Mt. 26:38-41, “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with me.’ He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’ Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’”
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JESUS IN THE COURT OF PONTIUS PILATE
In the bright light of God’s new day, the ‘whole multitude’ of riotous Hebrews, who had forgotten that they had pledged allegiance to their King when He came riding on a donkey, followed the Sanhedrin and their police officers, who brutally shoved the bound and tired, tortured Jesus towards Pilate’s court.
They charged Jesus with the crime of declaring Himself God and King, and brought Him before Pontius Pilate, accusing Him of posing a dreadful danger to the Roman Empire and the throne of Caesar.
The arrogant pagan Pontius Pilate would not usually have allowed the Sanhedrin to engage him in one of their religious disputes. But as they brought before him such a dangerous ‘rebel,’ such a serious ‘threat’ to the Roman Empire, he could not refuse to reside over the case. Furthermore, the deafening upheaval of the ‘whole multitude’ had to catch Pilate’s undivided attention. The murderous anger, in which the priests flung the bleeding Jesus at his feet, spelt a full-scale riot among the Jews, and that must have cautioned Pilate to exercise some patience with them.
Thus, Pilate demanded, “What is your charge against this Man?”
“We found this [Nazarene] perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King,” they answered assertively.
Pilate wanted to know one thing from Jesus Himself, “Are You a King? [Are You a political threat to the Roman Empire and the throne of Caesar, for if You are, I will surely have you crucified.]”
Readers Digest wrote in ‘Jesus And His Times,’ “Pilate’s question was almost a code for any of the numerous rebels against Rome who had arisen in Palestine – like the many other Pilate was holding for execution at that very time.”
When Jesus did not answer, [I assume because He did not recognize the authority of this pagan court to preside over the case that the Hebrew Council had built against Him,] Pilate was genuinely puzzled by this Prisoner. Pontius Pilate must have wondered how One Man, without followers by His side, without any form of military might, could pose such a serious threat to the mighty throne of Caesar. How a Man, so hated by the angry multitudes that they wanted to tear Him limb from limb, could call Himself a King?
Pilate demanded, maybe leaning slightly towards Jesus on his Judgment seat, “So, are You the king of the Jews?”
We can assume that Jesus looked the prefect of Caesar straight in the eye, then He answered reluctantly through bleeding, swollen lips, “It is as you say.”
Pilate must have thought Jesus a lunatic. A beaten pauper, His face cut and bruised - dressed in the torn, bloodstained clothes of a carpenter, claiming to be a King! Surely, such a ‘nobody’ from an obscure town like Nazareth could not pose any political threat to the mighty Roman Empire!
Therefore Pilate turned decidedly to the Jewish Sanhedrin and declared, “[You are wasting my time,] I find no fault in this Man.” - Lu. 23:3-43.
But becoming ‘more fierce,’ they insisted, “[We tell you He is a political rebel and instigator! And you must deal with Him as such!] He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.”
“Is the Man a Galilean, then?” Pilate asked. Their confirmation undoubtedly caused him to sigh with relief, because now, he could shift all responsibility to deal with this Man to someone else. “Well, then He belongs to Herod’s jurisdiction — and Herod happens to be in Jerusalem at this time! Go, hand Him over to Herod to be judged!”
“Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because Herod had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.”
Herod questioned Jesus extensively, but Jesus refused to answer a word, “while the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him.”
Herod, no doubt, also thought Jesus was a crazy ‘fool,’ and treated Him as such. Yet Herod, too, was ‘instinctively’ shying away from condemning Jesus.
“Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Jesus with contempt and mocked Him, stripped Him and arrayed Him in a scarlet robe, [‘a garment of dignity and office worn by Roman officers of rank’] and [mockingly] sent Him back to Pilate,” ( Mt. 27:28, Amplified Bible.)
When Pilate heard the deafening crowds returning, pushing and shoving Jesus back to his court, he supposedly shook his head in disbelief. Then, once more, the ruthless police officers of the Sanhedrin hurled Jesus on the floor at Pilate’s feet.
Pilate must have been quite agitated.
Still, the threat of a violent Hebrew uproar cautioned the prefect to restrain his impatience yet again.
“Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, and said, “You have brought this Man to me, as One Who misleads the people, [accusing Him of being a political agitator coveting the throne of Caesar.] However, neither Herod nor I could find any proof of your accusation. [You demand His death as a political rebel,] but nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. [Publicly, I declare Him innocent.] I will therefore chastise Him and release Him.”
While many scholars view Pilate’s decision to chastise Jesus stemmed from cruelty, from the context of the whole situation, it is clear that Pilate was actually trying to save Jesus’ life. He must have thought that by scourging Jesus he could pacify the Hebrews, and thereby work Jesus’ release. In fact, “Pilate scourged Him that He might not be condemned. But Roman scourging was very severe, not limited, as among the Jews, to forty stripes; yet this pain and shame Christ submitted to for our sakes.” – [M.H. Commentary.]
At this point, Pilate would certainly have beckoned his soldiers to drag Jesus away to execute his sentence, but his verdict nearly sparked a full-scale war.
The shouting, stampeding, menacing crowds forced Pilate to hesitate.
“No! No! No!” the multitudes shouted relentlessly, shaking their clenched fists. The echo of their voices must have thundered through the whole city. “We want Him crucified! Crucify Jesus! Crucify Him!”
We can assume that Pilate’s soldiers had a hard time restraining this forceful Hebrew uprising. They barely managed to restrain the rioting crowds from tearing their Christ limb from limb; relying on their expertise as trained soldiers, their raised shields, and drawn swords.
“Then Pilate [got up from his seat,] and entered the Praetorium [place/platform of judgment] again.”
Under the deafening roar of the crowds, his wife ‘sent a messenger to him, saying,’ “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”
At this moment Pilate must have realized that Jesus was definitely not a political rebel, nor an ordinary man. Pilate had to know that this was a religious matter, and the Sanhedrin was inciting the crowds to force him, Pilate, to submit to their own, selfish control over the Hebrew nation. They were using the prefect of Caesar to execute Jesus politically and publicly for a reason Pilate did not understand.
So Pilate called Jesus, and asked privately, “Then, [tell me,] are You the King of the Jews?”
Jesus had answered this question once before, and He probably would have weighed Pilate with a steady gaze. “Are you speaking for yourself now,” Jesus then challenged the prefect, “[or are you asking again for the sake of others?”]
Pilate became annoyed. “Am I a Hebrew?” he asked threateningly. [“Am I supposed to understand Your Judaist religion and the secret motives of your religious council, that You ask me to acknowledge You as some sort of Divine King?] Your own nation and chief priests [could have tried You, but they] have delivered You to me. What have You done, [that Your own people want You crucified as a political rebel?]”
Then Jesus declared without hesitation, “[I have not come to spark a rebellion against the kingdom of Caesar, for] ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight physically, so that I should not be delivered to the Hebrews, but now My Kingdom is not from here.’” (Jn. 18:36; 6:15; .)
Jesus was actually saying, “[My spiritual] ‘soldiers will have to endure hardship as soldiers of [My Spiritual Kingdom, which I am setting up in the midst of the kingdom of darkness in this world.] No one engaged in [spiritual] warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this world [to the point that he will take up arms to defend a physical kingdom as the ‘kingdom of god,’ that he may please Him Who enlisted him as a [spiritual] soldier.’ Thus, the Jews do not accept the Spiritual Kingdom that I bring. They are going to kill Me because I Am against their Kingdom-Now theology and their self-enriching temple-religion, which they cling to in total disobedience to the God of heaven and earth, Who, under My New Testament/Covenant dispensation, will not dwell in a temple made with human hands,” (2 Tim. 2:3-5; Acts 7:48; 17:24.)
Pilate must have frowned deeply, shaking his head in disbelief while leaning his face in his hand. Then, he must have looked up at Jesus again, insisting to know, “Are You a King then?” (Jn. 18:37-39.)
Jesus must have nodded. “You say rightly that I am a King. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. [I came to testify to the fact that I Am the Truth, the Way, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father but by Me.] Everyone who is of the truth, [everyone who belongs to Me, everyone who desires to do My will,] hears My Voice [and understands what I am saying.]” (Jn. 18:37-38; 7:17.)
Pilate’s mind was so polluted with the false religion of the Romans, and he had his heart was so fully set on his own version of the “kingdom of god here on earth” and the pleasures of this life, he missed the fact that Jesus was also contending for Pilate’s eternal soul that day, there in his own Praetorium. As a result, Pilate too, could not hear Jesus’ Spiritual voice, calling him to repent from religion to accept a relationship with God Himself.
Although Pilate could find no fault in Him at all, and by now Pilate must have known that Jesus was not just an ordinary Man, he still dismissed Jesus’ declaration that He Is The Eternal Christ, by asking, “What is truth?”
Pilate was actually saying, “Your truth, my truth, their truth… When it comes to spiritual matters, we all think we have all truth. Of course, we can’t all really have the truth, but because truth is relevant to what everyone chooses to believe, it is silly to debate the matter of truth.”
Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Caesar, missed the vital point that Jesus was not bringing “a truth” to this world like all the other so-called “divine” christs (anointed ones,) kings, priests and prophets before and after Him. Jesus Is, Was, and Always Will Be God Himself, The Highest and Only Truth in the whole universe that He had created. This debate and even the entire court case against Jesus was not about human opinion, or about human perceptions of truth. This was Pontius Pilate’s personal meeting with The Truth, Jesus Himself, the Creator God of the whole universe, (Jn. 14:6; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:1-14.)