Arrest and trials of Jesus Christ: Before Pilate and Herod
18:28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the Hall of Judgement: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the Judgement Hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover.
Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the Hall of Judgement- this is Pilate’s residence. This is the third place the Lord has been taken. First to Annas, verse 13, then to Caiaphas, 24, and now to Pilate. Isaiah prophesied He would be “taken from prison and from judgement”, 53:8. Matthew tells us that He was led bound, and then immediately describes the despair of Judas, leading to his suicide. It is as if the binding of Christ convinced Judas that He was not the Messiah, or else He would have freed Himself. Had He not gone His way when the men of Nazareth threatened to throw Him over the cliff? had He not escaped out of the hand of the Jews when they tried to stone Him in the temple? He thinks Him to be finally defeated.
By handing Him over to Pilate, who was a Gentile, they are handing Him over to wicked or lawless hands, as Peter declared in Acts 2:23. As Jews they were restricted by the law of Moses as to how to treat an accused person, but the Gentiles were not so restricted, as Pilate showed by scourging Him after he had pronounced Him innocent of all charges.
And it was early- this indicates their state of heart, wishing to get the matter over quickly before the people had time to protest. The first two examinations were at night, which was illegal, especially when the accused is on a charge which carried the death penalty. The formal session of the Sanhedrin had been at break of day, but even after that session John tells us here it was still early, showing how quickly the matter was rushed through.
There is also the fact that for trials for life, as this one was, the judges must give their verdict before they had eaten or drunk. They must not be sluggish through over-indulgence, or muddled through strong drink. Sadly, they abide by this rule only so that they get the verdict they are looking for, and not through any sense of justice.
And they themselves went not into the Judgment Hall, lest they should be defiled- they refused to enter into the Gentile’s palace because they would be in a place where there might be unleavened bread. They are particular about the niceties of their religion, but indifferent to the fact that Christ is the “True Bread”. The are scrupulous about a speck of leaven, but have no scruples about the evil of sending the Son of God to the cross.
But that they might eat the Passover- this does not mean that the Passover feast had not been eaten. The gospel writers describe the feast of the Passover as follows:
Matthew 26:17- “Now the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and said unto Him, ‘Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Passover?'” So “the Passover” can mean the Passover Supper.
Mark 14:1- “And the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover”. It can mean the Passover lamb.
Luke 22:1 “Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover”. It can mean the Festival of Passover, including the connected festival of Unleavened Bread. This is confirmed by the words of Pilate, when he said, “But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover”, John 18:39, so it was ongoing at that point.
Certainly the Lord had eaten the Passover meal the evening before, for He would have obeyed the instruction, “they shall eat the flesh in that night”, and “ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning”, Exodus 12:8,10. The Hebrew day had two evenings, the first was when the sun began to decline at about the ninth hour, and the second was when it was possible to see three stars in the sky, about the twelfth hour. It was between those two points that the Passover lamb was to be killed. The command was “the whole congregation of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening”, Exodus 12:6.
The Passover was to be eaten that night, and nothing left till the morning. Hence in Deuteronomy 16:6 the instruction is to eat the Passover “at the going down of the sun”, And “at the season thou camest forth out of Egypt”. Then they were told to “turn in in the morning, and go unto thy tents”, verse 7. Far from doing this, the chief priests had turned out in the morning, in order to condemn the True Passover Lamb.
The word Passover is used also of the festive offerings during the seven days of Unleavened Bread, for this festival followed straight after the Passover day, and is actually called the Passover in Luke 22:1, “Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover”. So the priests are concerned that by going to a Gentile’s house they will be defiled, and unable to keep the feast of Unleavened Bread. It is also part of their duty as priests to eat the goat of the sin offering that was to be offered on the first day of unleavened bread. The purpose of this was to bear the iniquity of the congregation of Israel, and make atonement for them, as we read in Leviticus 10:17 in connection with the goat of the sin offering on the final day of the consecration of the priests. They sat in the temple courts and ate the sin offering, whilst the true sin offering was being made sin, and bearing sins in His own body on the tree. Were they doing this when the darkness came? If so, God was signalling to them that what they were doing was being replaced.
18:29 Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?
Pilate then went out unto them, and said- he has no choice but to go out of his palace and meet them outside. He cannot allow an uproar, especially at a feast, for his position, or even his life, might be in danger when Caesar discovers the situation.
What accusation bring ye against this man? There were three parts to a Roman trial, the first being the “accusio”, or accusation. So this is the normal question at the start of a Roman trial, and the question has to be formally asked. The Jews had condemned Christ for claiming to be the Son of God, Matthew 26:63-66, but they know this will carry no weight with Pilate, for he will not be interested in theological questions. He held the Jews and their religion in contempt, as we see from Luke 13:1, where we are told that he had mingled the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices. They have it in mind to bring a charge that will interest Pilate, but they hesitate, seeing if they can get him to condemn Christ without them being involved.
Consider who it is upon whom mere men are sitting in judgement. It is the one to whom all judgement has been committed by the Father, John 5:22; who shall “judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and kingdom”, 2 Timothy 4:1; who shall “sit on the throne of His glory, and before Him shall be gathered all nations”, Matthew 25:31, who shall “judge this world in righteousness”, Acts 17:31. It is the one who is equal with the Father, and is therefore the “Judge of all the earth”, Genesis 19:25. He it is who is being judged by sinners! They sit down on their judgement thrones and He stands before them, but one day the rôles will be reversed, and “kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord who is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose Thee”, Isaiah 49:7.
18:30 They answered and said unto him, If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up unto thee.
They answered and said unto him, If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up unto thee- it is very likely that the Sanhedrin would have alerted Pilate that they wished to bring to him a prisoner in the early morning, so that a trial and execution could take place before 6pm and the start of the Sabbath. He seems to have agreed to this, hence his readiness to deal with the matter early, as John has told us. But something has made him reluctant to deal with the matter. As we shall see, he made numerous and varied attempts to avoid sentencing Christ. Why should this be? He had no personal interest in the case one way or another. The incident recorded in Luke 13:1 shows him to be almost indifferent to human life, and yet he seems to want to spare Christ.
Could it be that he is influenced by Satan in this? The latter had tried every ploy down the centuries to prevent Christ being born, and when he failed in this he make several attempts to see Him killed. So why does he move Pilate to not execute Him? Is it not because he knows that Scripture foretold death by crucifixion, and if this prophecy comes true then the gospel will be furthered, and men will see that God is the true God. He is willing, therefore, to see Christ killed, but in any other way than by dying on a cross with pierced hands and feet. And this is how it will happen if Pilate is the one who orders it.
Now if Pilate had agreed during the night to let the Sanhedrin sentence Christ, and simply go along with their verdict when they brought Him to him in the morning, imagine the surprise and anger of the chief priests when it seemed as if he was not going to do this, but rather asked the question which normally began a Roman trial. Their response is the equivalent to saying, “You agreed to deal with a convicted malefactor, and now that we have condemned Him you are reluctant to handle the case. If we had not condemned Him as guilty we would not have brought Him, for they were the terms of our arrangement”.
18:31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto Him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:
Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law- this is the first of the several attempts that Pilate made to rid himself of the responsibility of judging Christ. He is prepared to let them judge Him in their religious court. Pilate is shrewd enough to know that whilst the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem wanted Him dead, as they saw Him as a threat to their authority, nevertheless the hundreds of thousands of Jews from around the world who had descended upon Jerusalem for the Passover were not opposed to Him. The reaction of the crowds as He rode into Jerusalem had shown that. If he, as the representative of Rome, the occupying power, is seen to crucify a popular figure, the crowds might become restive, and cause trouble. Pilate is very aware that Caesar is very sensitive to revolt amongst the empire, and he will be displeased. If the Jews take the law into their own hands and stone Him to death, (as they did Stephen just a few years later), then all will be over in a matter of minutes, and the crowds will hardly know.
But despite all this, God saw to it that Pilate did have dealings with Him, for it was God’s will that both Jew and Gentile should have responsibility for the death of Christ. As Peter said, “ye (Jews) by wicked hands (the hands of lawless Gentiles) have taken, and crucified (the Gentile mode of execution) and slain (the wish of the Jews fulfilled)”, Acts 2:23. On very rare occasions crucified people survived, but they crucified Him until He was dead. And yet no man took His life from Him, but He laid it down of Himself, John 10:18.
The Jews therefore said unto Him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death- if the Jews judged according to their law, and stoned Him, then His bones would have been broken, and so Scripture would not have been fulfilled, John 19:36. Are they hoping that Pilate will reverse the withdrawal of the death penalty temporarily in order to rid himself of the trouble the matter is causing him?
The right to put to death was taken away from Israel by the Romans a few years before. This no doubt was the overruling of God, so that the prophetic Scriptures as to the manner of His death were fulfilled accurately. He must be able to say, “They pierced My hands and My feet”, Psalm 22:16.
By acknowledging the situation, the priests were confessing the sad state of the nation, for the law of Rome had overturned the law of God. It was lawful as far as the law of Moses was concerned for them to put certain guilty persons to death. The fact that they cannot do this indicates their low state as a nation. They should have been asking themselves why it had come to this. Moses had told them that one of the results of not hearkening to the voice of the Lord would be that those who hated them would reign over them, Leviticus 26:17. It had come to pass before, and now it had come to pass again.
18:32 That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which He spake, signifying what death He should die.
That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled- it is not the saying of Caiaphas in John 11:50 that it was expedient for them that one man should die for the nation that is to be fulfilled. Rather, it is “the saying of Jesus”, which John puts on the same level of authority as the Old Testament Scripture. He prophesied of the manner of His death, and so did Scripture, and there was perfect agreement.
Which He spake, signifying what death He should die- this refers to the saying of Christ when He said that He would be lifted up. In fact, John is quoting the words he had used to explain the meaning of the Lord’s words, 12:33. And even before this, the Lord had said to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up”, 3:14. The word for pole on which the brazen serpent was put comes from the word “to lift up”. So the mode of Christ’s death was even indicated when Israel were in the wilderness.
To understand why Pilate went on to ask the question “Art Thou a king then?” we must revert to Luke’s account.
Luke 23:2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a king’.
And they began to accuse Him, saying- realising that things are not going well for them, the priests have to back-track, and come up with fresh accusations which they feel may carry more weight with Pilate. He is clearly not interested in religious questions, so they change to political questions. Pilate had already asked them what accusation they brought, and they had sought to evade the issue. Now they have no choice but to respond.
‘We found this fellow perverting the nation- but far from leading the nation astray, He had sought to bring them back to the right ways of the Lord.
And forbidding to give tribute to Caesar- this is a bare-faced lie, and shows how desperate they are to find something that will interest Pilate. The Lord had in fact said, when tempted by the Pharisees, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s, Matthew 22:21. How can this be construed as forbidding to give tribute, when it is an exhortation to pay their dues? In fact the Lord worked a miracle to provide the silver for the tribute money, Matthew 17:24-27, such was His attitude.
Saying that He Himself is Christ a king’- in fact, the Lord Jesus never made this claim for Himself, but left others to see that it was in fact true. When the people had tried to take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew from them, John 6:15. He is content to wait His Father’s time to manifest Himself as King. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Which in His times He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords”, 1 Timothy 6:15. They are suggesting to Pilate that He is a dangerous political agitator, in order to make him interested in the case.
Having introduced the idea of a claim to be king into the situation, the Jews have given Pilate cause for concern, and he re-enters the judgement hall to question Christ on the matter. The next part of the proceedings is related by John.
John 18:33 Then Pilate entered into the judgement hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art thou the King of the Jews?
Then Pilate entered into the judgement hall again- Pilate had entered the judgement hall in verse 28, but then went out to the Jews outside to ascertain the charge they brought against Christ, and now he is re-entering the judgement hall.
And called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art thou the King of the Jews? To call Jesus would mean to summon Him for formal examination in a law-situation. Pilate is obliged to investigate the charge that Christ claims to be a king; the stability of the empire depends on having control over agitators.
18:34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?
Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me? Before answering, the Lord establishes what the question, on the lips of Pilate, means. Does it mean “King of the Jews” in Pilate’s way of thinking? In which case the answer is “No”, for he was not a petty agitator, inciting the Jews against the Romans in some futile uprising. Or does it mean, “King of the Jews” as they would understand it, otherwise known as the Messiah?
Pilate is finding that he is the one being questioned now. In His responses, the Lord reveals the characteristics of His kingdom. Christ’s kingdom is a righteous kingdom, and justice prevails there, and this question is designed to point out that the Jews had switched charges, and hence are acting illegally. They had convicted Him because He claimed to be the Son of God; so where is the charge of being king of the Jews coming from? Is it a further charge from the Jews, or a new charge from Pilate? Not a word was spoken at the two sessions of the Sanhedrin about Him being king of the Jews. The only time they mentioned it was when they changed accusations outside the Praetorium, with Christ inside. He has a right to know what the charge is, especially as it is a “trial for life”, when the death penalty was possible. In any case, where are the witnesses for and against the charge? Is the trial to proceed on the say-so of Pilate alone?
This question is not an evasive tactic on the part of the Lord. He will state directly in verse 37 that He is a king, but He is making sure that all concerned know the facts of the case, and do not make decisions based on rumour and innuendo.
18:35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done?
Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? This is the first of three questions, and is a semi-sarcastic jibe at the oddities, (in his Roman view of things), of the Jewish culture. It tells us he is not looking at things dispassionately, but in a prejudiced way. Christ’s kingdom will not be limited to Israel, so whether Pilate, a Roman, could understand was irrelevant.
Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me- this was only half-true, as the nation had welcomed Him as He rode into Jerusalem as King, John 12:12-15. It was the chief priests who had delivered Him for envy. It is true that “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not”, John 1:11, but John immediately tells us that there were those that received Him, so rejection was not unanimous, as seems to be implied in Pilate’s statement. His kingdom will be welcomed when it is at last manifested in this world, for the nation shall say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord”, Psalm 118:26.
What hast Thou done? This suggests that Pilate thought He may have been the ring-leader in some trouble-making. That this is not the case is seen in the Lord’s reference to what had happened in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before.
18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence.
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world- these words must have been strange and troubling to Pilate. The Lord readily admits that He is a king, but not of the sort Pilate was used to. He was soon to be made friends with Herod, and he was the sort of king Pilate knew. Pilate was not familiar with the idea of a kingdom originating from any other place than earth. Pilate is being assured that His kingdom is not to be set up in rivalry to Caesar’s, although one day this kingdom will displace all Gentile kingdoms, Daniel 2:44.
If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews- earthly kingdoms are established and increased by means of the armies they deploy. The fact that Christ’s kingdom is not of this sort is seen in that the servants of this king are not organised into an army. In fact, one of Christ’s disciples, Simon, was a Cananite, Matthew 10:4, which does not mean he was an Old Testament Canaanite, but rather, a zealot, (such is the meaning of the Greek equivalent of the word), working to overthrow the Roman occupation. Christ called him to a higher task. Another of the apostles, Matthew, was a tax-gatherer, working for the Roman authorities. He was called away from working for the government, just as Simon the Cananite was called away from working against it.
Christianity is not a political movement, and just authority has nothing to fear from it. Governments that oppress Christians show they do not understand Christianity, for the apostles taught believers to not resist the God-given authority of political rulers. Wrote the apostle Paul, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour”, Romans 13:1-7. If they live and act as they should, believers do not represent any threat to governments of any sort. In fact, their presence should be welcomed, for they normally are exemplary citizens. Persecution of all such is inexcusable and pointless.
The sense of the verb “fight” is “keep on fighting”, a reference no doubt to the fact that Peter had put up some sort of resistance in Gethsemane when the arrest party came. But Pilate must have known that Christ rebuked Peter for this, and even went so far as to ask permission to heal Malchus, (“Suffer ye thus far”, Luke 22:51). What king rebukes His subjects for fighting, and then heals the wounds of a soldier of the opposing army? This king, and His kingdom, must be of a different sort. This may well have been the point at which Pilate realised that the prisoner was no threat to Rome.
But now is My kingdom not from hence- these words might be misunderstood to mean that this king had suddenly changed tactic under pressure from Pilate, and was now resolved to employ different methods to gain His objective. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The “but now” must be linked with the “if” near the beginning of verse 36. There is a conditional statement beginning with “if”, which sets out a possible situation, namely, that His kingdom was of this world. But this is immediately rejected with the words “but now”. In other words, His kingdom is of another sort all along, and the possible scenario beginning with “if” must be rejected.
18:37 Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.
Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Pilate’s response was to ask again and pointedly whether He was a king. The Lord is now prepared to answer the question directly, because He has established that: (a) He is not a troublemaker. (b) that His is not a rival kingdom to Caesar’s; (c) that the kingship they are talking about is of the Messiah, and therefore is of a spiritual nature.
Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king- this is not an evasive reply. Nor does it indicate that Christ is a king only in the minds of those who believe it, with His kingship not relevant to the rest of men. Rather, this is the formal way a polite Jew will answer a direct question of serious import. It is the same as saying “Yes”, but the Lord is using the Rabbinical formula for answers to direct questions. Courtesy forbids a direct yes or no, but it is a direct answer.
We see this same response when Judas asked, “Master, is it I”, and the reply came, “Thou hast said”, Matthew 26:25. So also in Luke 22:70,71, where the question of the high priest as to whether Christ is the Son of God is answered by the words “”Ye say that I am”. If this was prevarication, the question would have been asked again. As it is, the response of the chief priest was to declare that no more witnesses were needed, “for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth”. He knew full well what the answer had meant. Mark, with characteristic brevity, gives the Lord’s answer as simply “I am”, the last words of the reply in Luke. It is still the case, however, that the courteous formula is used, and not a direct “Yes”.
To this end was I born- this is the only time the Lord referred to His birth in those terms. He had been born as one with an unassailable and unique claim to the throne of David, and He had shown Himself to have the credentials of the King, as Matthew’s gospel shows clearly.
And for this cause came I into the world- the Lord makes a connection here between His birth, and His entrance onto the public stage. He is not suggesting that that was when His kingdom began, but that by birth He had come into manhood and had descent from David, and by entrance into His ministry, (which could be described as coming into the world), He bore witness to the truth. If men are prepared to accept the truth He brought, they would be born again and thus enter the kingdom of God in its present form. It is interesting to notice that Matthew gives Christ’s genealogy at His birth, whereas Luke gives it at His entrance into pulic ministry.
That I should bear witness unto the truth- the kingdom of Christ will be founded on truth, not deceit. As the Scripture says, “for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost”, Romans 14:17. As He went about teaching, the Lord presented the truth that men needed to believe in order to enter the kingdom of God. It was not a question of birth, or religion, or tradition, but genuine faith in Him that would secure a place in the kingdom. When He was explaining the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, it was not with a parable about a soldier going forth to war, but with one about a sower going forth to sow, Matthew 13:1-9. It was not the use of arms that would bring in the kingdom of Christ, but the use of the word of God, even though that word is “the word of the kingdom”. Such is the radically different nature of His kingdom, and Pilate needs to understand this if he is to execute justice.
Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice- this is a direct appeal to Pilate, encouraging him to show himself to be interested in truth, and not mere expediency. This would be the first stage on a path to faith in Christ, and would mean he would avoid the shame of condemning Him falsely, contrary to the truth. The kingdom of Christ is based on truth, not deceit and lies like the kingdoms of men, and His kingdom consists of loyal subjects, who love the truth.
Pilate is baffled, for the statements he is hearing are so different to his thoughts about kings and kingdoms. The subjects of this kingdom are those who respond to truth as they hear the voice of the king.
God’s ideal king is a shepherd-king, leading in the paths of righteousness, so when He presented Himself as the Good Shepherd, the Lord said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”, John 10:27. These are words spoken in Solomon’s Porch, the place Solomon had built so that he could sit and judge as king.
18:38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in Him no fault at all.
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? How could he decide these opposing assertions? On the one hand the Jewish authorities made the prisoner out to be a claimant to a throne, and yet He Himself spoke only of truth, and his servants not fighting, and a kingdom not of this world. When he spoke to Nicodemus, the Lord said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”, John 3:3. Only those who have the life of the king can have any true perception of the principles underlying His kingdom. So the answer to Pilate’s dilemma is to “hear His voice”. The genuine seeker after the truth will come to the genuine imparter of truth. So it is that in His conversation with Pilate, the wearer of the Imperial Purple on behalf of Rome, Christ displays the superior purple of the eternal and heavenly kingdom, which He will one day set up on earth, but which His born-again people have already entered, John 3:3,5; Colossians 1:13. These features of His kingdom tell us of the character of His kingship. The Lord makes no response to this question, for the answer has already been given.
And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in Him no fault at all- when he went out before, it was to ask what the accusation was, “What accusation?”, verse 29, but now he has concluded that the prisoner is not guilty. “I find in Him no fault all” is a legal pronouncement, indicating that he considers, as the representative of Caesar, that there is no legal ground for punishing Him. Thus it stands recorded that Christ was crucified illegally.
We now need to go over to Luke’s account, for he is the only one who records the sending of the Lord Jesus to Herod.
Luke 23:5 And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.
And they were the more fierce, saying- the chief priests and rulers are standing impatiently outside the Governor’s residence, waiting to learn the result of his dealings with Christ. They are hoping that their charge about His claim to kingship will convince Pilate that he ought to convict the prisoner. Imagine their anger and frustration when Pilate comes out to them again and declares he can find no fault in the man they have sent to him.
He stirreth up the people- in their desperation they go further than simply saying He perverted the nation. Now they claim, without any evidence, that He was a troublemaker. Surely this will interest Pilate?
Teaching throughout all Jewry- they misrepresent His teaching ministry as a scheme to incite the people to rise up and revolt, whereas to follow His teaching was to be a good citizen. Jewry is Judea, and this was nearest to Jerusalem, the capital city.
Beginning from Galilee to this place- do they conceive a wicked plan at this point? They have had to admit to Pilate that they cannot apply the death penalty. Pilate himself is showing reluctance to be involved in the matter. Their only hope is Herod. He had lately beheaded John the Baptist; perhaps if they mention Galilee, Pilate will send Him to Herod and they will achieve their aim of having Him killed.
23:6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean.
When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean- all the while, Pilate has been seeking an excuse to not condemn this man. Here is the escape-route for him, as the Jews mention Galilee. There is a battle of wills going on here, for the apostle Peter declared that the Jews delivered Christ up, and “denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go”, Acts 3:13. The chief priests are just as determined to see Him crucified, and if not crucified, executed some other way. But unknown to them there was another will, over-riding both that of Pilate and of the Jews. It was the will of God, and His will was “determinate”, Acts 2:23. In other words, it could not be overturned.
23:7 And as soon as he knew that He belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
And as soon as he knew that He belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction- Pilate seizes his opportunity, and hands over the case to Herod. This raises the question as to why the Jews did not apply to Herod in the first place. Perhaps he would have had to refer to Pilate in the end, and this would mean delay; they are in a hurry to rid themselves of Him.
He sent Him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time- all seems to be fitting in with their plans; Pilate is willing to hand Him over, and Herod is near at hand to deal with the matter. But even if Herod condemned Him, his way of executing, as we know from what happened to John the Baptist, was beheading, and this would not fulfil Scripture. He must be sent to Herod, therefore, so that God’s will may be seen to be done. As we read in Acts 4:27, “For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done”.
Herod was the youngest son of King Herod of Great, the one who slaughtered the children around Bethlehem to try to kill the infant Christ. He was known as Herod Antipas, or Herod the tetrarch, Luke 3:9. He was married to the daughter of King Aretas of Nabatea, but divorced her and took the wife of his half-brother Philip. John the Baptist had lost his life because he denounced this as unlawful.
Not long before, the Pharisees had come to the Lord saying, “Get Thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill Thee. And He said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem”, Luke 13:31-33. So the threats of Herod held no fear for the Lord Jesus. Nor did He for a moment think that He would be killed by him, for He would perish at Jerusalem, not in Herod’s court as John the Baptist had done.
23:8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see Him of a long season, because he had heard many things of Him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him.
And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad- as is seen from His description of Herod as “that fox”, the Lord Jesus knew the heart of this man, and would not be swayed by the fact that he appeared to be pleased to see Him.
For he was desirous to see Him of a long season, because he had heard many things of Him- clearly Herod was not interested enough in what the Lord taught to enquire further about Him. It is not enough to hear many things of or concerning Him; there must be the hearing of faith. Herod had great opportunities, but discarded them all. He had John the Baptist in his court, of whom the Lord Jesus said, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist”, Luke 7:28. Instead of listening to him he silenced him by cutting off his head. And then he had a steward by the name of Chuza, whose wife was a prominent supporter of Christ’s interests, who with others “ministered unto Him with their substance”, Luke 8:3.
And he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him- not only is Herod superficial in his interest in Christ, he is sensual as well, affected by that which is sensational. The Lord Jesus did not perform miracles to put on an exhibition, but to manifest Divine truth, and this does not interest Herod. John the Baptist famously did no miracles, John 10:41and here is one who does, so he is intrigued. But he is only interested in being entertained. Christianity and the entertainment industry have nothing whatsoever in common.
23:9 Then he questioned with Him in many words; but He answered him nothing.
Then he questioned with Him in many words; but He answered him nothing- the Lord is standing before the one who has unjustly killed His forerunner; and His refusal to answer is a stern rebuke to him. How can He carry on a normal conversation with such a monster?
Herod no doubt knew the Lord had called him a fox. To remain silent when such a person is interrogating is a very dangerous thing to do, and one that takes great courage.
23:10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him.
And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him- we here learn that the authorities have followed the prisoner to Herod. As Pilate will say later, “I sent you to him, (Herod)”, so Pilate had commissioned them to go and see the case tried by Herod. They had been outwitted by Pilate as they stood outside his gate while he questioned the Lord. They will not allow that sort of thing to happen again. There is too much risk in allowing Herod to conduct the proceedings on his own. Notice the anger in their voices as they accuse Him with all the spite and hate in their being.
23:11 And Herod with his men of war set Him at nought, and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate.
And Herod with his men of war set Him at nought- all the elements of a classic murder are here present. There are three things that mark every serious crime, namely means, opportunity, and motive. Herod has the means, for we are told here of his men of war. No doubt one of their number had beheaded John the Baptist. He has the opportunity, for Pilate, no less, has sent the prisoner to him, seeing he came from his jurisdiction. He has the motive, for the prisoner has called him “that fox”, ignored him, and his forerunner has condemned him.
How ironic that the one who made Himself of no reputation is “set at naught”! Frustrated by His refusal to answer, their only response is to vent their anger upon Him, clearly with Herod’s approval. We cannot help noticing the different outcome to that of the other Herods. Herod the Great slaughtered the innocents, the Herod of Acts 12:1 killed James with the sword, but here the prisoner’s life is spared by the one who had beheaded His forerunner. A Divine hand is restraining the designs of men, and is frustrating the plans of the Devil.
And arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe- Herod was obviously a party-lover, for he had executed John during his birthday celebrations, Matthew 14:6-12. Here he has Christ dressed up as the master of ceremonies, mocking His claim to be a worker of miracles, which Herod would dismiss as mere party tricks.
And sent Him again to Pilate- imagine the disappointment of Herod at seeing no miracles, of the chief priests at seeing no conviction; and now the embarrassment of sending Him back, having been exposed as being powerless against Him.
23:12 And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.
And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves- it is indeed sad when hatred of Christ is stronger than hatred of one’s enemies, and the thing that unites them is hostility toward Christ. Hatred of Christ is of the Devil, whereas love to fellow-believers is of God, 1 John 3:10.