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The Scriptorium

Jesus before Pilate

The King faces the governor. Luke 23.1-5

Luke 23 (1)

Pray Psalm 58.10, 11.
The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked,
So that men will say,
“Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
Surely He is God who judges in the earth.”

Sing Psalm 58.10, 11.
(Arlington: This Is the Day the Lord Has Made)
The righteous will rejoice to see the vengeance of the Lord.
All men will say, “Then God must be, the righteous to reward.”

Read and meditate on Luke 23.1-5.

1. Of what did the religious leaders accuse Jesus before Pilate?

2. How did Pilate respond?

The religious leaders had just condemned Jesus for claiming to be the LORD. They knew, however, that if they took that accusation to Pilate, he would just shrug it off as some religious quarrel. So they tactfully reframed their case against Jesus on grounds more interesting to a Roman ruler: They claimed Jesus was “perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”

See how they buried the one truth—Jesus claimed to be the Christ—in a poisonous stew of lies. Jesus was perverting the people? Would the people have agreed with that charge? Hardly. But then, they weren’t there to speak for themselves, were they? He forbade to pay taxes to Caesar? Wrong again. In fact, He explicitly taught that people should render to Caesar whatever did not compromise what they must render to God. Did Jesus claim to be “a King”? Not directly, but He received the people’s acclamation as such and intimated, by His reference to Psalm 110, that He was co-Ruler with God. The religious leaders didn’t have time to fuss with the theology of all this, so they just interpreted Jesus’ actions in terms that would raise an eyebrow with the governor.

So Pilate asked Jesus about the last claim, which, as a Roman governor, would have been the only one worth doing anything about should it prove to be true. Jesus affirmed that He is “the King of the Jews” (v. 3). Pilate, seeing Him bound, beaten, and berated, was not persuaded; he concluded that He wasn’t much of a king, if He was one at all, and he moved to dismiss the charges (v. 4).

The council members became “more fierce” (v. 5), warning of a national uprising if this Man were not put to justice. This is just what we see from maniacal, self-serving, lie-loving mobs today. If the people won’t listen to “reason”, get angry, get loud, get fierce, and if necessary, get violent. We feel the passions rising now, and soon enough, they will overwhelm even the Roman authorities, who will consent to carry out God’s will.

And Jesus’ will. Because He’s still completely in control of things.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
When confronted by Pilate, Jesus’ answer to him about His Kingship was, “It is as you say” (Lk. 23.3).
When confronted by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, His answer was, “You rightly say that I AM” (Lk. 22.70). This is a perfect example of answering according to Proverbs 26.4, 5:
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
Pilate got the former, the religious leaders the latter.

Pilate would not have been moved by the phrase “I AM”, whereas the religious most certainly were. That was at the heart of their morbid need to dispatch Jesus, however they could manage it, using anger, vituperation, and violence. He is, most assuredly, King of not only the Jews, but of all mankind.

“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?” (Ps. 2.1). Indeed, why do they? Could it possibly be because “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed?” (Ps. 2.2)

And would it be because they feared His rule and despised His Kingship? Well, here is how they responded: “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us” (Ps. 2.3). Yes, apparently, they hated His authority.

But we, His followers, must be ever so careful to never own that same ungodly mindset. We are under His authority, and thankful for it. Or should be.
“For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Ps. 1.6).
“Arise, O God, judge the earth; for You shall inherit all nations” (Ps. 82.8).
“…the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (Ob. 1.21).
“The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord
and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11.15).

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!” (Lk. 19.38)

For reflection
1. Suppose you were asked, “Why do you say that Jesus is a King?” What would you say?

2. Why do you think some people become so agitated when we explain that Jesus is King?

3. How was Jesus able to bear up under such mistreatment and abuse? What do you learn from this?

They had no respect whatsoever for the law. Led by an uncontrolled recklessness into whatever pleased only themselves without examination of the case, they invented numerous charges, heaping up against Christ accusations that were neither true nor capable of being proved. They were convicted of being even more wicked than an idolater is.
Cyril of Alexandria (375-444), Commentary on Luke, Homily 151

Pray Psalm 58.1-9.

Pray for the lost people of the world, especially those in your Personal Mission Field, and for all those who today are enemies of Christ and His Kingdom. Pray that God will bring them to shame (Ps. 83.16) and open their hearts to the Gospel, lest they come under His wrath and judgment.

Sing Psalm 58.1-9.
(Arlington: This Is the Day the Lord Has Made)
Do you indeed speak righteousness, you rulers of the earth?
And do you judge the sons of men according to their worth?

No, not at all, but in their hearts they seek unrighteous ways.
Their hands weigh out upon the earth cruel violence all their days.

The wicked from the womb rebel; from birth they utter lies.
Their tongues of serpent’s venom tell; all truth their ears despise.

Break, shatter, and destroy them, Lord; dissolve them from the day.
Consume them by Your mighty Word; and sweep them all away.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can download all the previous studies in our Luke series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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