We continue in our Holy Week series as we explore the road to the cross.
Over the past few days, the journey to cross has gone through Jerusalem to Bethany, enjoyed a Passover meal, and saw Jesus arrested, disciples deserting, and Peter denying.
After being beaten, mocked, and blindfolded at the High Priest’s home by the guards, Jesus is led before the elders' council. The council of elders comprised the leading priests and teachers of religious law.
This council wanted to know the answer to one question,
“and they said, “Tell us, are you the Messiah?” (Luke 22:67)
If that’s not a loaded question, I don’t know what is.
A short dialog between the council and Jesus begins, and it is crucial in the narrative of Jesus’ path to the impending cross.
Luke captures the dialog in 22:67-71,
“But he replied, ‘If I tell you, you won’t believe me. And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.’”
“They all shouted, ‘So, are you claiming to be the Son of God?’”
“And he replied, ‘You say that I am.’” (emphasis added)
“‘Why do we need other witnesses?’ they said. ‘We ourselves heard him say it.’”
And so the march to Pilate, the Roman governor, begins.
Pilate’s Encounter with Jesus
When the council and other Jews arrived at Pilate’s headquarters, they began with an argument that Jesus was leading people astray by not paying taxes to the Roman government and “He was the Messiah, a king.” (Luke 23: 1-2)
It is unclear if Pilate knew Jesus or knew of His reputation throughout the land, but Pilate asks Jesus,
“‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus replied, ‘You have said it.’” (Luke 23:3)
Pilate found no issue with Jesus. (Encounter number one)
The leading priests and council members continued to argue that he was causing riots in the Galilean region, so Pilate sent him and those who had brought Him to Herod Antipas for resolution.
Off they go….to Herod Antipas.
Herod Antipas had heard of Jesus and was eager to meet Him, primarily to see Him perform miracles. Those who had brought him hurled accusation after accusation while Herod Antipas peppered Jesus with questions.
To everyone’s amazement (I think), Jesus remained silent.
Frustration must have set in for Herod Antipas because his guards began to mock and ridicule Jesus (Luke 23:11). Finally, they put a royal robe on Jesus, probably purple as that was the color of royalty, and sent Him and the others back to Pilate (Luke 23:11).
Off they go…back to Pilate.
Christ’s final encounter with Pilate begins after he returns from Herod Antipas. Both Pilate and Herod Antipas found no fault with Jesus, at least none that required death as the leading priests and religious leaders desired.
Pilate then had Jesus flogged as appeasement and a potential compromise thinking the leading priests and religious leaders would be satisfied with that arrangement, and then he would release Jesus.
Roman flogging was no joke. When they flogged someone everyone, remembered it. It was gory and bloody. The whips had hooks or little studs on their ends, so when the recipient received the flogging, it would grab the skin and yank it off.
It was excruciating. The Romans usually flogged someone just enough that they did not die from it. Most of the flogging recipient's next step was a trip to a Roman cross, and this would speed up the process of their death.
Jesus deserved none of this, but He took the punishment for us.
The custom of the day was to release one prisoner, and Pilate assumed they would take Jesus. The crowd began to shout, “Kill him and release Barabbas” (Luke 23:18).
Pilate argued with the crowd, and he did not understand why they wanted to kill this man with whom he did not find any fault.
Barabbas was not a saint – he was insurrectionist and murderer, but on this day, he was released from prison, and Jesus took his place on death row.
Pilate’s wife sent him a message just before me; he pronounced his judgment saying,
“Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” (Matthew 27:19)
And so…Pilate washed his hands of the situation and turned Jesus over to be crucified with Jewish leaders and their descendants taking responsibility for the execution.
Our journey to the cross concludes tomorrow at the cross, where we ask what’s so good about Good Friday.
Lord, we cannot imagine the pain, anguish, and sorrow you experienced so we could live with you in eternity. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Please help us to be mindful of your sacrifice daily. Amen!