Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Pilate Forced To Turn Jesus Over To The Jews
“Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 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? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.” (Matthew 27:15-18)
Pilate’s questioning had shown that the Jews charges were without merit. In an effort to avoid offending them without breaking the Law, Luke tells us, Pilate as governor of the city decided to defer the case to Herod, who was king of Galilee. “When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean. 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.
And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.
And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.” (Luke 23:6-11)
Herod was delighted to be deferred to in such a way, but after interrogation came to the same conclusion Pilate had, that the charges were without merit. He allowed his men to make fun of Jesus in an effort to appease the Jews and sent Jesus back to Pilate, indicating that it wasn’t his jurisdiction and Pilates decision would be acceptable.
In an effort to appease the Jews and prevent riots, the Romans had a policy of releasing one of the Jewish political prisoners every year during the feast of unleavened bread. One of the prisoners that year was a man named Barabbas, who had been a leader in one o f the riots, committing murder in the process, according to 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.” Knowing the Jews had no case against Jesus, and that nobody would want Judas set free, Pilate offered the people a choice between Jesus and Barabbas.
“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.” (Matthew 27:19)
While he waited for their decision, Pilate’s wife sent a message to him to have no part in condemning Jesus because of the dream or vision she had had warning against punishing him for a crime he had not done. She was convinced the dream was from God and was terrified about what would happen if Pilate had Jesus executed.
“But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?
They said, Barabbas.” (Matthew 27:20-21)
The leaders lobbied to get the people to ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus, and convinced them that Barabbas was the better choice even though he was a murderer and trouble maker. When Pilate asked for their decision, he must have been shocked that the wanted Barabbas released instead of Jesus. He had seriously underestimated the influence the religious leaders had.
“Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?
They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. 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.” (Matthew 27:22-24)
When they demanded Barabbas be released instead of Jesus, Pilate asked what they wanted him to do with Jesus. When they demanded that he be executed, Pilate asked why, resulting in a near riot, similar to those in Ferguson Missouri, demanding the arrest of the officer who shot the young man. Finally, in an effort to prevent a full scale riot, Pilate made a point of washing his hands and showing them he was not willing to take the responsibility for what they were about to do.
“Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
“Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:25-26)
When the people said they would take full responsibility for Jesus murder and absolve Pilate from any responsibility, Pilate had Jesus whipped in one last attempt to change their minds before turning him over to them. If Pilate refused a riot was almost certain, resulting in many deaths, possibly including his own, and probably the loss of his job if he lived. While it was illegal for him to allow them to kill Jesus, he could plead duress and probably get by with only a reprimand, and possibly even be commended for preventing the riot. Letting them kill Jesus looked like the better choice.