Summary: The injustice of Jesus' death sentence in Luke 23:13-25 shows us how Jesus was convicted, despite his innocence.
Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested by the religious authorities in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. He was taken to the high priest’s house where Peter denied knowing him three times before the rooster crowed. Then Jesus was subjected to a religious trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, where he was found “guilty” of blasphemy. But since it was not lawful for the Jews to put anyone to death (John 18:31), they sent Jesus to Pilate for a civil trial. Pilate found no guilt in Jesus. When Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee, he sent him to Herod. Herod also found that nothing deserving death had been done by Jesus. And so Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. This was how Jesus came before Pilate – again! Pilate was then coerced by the Jews to condemn Jesus to death.
Let’s read about the injustice of Jesus’ death sentence in Luke 23:13-25:
13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore punish and release him.”
18 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— 19 a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. 20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. (Luke 23:13-25)
What, in your mind, is the greatest injustice in the world? To be sure, we live in a world full of love, hope, joy, and delight. But it is also a world full of heartache, pain, disappointment, and sorrow. Some would say that poverty is the greatest injustice in our world today. Others would say that it is starvation. And still others would say that racism, or child abuse, or inequality towards women, or sex trafficking, or war is the greatest injustice in the world. Vincent A. Gallagher, in his book titled, The True Cost of Low Prices, said, “It takes great courage to open one’s heart and mind to the tremendous injustice and suffering in our world.”
You may be able to think of other injustices in our world. But surely the greatest injustice in the world is the injustice of Jesus’ death sentence. Jesus had never done anything wrong in his entire life. He was completely sinless. He never ever thought a sinful thought. He never ever said a sinful word. And he never ever committed a sinful deed. It is impossible for us to comprehend completely what it means to be totally sinless, as Jesus was. And yet he was condemned to die as a criminal of the lowest order.
The injustice of Jesus’ death sentence in Luke 23:13-25 shows us how Jesus was convicted, despite his innocence.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Conclusion of Pilate (23:13-16)
2. The Choice of the Jews (23:18-23)
3. The Condemnation of Jesus (23:24-25)
I. The Conclusion of Pilate (23:13-16)
First, notice the conclusion of Pilate.
After his first interview with Jesus, Pilate sent him to Herod because Jesus was from Galilee, and Herod was responsible for Galilee. Herod was glad to see Jesus because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some signs done by Jesus (Luke 23:8). Herod took Jesus to be some kind of magician or con artist, and he was curious to see for himself how Jesus performed his miracles. But Jesus refused to say a word to Herod. Someone has said that Herod is the only person in the entire Bible to whom Jesus never responded when asked a question. When Herod realized that Jesus would not perform or answer his questions, he and his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt and mocked him (Luke 23:11), and then sent him back to Pilate.
Pilate must have been disappointed when Jesus was returned to him. He really did not want to have anything to do with Jesus. He had already said that he found no guilt in Jesus (Luke 23:4). He had tried to pass the hot potato to Herod, hoping that he would deal with Jesus so that Pilate would not have to do so. Nevertheless, Jesus’ return to Pilate confirmed his own initial assessment of Jesus’ innocence. So we read in Luke 23:13-15: