Jesus Encounters: Jesus and Pilate - Everyone must make a choice

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Jesus Encounters: Jesus and Pilate - Everyone must make a choice

by I Gordon

We have seen through this 'Jesus encounters' series that no one remained unaffected after coming into contact with the Lord Jesus Christ. Some become hardened and angry at Him. Others humbled themselves and fell at His feet. No matter what standing someone had within society, there was no escaping the impact that Jesus had! In this study we'll look at what happened when Jesus came before the Roman Governor Pilate. Here, in Pilate, was a man with human authority and influence. He was a man who was used to controlling people and situations. And yet, as we shall see, it would be Pilate that was impacted when this temporary earthly ruler met with the eternal King of kings!  

The scepter has departed and Shiloh is rejected!

John 18:28-32 NIV Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. (29) So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?" (30) If he were not a criminal, they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you." (31) Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected. (32) This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.

So the story starts with the Jews leading Jesus from Caiaphas, the high priest at that time, unto Pilate, the Roman governor who ruled over Judaea from 26 A.D to 36 A.D. Pilate obviously wants to know what charges exactly the Jews have against Jesus. And what did they have? Argh, yep, that would be nothing! All they can say is that He is an evildoer! They wouldn't enter the Praetorium (Palace) so that they didn't defile themselves yet at the same time they made up false charges against Jesus to get Him killed! Religion always leads to hypocrisy. Augustine comments on this saying:
"O impious blindness! They would be defiled, forsooth, by a dwelling which was another's, and not be defiled by a crime which was their own. They feared to be defiled by the praetorium of an alien judge, and feared not to be defiled by the blood of an innocent brother."

Pilate can clearly see that there is nothing under Roman law that Jesus could be charged with so tells them to take Jesus and judge Him by their own law. This was not pleasing to the Jews for they no longer had any right to execute anyone. This is an interesting fact in light of the following ancient prophecy:

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people." (Genesis 49:10)

Mark Eastman elaborates on this prophecy saying  "The [national identity of Judah, which includes the right to enforce mosaic law, including the right to administer capital punishment upon the people, as called for in the Torah] shall not depart from [the southern kingdom (Judah) ], nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh[the Messiah] comes; and to him shall be the obedience of the people." He goes on to state: "This prophecy gives specific indicators regarding the time of the coming of the Messiah! The prophecy declares that he would come before the right to impose Jewish law (which includes capital punishment) is rescinded and before the national identity of Judah was removed!"

So we see from this that the Messiah had to have come to Judah and Israel by this time. And He had... But the Jews rejected Him and took Him away to be executed!

An earthly king is worried about the heavenly King! 

John 18:33-38 NIV Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" (34) Is that your own idea, Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?" (35) Am I a Jew? Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?" (36) Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." (37) You are a king, then! said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (38) What is truth? Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him.

We can see straight away what worries Pilate... Is Jesus a King? A.C Gaebelin writes: 'Note the four questions of Pilate. 'Art Thou the King of the Jews?'--'What hast Thou done?'--'Art Thou a King then?'--'What is truth?' The Roman historian Suetonius states that many rumors were then prevalent that a King was about to rise among the Jews who would have dominion over the whole world. No doubt Pilate knew of these rumors and therefore asked the Lord about His Kingship.'

Yes, Jesus is a King... the true King, but His kingdom at this stage was not of this earth. He came to die, not to reign. There will come a time when the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our God. At the moment however this world lies in the hands of the evil one - the God of this age. Jesus is not a king that is threatening to overthrow the Roman rule which is what Pilate was scared of. A king, yes! But His kingdom is not of this world. Today He bids all those that hear His voice to enter the heavenly kingdom of God. What are the differences between how an earthly human kingdom and the heavenly spiritual kingdom operate? Man rules through human force and power. They try to control the masses through fear or deception. They normally exalt a leading class and suppress the others. Jesus' kingdom is the opposite of all this. It is for the humble. It is not about power and control but strength through weakness. The greatest in this kingdom is the servant of all.  Pilate wouldn't have understood much of this. But he did understand one thing - there was no grounds for any charge against Jesus!

Notice also Pilate's last question - 'What is truth?' Pilate would have fitted right at home in today's post-modern world and mindset.  What is truth? Truth is not a concept. It is a person. Jesus said that 'I am the truth'. In everything that Jesus said and did truth was expressed and shown. He was the truth about God and the truth about man and how man should live. There is not one occasion where truth did not shine forth in His life and actions. And yet Pilate, representing blind post-modern man, can only say 'what is truth?'. That is where society stands today - with no knowledge of the truth and not even knowing if there is such a thing as truth. They believe that we construct our own truth and if it is good for you than great - your truth may not be my truth but all that matters is that you are happy with it! Oh the folly of man's ways.

Jesus or Barabbas? Who is Barabbas? You are!

John 18:39-40 NIV But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release 'the king of the Jews'?" (40) They shouted back, "No, not him! Give us Barabbas!" Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.

The story now takes a dramatic turn. There was a tradition amongst the Jews to release one prisoner at the Passover. Pilate sees this as a way in which Jesus, who he believes is innocent, could be released. The Jews have different ideas unfortunately. While only two verses are given to this in the gospel of John, let's read the story from Mathew.

Matthew 27:16-26 NIV At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. (17) So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, "Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" (18) For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him. (19) While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him." (20) But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. (21) Which of the two do you want me to release to you? asked the governor. "Barabbas," they answered. (22) What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ? Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!" (23) Why? What crime has he committed? asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!" (24) When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" (25) All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (26) Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.


Barabbas is a very interesting type. He was a murderer and had been found guilty. There was no question of his guilt. He is a condemned guilty criminal. He is rightfully deserving of death. Barabbas was a dead man walking - alive but the sentence of death hung over him and it was just a matter of time before that sentence would be executed. Yet Pilate has an interesting proposition - He can release one of the two. One can go free and one can be judged. To Pilate it is obvious that Jesus is not guilty yet the people call for Barabbas to be freed and for Jesus to be crucified! The innocent One will be judged allowing the guilty one to go free as if he had never done any wrong. Who is Barabbas? You are! I am! We are Barabbas! We are the ones set free though deserving of death! We are the ones who has been given freedom and life because of another who took our place! Believers in Jesus Christ are the ones who have had all the charges against them cleared, though guilty, because of the death of another.

There is also a second picture here of something that is still to come. The Jews of that day were willing to choose Barabbas, a robber and evil man over Jesus, the innocent Son of God. This pictures what will take place again in the last days where the nation of Israel will accept the Antichrist, a robber and murderer, over the Son of God.

The world mocks the King of kings

John 19:1-3 NIV Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. (2) The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe (3) and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face.

So Pilate took Jesus away and had Him scourged. Is that fair? Should a man be scourged without even being found guilty? Pilate wanted to appease the Jews and probably thought that this would be enough. It wasn't enough. The religious Jews weren't after punishment, they were after His death! And oh the mockery of man displayed in these verses! Oh what Jesus endured! They put two things on Him - a crown of thorns and a purple robe. A purple robe was the colour of royalty for He was a king (though they were mocking Him). The crown of thorns represents the curse that fell upon this world - it would be laid upon Jesus. Before the victors crown came the crown of thorns! The Believers Bible Commentary states: 'But again it reminds us of how our sins were placed on Jesus in order that we might be clothed with the robe of God's righteousness. How solemn it is to think of the eternal Son of God being slapped by the hands of His creatures! Mouths which He formed are now being used to mock Him!'

John 19:4-5 NASB Pilate came out again and *said to them, "Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him." (5) Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate *said to them, "Behold, the Man!"

'Behold the man!' - What a statement! Here was 'the Man'. Jesus was only the 2nd man in God's reckoning. He was the last Adam, the second man. No one else since Adam before the fall had expressed what man was meant to be like. There had been glimpses of what man was to be like in some of the great saints of old - Noah, Job, Abraham, Joseph, Daniel... But none had expressed mankind fully until this One. Here was the true Man! Pilate spoke correctly though not understanding what he was saying!

Pilate ignores God's warning

John 19:6-11 NIV As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!" But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him." (7) The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God." (8) When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, (9) and he went back inside the palace. "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. (10) Do you refuse to speak to me? Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" (11) Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

Scary! For Pilate that is. He had already been told not to harm Jesus by his wife who had the dream from God warning her. But now things are turning south quite quickly and he doesn't know what to do. Could this actually be the Son of God? Where did Jesus come from? Pilate knows men well. He knows how they act when they are afraid. You can see Pilate thinking 'why is Jesus so calm and not acting like other men do?' 'Does Jesus not realise the seriousness of the situation?' 'Do you not realise that I have the authority to free or crucify you' Pilate asks? Again the question is met with the calm yet unequivocal response that Pilate only has that power because it has been granted to him from above. Those who handed Jesus over have 'the greater sin' but Pilate still has sin if he goes ahead with condemning Jesus. What a scary place for Pilate.

John 19:12-16 NASB As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, "If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar." (13) Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. (14) Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he *said to the Jews, "Behold, your King!"

In the gospel of John we are told to 'behold' Jesus three different times. Firstly we have 'Behold the lamb of God'. Secondly, Pilate said to 'Behold the man'. Lastly, in this passage we have 'Behold your King!' Each statement is true. Jesus is the lamb of God. He is the true man. And He is the King. But neither Pilate nor the Jews understood. In fact the Jews were being tricky here for when told to behold their king, they stated that they have no king but Caesar. Now they cared not one little bit for Caesar but they were more than happy to use this to stir up trouble and make it sound like Pilate himself was being disloyal to Caesar!

Everyone must make a choice...

(15) So they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!" Pilate *said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar." (16) So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified.

Scared of what the people think Pilate went along with the crowd. What a terrible choice! It is the choice of the masses today who don't have the courage to go against the flow. Mathew's gospel tells us that Pilate washed his hands of the matter but his guilt isn't removed so easily. What a sad end. The Jews made a choice between Barabbas and Jesus and chose to go with a known murderer rather than the Messiah, the Son of God. Pilate is finally forced to make a choice. It is a choice between Caesar and Jesus, between earthly and heavenly power. It is also a choice between popularity and truth... and he choice the former. Everyone must make a choice concerning Jesus. As Bob Dylan used to sing 'Either you've got faith or you've got unbelief. And there 'aint no neutral ground!' Jesus said it like this:

Matthew 12:30 NASB "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

May your decision not be based on popularity with man or human position and power but be based on the truth of who Jesus is!