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It's the beginning of the end for Jesus, Who is the beginning and has no end. And what looks like the end of Him, is only the beginning of life for us!
In rapid fire succession we are about to study the arrest of Jesus, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. We will see man at his very worst and God at His very best. This is the blackest page of human history...so darkly revealing the depravity of man, that if you only looked at these passages from a human perspective it would be very depressing.
But we have the privilege of seeing this from a divine perspective.
We see man at his worst as he rejects and kills His own Creator ... the One Who loves him the most. We see torture - and the taking of the life of the One Who IS life, and Who gives life. Man at his worst.
But we also see God at His best ... paying for sins which He did not commit, suffering a hell He does not deserve, and laying down His life, not for lovable people, but for wicked, depraved sinners.
Jesus' trial had two phases: Religious [Jews] and Civil [Rome]
The Jews wanted Jesus killed, but because they were taken over as a province of the Roman Empire, they had lost the authority to carry out the death penalty.
In our text, the religious trial has already taken place.
v. 28 Caiaphas is the high priest, and his father, Annas, the former high priest, along with the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council, have trumped up false accusations and found Jesus guilty of blasphemy. Under normal circumstances, at this point, Jesus would be stoned to death. That was what Jewish law stated. But mix Rome in to things and they need to go to the Roman court.
Here we see the sovereignty of God, for if Jesus had come to earth just a few years earlier, before Israel became a Roman province, Jesus would have been stoned to death, rather than going to the cross of Calvary just as the OT predicted 700 years earlier.
16 they pierced my hands and my feet.
Problem: The Romans don't care about blasphemy. They aren't religious. It means nothing to them. So the Jews need to come up with another charge that will stick. How about treason?! Just convince Rome that Jesus is trying to usurp the power of Caesar!
"He claims he is a king," they said. [But there is no king but Caesar!]
vv. 33, 37 Are you a king?
Who is this Pontius Pilate?
He's the 6th man to be in power in Judea [Holy Land] since Rome took over. History says he was a cold, cruel, calculating man, who would do anything to further his purpose. It was his job to keep order among the Jews in this region.
And this is the time of Passover, when 2-3 million Jews region wide will converge upon Jerusalem. Tensions were high. There is talk of an uprising. Pilate wants the Jews subdued.
At this juncture he becomes the consummate politician / compromiser / coward. He doesn't seek justice...only to keep his job. He doesn't look at the facts for himself. He doesn't think for himself. He goes into an automatic mode. [Auto-Pilate!]
Understand the background: Pilate is already on thin ice with Caesar. There has already been two uprisings of the Jews at this point. Caesar has stated basically that '3 strikes and you're out!' And Caesar was well known for executing ineffective governors. On one occasion when the Jews rioted against Rome, they were brought into an amphitheatre and Pilate threatened to have them all beheaded. They called his bluff and exposed their necks, daring him to follow through. [He didn't have authority to kill them all, so he let them go.] On another occasion he took money from the Temple treasury in order to build aqueducts in Jerusalem. The Jews again rioted and Pilate subdued them by having many of them clubbed and stabbed to death.
... the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
Pilate knew that if he had one more blight on his record he was a goner. Now it's time for Jesus' trial and Pilate cannot afford for things to get out of hand. So he acts now based not on what is right, but on expediency, and what's best for him and his career.
1. His conversation with Jesus.
vv. 33-38 Basically, "Are you a rival king to Caesar?"
Jesus' answer is ingenious: "Thou sayest." It's the same answer he gave the Jews when they asked Him "Are you the Son of God?" It means, "You got it right!" "You said it!"
He's driving Pilate into a corner. Pilate was hoping for a quick denial of the accusation, so he could dismiss the case promptly. Instead, he's now in a very difficult spot. Jesus won't defend Himself!