Mt. 26:38-41, “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with me.’ He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’ Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’”
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JESUS STANDS ACCUSED OF HIGH TREASON IN THE COURT OF PONTIUS PILATE
In the bright light of God’s new day, the ‘whole multitude’ of riotous Hebrews, who had forgotten that they had pledged allegiance to their King when He came riding on a donkey, followed the Sanhedrin and their police officers, who brutally pushed the bound and dreadfully tired, tortured Jesus towards Pilate’s court, (Mt. 27.)
They charged Jesus with the crime of declaring Himself God and King, and brought Him before Pontius Pilate, accusing Him of posing a dreadful danger to the Roman Empire and the throne of Caesar.
The arrogant pagan Pontius Pilate would not usually have allowed the Sanhedrin to engage him in one of their religious disputes. But as they brought before him such a dangerous ‘rebel;’ such a serious ‘threat’ to the Roman Empire, he could not refuse to reside over the case. Furthermore, the deafening upheaval of the ‘whole multitude’ had to catch Pilate’s undivided attention. The murderous anger with which the police officers of the Sanhedrin flung Jesus at his feet declared a full-scale riot among the Hebrews, and that must have cautioned Pilate to exercise patience with them. His position as governing prefect could be jeopardized if he did not correctly reside over this case, and so, Caesar could find him guilty of misconduct and remove him from office.
Thus, Pilate demanded, “What is your charge against this Man?”
“We found this [Nazarene] perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is [God,] the Christ, and a King,” they assertively accused Jesus, (Lu. 23:1-3.)
Pilate wasn't concerned about the charge of blasphemy against the Hebrew God, but wanted to know one thing from Jesus Himself, “Are You the King of the Jews? [Are You a political threat to the Roman Empire and the throne of Caesar, for if You are, I will surely have you crucified.]”
Readers Digest wrote in ‘Jesus And His Times,’ “Pilate’s question was almost a code for any of the numerous rebels against Rome who had arisen in Palestine – like the many other Pilate was holding for execution at that very time” — including the dangerous rebel Barabbas, who would later appear on the scene.
When Jesus did not answer, [supposedly because He did not recognize the authority of this pagan court to preside over the case that the Hebrew Council had built against Him,] Pilate was genuinely puzzled by this Prisoner. Pontius Pilate must have wondered how One Man, without followers by His side, without any form of military might, could pose such a serious threat to the mighty throne of the divine king Tiberius. How a Man, so hated by the angry multitudes that they wanted to tear Him limb from limb, could call Himself a king?
So, Pilate demanded, maybe leaning slightly towards Jesus on his judgment seat, “So, are You the king of the Jews?”
We can assume that Jesus looked the prefect of Caesar straight in the eye, then He answered reluctantly through swollen lips, “It is as you say. [Yes, I am the King of the Jews.]”
Under the loud protest of the crowds that followed Jesus’ answer, Pilate must have thought Jesus a lunatic. A beaten pauper, His face badly bruised by all the hands that struck Him - dressed in the torn clothes of a carpenter, claiming to be a king! Surely, such a ‘nobody’ could not pose a threat to the mighty Roman Empire!
“And while he was still sitting on the judgment seat [under the murmuring of the multitudes,] his wife sent a message to him, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him,’” (Mt. 27:17.)
Therefore, Pilate turned forcefully to the satanic Sanhedrin and declared, “[You are wasting my time,] I find no fault in this Man,” (Lu. 23:3-43.) [Paraphrasing,] “He might be your Savior, but He is certainly no king!”
But becoming ‘more fierce,’ they insisted, “[We tell you He is a blasphemous, dangerous, political rebel and instigator! And you must deal with Him as such!] He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.”
“Is the Man a Galilean, then?” Pilate asked surprised. Their confirmation undoubtedly caused him to heave a sigh of relief, because now, he could shift all his responsibility to deal with this Man to someone else. “Well, then He belongs to Herod’s jurisdiction — and Herod happens to be in Jerusalem at this time! Go, hand Him over to Herod to be judged!”
King Herod Antipas, (Lu. 23:2) a man of half-Hebrew descent, was the one who ordered the beheading of John the Baptist for accusing him of incest according to the Levitical law because Herod married his brother’s wife, Herodias, (Lev. 18:16; 20:21.) Herod Antipas ruled the regions of Galilee and Perea, and was generally known as the one who ruled “a quarter” of Israel, which remained under the full jurisdiction of the Roman Empire.
“Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because Herod had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.”
Herod questioned Jesus extensively, but Jesus refused to answer a word, “while the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him.”
Herod, no doubt, also thought Jesus was a crazy ‘fool’ to proclaim Himself Savior of, and King over the Hebrews, and he treated Jesus as such. Jesus certainly did not look like a divine emperor to Herod. Yet Herod, too, was ‘instinctively’ shying away from condemning Jesus.
“Then Herod, with his soldiers, treated Jesus with contempt, mockingly stripped Him, and arrayed Him in a scarlet robe, [a garment of dignity and office worn by Roman officers of rank. They also assaulted Him,] and sent Him back to Pilate,” (Mt. 27:28, Amplified Bible.)
When Pilate heard the deafening crowds returning, pushing and shoving the badly beaten, stumbling Jesus back to his court, he supposedly shook his head in disbelief.
Then, once more, the ruthless police officers of the Sanhedrin hurled Jesus on the floor at Pilate’s feet.
Pilate must have been quite agitated.
Still, the clear threat of a violent Hebrew revolt cautioned the prefect to yet again restrain his impatience.
“Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, and said, ‘You have brought this Man to me, as One Who misleads the people, [accusing Him of being a political agitator coveting the throne of Caesar.] However, neither Herod nor I could find any proof of your accusation. [You demand His death as a political rebel,] but nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. [Publicly, I declare Him innocent. But just to please you,] I will chastise Him and release Him.’”
While many scholars view Pilate’s decision to chastise Jesus as stemming from cruelty, from the context of the whole situation, it is evident that Pilate was actually trying to save Jesus’ life. Reluctant to use His power and simply set Jesus free because of the threat the crowds posed to his political position, Pilate thought that by scourging Jesus he could pacify the Hebrews, and thereby work Jesus’ release. In fact, Pilate wanted to scourge Jesus so that He would not be condemned to death. But unlike the Moral Law of God that was supposed to govern the Sanhedrin, Roman scourging was very harsh — completely inhumane. Still, this time, Jesus did not call upon the Law to curb the lawless humiliation and brutal torture of the Sanhedrin and their crowds. He submitted to all this unbearable pain and shame in the place of all humanity to “cast out the ruler of this world” so that the souls of all true believers in Him could be saved; their bondage to darkness could be broken, and so that they can live in heaven for all eternity.
Roman scouring was done with a whip, consisting of a short handle with several leather thongs dangling at variable lengths attached to it, into which sharp pieces of steel or bone were fastened. In later centuries, it was also used as corporal punishment and was known as “flogging with a cat of nine tails.” To be scourged, the offender was stripped naked and tied to a post. Two soldiers or police officers then hit the person’s buttocks and back from alternative sides. According to the sentence, they could hit the prisoner within “an inch of death.” The sharp pieces on the thongs would tear into the flesh and muscles, causing deep, open lacerations. Intolerable pain and much blood loss set off severe shock, which resulted in an erratic heart rate, low blood pressure, and weak organ function. It was the custom that during and after the scourging, the soldiers would also taunt and further physically abuse the prisoner in other ways as well.
The Hebrews knew this torturous punishment to the brink of death very well. Yet, this was not enough for them. They wanted Jesus tortured to death on the cross and would settle for nothing less.
At this point, after sentencing Jesus to Roman scouring, Pilate would certainly have beckoned his soldiers to drag Him away to execute his sentence and then to let Him go, but the prefect’s verdict nearly sparked a full-scale war.
“No! No! No!” the multitudes shouted relentlessly, shaking their clenched fists. The echo of their voices must have thundered through the whole city. “[We want Him dead not scourged and released! Your verdict is wrong!] Crucify Jesus! Crucify Him!”
We can assume that Pilate’s soldiers had a hard time restraining this forceful Hebrew uprising. They barely managed to restrain the rioting crowds from tearing their own Christ to pieces; relying on their expertise as trained soldiers, their raised shields, and drawn swords.
The fist-wielding, stampeding, menacing crowds forced Pilate to hesitate and hold back the military violence of his soldiers. He withdrew from the trial for deliberation by getting up from his seat, and leaving the Praetorium [the platform of judgment.]
At that moment Pilate must have decided that Jesus was definitely not a political rebel, nor an ordinary man. Pilate had to know that this was a religious matter, and the Sanhedrin was inciting the crowds to force him, Pilate, to submit to their own political/religious control over the Hebrew nation. They were using the prefect of Caesar to execute Jesus politically and publicly for a reason Pilate did not understand.
So, greatly puzzled, Pilate called Jesus, and asked privately, “Then, [tell me,] are You the King of the Jews?”
Jesus had answered this question once before, but, even in His weakened condition, He probably would have weighed Pilate with a steady gaze. “Are you speaking for yourself now,” Jesus then challenged the prefect with physical effort, “or did others tell you this concerning Me?”] (Jn. 18:34.)
Pilate became annoyed. “Am I a Hebrew?” he asked threateningly. [“Am I supposed to understand Your Judaist religion and the secret motives of your temple council, or are you asking me to acknowledge You as some sort of divine king?] Your own nation and chief priests [could have tried You, but they] have delivered You to me. What have You done [that Your own people so desperately want You to be crucified as a political rebel?]”
Then Jesus declared without hesitation, “[I have not come to spark a rebellion against the kingdom of Caesar, for] ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would [physically] fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Hebrews, but now My Kingdom is not from here. [My spiritual Kingdom has no such origin, source, or political aspirations,]” (Jn. 18:36; 6:15; .)
Paraphrased, Jesus was actually saying, “[My spiritual] ‘soldiers will have to endure hardship as soldiers of [My Spiritual Kingdom, which I am setting up in the midst of the kingdom of darkness in this world.] No one engaged in [spiritual] warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this world [to the point that he will willingly take up arms to defend a physical kingdom as the earthly ‘kingdom of god,’] that he may please Him Who enlisted him as a [spiritual] soldier.’ Thus, the Jews, who want a political liberator not a spiritual Christ, do not accept the Spiritual Kingdom that I bring. They are going to murder Me because I Am against their Kingdom-Now theology and their self-enriching temple-religion, which they cling to in total disobedience to the God of heaven and earth, Who, under My New Testament/Covenant, will not dwell in a temple made with human hands,” (2 Tim. 2:3-5; Acts 7:48; 17:24.)
Pilate must have frowned deeply, shaking his head in disbelief while leaning his face in his hands. Then, he supposedly looked up at Jesus, again insisting to know, “Are You a King then?” (Jn. 18:37-39.)
The bruised Jesus must have nodded slowly because of the pain He was suffering. “You say rightly that I am a King. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. [I came to testify to the fact that I Am the Truth, the Way, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father but by Me.] Everyone who is of the truth, [everyone who chooses to belong to Me; everyone who desires to do My will,] hears My Voice [or understands what I am saying.]” (Jn. 16:4; 18:37-38; 7:17.)
Pilate’s mind was so polluted with the pagan religion of the Romans, and he had his heart so fully set on his own version of the “kingdom of god here on earth” and the pleasures of this life, he missed the fact that Jesus was also contending for his eternal soul that day, there in his chambers next to the Praetorium. As a result, Pilate too, could not hear Jesus’ Spiritual voice, calling him to repent from politically infused religion to accept a relationship with God Himself.
Although Pilate could find no fault in Him at all, and by now Pilate must have known that Jesus was not just an ordinary Man, he still dismissed Jesus’ declaration that He Is The Eternal Christ, by asking, “What is truth?”
Pilate was actually saying, “Your truth, my truth, their truth… When it comes to spiritual matters, we all think we have all truth. Of course, we can’t all really have the truth, but because truth is relevant to what everyone chooses to believe. It is, therefore, silly to debate the notion of ‘what is truth.’”
Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Caesar, also missed the vital point that Jesus was not bringing “a truth” to this world like all the other so-called “divine” christs (anointed ones,) kings, priests and prophets before and after Him. Jesus Is, Was, and Always Will Be God Himself, The Highest and Only Truth in the whole universe that He Himself had created. This debate was not about human opinion, or about human perceptions of truth. This was Pontius Pilate, the Hebrew Sanhedrin, and the entire Hebrew nation, personally facing off with The Truth, Jesus Himself, the Creator God of the whole universe, (Jn. 14:6; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:1-14.)