoid a riot He condemned an innocent man to a horrible death.

What is the chief purpose of any magistrate? It is to administer justice. Pilate failed in his duties. He knew what was right but failed to do it. This was just one man. In weighing the options It was better to condemn an innocent man than have a riot, After all, a riot could jeopardize his position with Roman.

Pilate knew Jesus was innocent. He tried to wash his hands of the death of an innocent man. But Jesus died on a Roman cross. Jesus was scourged by Roman soldiers. Pilate could not wash away his sin with water.

The people accepted the penalty for the death of Christ. They were convinced that they had a righteous cause before God. They commit an irreparable crime and cut themselves off from the hope of pardon.

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