The Trial of Jesus… Part II
Text: Mark 15: 2-20; John 18: 28-19: 16; Luke 23:2-24; Matt. 27:11-31
Proposition: The enmity of Jews against Jesus was matched by Pilates enmity for the Jews yet both of these did not compare with God’s enmity for sin.
Introduction: Last week we said that there were six trials that Christ endured from the time He was arrested in Gethsemane around midnight until daybreak the next morning. In all three trials the declared verdict was guilty but since the Jews did not have the power to execute anyone they now had to bring Jesus before Pilate. One thing we need to note as we begin to look at these last three trials is that the hatred or enmity that the Jews had for Jesus was matched by Pilates enmity towards the Jews and especially their High Priests. It is this hatred that creates the tension between the unrelenting demands of the Jewish leadership and the resistant efforts of Pilate. But greater than both of these is the resident truth that what was taking place needed to take place if there would ever be a way past sin, if there would ever be a lasting forgiveness that creates reconciliation between man and God. For that reason I would submit to you that the enmity of the Jews against Jesus, matched by Pilates enmity against the Jews, did not compare with God’s enmity against sin and His love for you and I. Let’s begin with John’s account of Jesus first interrogation before Pilate in John 18:28-38.
The Fourth Trial… The Interrogation of Pilate at the Praetorium.
There has been a lot of controversy as to the location of the Praetorium referred to in John 18:28. The term Praetorium refers to the residence of the Prater or Roman Governor. Pilate had a Praetorium in Caesarea on the coast and another for when he needed to be in Jerusalem. For years many have believed that Pilates residence in Jerusalem was in the Antonia fortress just to the north of the Temple. The Antonia Fortress was the barracks for the Roman garrison. However archaeological research points to another place as the residence of Pilate that we would call the Praetorium. It is in Herod’s Palace on the west wall of Jerusalem. This palace has the distinctive traits that the gospel accounts refer to. Look at John’s account. It says that early in the morning, Jesus is taken to the Praetorium, “But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” A Gentiles house would likely contain yeast for the making of bread. Yeast during Passover was by God’s direction, Exodus 12 a symbol of sin because of the way it multiplies itself in bread. They were to clean their houses of all yeast for seven days of Passover. The avoidance of yeast as a symbol of sin was greater in their self-interests than sins they had been committing all night long on Jesus Christ, that’s the darkness of sin. We too can justify our greater sins because of some small act of righteousness.
So the image is of the High Priests and chief priests and elders standing outside the residence while the temple guards (also Jews) take Jesus into the Praetorium, Pilates residence. Pilate sees Jesus and then, according to verse 29, goes out to where the Jewish leadership awaits. It’s now that the court proceedings begin as Pilate asks for the charges against Jesus. They are vague in their answer, calling Jesus an evil doer so Pilate starts to dismiss them. Verse 31, “Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.” It’s a reference to what Jesus said just a week earlier on Palm Sunday, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me”. This He said, signifying what death He should die.” (John 12:32, 33) The cross was the way Jesus would be lifted up and by the cross, sin would be atoned for, by the cross all men would be drawn to Christ. At the demand for Jesus crucifixion, Pilate turns and leaves the High Priests and goes back inside where Jesus is. Pilates interrogation of Jesus centers on one thing, the defining of the kingship of Jesus. Pilate asks Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus response is not insolent, it’s personal, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” In other words is the kingship of Jesus meaningless to you or are you asking Who really is the King of even your life? Look for just a moment at what Jesus declares about His kingdom. Verse 36, “My kingdom is not of this world… but now My kingdom is not from here.” His kingdom is real, at present not of this world, yet. That’s the inference behind, “but now My kingdom is not here”. He continues, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” Yes Jesus is The King of kings. Yes he was sent into this world for that very purpose. Yes He has come as witness to the truth that we are all people under authority whether you like that or not. The truth is that we are under the authority of God the Father, under the authority of Jesus Christ the King. These are the words of a man standing under sentence of death, interrogated for 6 hours, standing before one of the most vicious Roman Governors in history. This trial ends with Pilate’s exasperated statement that has rung down through history, “What is truth.” He goes out to the High priests and pronounced Jesus Innocent. Turn with to Luke 23:5-11 to see how the fifth trial begins.
The Fifth Trial… The Interrogation Before Herod at the Hasmonean Palace.
Torture has a variety of methods for a variety of purposes. From isolation, to sleep deprivation, humiliation, constant accusation and physical beatings, yet torture was not used on Jesus to try to extract a confession. It was used as utter brutal arrogance, an expression of being above the law. Pilate sends Jesus to King Herod because the Chief priests mentioned that Jesus was from the Galilee. This Herod Antipas is the man who had John the Baptist beheaded. Herod wanted to meet Jesus for sensational reasons. He wanted Jesus to perform a miracle, to do what Herod had been hearing of almost daily for the last three years. When Jesus says nothing but stands still, “the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him.” That word ‘vehemently’ means at full pitch, at full volume, strenuously, or vigorously.’ It’s a picture of grown men out of control with malice, shouting at the top of their lungs. Then Herod with his men of war, hardened mercenaries, mocked and beat Jesus seeking to tear Him down with humiliation. Finally Herod has Jesus draped with the royal robe of a political candidate and sends Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate had tried to deflect the issue of Judgment to Herod but Herod found no fault worthy of death in Jesus either (Luke 23:14,15). Before the next interrogation begins the crowd begins to call out for the release of an imprisoned man.
Mark 15:8 , “Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them.” It was a custom that showed grace to the people of Israel from a Rome that occupied their land and lives. It had become a tradition on Passover, perhaps a reminder to the people of their release from captivity back in the days of Moses. So the people, not the Chief Priests, begin to cry out for the release of a prisoner. Pilate agrees and offers a blatant comparison to choose from. Matthew 27:17 Pilate says, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” There is moment where the people are unsure until prompted by the leaders they begin to cry out for the release of Barabbas, a robber and murderer condemned to death. For a moment the people could have overruled the High priests but then the pressure was put upon them and they their choice was made. Barabbas, the Jewish name is a compound name. the first part, ‘Bar’ means ‘son of’. The last part ‘abbas’ means ‘father’. He is literally ‘son of the father’. Jesus Christ is the Son of God the Father, He did not come to be set free but to set free. He came in the contrasted innocence of the guilt of all mankind, for all have sinned. The sixth and final trial of Jesus is now about to begin.
Let’s stop there, the Son of God awaits their verdict. You could even say that God has been waiting for your verdict. He has presented evidence to you all your life. He has even presented Himself to take your place. The freedom He offers is one that casts out fear because it is a freedom offered to you by the love of God for you. What will your verdict be?