We are in the same time as the story we looked at last week. Last week we looked at Peter’s denial of Christ. Today we are going to continue that story but look at a different character.
1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: 2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
When Judas first came to betray Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, they took Him away and made Him stand before the high priest first. That was Caiaphas. That was the time that Peter denied Jesus 3 times.
- They would determine that Jesus was guilty first. And of course, there were false accusations thrown at Him from all sides. But Jesus maintained His composure. But after that, they would bring Him to Pilate.
- Why? Because the priests themselves could not condemn a man to the point of death. They needed the help of the Roman governor on their side to agree with them as well.
- So we are reading here that Jesus is now being delivered to Pontius Pilate. He was the governor of that region at that time.
At the sight of seeing Jesus being brought before the Roman government, what happens?
- Matthew 27:3-5
3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
- Judas seeing that the situation was getting more serious, comes forward and repents. Jesus is not escaping like He has in the past. He’s meant to not get to this point where He is about to be condemned.
- Sure standing before the priests was one thing, but they couldn’t do anything to kill Him.
- But now Christ is brought to Pilate. And though the Bible says that Judas repented, it wasn’t the true Godly repentance that the Bible speaks of. He went out and hanged himself!
- Peter denied Christ but he would go out and repent as well, but not hang himself! His repentance would lead to a greater devotion to Christ and His work!
- What a stark difference! How different a reaction between the two.
But now, let’s come back to the story. We pick it up in verse 11.
- Matthew 27:11-12
11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. 12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
- Pilate, probably angry at being awoken at so early an hour, is much annoyed at the prisoner that is brought before him. But when he sees Jesus, just as the Roman soldiers declared that man never spake like this man, Pilate could see the peace that radiated from His countenance was a stark contrast to His persecutors and accusers.
- But he asks Jesus – Are you the king of the Jews?
- Luke 23:1-2
1 And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.
- The priests and the people that hated Jesus had brought Him to Pilate and they couldn’t cite their jealousy of Him or just pure hatred for Him as their reason why he should sentence Jesus to death. So they came with this accusation: Jesus says He is a king, trying to set up a new kingdom – to overtake the Roman empire of course!
- So Pilate asks – Are you the king of the Jews?
- With the accusations from the priests and the elders he didn’t say anything. But Christ does reply Pilate.
- Luke 23:3
And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it.
- But as soon as Jesus replies to Pilate, look at Pilate’s declaration!
- Luke 23:4
Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.
- I mean it was obvious that Jesus wasn’t trying to set up a kingdom. There had been no rumours of any undercurrents to the government in Rome. There were no soldiers by Jesus’ side fighting for Him. There had been no revolts from Christ or any of His followers. I mean, if He had been trying to set up an earthly kingdom, how could priests and elders, religious people in the church who aren’t known for their violence capture Him and bring Him before Pilate?
- It was obvious to Pilate the deep seated hatred that these people had for Jesus. He saw through all their motives and just declared Him innocent. No fault! One of the quickest trials ever! But the people weren’t done!
- Matthew 27:13-14
13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? 14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
- It’s interesting to see Christ’s reaction. He answers when Pilates asks whether He is the king of the Jews or not. But after that, when the false accusations keep coming, Jesus remains silent. He has done enough to prove His innocence and didn’t need to keep answering.
But how do the people react?
- Luke 23:5-7
5 And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. 6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. 7 And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
- The false accusations keep coming! And even though Pilate has made such a declaration already – “I find no fault in Jesus!”, he still bends to the will of the people. We see already his weakness. Had he just stuck to his first declaration – Jesus is innocent! And stood by it, the people would not be able to do anything. After all, he was in the seat of the judge! But he got afraid of the people. He was afraid of their reaction.
- We already see here that Pilate is a people server. He likes to be popular. He doesn’t like to make the hard unpopular decisions. So what does he try and do? He wants to shift the responsibility to someone else. Oh, Jesus is from Galilee? Let me send Him over to Herod! This is not my jurisdiction.
- But in time Herod sends Christ back. Eventually Pilate has to deal with Christ. Let’s see if he has the courage to make the right decision.
15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
- Pilate tries to give the Jews a choice now. He’s already declared Jesus innocent. He’s tried to avoid making the hard decision by sending Him to Herod. Christ was sent right back! So now in Pilate’s hands he tries to shun his responsibility again by letting the Jews choose between 2 people.
- Pilate knew that they had delivered Christ up because they were envious and jealous of Him. It was obvious that He had not done anything wrong. Even the countenance of Christ’s face was all peace and calm. So Pilate tries to help them make an obvious choice. Barabbas or Christ.
- Who is Barabbas?
- Matthew 27:16
And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
- Mark 15:7
And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection.
- John 18:40
Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
- Matthew 27:16
- He’s a notable prisoner. He made insurrection – means he stirred up a violent uprising against the government and also committed murder. And was a robber as well.
- This obviously represented Satan. The contrast was so different.
- One clearly a hardened criminal. Just one look at him and you knew he was guilty.
- But Christ, total opposite. Not even a taint of sin. Not even an evil thought entertained. His whole countenance radiated the peace of heaven.
- In Pilate’s eyes the choice was easy and obvious. And so he thought everyone would choose how he would have chosen.
- In actual fact though, Pilate was once again trying to shun responsibility. He didn’t want to be the bad guy. So interesting. He had all the power, he was in the position. But friends, the position doesn’t make the man. God is the One that will help us to stand firm in the midst of trial and persecution to help us make those tough decisions. Decision’s that may even result in the loss of friends, loss of money, loss of a job, loss of even life! But Pilate, he was a people server. He was afraid of the Jews!
- But God in His mercy still reaches out to Pilate. He’s still trying to give Pilate a chance to do that which is right.
When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
- In the midst of all the havoc taking place in the judgment hall, Pilate’s wife comes to him and tells him a serious message! God, trying to save Pilate from the wrong decision is doing all that He can to save Pilate! Not save Christ! But save PILATE!
- God didn’t want him to be guilty of crucifying the Son of God! And so this serious warning comes.
You know Pilate, he really wants to do what is write. Look at what we read.
- John 19:12
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.
- Pilate really wanted to do what was right. He knew Jesus was an innocent man. But the problem? He lacked a backbone. He lacked moral courage to do what was right. He cared more about what people thought and what Caesar would think, than just doing what is just and fair.
20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. 22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
- Pilate’s attempt at comparing Christ and Barabbas was an utter failure. Demons were in that judgment hall just perverting the mind of the people.And what this time required was one man to stand up for the right and all the host of heaven would have been by his side to strengthen him. But unfortunately that was not the case.
- The chief priests and elders are going around trying to persuade everyone to choose Barabbas. And their influence has a profound effect on the people.
- At the surprise of the Jews choosing Barabbas and not Jesus, Pilate asks them – what evil has Jesus done? But they didn’t even give a reason. There was no explanation. Nothing logical! They just cried out even more – CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!
- Can you believe it? The people would choose this murdered over the spotless Son of God? This is how far envy and jealousy takes us. It’s unreasonable. Even a pagan man could see clearly and make a logical decision. The choice was obvious. Any person in their right mind would have chosen for Christ to be set free. But these people were full of hatred, envy and jealousy against Christ. So there was no rationale and logic to their decision.
On seeing their reaction, what does Pilate do?
- Matthew 27:24
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
- Cowardly, Pilate resorts to washing his hands before the people. He doesn’t want to make the unpopular decision. The crowd has spoken, even though it is unjust, even though it is clearly the wrong thing to do. Pilate he washes his hands in symbol telling the people that he is innocent of the blood of Christ. He seemingly stands neutral and let’s the people decide.
- But was Pilate really innocent? Absolutely not! He had the power to change that decision. It was within his ability to overturn that decision. The choice was not the people’s to make. But Pilate who was in the position of judge, he placed the power in the hands of the people. Pilate made his choice! And his choice was to be popular and not be righteous.
Friends, we must never make the decision based on popularity or on a majority.
- What is Pilate’s downfall? He did not heed the voice of God through the wife’s dream. And even when the decision was obvious, he was afraid to take a stand for it. He was neutral. But even that is a decision. Ultimately, he was not prepared, not ready.
- Why? He did not take the chances to grow in character throughout his life to be a man of strength and integrity. He chose the easy path, the path of least resistance throughout his life, even in the little things. And that path is rarely the right path.
- Friends, if we are faithful in the small things, we will be faithful in the bigger things in life.
- Luke 16:10
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
- And so when it finally came to a head at the trial of Jesus, Pilate found himself unprepared and so he let others make the decision for him. A decision that would haunt him the rest of his life. A decision that he would regret for eternity.
Today what is needed is men and women who will stand for the right no matter the cost or consequence. To stand for the right irrespective of circumstance. Men and women who will stand for the right even though the heavens fall!
Men like Daniel who would rather face a den of lions than be unfaithful to God. Men and women like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who would rather be in a furnace of fire than bow to give up integrity and worship a golden image. Men like Joseph who would rather face imprisonment and death than commit fornication against their heathen master.
Today, God needs men and women who will be faithful, starting with the little things. Every day our characters are being moulded. Every step in the right direction strengthens our resolve to do right in times of emergency. And every step in the wrong, weakens our character and integrity to allow God to use us in the future. Every day we are making decisions and building for eternity. May we learn to be like Jesus today, who would not even for a moment entertain sin. Let’s build our character for Christ every day!