Jesus was being questioned after his arrest. First by Annas, Caiaphas the high priest’s father-in-law as a representative of the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas had already decided that Jesus needed to die, he just had to find a way to bring it about. Annas asked questions and tried to get Jesus to incriminate Himself as a false prophet so they could give Him the death sentence they wanted so badly. Jesus answered Annas by saying, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” (Verses 20-21). What He got for His answer was a hit and a reprimand from an officer. But Jesus, didn’t take the bait or get defensive. He said, “I answered truthfully. Why would you hit me for that?” The Sanhedrin had no truth behind their accusations. They couldn’t prove their accusations. But they didn’t care. They were desperate to have Jesus killed. Their eagerness deafened them to the truth. They took Jesus to Caiaphas the high priest and then to Pilate, the governor.
Pilate was not Jewish, and it was Passover so the Sanhedrin wouldn’t defile themselves by entering his house. They followed their ritual laws to the letter while trying to find a way to kill the Son of God by using Roman laws. Pilate wasn’t thrilled about the situation. It was early morning and he had to go between Jesus who had been brought into his home for a trial to the Sanhedrin and a mob of angry Jews outside.
Inside, Pilate asked Jesus “Are you the king of the Jews?” Caiaphas had accused Jesus of claiming to be the Son of God, but to Pilate they used the term “King of the Jews” so that Pilate would have a reason to be try Jesus as a usurper of Roman rule. Jesus responded as He often did with a question to ask the person to examine themselves and find the truth. Verse 34 says, “Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me? To Pilate the words sounded like an accusation that he was just doing the Sanhedrin’s dirty work. Pilate didn’t appreciate it, even though he knew it was true. He did not want to execute Jesus. He could see no reason for it. Pilate wanted Jesus to tell him what his crime was. Verse 36 says,
“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Jesus had just told Pilate an amazing truth. He told the governor that His kingdom was heavenly and that if He asked, His angel armies would stop all this right away. Pilate couldn’t understand what Jesus said. An otherworldly kingdom with servants who would have fought for him sounded looney. So this guy was guilty of claiming to be a king but still was that worthy of death? Verses 37-38 continue the exchange.
“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
Pilate, of course was not aware that he spoke a truth, that Jesus is king. He merely asked this calm quiet man to clarify what He had said. Jesus’ answer gave Pilate a chance to accept the truth and receive salvation. But Pilate was not about the truth, he was about himself so he couldn’t hear it.
Pilate went outside to the Sanhedrin and the mob and told them He couldn’t find any guilt in Jesus. He offered them a chance to release Him by pardoning Jesus per a Passover custom. It was either going to be Jesus, accused of claiming to be a King or Barnabas, a robber. The people chose Barnabas. They were desperate to eliminate Jesus. They couldn’t see reason and they couldn’t hear truth.
Pilate might not have thought Jesus was guilty of anything that deserved death, but that didn’t stop him from punishing him. He had Jesus flogged and allowed the soldiers to ridicule Jesus however they chose. The soldiers made a crown out of thorns and pressed it onto Jesus head, derided him and beat Him.
Then Pilate brought Jesus out to the crowd again, wearing the crown and a purple robe. Maybe he hoped that they would see the blood and the disdainful crown and robe and find that punishment enough. But the bloodthirsty crowd was not satisfied. They yelled, “Crucify him!” Pilate didn’t want to crucify Jesus. He told the Sanhedrin to take Him and crucify Him themselves. Chapter 19 verse 7 reads,
“The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard that, he was afraid. He knew they were serious about having Jesus crucified. He saw that they would not be appeased by stoning Jesus to death themselves. Maybe part of Pilate sensed it was true. He knew Jesus was good. And the claim that Jesus was divine made sense with everything Jesus had said to him. Verses 8-11 read,
“When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
Pilate begged Jesus to give him a reason to release Him. Pilate reminded Jesus of who he was and the authority he had over Him. But Jesus said, ‘Nope, the authority you think you have is from above, from my Father and therefore me. I am the one giving my life, you are not taking it.’ Of course Pilate didn’t understand all that, but he did get the gist of it. Jesus claimed to be from above, from God. The Jews had said Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. He wanted nothing to do with crucifying Jesus.
He tried to get out of it by reasoning with the people but they used what was most important to him the world, his position and his power. They would report him to Caesar if he didn’t crucify Jesus. Pilate knew the Jews had no respect for Roman government, they hated it. They hated Caesar. He knew that it was a lie but he needed his position. And so Pilate chose power over truth. Verse 16 reads,
“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.”
Jesus gave Annas, Caiaphas, and Pilate a chance to hear the truth and believe, but they chose not to hear it for different reasons. They chose blind rage and selfish ambition over truth.
Have you closed your eyes and ears to something God is telling you? He will still accomplish His purpose but if you accept the truth you can be on the side of victory rather than against Him.