Arrest and trials of Jesus Christ Part 2
In John 18:25-27 we have John’s account of Peter’s third denial, as if to put side by side the denial of Peter for the third time and the denial of the Jewish authorities of the Lord Jesus for the third time, first before Annas privately, then before Caiaphas and an informal company of “chief priests and elders, and all the council”, Matthew 26:59, and then before the formal Sanhedrin in public at the break of day, (although John does not record this latter “trial”). By his statement about the sending from Annas to Caiaphas, John is ensuring we realise the informal session of the Sanhedrin we shall consider next was under Caiaphas the High priest’s control, for he was high priest that year.
Before Caiaphas and an informal session of the Sanhedrin.
14:55 And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death; and found none.
And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death, and found none- we see the determination of the rulers to obtain what they want. They first of all sought for witness. Now forced witness is of no value, for witnesses must come forward voluntarily. Especially since under Jewish law those who brought false witness were to be condemned with the same punishment as the one they witnessed against would have received. Witnesses therefore would be very reluctant to come forward and give false testimony under this system. The rulers will tell Pilate later on that “By our law He ought to die”, but they did not follow their law.
Note the bias of these judges, for they are bringing forward witnesses for one purpose only, to see that the prisoner is put to death. They are not assembled to seek and find the truth, but to get Christ crucified; that is their agenda.
14:56 For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.
For many bear false witness against Him, but their witness did not agree together- the requirement of the law of Moses was as follows: “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot”, Deuteronomy 19:15-21. We see from this that the false witnesses should have been crucified, (for that was what their false witness would result in), and the case dismissed as being unjust.
14:57 And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,
And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying- having brought forced witness, and false witness, we now have fabricated witness. Clearly the priests are having trouble in finding any who will witness against Him.
14:58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands- this is a garbled version of what the Lord had said in Jerusalem at the first Passover of His public ministry. He had actually said, when asked what sign He showed to give Him the right to purge the temple, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”, John 2:19. They misunderstood His words, thinking He was referring only to Herod’s temple. This is why they spoke of Him rearing it up in three days, when it had been forty-six years since the building had started, and still it was not finished. After His resurrection from the dead the disciples realised that He had been speaking of the temple of His body, of which the temple was a figure.
So He said nothing of destroying the temple himself. It was they who would do it, when they secured His death. His body, soul and spirit would be separated in death, and since they were responsible for His death, (although from another viewpoint He laid His life down of Himself), they would destroy Him.
There is a vital link between the crucifixion of Christ, and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in AD 70. Daniel 9:26 speaks of the Messiah being cut off, and then the city and sanctuary being destroyed. Jacob prophesied of the time when the sons of Levi, the priestly tribe, would, in their anger, slay a man, and in their self will dig down a wall, Genesis 49:5-7. They slew Christ, and ensured the destruction of their city. The parable of the marriage of the king’s son involves the city of those who killed the messengers being destroyed, Matthew 22:1-7. The Lord also linked the treatment meted out to God’s messengers, with the house being made desolate, Matthew 23:37-39. There is a vital connection, then, between the destiny of the temple, and that of His body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Both will be destroyed, but both will rise again. In the case of Christ’s body the destruction would mean the separation of His body, soul and spirit in death, and significantly, when that happened the veil of the temple was rent- the destruction had begun!
So by crucifying Him, they would secure the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. But Hosea had spoken of a period of three days after which God would raise up His people Israel again from the grave of the nations, Hosea 6:1,2, (see also Deuteronomy 32:39). Together with His dead body would they rise, Isaiah 26:19, or in other words, they would be associated with, and believe in, His resurrection at long last, and gain the benefits which His rising again brings to those who believe. When He comes again there will be built a temple fit for His glorious kingdom, as detailed by Ezekiel in his prophecy, chapters 40-47. As Zechariah said, “He shall build the temple of the Lord”, Zechariah 6:12. The temple currently being planned by the nation of Israel will sadly be occupied by Antichrist, and then destroyed.
It was the Sadducean party which controlled the temple, and they did not believe in the resurrection of the body. They will recognise this statement by Christ as an attack upon their doctrine. And now at His trial it is the Sadducean party in control of proceedings. They think it is time for revenge.
And within three days I will build another made without hands- there are at least three misrepresentations here. He did not say He would build another, but would raise up the one that was destroyed. He did not imply that it would take three days, but stated He would do it three days after the destruction. He said nothing of the building being made without hands, as if it were some magical building. They either ignorantly or wilfully misquoted His words.
14:59 But neither so did their witness agree together.
But neither so did their witness agree together- just as the witnesses of verse 56 did not agree together, neither did these latter ones agree either. The case should have collapsed, therefore, but those conducting it are not interested in justice.
14:60 And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?
And the high priest stood up in the midst- according to Jewish law, this was an illegal act, and should have signalled the end of the trial altogether. Caiaphas is clearly frustrated, and having failed to find two witnesses who will agree, has to resort to try to get the prisoner to incriminate Himself.
And asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? The Lord Jesus will not appear to endorse false witness by responding to it. When it was a question of His own honour, He would be like a lamb before its shearers, as the prophet had said. Men are here seeking to shear Him of His glory, and He remains silent. When it is a question of the glory of His Father, or the defence of the truth, or the safety of His disciples, He will speak; but not otherwise.
14:61 But He held His peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, and said unto Him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
But He held His peace, and answered nothing- He will not even explain why He will not answer, such is His determination to remain silent.
Again the high priest asked Him, and said unto Him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? We know from Matthew’s gospel that at this point the High Priest had put the Lord Jesus under oath. We read, “And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God”, Matthew 26:63. He was obliged to answer, therefore, as a godly Jew, for it was a trespass against the law to not answer. The word is, “And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity”. By “voice of swearing” is meant “the voice of one who is putting you under oath”.
14:62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
And Jesus said, I am- in Matthew the answer is “Thou hast said”, which is the formula a polite Jew would use when answering a question of a serious nature. Mark tells us what He said in its plain meaning, for the benefit of his Gentile readers. Here is a definite and unmistakable claim to Deity, and because the rulers did not believe His claim, they reckoned it to be blasphemy. It should be noticed that to the learned men of Israel the title “Son of God” was a title of Deity. The fact that He claimed to be God’s Son did not imply He was in some way less than God. He was claiming to be fully God. The expression “son of” to an Eastern mind would mean “the sharer of the nature of”. So the Lord called James and John “sons of thunder”, meaning they shared the same nature as the thunder did, stormy and angry.
And ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power- notice He reverts now to the title, Son of man, that is relevant to all men, for judgement has been given to Him because He is Son of Man, John 5:27. The priests are being informed that although they sit in judgement on Him then, in a day to come it will be different. And that He will rise from the dead and ascend to the right hand of God, which is the right hand of power, will ensure that this will happen, for as Paul said to the men of Athens, (who scoffed at the idea of the resurrection of the dead, as the Sadducean priests did in Israel), that God “hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead”, Acts 17:31.
It seems from this that those in hell can see those in heaven. So it is that when he died and went to hell, Caaiphas was able to see the one he had condemned, and would realise that He was in the highest place of honour on the throne of God, whilst he himself was in the depths of shame.
And coming in the clouds of heaven- Christ would do more than ascend to heaven, He would come in power and great glory, and “every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him”, Revelation 1:7. We see now why the Lord said “ye shall see”, for this pronoun is plural. All the unbelievers in the nation, represented that day by Caiaphas, shall see these things. And the nation as a whole shall see, too, as their Messiah comes to reign.
14:63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?
Then the high priest rent his clothes- this in itself was an act contrary to the law, for the Scripture says, “And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes”, Leviticus 21:10. Now it is very unlikely that the high priest would be wearing his garments for glory and beauty at this time, for they were worn during his ministrations in the temple. But this rending of clothes does have a metaphorical meaning, for the garments of the high priest had gold wires interwoven in them, and if he had rent those garments he would have broken the gold wires. But those wires signified the glory of Deity, and thus by rending his clothes the high priest renounced the Deity of Christ that He had just affirmed.
And saith, What need we any further witnesses? By this statement he admitted that the witnesses already heard had not produced any evidence of guilt. He had to resort to placing the prisoner on oath to obtain a confession. He also is bringing the proceedings to a swift conclusion, because he has obtained the admission he wants to hear.
14:64 Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death.
Ye have heard the blasphemy- Christ had given ample proof of His Deity throughout His ministry, but they were determined not to believe on Him, for that would involve loss of prestige and power. Blasphemy is speech that injures the reputation of another, in this case of God. They believed it was their duty to stone blasphemers to death, and indeed it was, for the law required it in Leviticus 24:15,16, with the words, And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, ‘Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death'”. So to speak injuriously of God merited stoning; it stands to reason that to claim, as a man, to be equal with God is the ultimate injury and insult to God.
What think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death- Caiaphas cannot make the decision alone, so he now puts the matter to the vote of the Sanhedrin, and by so doing will make them guilty of the conviction of Christ too. As Peter will say just a few weeks later, “I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers”, Acts 3:17. It is interesting to notice in this connection that the only category of person who was to bring a male kid of the goats as a sin offering, was a ruler, Leviticus 4:22-26. And the animal that was slain to atone for the sins of the nation on the Day of Atonement was a male kid of the goats, Leviticus 16:5. Thus there is a link between the rulers and the nation in their sin, (“ye did it, as also your rulers”), and both are provided for in the true sacrifice of Christ for sin which the goat pictured.
14:65 And some began to spit on Him, and to cover His face, and to buffet Him, and to say unto Him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike Him with the palms of their hands.
And some began to spit on him- the soldiers of Pilate, who were Gentiles, did this, but we do not expect such behaviour from the officers of the high priest of Israel. Spitting in this context is the ultimate expression of contempt.The prophet Isaiah gives us the foretelling of this when he writes of Jehovah’s Perfect Servant, who could say, “I hid not My face from shame and spitting”, Isaiah 50:6. To spit on someone is the ultimate expression of contempt and hatred, and the Lord Jesus did not seek to avoid this expression of the wickedness of men. He endured the cross, for His Father ordained that for Him, but He despised the shame, that which men gratuitously heaped upon Him. Even if a person is guilty, justice does not require that he be insulted. In fact, Jewish law required the utmost respect for a prisoner, and extreme deference was to be shown to him. After all, until condemned, he was to be reckoned innocent.
The Lord Jesus warned His disciples with the words, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on, and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again”, Luke 18:31-33. And so it came to pass, for we read, “And the soldiers led Him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. And they clothed Him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head, and began to salute Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they smote Him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon Him, and bowing their knees worshipped Him”, Mark 15:16-19. Clearly they are mocking His claim to be King. The robe of imperial purple, the crown, (albeit of thorns), the feeble reed for a sceptre, (but used to smite Him, as if they were the ones with the power), and then the anointing as king- but with their vile spittle. This is humiliation indeed, but through it all there is no murmur of complaint, for “when He was reviled, He reviled not again”, 1 Peter 2:23.
What the Lord did not tell His disciples was that their rulers would spit on Him also. It was one thing for uncouth Gentile soldiers to do this, but it was entirely another thing for members of the Sanhedrin to do so. They were so contemptuous of Him that they allowed themselves to do it, for we read that in the High Priest’s palace with the council present, when the Lord affirmed that He was indeed the Christ, “some began to spit on Him”, Mark 14:65, and Matthew tells us “they spit in His face”, Matthew 26:67. They no doubt felt justified in doing this, for had He not claimed to be the Son of God, and therefore was an apostate and a blasphemer? They had refused the testimony of His forerunner John, of His Father as He spoke from heaven, and His works, see John 5:32-38. It is gratifying to notice that Mark says that “some began to spit on Him”, Mark 14:65, thus allowing us to believe that Joseph of Arimathea did not stoop so low. So the Gentiles spit on Him in mock anointing, but Jews spit in His face in contempt.
And to cover His face, and to buffet Him, and to say unto Him, Prophesy; and the servants did strike Him with the palms of their hands- if He is Messiah, and the Son of God, He ought to be able to tell who is striking Him. Matthew’s account says, “They did spit in His face, and buffeted Him; and others smote Him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, Thou Christ, Who is he that smote Thee?” At one and the same time they challenge Him to speak in prophecy, and also smite Him on the face to silence Him. They thus mock His claims further, and needlessly abuse Him.
Before the formal session of the Sanhedrin
Luke 22:66 And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led Him into their council, saying,
And as soon as it was day- Matthew writes, “When the morning was come”, as if they had been impatiently waiting for the day to dawn, for they could not hold their official meeting before then, or else Pilate might declare it invalid and their cause would fail. Mark says “straitway”, a characteristic word of his, but often in connection with the Lord Jesus and His readiness to do His Father’s will. It is now used of the readiness of the Jewish authorities to do Satan’s will. Luke says “as soon as it was day”, so once the day had begun they set about the task of convicting Him. As the apostle says of sinners, they are “swift to shed blood”, Romans 3:15. They had already passed sentence in their illegal council, for we read, “And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death”, Mark 14:64, so they had made up their minds already. This further council was simply to confirm officially what they already decided unofficially. Matthew tells us that they “took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death”, so they had only one outcome in mind.
The elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together- Mark tells us it was with the whole council, Mark 15:1. But we are also told that Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple, John 19:38, and also that he “had not consented to the counsel and deed of them”, Luke 23:51, so the decision of the council was not unanimous.
And led Him into their council, saying- so brief were the proceedings of this council that Matthew and Mark do not even relate what was said.
22:67 Art thou the Christ? tell us. And He said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:
Art thou the Christ? tell us- something of their impatience is seen in the terse question and command they gave Him. They find, however, that the Lord Jesus will not be rushed, and shows He knows their hearts. It was illegal to try to get a prisoner to bear witness alone, and He has not been put on oath, so He is not obliged to answer them at all. In any case they had had three and a half years in which to ascertain whether He bore the credentials of the Messiah.
One of the features of the Messiah was that He would give sight to the blind and cause the lame to walk, Isaiah 35:5,6, and these were the two classes of people that came to Him in the temple, for we read of Him being in the temple just a few days previous to this “And the blind and lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them”, Matthew 21:14. They obviously thought that He was the Messiah, for they came to Him; it was not as if they were brought by others. They were not put off by the fact that David hated the blind and the lame, and had banned them from coming into the temple courts, 2 Samuel 5:8. The Lord Jesus had been welcomed into Jerusalem as the Son of David, Matthew 21:9, but they obviously did not think He hated them. So right in the precincts of the temple, the place where the chief priests operated, there had been clear proof just a few days before, that He was the Messiah.
Even though He was not obliged to answer, He did so, and in such a way as to show them that He was indeed the Messiah, for Isaiah had told them that “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: And He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth”, Isaiah 11:2-4. All these features are in stark contrast to those before whom Christ stood. They lacked wisdom and understanding, they had no fear of the Lord, they judged after the hearing of their ears, listening and believing false witnesses. They had the supremely Poor Man before them, but did not judge Him with righteousness or reprove with equity.
Because He was not on oath, He was not obliged to answer directly, but He did answer indirectly, and in such a manner that they could not gainsay. The best way to achieve conviction in the heart of man, is for that heart to be convinced internally. It is the case with the Scriptures. Once men have approached the Word of God with an unbiased mind and a seeking heart, and are prepared to put aside pre-conceived ideas, then the Spirit of God will use that word to convict them, as they are exposed to its living power. When this happens, the proof lies within the man, and is not imposed on him from without.
So it is with the truth of the Christ-hood of the Lord Jesus. As He speaks to the men who accuse Him, He is skilfully showing that He is indeed the Messiah because He fulfils the criteria Isaiah set out as to His wisdom and understanding. He does this by means of four statements.
And He said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe- this is the first statement, which is a prophecy, and shows that He knows their future, that their unbelief is permanent. They knew in their heart of hearts that this was the case, for they were determined not to believe in Him.
22:68 And if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go.
And if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me– He knew that they knew He was the Messiah, but their hearts were so hard that they would not even respond if He asked them, but would stubbornly refuse to admit it.
Nor let Me go- He knows they are not interested in justice, so even though they knew He was the Messiah, their stubborn refusal to believe would prevent them letting Him go, as one against whom there was no charge. The apostle Paul wrote about God’s wisdom, “which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”. It is not that if they had known they would have spared Him crucifixion. Rather, if they had known, they would not have crucified Him because they did not wish God’s purpose to be fulfilled, and would seek to frustrate it.
22:69 Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God- this is the fourth statement and the fourth prophecy, this time not about them, but about Himself. He told them early on in His ministry that judgement is committed to Him because He is the Son of Man, John 5:27. He is relevant to all men, not just to the nation of Israel. As Son of Man He has been here and given them the opportunity to react to Him at close quarters. He foretells that He will rise to heaven to sit on the right hand of God, the place of the Firstborn, the place of administration, in this context, of justice and judgement.
When standing before Caiaphas previously, the Lord had said, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power”, but then added, “and coming in the clouds of heaven”, Matthew 26:64. The point of the latter phrase being that it is a reference to Daniel 7:13, where Daniel writes, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days”. But when he writes of the coming of the Son of Man he says, “until the Ancient of Days came”, verse 22. This is why on that occasion Caiaphas said, “He hath spoken blasphemy”, for He was claiming a Divine title, and the high priest rejected that claim as blasphemy.
22:70 Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And He said unto them, Ye say that I am.
Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? Notice the “then”, for it shows they have drawn a logical conclusion from His statement about sitting on the right hand of the power of God. They have rightly seen in this a claim to Deity.
And He said unto them, Ye say that I am- we should not think of this statement as being a vague one, as if to say, “You can say that is the case if you choose to”. Rather, it is the way a polite Jew would answer in the affirmative, so His reply is a definite “Yes”, but framed in a courteous way.
22:71 And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth.
And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth- this shows that they did not believe He was avoiding their question, but had made a definite statement. The claim to be Son of God on the part of anyone else would indeed be blasphemy, and would merit death by stoning. But this would almost certainly involve the breaking of bones, and Scripture said that “He keepeth all His bones, not one of them is broken”, Psalm 34:20, and to be “Christ our Passover”, the Lamb of God must not have any bones broken, Exodus 12:46. God had foreseen this, and had allowed the Roman authorities to take away from Israel the right to stone to death.
They have achieved their object, and have grounds, in their view, of demanding His death. They can now go to Pilate and affirm that in a solemn, formal assembly of the Sanhedrin, after the break of day, they have judged Him to be worthy of death.
At this point Matthew inserts his account of Judas’ suicide. It is as if he is saying that the nation of Israel, accused by Stephen of being the betrayers of Christ, Acts 7:52, has committed national suicide. And indeed they had, for they were cast off by God because of their treatment of His Son. However, Paul describes their eventual restoration as being like life from the dead, Romans 11:15, and God, in grace, is able to reverse their decision. But they will find that it only because of the sacrifice of the one they murdered.
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 out of date.
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.
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 to 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 that the brazen serpent was put on, 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 not of a rival to Caesar.
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.
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. 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 to 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.
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 Herod’s. 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.