Condemned, but Not Guilty

KEY VERSE: “[Pilate] released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.” —Luke 23:25

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Luke 23:1-5, 13-25

ADDRESSING the accusers of Jesus, Pilate said, “Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him.”—Luke 23:14

At this time of the year it was a custom with Pilate to release prisoners in honor of the Passover. Thinking this a favorable opportunity to get Jesus out of the hands of the chief priests and leaders of the people, Pilate said to the people: “Will ye that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:9) But the crowd, led by their religious leaders, urged the governor to release Barabbas, a convicted robber. Pilate said to the mob, “What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?” (vs. 12) And they cried out, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked, “Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him.”—Luke 23:22

Jesus was then led out before his accusers, wearing a crown of thorns and purple gown. Pilate said unto them: “Ecce homo!” “Behold the man!” (John 19:5) See the one whom you are trying to have me put to death. Behold the dignity of his character. What have you against him?

Pilate, looking upon Jesus, was no doubt thinking that one so gentle in appearance would not be at all likely to raise an insurrection that would be injurious to the interests of the Roman Empire. Pilate perceived that the chief priests and scribes were moved with envy in making their charges. He was aware that Jesus’ teachings appealed to the people more than did the teachings of these religious rulers, and that he was being asked to perform a mean and unjust act for persons who acted out of hatred.

But the multitude would not be placated, and they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate answered, You may crucify him if you choose, but I find no fault in him. Then the Jews came to the real crux of their opposition,—Jesus had declared himself to be the Son of God, and they considered that blasphemy. When Pilate heard this, he was all the more afraid, and asked Jesus: “Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.” Pilate continued, “Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.”—John 19:6-11

Then Pilate thought again to release Jesus. But the Jews cried out If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone that makes himself a king speaks against Caesar. This put Pilate in an awkward position. To release Jesus would seemingly make him the supporter of Caesar’s opponent—the more strange because Jesus was accused by his own countrymen and really had nobody to defend him except Pilate himself.

To add to Pilate’s perplexity he received a message from his wife, urging him to have nothing to do with opposing Jesus, as a result of a strange dream she had. Again Pilate presented Jesus before the people, exclaiming, “Behold your King!” But this seemed only to incense the multitude, who cried the more vehemently, “Away with him! Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar.”—vss. 14,15

In desperation, Pilate had water poured upon his hands and washed them in the sight of the people, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.” (Matt. 27:24) The people cried, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” (vs. 25) Complying with the demands of the people in all things not contrary to the interests of the Roman Empire, as was his duty, Pilate surrendered to the demand and delivered Jesus to death and released Barabbas.

Pilate, as the Roman Governor of Judea, was the representative of Caesar’s government. We are not inclined to blame him seriously for the death of Jesus. He acted as he was expected to act. It was policy, so far as compatible with the peace and quiet of the country, that he should rule justly; but justice was to be sacrificed at any time in the interests of the Roman Empire.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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