(23:1-5). Now begins the more formal Roman legal process. The Jewish leaders are seeking the death penalty, so they bring him before the Roman authorities and accuse him of matters that amount to treason (23:2). He is, they say, enacting a political movement that is putting himself as a rival to Caesar, a “king,” and is also effecting the revenue stream of taxes to Rome. The two aspects of the charge—political and financial—were measured to give maximum possibility of a lethal judicial sentence. Pilate picks the most incendiary of the two, that he is acting as a king in rivalry to Caesar (23:3). But when Jesus replies with an implicit acknowledgement (“you have said so”), but evidently without any political or revolutionary zeal, Pilate concludes that Jesus has done nothing wrong. The fact that Christians were not political revolutionaries was an important message in Luke’s two volume history of Christian origins (Luke and Acts), and this trial serves to show that Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world.
(23:6-12). Pilate discovers that as Jesus is a Galilean, Herod has some legitimate delegated authority in these proceedings, and so sends him to Herod. Herod is “glad” to meet Jesus, not because of an earnest desire to find out the truth, but because he has heard that Jesus does miraculous “signs” and so wants to see if Jesus would perform for him. Herod questions him at length. Jesus makes no answer, and after they treat him with contempt and mock, Jesus is sent back to Pilate. This allows the relationship between Pilate and Herod to reconnect; they become friends with each other. Herod is not undermining Pilate’s process, but implicitly submitting to Pilate’s decision in this matter.
Bob Dylan’s controversial civil rights song “The Hurricane” comes to mind. “How can the life of such a man be in some fool’s hand?” Jesus, the Lord of all glory, the God-man, is treated with such disdain, brutality, and human contempt, that these words are hard to read—let alone process and understand. Yet, at the same time, each biting word of sarcasm, each brutal beating, is for us. The atonement, the suffering, the rejection: all for us. What a Savior! What a Lord! What a hope for us for our own salvation, and for help in our own time of trial and need!
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