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Where do you look for Truth and Justice? You might think that religious leaders would be the best gatekeepers of righteousness. You might think that the legal system would be the best administrators of what is right in society and best for mankind. You might think that the will of the collective people could provide the best barometer for making correct choices. You would be wrong as we see here from the trials of Jesus before Pilate and Herod. The venom of the mob and the wicked agenda of the religious leaders are juxtaposed against the political ambitions of these two Roman rulers who are driven strictly by expediency rather than principle.

There is a lot of clamor today for the implementation of Truth and Justice. But people still resist bowing the knee to the only one who is inherently True and Right and the only one who can bring about a reign of righteousness.

John MacArthur: The entire series of trials was filled with irony. The one whom men judged is the judge of all men; the one whom men condemned will eternally condemn them. The perfectly righteous, sinless, and innocent one was condemned as a blasphemer and criminal. The one who always pleased holy God did not please sinful men. Men sought to kill the very one who gave them life. The Lord Jesus Christ was declared a blasphemer for claiming to be who He truly is, making His accusers blasphemers. All of the wicked participants in Christ’s trials who judged and condemned Him did nothing but what God had predetermined must happen. Their decisions did not determine His fate, but rather their own. They wasted the most monumental, unparalleled opportunity that anyone could ever have—a personal encounter with the Son of the living God, the Creator of the universe and the Redeemer of sinners.


A. (:1-2) Politically-Oriented False Accusations

Staging of the trial

“Then the whole body of them arose and brought Him before Pilate.

And they began to accuse Him, saying,”

Geldenhuys: Before the Jewish Council He was found guilty of blasphemy because He called Himself the Son of God. Such an accusation, which related to the religious views of the Jews, would have carried no weight with Pilate. So His accusers now prefer totally different charges against Him. With subtle cunning and abominable deceitfulness they accuse Him before Pilate of being trebly guilty of high treason.

Steven Cole: He did not like the Jews and they did not like him. Early in his rule, he had angered them by sending his soldiers into Jerusalem with military standards bearing emblems that the Jews regarded as idolatrous. When they resisted, he threatened to kill them. But they lay down and bared their necks for the sword. Pilate finally had to yield or risk open rebellion, which he could not afford. He lost face in the deal. He also outraged the Jews by taking some of their money from the temple treasury to finance an aqueduct. They rioted and many were killed, resulting in Pilate’s receiving a scathing rebuke from Rome. Jesus referred to another incident in Luke 13:1-2, where Pilate had mingled the Galileans’ blood with their sacrifices. So Pilate and the Jews had clashed frequently. He could not afford word of another incident getting back to Rome. Although he hated the Jews and knew that they were accusing Jesus out of envy, he had to placate them to save his own neck, even if it meant the death of an innocent man.

1. Political Unrest – Stirring up the people to rebel against the Roman rule

“We found this man misleading our nation”

2. Tax Evasion — Forbidding the payment of the Roman tax

“and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar,”

3. Insurrection – Twisting the claim of Christ to be a political King that would threaten Rome

“and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”

A T Robertson: This charge is true, but not in the sense meant by them. Jesus did claim to be the Christ and the king of the kingdom of God. But the Sanhedrin wanted Pilate to think that he set himself up as a rival to Caesar. Pilate would understand little from the word “Christ,” but “King” was a different matter. He was compelled to take notice of this charge else he himself would be accused to Caesar of winking at such a claim by Jesus.

B. (:3-4) Pilate’s Findings of Innocence

1. (:3) Inquiry Regarding Religious Issue of Kingship

“And Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’

And He answered him and said, ‘It is as you say.’”

2. (:4) Innocent of the Political Charges

“And Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes,

‘I find no guilt in this man.’”

Donald Miller: Pilate is convinced that Jesus is not politically dangerous, and seeks to dismiss the case.

C. (:5-7) Passing the Buck to Herod

1. (:5) Scope of Sedition Fostered by Jesus

“But they kept on insisting, saying, ‘He stirs up the people,

teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee, even as far as this place.’”

2. (:6) Status as a Galilean

“But when Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.”

Hendriksen: The accusers must have regarded their remark that Jesus was a man from Galilee as being a coup de maître (master stroke). Was not Galilee always the very hotbed of revolution? Think of Herod the Great’s battle against the guerrillas (N.T.C. on Matthew, p. 159), and of the “Zealots” and the “patriots” who since that time were always making trouble for the Roman government. Well, that was the region to which Jesus belonged, and He Himself was one of the troublemakers! Little did they realize that exactly when they thought they had scored a point against Jesus and had probably persuaded Pilate to take the necessary action, they, at least for the time being, were being defeated. For Pilate, consistent with his purpose almost to the very end of the trial, saw in this link between Jesus and Galilee the very opportunity he was looking for to get rid of this annoying case.

3. (:7) Switching Jurisdiction to Herod

“And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction,

he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time.”

Donald Miller: The shrewd ears of Pilate heard the word “Galilee” gladly. If Jesus was a Galilean, then he came from the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, who had but lately come on a visit to Jerusalem. A twofold motive led Pilate to send Jesus to Herod for judgment. It would take a very unpleasant case off his hands, and by this gesture of respect for Herod, it would heal a personal breach between them which had arisen possibly through Pilate’s brutally putting to death some of Herod’s subject.

Lenski: It was too late to do such a thing, for Pilate had rendered his verdict. By doing it nevertheless, more decisively than by listening to new charges he disregarded not only his verdict but even the fact that he had rendered one. The whole case is thrown wide open, and legal procedure and legal safeguards are thrown to the wind. The trial has ended, what follows is no longer a trial but only a miserable jockeying and haggling; the outcome could not be in doubt after this sort of thing was begun.

Deffinbaugh: I can see Pilate smiling to himself, congratulating himself for getting rid of this thorny problem. In fact, he had succeeded in passing the buck to a man he really didn’t get along with anyway. “It serves him right,” I can hear Pilate thinking to himself. Perhaps Pilate leaned back in his chair and ordered breakfast. What a leisurely and enjoyable meal it must have been. What a great day it would be. No more worries about Jesus, or so it seemed. How fortunate it was that Herod was also in Jerusalem at this season (cf. Luke 23:7).


A. (:8) Curiosity

“Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.”

Steven Cole: Herod pictures for us a person who likes to dabble in spiritual matters, but has no intention of applying it personally so as to repent. . . . He was like people who find Bible prophecy interesting, but they never seem to make the connection that Bible prophecy is predicting their own doom if they do not repent.

B. (:9) Frustration

“And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing.”

Geldenhuys: because he had so completely surrendered himself to spiritual blindness and moral decay, and wanted to make His acquaintance merely out of curiosity, Jesus remained silent in his presence. Herod had made no use of the opportunity given him of repentance when John rebuked him for his sinful life (iii. 19), and he had by this time sunk so deeply into sin that even the Saviour had no longer a word for him.

Lenski: This silence was a rebuke to Herod. It showed the scorn of Jesus for “this fox” and his antics.

C. (:10) Anger – on the part of the religious leaders against Jesus

“And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently.”

Anyabwile: The entire place is a circus. No one is interested in the truth or justice. Everyone has an agenda. The only righteous person in the place was the one being mocked and tried.

Steven Cole: Jesus was a threat to the Jewish leaders’ power and prestige. He confronted their sin. He upset their tables in the temple and threatened the profitable religious business they had going. He convicted them of their selfishness and rebellion against God.

D. (:11) Mistreatment

“And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate.”

E. (:12) Strange Bedfellows

“Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day;

for before they had been at enmity with each other.”

Donald Miller: Through this exchange of mutual courtesies, Pilate and Herod healed their quarrel, each no doubt hoping thereby to advance his own political interests.

Deffinbaugh: Herod was in a very awkward position here. It was obvious that the religious leaders wanted Jesus put to death. All the time he was trying to interrogate Jesus, they kept pressing their charges. But the fact was they had no real evidence to back up these charges. And because Jesus would not testify, they were at a stalemate. It would seem like a no-win situation for Herod. It is it this point that he makes a very shrewd move. He conceals his own frustration, at being unable to persuade Jesus to produce some miraculous sign, and at the same time pleases his own soldiers and at least sides with the religious leaders by mocking Jesus. And yet in all of this he has avoided taking a clear stand on Jesus. Although Pilate will infer that Herod found Jesus innocent, Herod has avoided the wrath of the chief priests and scribes by not pronouncing any verdict. He seems to be “firmly standing” on both sides of the issue at the same time. What a politician! In the final analysis, Herod forced Pilate to make the decision which he did not want to make himself. And he did so in a way that actually won the friendship of a former enemy. Now that is quite a feat.


A. (:13-16) Summary Judgment

1. (:13) Reporting to the Religious Leaders

“And Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people,”

2. (:14-15) Repeating His Finding of Innocence Substantiated by Herod

a. (:14) Pilate’s Findings

“and said to them, ‘You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him.’”

b. (:15a) Herod’s Findings

“No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us;”

c. (:15b) Death Penalty Not Appropriate

“and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.”

Geldenhuys: And now that Herod had sent Him back, he begins to waver more and more and to prostitute his judicial vocation. Instead of seeing to it that right and justice should be exercised towards the Innocent One at all costs, he descends to such a level that he, the Roman judge, begins to argue with Jesus’ bloodthirsty and wily persecutors.

3. (:16) Release Plans after Appeasing Compromise of Token Punishment

“I will therefore punish Him and release Him.”

Donald Miller: Scourging involved severe beating on the bare back with leather thongs, to which bits of bone and metal were tied. It was so severe that at times victims died from it. The word “chastise” used by Pilate suggests that this was not punishment for guilt, but a warning to Jesus to be more cautious in the future. He hoped, too, that the suffering involved might satisfy the Jews’ hatred of Jesus, and thus settle the case.

Instead, I agree with the view of Morris below:

Morris: The suggestion that Jesus should be chastised before being released strikes us as curious. If He was innocent, He should have been released without further ado. But in Roman law, a light beating was sometimes given together with a magisterial warning, so that an accused might take greater care for the future. Many commentators speak of this as scourging and remind us that men were known to have died under this punishment. But A. N. Sherwin-White shows that what is meant here is a lighter punishment (Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament – Oxford, 1963). Pilate was apparently trying to appease the Jews. If he vented some judicial displeasure on Jesus they might be satisfied and acquiesce in the release of the prisoner.

Steven Cole: In some situations, compromise is wise and necessary. But it is never wise, necessary, or right if it involves violating God’s moral law and compromising your conscience. When Pilate declared that Jesus was innocent, he should have stood on principle no matter how loudly the Jews yelled nor what they threatened. Why offer to scourge Jesus if He was innocent? Pilate was compromising his conscience, thinking that it would gain the Jews’ favor and Jesus’ life. But what he thought was a loophole of escape became a noose around his neck (Stalker, p. 55). Pilate thought that he was gaining his political life by this compromise, but he was losing, not only his political life, but his spiritual life as well.

B. (:17-25) Special Release Option

1. (:17) Redirecting the Judicial Issue

“Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.”

Pilate about to make the Jews an offer he thought they could not refuse

2. (:18-19) Realizing The People Actually Preferred the Release of Guilty Barabbas

a. (:18) Preference of the People

“But they cried out all together, saying,

‘Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!’”

Anyabwile: Sometimes the official courts are less powerful than the court of public opinion. The court of public opinion is really the last court in this scene. They had charged Jesus with being a threat to the king and stirring u the people against the government. Those were false charges. Now here they are asking of the release of a man “who had been thrown into prison for rebelling and murder” (v. 25).

b. (:19) Punishment Justified

“(He was one who had been thrown into prison

for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder.)”

3. (:20-21) Readdressing the Crowd

“And Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again,

but they kept on calling out, saying, ‘Crucify, crucify Him!’”

4. (:22-23) Reasoning with the Mob

“And he said to them the third time, ‘Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; I will therefore punish Him and release Him.’ But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail.”

Anyabwile: Mob justice is no justice at all.

5. (:24-25) Releasing Infamous Insurrectionist Barabbas instead of Jesus

“And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand should be granted. And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.”

Donald Miller: Luke, with deep insight, emphasizes he enormity of the transaction by placing Barabbas and Jesus in sharp contrast. Here was stark, literal fulfillment of Isaiah’s words: “And he was reckoned with transgressors” (Luke 22:37; Isa. 53:12).

Morris: There may also be a hint at the substitutionary death of Jesus. The one guilty of death is pardoned and the innocent one dies in his stead. (Ellis)