Student Bible - Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No Justice: Jesus faces judges and a furious mob

Matthew 27

Matthew 27:22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

Because the Jews live under the occupying power of Rome, Jesus must go through several levels of justice. The Romans allow the Jews to have their own court, the Sanhedrin, before which Jesus first appears. When he identifies himself as the Messiah, the members of the Sanhedrin convict him of the religious charge of blasphemy, a capital offense under Jewish law.

Since the Romans do not permit the Sanhedrin to carry out a death sentence, the religious court must now seek the sanction of the Roman government, so Jesus’ opponents send him to Pilate, the Roman governor. Aware that the charge of blasphemy will likely not impress the unbelieving Pilate, the accusers instead emphasize the political threat Jesus poses to Rome. They portray him as a dangerous revolutionary who has declared himself king of the Jews in defiance of Roman rule.

Pilate’s Doubts

Pilate has grave misgivings about the charge, and his wife’s premonitions compound his sense of uneasiness. He seeks a way out of his dilemma by referring the case to Herod, the ruler over Jesus’ home district, who has come to town for the festival. Herod, disappointed by Jesus’ silence and his refusal to perform miracles, ultimately returns the prisoner to Pilate.

As Pilate tries to get the religious leaders to release their prisoner, the fury of the crowd only swells. At last, facing a mob scene, the canny governor gives in, but only after showily washing his hands of innocent blood. Through all these legal proceedings, Jesus maintains an almost unbroken silence.

Pilate seems to recognize, at some level, not only the enormity of the injustice he allows, but also his role in it. (Luke 23:4 records that Pilate initially declares Jesus innocent, despite pressure from the crowd.) He eventually has a notice of Jesus’ “crime” prepared and fastened to the cross. It reads, in three languages, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:20). When the chief priests protest that it should read only that Jesus claimed to be king, Pilate answers, “What I have written, I have written” (John 19:22).

Life Questions

When have you been wrongly punished? How did you respond?

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