Summary: Is Pilate trying Jesus, or is Jesus trying Pilate?
Jesus Tries to Save Pilate
Last week we talked about three trials. We talked about the mock trial of Jesus before Annas and the Jewish leaders. The second trial was that of the Jewish nation before Jesus. The third was the trial of Peter and John in the courtyard before the people. All parties were found guilty as charged, the first wrongly, and the others rightly.
I am sure that every time that either Peter or John heard the crowing of a rooster in the future, that is would be a call to remembrance, as much as the broken bread and cup. Like the Lord's Supper, it is a call to humility and repentance before God. It was also a reminder to them, that this bitter failure was not the end, thanks to the grace of God. It is a reminder to us all that God will forgive us if we only truly repent.
Exposition of the Text
v. 28 It is interesting that John uses the present tense when describing the procession from Caiaphas' house to Pilate. Either one of two things can be meant here, or both. The first is that it is so vivid in John's mind that he is seeing it all over again. John, too like Peter, had failed to stand up for Jesus. Peter had run out with bitter tears, but John had remained undetected. He continued to observe from a distance, but his heart must have burned within him. The other use of the present tense emphasizes the journey itself. The literal translation into English is "They are leading Him from Caiaphas' house to the Praetorium". One can only imagine the sorrowful journey, the shame, the beating, the mocking, and the spitting. We are reminded of the words of Isaiah "He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from Him" (Is 53:3).
The verse continues that the Jewish leaders stopped at the entrance to the Praetorium. They did not want to defile themselves so as not to be able to eat the Passover. Gentile
houses were unclean, and rumors were that the Gentiles killed their unwanted children there. They were the leaders of the people. Even though they had no faith in God, they still bound themselves to the Laws regulations for appearance's sake. It gave them their sense of importance. These same leaders who so hypocritically wanted to remain ceremoniously clean were the same people Jesus had accused of crossing to the other side of the road to avoid the man who fell to thieves on the Jericho road (Luke 10:29-37). This road was so narrow with a steep drop off a cliff face, that crossing to that side put them in considerable danger of life and limb. Yet they were willing to risk all rather than defile themselves! They wanted to remain clean so they could eat the Passover lamb. How little did they understand that the true Passover Lamb was in their midst! How ignorant were they of exactly how unclean they really were! The very Passover Lamb who could make them clean was the victim of their abuse.
v. 29 Pilate must have been expecting them. He would have given the order for the Roman Cohort to join the soldiers of the High Priest to arrest Jesus. Pilate usually resided on the coast at Caesarea which was a more modern and Greek style city. But Passover was always a time of unrest in Israel. Passover was our version of the 4th of July, a
celebration of freedom from the domination of a foreign power, the Egyptians. It is easy to see the similarities between the Jews situation under Roman domination and their slavery in Egypt. There had been several popular revolts already which were met with Rome's cruel use of force. I would suppose that the Jewish leaders when they had asked for the soldiers had exaggerated the case that Jesus was about to lead an armed revolt against Rome. How ironic it was that Jesus' "army" consisted at that point of eleven scared men and only two small swords, hardly the means to carry out a violent revolt and
overthrow of Rome. However, this did not mean that Jesus could not have overthrown the Romans, as we are reminded later in the trial before Pilate that he could have called down a legion of angels for that purpose. Rome would fall to the followers of Jesus, all right, but not for three hundred years, and without the resort to violence. And we also know that Jesus will return and slay the followers of the beast with the sword of His mouth, which is by simply speaking the word.
Pilate goes out to them, an unusual concession, and perhaps a sign of weakness. Rome was not in the habit of condescension to any foreign subjects. The Roman view would have been that if they really wanted to condemn Jesus that they would have to bring Jesus into the hall of judgment with them. This dealing from a position of weakness would cost Pilate dearly when he later on tried to have Jesus released. But Pilate's weakness and the rage of the Jewish leaders would only serve to unwittingly fulfill God's plan.