Matthew – God’s Purposes
Who is leading? Sometimes we wonder who is leading in an out of control workplace? Employees in these situations do not know the purpose of their work and are confused as to who does what to accomplish vague goals.
Sometimes we wonder who is leading a march that seems to have no purpose other than to march for the right to…well, march.
Who is the leader in a chaotic, unproductive church or school meeting where tempers flair and hateful words fly around causing hurt and confusion? Who is the leader that doesn’t listen to truth but is more concerned with personal power?
What happens when leaders pass the buck so that outcomes can be blamed on someone else for their own sin or lack of leadership?
What happens when Truth, being taunted, goes silent?
I know these thoughts are random but this is what comes to mind as I read our familiar next passage that gives a glimpse of what Jesus went through to save humanity.
Matthew 27, NLT
Jesus’ Trial before Pilate
11 Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him.
Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
12 But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13 “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14 But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. 16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)
19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”
20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21 So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?”
The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”
They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”
But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”
24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”
25 And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!”
26 So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
27 Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. 29 They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. 31 When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.
Pontius Pilate was the sixth Roman procurator to serve in Judea. He was not liked by the Jews because he did things that deliberately violated their law and provoked them. He was not above killing people to accomplish his purposes (Luke 13:1). Pilate’s position was always rather precarious because of his bad relationship with Israel and because of Rome’s changing policy with the Jews.
“Are You the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked. Jesus gave him a clear reply: “It is as you say.” However, Jesus then asked Pilate a question about his question (John 18:34–37). Was Pilate thinking of “kingship” in the Roman sense? If so, then Jesus is not that kind of a king. Jesus explained to the governor that His kingdom was not of this world, that He had no armies, that His followers did not fight. Rather, His kingdom was a reign of truth.
This conversation convinced Pilate that Jesus was not a dangerous revolutionary. “I find no fault in Him,” was Pilate’s decision. But the Jewish rulers were insistent that Pilate condemn Jesus. They repeated their charges and, as they enlarged on them, mentioned that Jesus was from Galilee. When Pilate heard that, he saw a way out of his dilemma, since Galilee was under Herod’s jurisdiction. It is possible that Herod was displeased with Pilate because Pilate had slain some of Herod’s citizens (Luke 13:1). This would have been an opportunity for Pilate to become reconciled to Herod.
Matthew did not record the trial held before Herod Antipas (Luke 23:6–12). Herod was the one who had murdered John the Baptist and had threatened to kill Jesus (Luke 13:31–32). Jesus was silent before Herod, for Herod had silenced the voice of God. All the king could do was mock Jesus and send Him back to Pilate. If Pilate had hoped to get rid of the problem, he was disappointed. However, this maneuver did patch up the quarrel between the two rulers.
Pilate wanted to solve the problem but not make any definite decision about Jesus. As a Roman governor, he was pledged to uphold the law. But as a politician, he knew he had to get along with the people. Every decision Pilate made forced him to make another decision, until he was the prisoner of his own evasions. He questioned Jesus further, but He made no reply.
Since the Jews could not execute criminals, it was necessary for the Roman officials to assist, and Pilate issued the order. Of course, all of this was in fulfillment of prophecy. The Jews did not crucify; they used stoning to execute criminals. Psalm 22, written by a Jew, is a vivid picture of crucifixion. “They pierced my hands and my feet” (Ps. 22:16). Jesus was made a curse for us, for “cursed is every one that hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:23).
But still God was at work in fulfilling His divine purposes. So who is leading whom?
Pilate knew what was right, but refused to do anything about it. He was “willing to please the people” (Mark 15:15). Judas yielded to the devil in his great sin (John 13:2, 27); Peter yielded to the flesh when he denied his Lord; but Pilate yielded to the world and listened to the crowd. Pilate looked for the easy way, not the right way. He has gone down in history as the man who condemned Jesus.
The official indictment against Jesus was that He claimed to be the King of the Jews (Matt. 27:37). The soldiers took advantage of this accusation and paid “homage” to the King. It was a cruel way to treat an innocent prisoner who had already been scourged. But Pilate did nothing to restrain them. He was glad to get the prisoner off of his hands.
First, the soldiers disrobed Jesus and dressed Him in an old “soldier’s cloak.” Imagine attiring the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) in a discarded military uniform! Imagine how our Lord must have felt when this robe was thrown on His bleeding body.
A king must have a crown, so they wove together the thorny twigs of a plant and pushed it on His head. They gave Him a reed as a scepter, and then bowed before Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They repeated this mock homage not realizing that the One they were mocking was indeed King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Then they did something that no subject would ever do to his king: They spat on Him and hit Him with the reed. While some of the soldiers were bowing before Him, others were hitting Him on the head or spitting on Him (Isa. 50:6). Jesus took all of this humiliation and pain without speaking or fighting back (1 Peter 2:18ff.). His submission was not a sign of weakness; it was a sign of strength.
It was bad enough that the common rabble mocked Him, but even the Jewish leaders joined the attack. They reminded Him of His promise to rebuild the temple in three days (Matt. 26:61; John 2:19). “If You can do that, You can come down from the cross and prove to us that You are God’s Son!”
In reality, it was the fact that He stayed on the cross that proved His divine sonship. Truth is in control of the situation. Truth is leading.
The Jewish rulers mocked His claim to be the Savior. “He saved others; He cannot save Himself” (Matt. 27:42 nasb). He had saved others. But if He saved Himself, then nobody else could be saved! He did not come to save His life, but to give it as a ransom for sinners.
TRUTH led in silence…for you and I.
Dear Lord and Savior,
There are no words to tell you how much I love you for who you are. There are no words to fully tell you how grateful I am for your amazing, unconditional, relentless, reckless love for me and the rest of the world. I know you know my heart well. May the Holy Spirit intervene for me and speak true, right words of homage, honor, praise with gratitude where my words fail me. May my life reflect a glimpse of you to this world.
YOU led the soldiers, mocking onlookers, tormentors and the hateful shouting crowds to the cross to die for the sin of the world. YOU did the will of God for His created. YOU, King of kings and Lord of lords. Thank you for leading in silence so that I might live with your forever.
In Jesus Name, Amen. I believe.
This is AMAZING Love!