The Messiah and Mob Rule
Text: Matt. 27:11-26
1. Illustration: In a recent NCAA cross-country championship held in Riverside, California, 123 of the 128 runners missed a turn. One competitor, Mike Delcavo, stayed on the 10,000 meter course and began waving for fellow runners to follow him. Delcavo was able to convince only four other runners to go with him. Asked what his competitors thought of his mid-race decision not to follow the crowd, Delcavo responded, "They thought it was funny that I went the right way." Delcavo was one who ran correctly. In the same way, our goal is to run correctly; to finish the race marked out for us by Christ. We can rejoice over those who have courage to follow, ignoring the laughter of the crowd. As the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness."
2. It's easy to follow the crowd; it's hard to do the right thing when everyone else is doing the wrong thing. However, the right thing is always the right thing even when it is difficult.
3. We learn three things about Pilate...
a. He thought he was in control.
b. He wanted to let Jesus go.
c. He gave in to public opinion
4. Let's all stand together as we read Matt. 27:11-26.
Proposition: We must always do the right thing and not follow the crowd.
Transition: The thing about Pilate is that...
I. He Thought He Was In Control (11-14).
A. Much to the Governor’s Surprise
1. The religious leaders have managed to get two men to agree on the same lie against Jesus, and they find him guilty. However, they cannot sentence him to death because only the Roman governor, Pilate, can do sentence someone to death.
2. So as our text begins, "Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. 'Are you the king of the Jews?' the governor asked him. Jesus replied, 'You have said it.'”
a. This verse is important theologically as well as historically.
b. It stands behind the inscription on the cross (v. 37) and prepares the way for Christianity, which rests on the conviction that Jesus of Nazareth, who rose from the dead, is indeed the promised Messiah, the King of the Jews—basic themes in Matthew even in the prologue.
c. In other words, the vindicated Lord is the crucified Messiah (Carson).
d. Matthew does not tell us exactly what the charges brought against Jesus were, but we can deduce from Pilate's question that Jesus was charged with claiming to be a king.
e. Their intent was to paint Jesus in the worst light possible, so they want to portray Jesus as a threat to Pilate, the Roman governor.
f. This accusation troubled Pilate, because as the representative of the Emperor Tiberias who had decreed that anyone claiming to be a king must be put to death.
g. So on the one hand he had to deal with Jesus or it could get back to the Emperor that he hadn't followed his orders.
h. However, Pilate also knew that the Jewish leaders were the problem and not Jesus (Horton, 615).
3. Then Matthew tells us something very intriguing. He says, "But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent."
a. If Pilate would have sentenced Jesus immediately if He had claimed to be an earthly king, but since he did not the Jewish leaders accusations again Him continued.
b. Their accusations are not laid out for us in detail, however, we can assume that they tried to show how dangerous Jesus was not only to them but also to Pilate (Horton, 615).
c. What is intriguing is Jesus says nothing about their accusations!
d. Now I don't know about you, but if someone is standing in front of me and telling someone else lies about me, I'm going get in their face and say, "you're crazy!"
e. However, Jesus, again in line with what is prophesied about him in Isaiah 53:7, "And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth."
4. Then Pilate confronts Jesus, saying, “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise."
a. Although Pilate saw Jesus' answer as an acknowledgement, he also knew that Jesus was anything but political, so he tried to prevent the sentence of execution from being carried out.
b. Pilate encourages Jesus to defend himself, but Jesus remained silent. It would have been very easy for Jesus to refute the charges, but that was not Jesus' objective.
c. He remained committed to His mission, which was to go to the cross.
d. The word translated "surprise" means "to wonder or marvel at some event or object" (Louw and Nidda, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Symantic Domains).
e. Jesus has answered Pilate's original question and needs to say nothing more, so he does not respond to the concocted charges, "to the great amazement of the governor."
f. Pilate has certainly heard of Jesus prior to this encounter, but he is not prepared for the sovereign silence that Jesus maintains in the middle of these threatening circumstances (Wilkins).
g. The reason that Pilate is so amazed is that he thought is was in control of the situation.
h. John's gospel gives a better understanding into this matter.
i. John 19:10-11 (NLT)
“Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above...”
j. You see, what Pilate didn't understand was that Jesus was actually the one in control of this situation.
B. God is Sovereign
1. Illustration: The appeal to God’s sovereignty is not to foster hope that we will be spared all difficulty, but to foster confidence that when those difficulties come we are not abandoned. Things have not fallen out of hand. We can still rely on the God who has permitted us to face these things to supply us with the grace and help we need to be faithful under such circumstances" (D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 273).
2. The greatest truth in all the world is that our God is in control.
a. Psalm 140:7 (NLT)
O Sovereign LORD, the strong one who rescued me, you protected me on the day of battle.
b. People like to think that they are in control.
c. We think that we are the one behind the steering wheel.
d. However, the reality is that God is in control at all times and in all situations.
e. We can stand in the face of opposition because we know that our God is in control.
f. We know that He is watching over us and protecting us.
g. We know that we can put our trust in Him.
h. There is no one like our God!
3. We can take great confidence in God's sovereign protection.
a. Romans 8:31 (NLT)
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
b. If God is on our side there is no one who can come against us.
c. It doesn't matter what they might think of us.
d. It doesn't matter what they might say about us.
e. It doesn't matter what they might do to us.
f. Because if God is for us no one can be against us!
Transition: Don't be afraid to stand against the crowd because the Sovereign Lord is on your side.
II. He Wanted to Let Jesus Go (15-19).
A. Which One Do You Want Me to Release
1. To Pilate's credit, he really does try to let Jesus go. He sees right through the religious leaders and knows that Jesus is no criminal.
2. Matthew tells us, "Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted."
a. Pilate's position as governor gave him the authority to acquit a prisoner, whether or not already convicted and condemned. In an ingenious way of attempting to enfold the people to his favor, he apparently initiated a custom in earlier years in which he released a prisoner at Passover whom "the crowd" (ochlos) favored (Wilkins).
b. Customs like this release of a prisoner varied locally.
c. Roman law recognized two kinds of amnesty: acquittal before the trial and pardon of the condemned; this is the latter.
d. Pilate was not required by law to cooperate, but he had severely irritated the priestly aristocracy and Jerusalemites at the beginning of his tenure and may have wished to avoid further problems (Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary – New Testament).
3. Matthew continues saying, "This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
a. Barabbas had a reputation as radical zealot who truly was dangerous.
b. By pitting him against Jesus he was sure that the people would choose Jesus over Barabbas due to Barabbas's reputation as a violent man.
c. He was trying to play the crowd against the religious leaders.
d. He assumed that they would choose a messiah over a murderer.
4. Matthew gives us a little insight into Pilate by telling us, "(He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)"
a. Pilate knows that the high priest and Sanhedrin have not indicted Jesus because they care about the potential threat to Roman rule.
b. Rather, they are envious of Jesus and his popularity with the people, and they want him out of the way.
c. Moreover, his authoritative ministry threatens their entire way of life.
d. If what he says is true, they must repent and follow Jesus, as John the Baptist warned them to do long ago.
e. But they have hardened their hearts throughout the months and years of Jesus' ministry.
f. Jesus' threat to their religious establishment has come to a climax, so now they know that they must get rid of him.
5. However, something unusual happens in the narrative. Matthew says, "Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: 'Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.'”
a. The “judgment seat” seems to have been outside the palace.
b. By this period Roman governors were allowed to take their wives with them to the provinces.
c. Further, although Roman matrons were ideally quiet, many stories praised aristocratic Roman women who privately influenced their husbands to some noble course of action.
d. Dreams were respected in all Mediterranean cultures as sometimes being revelatory (Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary – New Testament).
e. Just how much bearing this has on the outcome is uncertain, but there is no doubt that this troubled Pilate as much as his wife.
B. Acting With Integrity
1. Illustration: John Maxwell said, "I commit myself to being a person of character. Truth, reliability, honesty and confidentiality will be the pillars of my life. I will treat others as I expect to be treated and I will live according to the highest standards of integrity amid all of life’s circumstances."
2. If you loose your integrity you have lost it all.
a. Proverbs 4:25-27 (NLT)
Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. 26 Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. 27 Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.
b. Once you sacrifice your integrity it is difficult to regain it.
c. People will tell you to go ahead and do it; no one will know.
d. However, that is a lie! God knows and so do you!
e. One day you will answer to God for it, and everyday you will answer to yourself for it when you look yourself in the mirror.
3. Losing your integrity will never end well.
a. Proverbs 10:9 (NLT)
People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.
b. You are risking how others view you.
c. You are risking how you view yourself.
d. You are risking how God views you.
e. It just not worth it!
Transition: Pilate had the opportunity to do the right thing, but in the end...
III. He Gives In to Public Opinion (20-26).
A. Pilate Saw He Wasn't Getting Anywhere
1. He was trying to do the right thing, but the religious leaders were determined to get rid of Jesus at all cost.
2. Matthew tells us, "Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death."
a. It wasn't Barabbas's reputation that caused the people to choose him, but rather the influence that the religious leaders had over the people.
b. The same religious leaders who plotted Jesus' arrest, conspired his betrayal, manipulated his Jewish trial, and bound him to Pilate now arrive at the Roman trial to persuade the crowd to ask for Jesus' crucifixion.
c. Most likely they try to convince them that Jesus is a blaspheming charlatan and not their expected liberator (Wilkins).
d. Although it was the religious leaders who were truly responsible for Jesus' death, the crowd was merely following after them.
e. They were mostly a Jerusalem crowd and were ruled form a religious and social standpoint by the high priest.
f. They did not dare cross him or they faced the threat of being banished from the temple and becoming social outcasts.
3. Pilate still wanted to do the right thing. So again he asks, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”
a. Matthew does not tell us the means that the chief priests and elders use, but it is not hard to imagine that they persuade the crowds that Barabbas is the kind of freedom fighter who will lead the nation in an uprising to finally throw off the yoke of Rome's oppression.
b. They probably recount to the crowds how Jesus has consistently preached peace, mercy, and forgiveness, even of their enemies, which certainly hasn't improved their material lot.
c. The governor has given them only two options, and at this point their hope is directed by the religious authorities to go with a known notorious insurrectionist.
d. They want a kingdom on earth now. So with escalating clamor they demand that Barabbas be released to them and that Jesus be crucified (Wilkins).
4. So Pilate tries again, "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!”
a. Pilate makes one more feeble attempt to try and influence the crowd.
b. However, they were becoming so emotional that he does not even get an answer to his question.
c. Instead they all just shout, "crucify him!" His attempt to use the crowd against the religious leaders backfires against him, and now he cannot take it back.
d. Pilate tries to get them to think rationally about Jesus' innocence by asking why they should want him crucified and to spell out the crime he has committed.
e. But they are losing any semblance of order and shout louder and louder, "Crucify him!" (Wilkins).
5. Finally, Pilate gives in to mob rule. Matthew says, "Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”
a. The crowd is getting into a frenzy that may get out of control and erupt into a riot, something that has happened before during the Passover.
b. Not wanting to bring more suspicion on his shaky rule, Pilate washes his hands with water in front of the crowd and says, "I am innocent of this man's blood." It is your responsibility!
c. There is abundant background from Jewish as well as Greek sources for the practice of washing one's hands as a way of showing public innocence.
d. This is a virtual admission that Pilate has not found anything in Jesus deserving of the death penalty.
e. But his duplicity cannot force the full responsibility of Jesus' death on the crowd or the religious leaders, for he still could have, and should have, released Jesus for lack of any evidence of insurrection and treason (Wilkin).
B. Giving In
1. Illustration: During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. Among the Brethren assemblies, half complied and half refused. Those who went along with the order had a much easier time. Those who did not, faced harsh persecution. In almost every family of those who resisted, someone died in a concentration camp.
2. It is easy to follow the crowd.
a. Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT)
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it."
b. It's easy to do what everyone else is doing.
c. It's easy to follow after those who do the wrong thing.
d. The road to hell is broad because there are so many people on it.
e. The road to heaven, on the other hand, is narrow, difficult, and there are fewer people on it.
f. But it is the only road worth taking, because all the other roads are dead ends!
3. God is calling you do what is right even when it hurts!
a. Micah 6:8 (NLT)
No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
b. God requires that we do what is right simply because it is right.
c. God requires that we love what is right so much that we are willing to face difficulty for it.
d. God requires of us that we recognize that what He offers is so much better than what the world offers and the sacrifice will be worth it!
Transition: The right thing is called the right thing because it is the only thing that matters.
1. We learn three things about Pilate...
a. He thought he was in control
b. He wanted to let Jesus go
c. He gives into public opinion
2. Mark 8:36 (NLT)
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
3. Is it worth to gain the acceptance of the crowd and lose your soul?
4. What would you rather lose?