Mark 15:1-5… Early the next morning, after forming a plan, the chief priests, with the elders, the scribes, and the whole Sanhedrin tied Jesus up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He replied, “You say so.” 3 Then the chief priests began to accuse him repeatedly. 4 Pilate asked him again, “Have you nothing to say in light of all they say about you?” 5 But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
By the time Jesus came before Pilate, it was around 5:00 a.m. on Friday. Pilate’s question to Jesus about Jesus being the king of the Jews was procedural. Now “king of the Jews” was a clever way the Jews presented Jesus’ case before Pilate because it implied that he was the leader of a resistance against Rome. And those who were resistant toward Roman power were punished most severely. Jesus’ affirmative reply to Pilate’s question was obviously not enough to convict him. His answer, “You say so” begat an angry barrage of further accusations from the Jews since they rejected him as the Messiah, but he was not leading a rebellion against Rome. Even the longer version of Jesus’ answer to Pilate (cf. John 18:34-36) proves that his being “king of the Jews” posed no threat to Rome because Pilate still found nothing to warrant execution.
The truth is, Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent, for Mark 15:10 states that he knew Jesus was being handed over by the chief priests because they were jealous of him. It’s likely that the high priest had made a personal visit to Pilate earlier that night to ask for a special favor the next day – to try Jesus. The high priest, the highest political/religious office in Judaism, would have been the only one with enough influence to see Pilate and make arrangements to have Jesus tried on such short notice. It wasn’t the norm to try capital cases on Passover, and it’s likely that Pilate had many other cases to deal with that would have taken priority over Jesus’ trial. Only the high priest could have arranged such a meeting (though not stated in the text).
Pilate would have known that the charges against Jesus were false. He knew that the Jews hated Rome, so it would make no sense for them to hand over a supposed insurrectionist who might overthrow Rome. They would have applauded that. Plain and simple, the Jewish leaders hated Jesus and wanted him killed because he threatened them, not Rome. His teachings had exposed their hypocrisy and brought their authority into question among the people. He had the ability to heal, forgive sins, and teach the truth with absolute authority. And they didn’t like him.
When Pilate asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, he replied in the affirmative. It was at that point that the chief priests went ballistic in anger. They “repeatedly” accused Jesus of many things, but he just stood there in silence. This surprised Pilate greatly because he was accustomed to hearing loud protests by accused criminals who would curse loudly and say anything to gain their freedom. But Jesus remained calm and peaceful amidst a barrage of false charges. He made no defense, and “like a sheep being led to the slaughter he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Pilate’s dumbfounded response to this was, “Have you nothing to say?” But Jesus was going to the slaughter, willingly, to die for sins, so there was nothing to say.
Food for Thought
At times we have this overwhelming desire to set the record straight when we’re accused of something we didn’t do. Now it’s one thing to be misunderstood and want to clarify, but when we know that we’re misrepresented on purpose for our beliefs we ought to remember Jesus who was accused of our shortcomings. Yet he made no defense on his behalf but willingly endured our scorn. It’s us who are guilty of the accusations leveled against Jesus, so why do we complain to God when times get tough? He took our burden without complaint. Now let us praise Him!
Mark 15:6-11… During the feast it was customary to release one prisoner to the people, one whom they requested. 7 A man named Barabbas was imprisoned with rebels who had committed murder during an insurrection. 8 Then the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to release a prisoner for them, as was his custom. 9 So Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to release the king of the Jews for you?” 10 (For he knew that the chief priests had handed him over because of envy). 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas instead.
No matter how vehemently the Jews accused Jesus, Pilate clearly saw an innocent man – one that he could not simply convict of guilt based on what he’d seen and heard. Now it’s likely that Pilate, in his own hatred for the Jews, simply wanted to rebel against their request to have Jesus incarcerated. And in a final effort to have Jesus released he appealed to the custom of showing mercy during the Passover feast by allowing one prisoner to be set free. He clearly thought that the Jews would choose Jesus over the other man named Barabbas who was awaiting execution for murder and insurrection. But when the people chose Barabbas over Jesus Pilate cowered to their demands in order to keep another riot from occurring. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “All these thousands hurrying to the forum at the break of day; how base their cases, and how much baser are their advocates.” Pilate must have thought the same thing as he listened to the Jews accuse one of their own innocent brothers of a crime deserving death.
Now the Jews had Pilate in their grasp, and they knew it. Pilate had a checkered history with the Jews. In his ten years as governor over Judea (AD 26-36) he made many enemies. Prior to Jesus’ trial he made three huge errors. First, he had deliberately insulted the Jews by having his soldiers carry flags into Jerusalem with Caesar’s likeness on them. When the Jews confronted him asking him to keep Jerusalem free of idolatrous images, he herded them together and threatened to kill them all. But they all threw themselves down in front of him with their necks bared ready to die in defiance of his blasphemy. Pilate therefore gave in. On another occasion Pilate forcefully took money from the temple treasury so as to erect and aqueduct. When the Jews openly rioted he sent soldiers to slaughter them. Luke’s reference to “the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices” (13:1) may allude to this slaughter. On a third occasion, Pilate, in an attempt to schmooze the emperor Tiberius, had special shields made with the emperor’s image on them. When the Jews appealed to Tiberius to help them, Pilate’s plan backfired. Tiberius was more concerned with law and order among the Jews than Pilate’s insincere flattery of him. So Pilate, once again, gave in and demanded the shields be removed.
Therefore, Pilate was understandably afraid of another riot by the Jews, for another one might have cost him his governorship. A few years later, however, he brutally ambushed some Samaritan worshippers and was banished to Gaul (modern France) where he committed suicide.
Food for Thought
God called the Jewish people to bear His name and to be a light to the world. Clearly, history reveals that Pontius Pilate was a pagan who hated the Jews. How sad it is that they were such terrible witnesses to him about the Lord their God. Pilate witnessed God’s chosen people offer up one of their own to be crucified – a man in whom no guilt was ever found. And on top of all that they offered this innocent man in exchange for a known killer. Let us remember that the next time we willingly and openly speak evil of one of God’s children. The church today shines as God’s light to the world. Our purpose here is to show God’s love to the world, not our own hatred for our own brothers in Christ. Remember, the world is watching, and so is God!
Mark 15:12-15… So Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call king of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why? What has he done wrong?” But they shouted more insistently, “Crucify him!” 15 Because he wanted to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them. Then after he had Jesus scourged he handed him over to be crucified.
After Jesus’ long night before the Sanhedrin who found him guilty of blasphemy, he faced three more trails before the Romans. He first went to Pilate, who was the governor of Judea, then he was sent to Herod Antipas (Luke 23:8-12), who was the governor of Galilee – the same Herod who had put John the Baptist to death. Once Herod found no guilt deserving death, he sent him back to Pilate who seemed to be looking for any way he could to be rid of Jesus. But he was forced to deal with the case, so in v. 12 he asked the Jews, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call king of the Jews?” Just the question itself points to Pilate’s spineless character, for if Jesus was innocent he should have been set free. Pilate was also, however, a politician who was more concerned about his standing in Rome than about justice in Judea.
Now that Pilate had succumbed to the mob’s whim by asking them what to do with Jesus, he was forced to listen to their demands. They wanted Jesus crucified, and like a rival football game where each side yells “DEFENSE!” – this crowd was shouting “CRUCIFY!” As Pilate attempted to intervene and understand why this was their verdict, they just got louder with the same demand – CRUCIFY! So once he realized that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was imminent (something that wouldn’t look good to his superiors in Rome) he literally washed his hands of the whole incident in the sight of the Jewish people (cf. Matt. 27:24) and absolved himself from the guilt of shedding innocent blood. Truly this was a spineless act from a spineless man. What immediately ensued was Jesus’ arrest and Barabbas’ release from prison.
The first act of punishment for a criminal before crucifixion was the Roman scourging, and Pilate ordered that Jesus be scourged. A scourging was a terrifying ordeal for anyone to endure. Simply put, it was a beating with a whip made of cords. Now the whip had a handle with many leather thongs on the end that were embedded with glass, bone fragments, and metal so that each crack of the whip took away more flesh causing it to split apart and dangle in bleeding shreds. Some criminals were scourged until their entrails and even their bones were visible. The Jews limited their scourging to 39 lashes, but the Romans had no such law. The vile Roman soldiers had the power to beat prisoners to death, and many of them did die after a scourging long before they ever made it to their crucifixion. Jesus, after a long sleepless night – a night filled with illegal trials – went to his own scourging to the delight of the angry mob.
Food for thought
When we deny Jesus Christ the rightful place he deserves in our lives we let danger out of prison – the same way the Jews let Barabbas go free when they denied Jesus his rightful exoneration. They denied Jesus his rightful place as King and in his place let a murderer go free. The irony here is that Barabbas represents those who place their faith in Jesus for salvation. One minute he was sitting in prison awaiting crucifixion, and the next minute someone was taking his place while he was set free. That’s what Jesus did for us! Barabbas’ name means “son of the father,” but he couldn’t have died on anyone’s behalf in order to save them – anymore so than we could. But the Son of the Father, Jesus, could do such, and he did. The same release Barabbas received is the same release we have in Christ who stepped up and willingly died in our place.
What Shall We Do With Jesus?
U Scripture clearly proclaims Jesus as being fully God and fully man.
U Pilate questioned their integrity asking (John 18:29), and they answered arrogantly (18:30)
U Unable to enforce capital punishment? Stephen (Acts 6-7)? Paul (Acts 23:12-15).
U They invented capital charges after their conviction of blasphemy… treason, taxes, king
o If treason Pilate would have already had him arrested.
o Jesus was peaceful, paying taxes & teaching such (Mark 12:17; Matt. 17:24-27).
o Taught to go extra mile… soldier w/ gear for a mile… carry it two (Matt. 5:41).
o Always escaped from attempts to make him king (cf. John 6:15).
U Mark 15:1-5… The Practice of Patience Amid Persecution
o Jesus answered who he was but made no defense to accusers
o Let us speak the truth w/o defending ourselves, knowing that Christ is coming
o Let us persevere in trials being watchful w/total acceptance of all persecution
o Others gain victory through making defenses; Jesus gained it through silence!
U Mark 15:6-11… Giving Spineless Excuses for a Just Cause… Spinelessness is synonymous with crowd pleasers… No spine, no nerve, no-abundant life
o Example in politics (Reagan, Clinton, etc.)
o Be honest on taxes, on expense reports, on feelings for others, on whether or not there’s a job for an applicant, etc.
o If Pilate would have done the right thing he’d be a hero to us! He would have lost control and position but would have been a MAN.
U Mark 15:12-15… Past Compromises Negatively Affect Our Present Circumstances.
o More concerned about a riot than justice (Matt. 27:24).
o Past failures & political aspirations made him compromise
o Wanted “to satisfy the crowd” to stay out of trouble
o We must stand for truth the FIRST time and be unmovable b/c we’re grounded
o The more we allow people to influence us, the more they will!
o Pilate had no spine… he questioned him, then sent him to Herod, then made the deal w/Barabbas, then he had Jesus scourged – all to no avail.
o His attempts to please the crowd w/o standing up for the truth no matter the cost caused his name to go down in infamy.
o We cannot let past failures dictate how our future will unfold.
Challenge: Jesus is God Almighty! Those who know so stand up for what’s right w/no excuses
1) Raising children (excuse: you don’t know my kids)
2) Paying taxes (excuse: the govt. takes too much!)
3) Attending church (excuse: family in town, tired, don’t need church to get to heaven)
4) Giving to church (excuse: church doesn’t need my money; I give elsewhere; give my time)
Close: We are Barabbas. He was set free and went home guilty while an innocent man died
Keep in the mind that the Jewish leaders had already convicted Jesus of blasphemy (cf. Mark 14:63-64), and they had sentenced him to death on that charge. But because Rome would not execute anyone based upon a disagreement of the Jews’ religion, they told Pilate that Jesus was guilty of treason, specifically that he taught others to not pay their taxes to Rome. Furthermore, they added the charge that Jesus had proclaimed himself king – a charge that would threaten Roman power (Luke 23:2). But if Jesus had truly been guilty of these charges Pilate would have already had him arrested. On the contrary, Jesus was a man of peace who not only paid his taxes but taught others to do the same (Mark 12:17; cf. Matt. 17:24-27). Jesus even taught that if a soldier demanded someone carry his gear for a mile (a Roman law that had to be obeyed), a God-fearing man would carry it two miles (Matt. 5:41). And as far as Jesus wanting to be king, every time the crowds tried to make him king he escaped their grasp (cf. John 6:15).