Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Jesus before Pilate (Mk 15).

In Mark's gospel the story of Jesus' arrest and trial before the high priest and of Peter’s denial of Jesus (Mk 14) is followed by the account of Jesus being tried before Pilate (Mk 15:1-15). Watch the video and or listen the story and then read the comments below.

Early in the morning the Sanhedrin came to a consensus regarding Jesus. They bound Jesus and turned him over to Pilate. Pilate wanted to know if Jesus was the king of the Jews. Jesus said, ‘yes’ but he said nothing regarding the accusations of the high priests. As Isaiah had foretold Jesus was silent like a lamb being led to be slaughtered. Pilate would have dismissed a charge of blasphemy as meaningless but to claim to be a king was to defy Rome. Pilate would have to take a challenge like this seriously. Pilate wasn’t interested in holding a fair trial. His concern was controlling the crowds. With so many visitors in Jerusalem for the Passover week what Pilot wanted was to prevent a riot.   

It was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner requested by the crowd. Pilate gave them the opportunity to have the one he called 'the king of the Jews' released. He didn’t care about their religious beliefs but he knew the chief priests were acting out of envy. Jesus had been popular among the crowds but the chief priests used their influence to manipulate the crowd. They stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas, who was in prison for committing murder during an uprising, instead of Jesus. When Pilate asked what he should do with the king of the Jews the crowd shouted, ‘crucify him’. But Pilate wanted to know what crime deserving death Jesus had committed, but they shouted louder, “crucify him”.

Pilate knew that Jesus wasn’t leading a military revolt. But Pilate wasn’t interested in justice; he was interested in crowd control. Consequently, Pilate had Barabbas released to satisfy the crowd but he had Jesus flogged and handed over to be crucified. Rome had crucified numerous Jewish rebels and they would crucify thousands more in coming Jerusalem War (ad 66-70). The cross was one of the ways Rome used the threat power of death to control those under their rule. Now Jesus would face the judgment of Rome that would soon come upon Jerusalem and its Temple within a generation. Barabbas was a typical Jewish rebel who had tried to use violence to drive out the Romans. But Jesus would end up dying instead of Barabbas who ends up going free. The story is a picture of the gospel of grace in which the innocent Jesus is crucified as a substitute so that the guilty can go free. 

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