We join Jesus today in our reading as He is brought before Pilate, after His “trial” before the High Priest and Sanhedrin. Matthew breaks up the narrative of this portion of Jesus’ “trials” by placing the story of Judas in the middle of it. We will look at what became of Judas tomorrow and take both sides of Jesus’ Pilate sandwich today. We will not finish with Pilate’s involvement with Jesus, just Pilate’s examination of Him.
At the palace of Caiaphas the rooster has just crowed. This simple ordinary every day event held significance for many this day. The first is the sign that Peter was promised. The sound brought Peter up short when he heard it because Jesus had told him that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. The second is the end of trial part 1. The High Priest and the Sanhedrin have found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and passed the sentence of death on Him. The third event is the breaking of morning. At this point, the Jews bind Jesus for transport to Pilate’s residence for trial. I don’t know if this means they had untied Jesus while He stood trial before Caiaphas, if they tightened His bonds, or if they added more bonds on top of what they had already applied.
Matthew condenses Pilate’s interaction with Jesus significantly. John’s gospel goes into greater detail and Luke’s gospel shares with us that Jesus was sent to Herod during Pilate’s examination then returned to Pilate again for sentencing. As we are reading in Matthew, let’s look at his account.
Jesus, with fresh ropes cutting into His wrists and shoulders aching is led roughly through the streets of Jerusalem to the home of Pilate. The High Priest, the members of the Sanhedrin and the temple officers push and pull Jesus along. As it is no longer the middle of the night, curious bystanders join the group to see where they are going. The group grows in number as it makes its way between the two points.
Upon reaching the Governor’s home the procession stops on the stone steps. No Jew is permitted to enter the home of a Gentile, especially during Passover. If a Jew did enter for any reason he would then be ceremonially unclean and could not eat the Passover meal, scheduled for later tonight. There were cleansing rituals but they would take too much time.
Pilate is informed by his guards that there is a large contingent of Jews waiting on his doorstep and they are being led by the High Priest and members of the Sanhedrin. Pilate agrees to meet with this group so he steps to his portico. Pilate asks them what business they are seeking his help with. Two of the temple guards roughly shove Jesus forward until He is standing front and center on Pilate’s stairs. Pilate asks why they have brought Jesus. Caiaphas is reluctant to name a specific crime but paints Jesus as a rabble-rouser, who is trying to become King of the Jews. Jesus has remained silent throughout the exchange.
Pilate needs to hear Jesus’ side of the story. Judging by Jesus’ silence and the size of the mob outside, he knows he will not be hearing it in their presence. Pilate signals to his officers to bring Jesus into the building. Pilate begins questioning Jesus about the charges leveled against Him. Pilate addressed each of the Sanhedrin’s accusations but Jesus remained silent.
The one charge Jesus does answer is when Pilate asks Him outright if He is King of the Jews. Jesus uses the same answer He gave Caiaphas when asked if He was the Christ, the Son of God. “You have said so.” Pilate is impressed and distressed by Jesus’ overall silence. One charge answered, yet many more resulted in complete silence. “Haven’t You heard what they are saying about You? Defend Yourself. Say something!” But Jesus remains silent.
Lord Jesus, any other man would have been blabbing their head off trying to get out of this mess. You didn’t. The one charge You chose to respond to was central to Your mission. You were condemned for the truth of Who You are, not what You did. As trials go, You could have blown their whole case out of the water using the same tactics You used with the religious leaders prior to this night. But You didn’t want them silenced tonight. You needed them in this fevered pitch to complete the task God had prepared. Even Pilate, though he couldn’t substantiate a single charge, was pushed into doing God’s will.
Your ordeal didn’t end here. There is so much more to come including, the beating, being mocked, and finally the cross itself. All this for me. Why, I’ll never fully understand, but I will be forever grateful!