Summary: Jesus has been taken to Pilate’s palace by the religious leaders. They need Pilate to give Jesus the death sentence, since the Jews no longer have that authority. Pilate interviews Christ and announces that he is innocent.
HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS
(31) First Appearance Before Pilate
Time: Friday of Jesus’ Final Week
Jesus has been taken to Pilate’s palace by the religious leaders. They need Pilate to give Jesus the death sentence since the Jews no longer have that authority. Pilate interviews Christ and announces that he is innocent. Naturally, the Jews will not accept that verdict, so they begin to apply pressure to the governor. Pilate hears that Jesus is a Galilean, and because he wants to wash his hands of this matter, he sends Him to Herod who is the ruler there.
John 18:28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover.
Matthew 27:2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
Mark 15:1 And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate.
Luke 23:1 And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.
The religious trial was ended, and the civil trial is about to begin. The scene is the hall of judgment or the palace of the Roman governor. The Jews did not want to go into the palace of a Gentile. They felt that they would have been defiled if they touched a gentile and they would consequently be prevented from eating the Passover. It did not seem to bother them that they were plotting the death of the Son of God. It would have been a tragedy for them to enter a Gentile house, but murder was a mere trifle. They had scruples, but no second thoughts about breaking both Roman and Jewish laws to persecute and kill Christ. They strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel.
Let us now see what went on at the judgment-hall. Here is Augustine’s remarks: O impious blindness! They would be defiled, forsooth, by a dwelling which was another’s, and not be defiled by a crime which was their own. They feared to be defiled by the praetorium of an alien judge and feared not to be defiled by the blood of an innocent brother. Poole remarks, “Nothing is more common than for persons overzealous about rituals to be careless about morals.” The Savior’s arrest and proceedings of the night had been kept so secret that there was yet no flocking together of the common people (in addition it was still early in the morning before the multitudes were in the streets). The Jewish leaders were so afraid of the people that they obviously did their best to prevent the masses knowing what was going on. This was the reason why they arranged everything with such a feverish haste.
The expression “that they might eat the Passover” probably means the feast which followed the Passover. The Passover itself had been held on the previous night.
The phrase “and it was early,” is explained as follows. A Roman court could be held after sunrise. But because the situation was critical, Pilate would be ready to open the court, say, between 4:00 and 5:00 A.M. (some say between 2:00 and 3:00 A.M.) when most people were in their beds; and so there would be less danger of opposition from the people that were for Christ. At the same time, they had their agents out rounding up those they could influence to cry out against him.
An early trial before Pilate was not without problems for the Sanhedrin officials, because a whole day must intervene between their sentence and execution. For this reason, they go at once to Pilate. If he agrees to execute he can fix the time. So they transferred the breach of their law from themselves to him. There were other reasons for why the religious rulers wanted to get Jesus condemned in the Roman court, and executed by the Roman power.
1. So that He might be put to death legally, according to the present constitution of their government, since they became a province of the Roman Empire.
2. So that He might be put to death without causing a riot. If they could involve the Roman government in the matter there would be little danger of an uproar, since the people feared their Roman masters.
3. So that He might be put to death in a way that disgraced Him. The death of the cross, which the Romans commonly used was terribly humiliating, and put an indelible mark of infamy upon the victim, and sank his reputation forever.