JESUS IS EXAMINED BY PILATE AND BY HEROD
Jesus does not try to conceal from Pilate that he really is a king. Still, his Kingdom is no threat to Rome. “My Kingdom is no part of this world,” Jesus says. “If my Kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my Kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36) Yes, Jesus has a Kingdom, but it is not of this world.
Pilate does not leave the issue at that. He asks: “Well, then, are you a king?” Jesus lets Pilate know that he has drawn the right conclusion, answering: “You yourself are saying that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.”
Jesus had earlier told Thomas: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Now even Pilate hears that the purpose of Jesus’ being sent to earth is to bear witness to “the truth,” specifically the truth about his Kingdom. Jesus is determined to be faithful to that truth even if it costs him his life. Pilate asks: “What is truth?” but he does not wait for further explanation. He feels that he has heard enough to judge this man.
Pilate returns to the crowd waiting outside the palace. Jesus apparently is at his side when he tells the chief priests and those with them: “I find no crime in this man.” Angered by that decision, the crowd insists: “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee even to here.”
The Jews’ unreasoning fanaticism must amaze Pilate. As the chief priests and older men continue shouting, Pilate asks Jesus: “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?” (Matthew 27:13) Jesus makes no attempt to answer. His calm in the face of the wild accusations surprises Pilate.
The Jews indicated that Jesus had ‘started from Galilee.’ Pursuing that clue, Pilate learns that Jesus is, in fact, a Galilean. This gives Pilate an idea of how he might escape responsibility for judging Jesus. Herod Antipas (the son of Herod the Great) is the ruler of Galilee, and he is in Jerusalem this Passover season. So Pilate sends Jesus to Herod. It was Herod Antipas who had John the Baptist beheaded. Later, at hearing that Jesus was performing miraculous works, Herod was concerned that Jesus might be John raised from the dead.
Herod now rejoices at the prospect of seeing Jesus. This is not because he wants to help Jesus or wishes to make any real attempt to learn whether there are valid charges against him. Herod is simply curious, and he is “hoping to see some sign performed by him.” (Luke 23:8) However, Jesus does not satisfy Herod’s curiosity. In fact, as Herod questions him, Jesus says not a word. Disappointed, both Herod and his soldiers treat Jesus “with contempt.” (Luke 23:11) They clothe him with a splendid garment and mock him. Then Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate had been enemies, but now they become good friends.
When Jesus returns, Pilate calls together the chief priests, the Jewish rulers, and the people and says: “I examined him in front of you but found in this man no grounds for the charges you are bringing against him. In fact, neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us, and look! he has done nothing deserving of death. I will therefore punish him and release him.”
Pilate is eager to free Jesus, for he realizes that it is out of envy that the priests have handed him over. As Pilate tries to release Jesus, he receives further motivation to do so. While he is on his judgment seat, his wife sends him the message: “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I suffered a lot today in a dream [evidently of divine origin] because of him.”
How can Pilate release this innocent man, as he should?