Mar 31 // Day 37
As we read yesterday, it is clear that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus condemned to death for His claims to be the Son of God. However when Jesus is brought before Pilate, the Roman governor, the Jewish authorities change their tactics. Instead, they charge Him with ‘subverting our nation’ (v2), that is, undermining allegiance to the nation; opposing payment of taxes (which was untrue – see Luke 20v20-25); and the claim that He is King of the Jews, of which He will eventually be charged for treason (v38).
We see further on in this chapter that Pilate proclaims Jesus’ innocence 3 times (v4, 14, 15) before finally giving in to the Jewish authorities. (For a full account of Pilate’s and Jesus’ dialogue, see John 18v33-38.) It is clear from Pilate’s conclusion in v4 that the 2 men’s interpretation of the title ‘King of the Jews’ is very different. Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world (John 18v36) – He means no military or political threat to Rome. Pilate therefore tries to shift responsibility to Herod.
Luke reminds us throughout his gospel that Herod has been keeping his eye on Jesus and had wanted to kill Him (13v31), but they have not met until this moment. It seems Herod has expectations of this miracle worker and he demands some proof. Jesus remains silent, however. Although we may expect Jesus to remind Herod of God’s judgement, or to perform miracles to prove who He is, He does nothing. Yet this act of silence speaks more than any words could. There are echoes of Isaiah 53 throughout these scenes, and Isaiah 53v7 in particular here. Herod does not seem to know what to do with Jesus next, and so sends Him back to Pilate, although not before taking the opportunity to humiliate Him.
An interesting point that Luke makes here too, that these 2 old enemies, Herod (a Jew) and Pilate (a Gentile), now become friends.
Although neither Herod or Pilate find Jesus guilty, Pilate finally gives in and sentences Him to death, under unwavering and intense pressure from the Jewish leaders. We can hear Pilate’s bewilderment as he comes back again and again to the lack of evidence in support of a conviction. But the mounting tension from the crowd wins in the end.
And so Jesus, an innocent man, is sentenced to be crucified for crimes of stirring up the people and leading a rebellion. It is not a coincidence that Barabbas, who is actually guilty of these crimes, is set free instead. Luke does not want us to miss the point here – Jesus will die a death fitting for a violent rebel, just as He predicted (22v37). Here in this moment we see the great power of the gospel – He who had no sin, took on the sin of the world and died in our place. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5v21).
Criminals normally would have carried their own cross to their execution, and it is not explicitly explained here why Jesus didn’t carry it, and why Simon the Cyrenian was called on to do it instead. However if we think back over the events of the last 24 hours it helps us imagine why. Jesus must have been exhausted – he’d had little, if any, sleep, and had been brutally beaten and tortured for a large part of this time. And so Simon, a visitor to the city, is pulled from the crowd to help. Simon shows in a very real way what it looks like to obey Jesus’ words “to take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16v24).
Jesus is fully aware of what His death signifies, and He wastes no opportunity to warn the people of the coming fate. As the crowds follow Him to the cross weeping, Jesus urges them again (as He has done throughout His ministry) to turn and follow Him, or they will watch their children suffer too.
Thanks for joining us today! Remember you can use the tools we’ve provided in the Reading Plan to help you engage with each passage of scripture.