DUNCAN/Jesus before Pilate
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Matthew chapter 27 verses 11 – 26 as we continue our study through the gospel. There are many amazing truths contained for us in this passage, but I’d like to focus your attention on two things. Firstly, in verses 11 – 14 we will look at the trial of Jesus. Secondly, we will consider the sentencing of Jesus in verses 15 – 26.
I. The Trial of Jesus
As you look at the trial of Jesus in verse 11 – 14, you see something of the dignity of the Lord Jesus Christ before His accusers and His judges, and you see something of the commitment of Christ to die for our sins.
Pilate goes outside the praetorium to meet this crowd that has come to see him. The Sanhedrin and the Chief Priests and the elders who have come there to accuse Jesus won’t go into Pilate’s house. Pilate, you see, is a Gentile, and it is the eve of a great feast; and they would be declared unclean, defiled for having gone into the home of a sinner and would not be able to take place in the religious ceremonies of the Passover. And heaven forbid that these righteous men who were attempting to execute an innocent man should sully themselves by entering into the home of a Gentile on the eve of the Passover. And so they refuse to go inside, and Pilate comes outside to see what the ruckus is, and they bring a charge against Jesus.
It’s very clear what that charge is in verse 11. They bring a charge that he’s some short of a political revolutionary. They call Him the King of the Jews. They know that Pilate isn’t going to be in the least interested in Jewish doctrinal disputes. They know that Pilate would want a political charge before he is interested in acting on this particular criminal. And so when Pilate hears that they charge him with being an insurrectionist, a political revolutionary, he says, “I’m going to question this man.” And he has Jesus brought into the hall, so he can question Him in some context of sanity, and he puts a direct question to Him. He asks if Jesus is, in fact, claiming to be the King of the Jews. That was the charge brought by the Sanhedrin, and Jesus calmly answers Pilate, “You said it yourself.” And this stuns Pilate.
Pilate is used to prisoners who come into his courtroom frothing at the mouth with excuses of what they have done, with assertions that they are innocent, with a begging that they are only a part of a greater conspiracy. They were only accomplices and someone else was the chief criminal. Pilate is used to people begging for mercy and making a case for themselves. And yet this man calmly admits to the charge that He is King of Jews. Not only this, but Jesus is also silent when faced with other accusations. And in fact, the only people who are frothing at the mouth are His accusers. It is a striking thing to Pilate. And Pilate, a man who was reluctant to convict Jesus, from every indication in the gospel, was looking for an excuse to help Jesus get off the hook. And yet Jesus never opens His mouth. We see the dignity of Jesus in His response to these phony accusations.
But more importantly, Jesus, by not speaking in response to the charges of the Sanhedrin, is adopting this as a strategy to assure that He died for your sins. You need to understand that it’s very likely that with a little talking Jesus could have gotten Himself off the hook. Pilate was anxious for Jesus to supply him with reasons to let Him free. Jesus refuses to do it. My friends, the reason that Jesus refuses to do it is because He is unequivocally committed to die for us. And His silence is reflective of that commitment. The Lord Jesus Christ, who does not open His mouth, is sending a thunderous message to you that He wanted to bear your sin. And He is sending a thunderous message that there is nothing more in the world that delights Him than doing the will of His Heavenly Father, even if it means being condemned unjustly. He loved to do the will of His Heavenly Father, and it was the Father’s will that He should die for the sins of His people. And, therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ was not willing to do anything that would spare Him from the torture and death which He would have to endure in order to release you from the bondage and condemnation of sin.
II. The Sentencing of Jesus
And then you see His sentencing in verses 15 – 26. We see that Jesus’ innocence and willingness to take our punishment are reaffirmed in this section.
It is clear from the text that Pilate thought Jesus was innocent. Pilate was suspicious of the charges that the Jews were bringing. He was suspicious of the motives of the Jewish leaders. In verse 18 it specifically says he figured these men were envious of Jesus. So he tries to provide a way for Jesus to be spared of their particular condemnation. And then in verse 19, there is this mysterious, strange story about the dream that Pilate’s wife had. Pilate is sitting there on the judgment seat and a messenger comes up and whispers in his ear, and he says, “By the way, Pilate, your wife had a dream last night. She says, ‘don’t have anything to do with Him. He’s innocent.’” So Matthew is saying not only does Pilate think He is innocent, Pilate’s wife thinks He is innocent. What’s Matthew trying to tell us? That Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God. And He is the victim of injustice. And still the Chief Priest and the elders will not relent. They demand that He be put to death. And even when presented with the choice between Barabbas the criminal or Jesus the innocent, they choose to spare the criminal. Jesus is the righteous Lamb of God being led away to slaughter for sins that He has not committed.
But my friends, finally in this passage Matthew is showing us the wounds which He bore for our transgressions. You remember Isaiah 53 verse 5? He was wounded for our transgressions; and the torture and the beating and the flogging which the Lord Jesus Christ received here, He received because He chose to receive them for you. Jesus is as much saying, “I choose to be beaten, I choose to be scourged, I choose to be crucified because I wish to stand in the place of all who trust in Me so that they might never receive the just sentence of God. I receive this unjust sentence so that they might receive the sentence of grace.” May you accept His grace today by believing in His great name.