Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.” So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
Does the Scripture reading for today seem a little disjointed, a little sketchy? That’s because the entire process of the Roman trials was a mess. The Sanhedrin take Jesus to Pilate, since they did not have authority to put him to death. The Jews say Jesus claims to be a king, Jesus affirms that, and Pilate says I see nothing here. So he sends him to Herod, ruler of Galilee. Herod asks Jesus questions, but he won’t answer (vs. 9), so he mocks him and sends him back to Pilate. Pilate tries three times (vss. 15,20,22) to tell the Sanhedrin that Jesus has done nothing deserving of death, but they won’t hear of it. In fact, they stir up the crowd that has been gathering to demand Jesus be crucified. Finally, Pilate gives in and surrenders Jesus to their will.
What a travesty of justice! What a circus! The Sanhedrin reveal themselves to be ruthless protectors of their power; Pilate and Herod reveal themselves to be pathetic excuses for rulers; and the crowd reveals itself to be easily manipulated by the Sanhedrin. Once again, only Jesus stands out: the spotless Lamb of God, the promised Messiah, the true son of David, the suffering Servant.
But one more has delivered up Jesus to be crucified: the Father. As Peter reminds the Jews on Pentecost, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23). O the depth of love, mercy, wisdom, and grace! Behold the love of God for sinners! What wondrous love is this! Bow down before him in grateful adoration.
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we;
Spotless Lamb of God was he;
Full atonement! Can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior! (Philip Bliss)