18th July 2023
Read (Matthew 27v11-31)
Although the chief priests and elders had made up their minds that Jesus must be killed, there remained one last line of defence in the man called Pilate. Pontius Pilate was an obscure Roman official who by the merit of his interaction with Christ has become one of the most famous Romans in all of recorded history. Surely he would see Christ's innocence?
Jesus continued to remain silent to the accusations of the chief priests and elders but when Pilate asked "are you the king of the Jews?" the Lord replied "You have said so." (v11). Pilate was amazed at the amount of charges levied against Christ and further amazed when Jesus did not answer a single charge (v14). What was to be done with the Christ? Pilate sought to release Him.
There was a custom in Roman law that allowed a governor to set free a condemned prisoner and so Pilate offered the crowd a choice between Barabbas and Jesus (v17). Who was Barabbas? He was "a notorious prisoner" (v16) probably involved in rebellion against the Romans. Would the crowd choose a rebel or Christ? Pilate knew that Jesus had been delivered to him "out of envy" (v18) and again we realise that the Roman was no fool. Nevertheless, he refused to stand firm against the growing conspiracy and was further guided by a warning from his wife.
She sent word to her husband “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” (v19) We don't know much about Mrs. Pilate's dream but some have taken it negatively and others positively. She called Jesus "that righteous man" and urged her husband to "have nothing to do" with Jesus. Was she seeking Christ's freedom? Was the dream from God? Or perhaps the dream found its origin in hell? We aren't to know but Pilate remained indecisive.
He asked again who he should release and was told once more "Barabbas" (v21). In response Pilate posed the question “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (v22) and he was met with the cry “Let him be crucified!” (v22b). I find myself somewhat sympathetic to Pilate's plight as it would appear that by this stage he had lost the run of himself and the proceedings. The crowd stood before him and became more and more unruly. Pilate asked finally “What evil has he done?” (v23) to which the only answer was a shouted “Let him be crucified!”
The crowd had become so boisterous that Pilate feared a riot and so he took water and symbolically washed his hands in full view of the crowd (v24). “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” said Pontius Pilate, to which the people replied “His blood be on us and on our children!” (v25). How true this would be when the Romans would surround Jerusalem in the year 70.
So the innocent Jesus was rejected in favour of the guilty Barabbas (v26). Pilate's hands may have been wet with water but they were certainly not clean. He had found no guilt in Christ but had lost control to the mob. Instead of Jesus going free He was scourged (v26), stripped (v28), mocked with a scarlet robe and crown of thorns (v28-29), spat upon and scorned with the cry "Hail, King of the Jews!" (v29). Pilate's soldiers had their fun and soon led Jesus away to be crucified (v30). The last line of defence had fallen.
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Q101 What do we pray for in the first petition? In the first petition, which is, Hallowed be thy name,” we pray, that God would enable us, and others, to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known, and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.