The Gospel writers clearly point out the innocence of Jesus and
the guilt of the plotters. Innocence will be condemned to death;
guilt masqueraded as authority and lives on.


 

Then the whole multitude of them arose and began to
accuse Jesus, saying, "We found this fellow perverting the
nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that
He Himself is Christ, a King."

Then Pilate asked Him, "Are You King of the Jews?" He
answered and said, "It is as you say." So Pilate said to the
chief
priests and the crowd, "I find no fault in this Man."
But they
were the more fierce, saying, "He stirs up the
people, teaching
throughout all Judea, beginning from
Galilee to this place."

Pilate asked if the Man were a Galilean, and he sent Him
to Herod,
who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Now
when Herod saw
Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had
desired for a long
time to see Him, and hoped to see some
miracle done by Him.
Then he questioned Him with many
words, but Jesus answered
him nothing.

The chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused
him.
Then Herod with his men of war, treated Him with
contempt and
mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe,
and sent Him back
to Pilate. That very day Pilate and Herod
became friends, for
previously they had been at enmity
with each other.

Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests,
the
rulers, and the people, said to them, "You have brought
this Man
to me, as one who misleads the people. Indeed,
having examined
Him in your presence, I have found no
fault concerning those
things of which you accuse Him; no,
neither did Herod. I will
therefore chastise Him and
release Him."

                                                          Luke 23:1-16 NKJV, condensed


                                     Pilate and Herod

As the passion story evolves, we hear the opponents of Jesus
express more vehemently that Jesus is dangerous and must die
because he threatens the stability of their nation. Their motto:
One must die to save the many. They meant that literally. Jesus
was just too popular. In an attempt to set up his kingdom, he
might lead a revolution endangering many lives and whatever
privileges folks had within the Roman Empire.

Also as the momentum builds, we notice the growing conviction
of Jesus that, yes, one must die to save the many. But to him
that meant something entirely different. He was on a track that
would lead, not to the establishment of his kingdom on earth,
but to the sacrifice of his life to open up the possibility of a
heavenly kingdom within the hearts and minds of all mankind.
His was an idea that would only be understood and appreciated
in retrospect, and by those who loved and believed in him.

On the morning when Peter was weeping bitterly and Judas was
hanging himself, Jesus stood before the Roman governor. How
quickly things fall apart! Just twelve hours earlier the disciples
had gathered with Jesus to celebrate the Passover meal. Now
they were scattered. Jesus was battered and bruised. In that
sense, his death on the cross had already begun.

Pilate heard the charges and he zeroed in on the heart of the
matter, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Pilate hoped for a
response that would shed light on these proceedings, but got
no such thing. Nothing made sense. Why wasn't Jesus defending
himself? His silence was troublesome. Pilate had heard of Jesus'
wisdom and air of authority. But as he looked at Jesus, he was
disappointed and saw nothing worthy of his attention.
Politically, he was caught in a catch-22 and needed a way to
defuse the situation peacefully.

And then someone mentioned Galilee. Jesus was from the region
to the north where his enemy, Herod, ruled. And Herod just
happened to be in town! Why not send Jesus to Herod and let
him deal with these Judean people. We met this particular Herod
earlier when he ordered the death of John the Baptist. Not
because he wanted John dead, but because he had made a
foolhardy promise to a beautiful dancing girl!

King Herod too had heard about Jesus and was pleased at the
prospect of meeting him. He wanted to see a miracle, which
shows just how quickly this whole judicial process had
degenerated into a game. While Pontius Pilate is portrayed as
a man of constraint, Herod evidenced little self-control. When
Jesus defied his authority with silence, Herod let him have it.
His henchmen dressed Jesus up to look like a king and mocked
him with ridiculous insults.

Herod kept the crowd happy, and he enjoyed the derisive
laughter himself. He cleverly avoided a guilty verdict by
subjecting Jesus instead to humiliating punishment. Then with
a smile, sent him back to Pontius Pilate in a kingly robe.

Jesus was judged by two high profile personalities that morning
and neither one of them declared him guilty. However, delivering
justice was not their highest priority. On one hand, Pilate and
Herod acknowledged Jesus was innocent. On the other hand,
they did not wish to upset the masses of people that were in
Jerusalem for the Passover festival.

What would these public officials do? Listen to their own
convictions? Or bow to the pressure of the multitude before
them? Pilate choose the same tactic Herod used. He declared
Jesus not guilty, but in order to keep his constituents happy, he
decided to ruff him up so he wouldn't cause trouble again.

Jesus had moved quickly through three different courts. It was
speedy, but it wasn't justice.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  Describe a situation in which you were blamed for
                      something you did not do.

 

Jesus was accused of perverting the nation.
            What do you think perverts and undermines a nation?

 

It's interesting that only now, after three years of public ministry,
we are told about a multitude of people who did not like having
Jesus in their midst.
            List some possible reasons why Jesus was an unwelcome Messiah.
            What do you think the charges against Jesus were really about?

 

What other factors do political figures (Pilate and Herod included)
have to consider besides the rightfulness of their decisions?
            Why couldn't Herod and Pilate stand by their "not guilty" verdicts?
            In what ways do you sometimes succumb to pressure
                    and end up doing what you didn't want to do?
            Explain why we bow to pressure?
Name your all-time favorite political figure and explain your choice.

 

Jesus was an entirely different type of public figure. Think of some
situations wherein he remained true to his principles instead of
doing what others wanted him to do.
            When did he reject the opinions of others and stick to his
                    own life plan?

 

Luke, as he wrote this story, put Pilate and Herod on trial.
            What were Pilate and Herod guilty of?   Or not guilty of?
Pilate preferred to sit on the fence and not take sides.
            When have you been a fence-sitter?
Jesus refused to defend himself in word or deed.
            Why didn't he speak to Pilate or perform a miracle for Herod?

 

Jesus is portrayed as both king and savior.
            What do these two images of Jesus mean to you?
What was the relevance of the question, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

 

In Philippians 2:5-11, the apostle Paul instructs us to have the same
attitude as Jesus, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider
equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself
nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human
likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled
himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross."
            Give some examples of what it means to die to self
                    and live to serve.

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