Jesus Before Pilate

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Jesus before Pilate - Did He get a fair trial?

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn't be fair, because the trials responsible for hailing Him before the Governor were models of vindictive injustice. That old court-intriguer Annas intended to execute on Christ the sentence his son-in-law Caiphas had pronounced (John 11:49-50, 53, 18:12-13). Jesus met those absurdities with stony silence, broken only when put under oath by Caiphas (Matthew 26:62-64).

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn't be fair because the Governor not only didn't allow defense witnesses to speak, but didn't immediately dismiss the proceedings when the Jewish leaders refused to offer evidence to support the death sentence they demanded (John 18:28-31). This forced them into the specious charge that Jesus subverted Israel, opposed taxes to Caesar and claimed to be Christ (Luke 23:2).

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn't be fair because, after personally interrogating Jesus, Pilate decided he posed no threat to Rome and declared Him innocent. Again, Jesus showed His contempt for the charges against Him by a silence that astonished the Governor (Luke 23:3-4, Mark 15:3-5.) This was all very remarkable since Pilate hated Jewish kings, yet concluded that Jesus was a king, but pronounced Him innocent of the charges preferred! Still, after making that decision, and after having Jesus returned from examination by Herod Antipas an innocent man (Luke 23:7-15), Pilate determined to punish the Lord, then let him go.

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn't be fair because Pilate's fear of the Jews led him to seek a scapegoat for their hatred (Matthew 27:15-18). Since he had already declared Jesus innocent, Pilate needed only to be faithful to his office and responsibility. But he had made his way in politics by giving everyone something, and no one everything, and felt that would satisfy this crisis. As it happened, his ruse to get Barabbas put in Christ's place backfired. A most fateful interruption occurred when his wife's appeal on Christ's behalf (Matthew 27:19) stole the initiative from Pilate and gave it back to the leaders (Matthew 27:20). When they demanded Barabbas, Pilate again tried to escape their fury by actually beating Christ. That satisfied his sense of justice and hoped it would placate their fierce hate. With that kind of mentality in place, who could ever hope to be justly tried?

Having dealt with mob violence, Pilate could have ordered his soldiers to slaughter any number of the Jews to restore order. He had previously committed such outrages in Jerusalem (Luke 13:1). He had reason on this occasion, but refused. Why? Because cowardice always acts irrationally. It resorts to violence when reason would achieve its goals, and to reason when only force will.

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn't be fair because Pilate washed his hands to cleanse what he knew was an unforgivable breach of justice in his court (Matthew 27:24). If he had controlled his own court, with the troops available to him, and the authority of Caesar behind him, he wouldn't have had to resort to such self-justifying behavior.

The trial of Jesus before Pilate couldn't be fair because the Governor took the safe way out by having a sign printed and nailed to Christ's cross: "JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS" (John 19:19). True; it revealed his real feelings, though expressed inappropriately at the wrong time. He believed the words; no doubt. He came to that conclusion during those fateful hours with Jesus; no doubt. But Pilate lacked the courage to say it when it would have proved him a real man; and declared it when its publication proved him a miserable politician. He let the Jewish menace to his relationship with Caesar (John 19:12), force his abdication of the authority Caesar granted him; then publicly re-asserted it once the threat passed. When you have built your life around accommodation in everyday events, it's nearly impossible to suddenly find one's integrity in a crisis.



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