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Mark 15:1-15 Jesus On Trial: Before Pilate

by Dr. D ~ February 11th, 2007

     Vs. 1-5 The Sanhedrin had made it’s decision. Now they send Jesus to Pilate hoping that he will agree to carry out their sentence. However, Pilate is not about to rubber stamp their condemnation. He proceeds to judge for himself. The Jewish leaders say that this Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah- an heir of King David. If so, then this could be treason and this Jesus might be leading a revote against Rome. The chief priests made all sorts of charges against this Jesus but the ‘King’ charge is the only one that really concerns him. Pilate asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus barely responds: “You have said so.” Then he declines to answer any further. This is totally shocking to Pilate. However, he sees no real basis for condemning this man to death. At this point in the Gospel of Luke, Pilate finds out that Jesus was from Galilee so sends him off to be judged by Herod Antipas the Tetrarch ruler over that area.

     Vs. 6-14 Herod sends Jesus back and honors Pilate with the responsibility for this man. Pilate then seeks to find a way to release Jesus since he finds no merit in the charges. He decides to offer him up as the prisoner who receives the traditional reprieve for Passover. However, the chief priests stir up the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas instead. The plans of Pilate are frustrated. Even worse, Barabbas really was an insurrectionist against Rome and a robber. He really did deserve his sentence.

Pilate then asks the crowd what he should do with Jesus: “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” The crowd responses: “Crucify him.” Pilate asks: “Why, what evil has he done?” But the crowd continues to shout all the more: “Crucify him.”

For years, I have wondered who the people were that made up this crowd. After all, a few days ago people were cheering Jesus as a King when he came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Also, the chief priests were afraid of the people and were careful to arrest Jesus in the middle of the night hoping to prevent a riot. Neither did they challenge Jesus and stop him from clearing and teaching in the Temple. The crowd must have been comprised of zealot supporters of Barabbas and stooges of the Sanhedrin.

     Vs. 15 Pilate is left with few alternatives. He decides to make the best of a bad situation and gain the favor of the Jewish religious leaders. He already said that Jesus really wasn’t guilty of anything and yet he sentences Jesus to be crucified. Note: The Gospel of Matthew records the famous scene of Pilate washing his hands of the situation. Nevertheless, the legal and moral responsibility remained all his. He could have released Jesus, he had the power.

The Gospel of John (19:1-6) tells us that he had Jesus scourged first before he brought him back and asked: “…what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” Pilate was probably hoping that the punishment would be enough to satisfy them. Anyone who saw the movie: “The Passion“, observed how brutal that punishment really was. However as it turned out, Jesus ended up suffering through both.

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