Summary: In this message in Mark 15:1-15 we examine the verdict reached in Jesus' civil trial by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
Four years ago I began what I planned to be a seven-year series of messages. It is based on the book by James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken that is titled, Jesus on Trial. My goal is to teach on seven important aspects of the trial of Jesus Christ: the diabolical conspiracy to kill him (which I covered four years ago); his night-time arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (which I covered three years ago); the short resistance that the disciples mounted in his defense (which I covered two years ago); the witnesses who accused him of blasphemy during his ecclesiastical trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin (which I covered last year); the verdict reached in his civil trial by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (which I plan to cover this evening); the sentence of death that his enemies demanded; and his execution by crucifixion.
Let us read Mark 15:1-15:
1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. (Mark 15:1-15)
A verdict is defined as follows: “The finding or decision of a Jury, duly sworn and impaneled, after careful consideration, reported to and accepted by the Court.”
If you had been privy to what was going on behind the scenes regarding the trial of Jesus, you would have been aware that it all began with a conspiracy. The religious leaders and the political leaders had conspired together to get rid of Jesus. But they were having great difficulty doing so because of Jesus’ immense popularity with the people. However, a stunning development took place when one of Jesus’ own inner circle of friends stepped forward to betray him to the authorities. Judas Iscariot volunteered to betray Jesus for some unknown reason.
Then, on the evening of 14 Nissan, 30 AD Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. A large band of soldiers had managed to arrest Jesus without too much trouble.
The brief resistance from Jesus’ disciples did not amount to much. Jesus was quickly taken into custody, and a hasty trial was convened. Actually, there were two trials on the night of Jesus’ arrest. The religious leaders tried to find a way to accuse Jesus of some offense of which he would be guilty, for as Mark said, “Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death” (Mark 14:55).
Most of the testimony presented at the ecclesiastical trial was vain testimony. Many bore false witness against Jesus, and their testimony did not agree (Mark 14:56). The high priest must have been beside himself because he could not get two witnesses to agree on their testimony. So, he did something that was entirely improper in a capital trial: he himself intervened. He asked Jesus if he was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed. Jesus said he was, and the Sanhedrin accused Jesus of blasphemy.
Because the Jewish Sanhedrin could not put someone to death, they therefore sent Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, for a civil trial.
Tonight, I would like to examine the verdict reached in his civil trial by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
I. The Conspiracy (15:1)
First, notice the conspiracy.