Summary: Every person on the face of the earth is faced with the question; What shall I do then with Jesus?
We are now close to the climax for which Jesus came into the world. We have looked at Christ’s betrayal by Judas, the mock trial of the Jews and now the Roman trial. The innocense of Jesus has been stated 5 times. Pilate stated it rightly; (Lk. 23:14) "I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him." The record of history is that Jesus Christ is not guilty. But as we will see the trial proceeded to its predetermined end.
A. A Troubled Caution. (19)
While Pilate was sitting in a chair on the porch, his wife Claudia Procula, who had been having nightmares, sent her husband an urgent message. She could have heard gossip from her servants about the trial, or her husband could have told her about this Jesus with the unworldly kingdom and the carpenter’s roots. Like most pagans, Claudia was a very superstitious person who experienced visions and dreams. Not even a governor’s wife would have dared intrude on an important trial unless it was serious. She knew what the original verdict of innocence had been but correctly feared that Pilate would change his mind.
While her mind wondered, God’s was made up. Everything was happening according to the predetermined plan of God. (Acts 2:23)
God had sovereignly orchestrated both the dream and the timing of the message to do 2 things: give Pilate one last warning and to give the leaders time to stir up the crowd.
B. A Tumultuous Crowd. (20-24)
(20) The real culprits are these religious leaders of Israel. But as God used the evil Judas to accomplish His purpose, He will also use these evil men, as well as a pagan woman. The dream was nothing less than a divine intervention in order to give the leaders time to stir up the crowd against Jesus. God had determined, Jesus must die.
(21) Obviously, Pilate felt that the religious rulers had no basis for requesting the death penalty. Jesus had not incited rebellion against Rome. But he had a problem on his hands. He wanted to please them and at the same time not arbitrarily sentence an innocent man to death. The solution, he thought, was to offer a choice of Jewish prisoners to be released by Rome as a good will gesture during the Passover Week. On the one hand, he presented Barabbas, a known murderer and robber, but also an insurrectionist against Roman authority. The other, Jesus, was known to have been hugely popular with the common people. They had just welcomed Him like a king only a few days before. The contrast was so evident, he thought surely they would choose Jesus.
(22,23) The crowd urged on by their leaders chose the guilty over the godly, the violent over the virtuous, the robber over the Redeemer. Tragically, it is mans way to choose the earthly promises over the spiritual reality. Barabbas could teach them how to drive out the Romans. Who wants to hear anything about the kingdom inherited by the meek? It is that way today. Men and women want the temporary here and now over the treasures of heaven which they cannot hold in their hand.
(24) "tumult" The makings of a riot were there. Pilate could not afford another clash with the Jews. So he caved in to the crowd. He symbolically handed the responsibility for the murder of Jesus back to the Jews. I think Pilate intentionally chose a Jewish ritual to renounce responsibility for Jesus’ fate. In (Deut. 21) the Mosaic Law provided that if the elders of a city could not determine the identity of a murderer, they could publicly wash their hands and thereby absolve themselves of any guilt regarding their inability to render justice. But no amount of washing could cleanse the guilt from Pilate’s hands.
C. A Terrible Curse. (25,26)
(25) The Jews got what they wanted, the death of Jesus. And Pilate got what he wanted, they would assume the blame. The Jews will be held guilty of the blood of their own Messiah until Jesus comes in His revealing glory. for 2000 years now this self-pronounced curse has pursued the Jews to every country on the globe. The curse has made them the most persecuted people in the world.
Later, they seem to have short memories, as they retracted their statement and told Peter (Acts 5:28) "..ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us." They had forgotten they previously affirmed their own guilt.
(26) If Jesus is innocent, why was He scourged? Only one reason. To appease the people. Pilate thought they might be satisfied with less than death and he could let Jesus go.
One question in this passage sticks out: "What then shall I do with Jesus?"