Jesus before Pilate1. When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death.
2. And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

The Lord’s trial had taken place in the middle of the night. They waited until morning, however, to carry Him to the governor to attempt to get for Him the punishment they desired: crucifixion. Notice once again that it is the chief priests and elders of the people who did this. As for the common people, they, as a whole, loved Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, these things were done while they were sleeping. How many evil things are likewise done in our day while good men are “sleeping”!

3. Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

Judas was only thinking of himself and making good his embezzlement of the money he was supposed to be caring for as treasurer (John 12:6.) He hadn’t really thought about the fact that the Lord might be condemned to death! Now that that has occurred, his conscience is acting up on him. He may be willing to lie, cheat, steal, and betray, but apparently murder is something beyond what even he would wish to have on his conscience.

4. saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”

Judas here attests to the Lord’s innocence. His part as a betrayer was not so important as the testimony he gives here, although it did not benefit him any. Since he was the one who turned the Lord in, the fact that he knew that He was innocent is significant indeed.

As for the chief priests and elders, murder is no problem for them, and they feel no strain on their consciences whatsoever. They, after all, feel themselves God’s appointed leaders, and as such are able to justify anything!

5. Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Judas, in his anger at the priests and his own self-loathing for what he had done, throws the money he was given for the Lord’s betrayal into the temple. Yet this is not the simple word for “temple” in Greek, but the specific word for “sanctuary,” “naos.” This means that he threw the money into the holy building itself where only a consecrated priest could enter and remove it. Thus, he guaranteed that the chief priests and elders would have to acknowledge the money and retrieve it themselves rather than leaving it for someone else to find and take. He didn’t want them to be able to deny their part in this blood money, but to have to deal with it. This they did end up having to do, although their consciences were still not pricked about it.

In this passage we do not read where he hanged himself, but from other scriptures we know that it was on the same plot of land that he had bought with the money that he had stolen from Jesus and his disciples.

6. But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.”

These hypocrites were unwilling to break the law in regards to blood money, and yet they felt no remorse whatsoever in the fact that they had paid out the blood money in the first place!

7. And they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.

Because the money was unclean, being the price of someone’s death, they used to it buy an unclean place, a field to bury foreigners in. This is not the same field as the one Judas bought, as is mentioned in Acts 1:18. The chief priests bought this field with the betrayal money given to Judas, whereas the field he hung himself in was one that he had bought with the money he had stolen from the “bag” which the disciples and the Lord kept. Mixing up these two fields has caused much confusion.

8. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

Thus the truth behind the purchase of this field came out, and it became known as the Field of Blood because of its attachment to the Lord’s betrayal.

9. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him Who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced,
10. “and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me.”

Many have looked in the Scriptures to try to find this prophecy of Jeremiah’s. Some suggest that this is a reference to Jeremiah 32:6-9, although these exact words are never given there. Others say that this is a mistake, and that Matthew really meant to refer to a verse in Zechariah! Yet neither one is true. For notice that Matthew never says that Jeremiah WROTE this verse, only that he SPOKE it. This is an example of the Holy Spirit giving Matthew divine knowledge of something that Jeremiah said in the past that was never recorded in Scripture. To claim that there is a mistake in that Jeremiah never wrote this when in fact it never says he wrote it but only that he said it, is to bring a charge against Scripture based totally on one’s own misreading of the evidence. These events fulfilled something that Jeremiah spoke, not that he wrote. There is no error here.

11. Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” So Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.”

The governor’s job was to keep up with events in Israel and to know what was going on. Thus, he was supposed to anticipate and squelch any rebellions before they could even get started. This being his responsibility, he must have been very aware of the Lord and His ministry. Knowing that many were proclaiming that Christ was their King and that He would deliver them from the Romans, he must have made sure to have his spies keep a close watch on the Lord Jesus. Thus, he would have known that the Lord never taught rebellion against Rome, nor did He ever give any indication that He was going to set up His Own kingdom and drive the Romans out. This would have been crucial to Pilate, and thus he would have been quite sure of this. Yet now, with the Lord set before him, he cannot help but ask Him the question directly. Did He truly consider Himself the King of the Jews?

The Lord did not shy away from answering Pilate’s question. He responded using a Hebrew figure of speech that was a most positive form of affirmation. Yes, He is the King of the Jews. Yet this in itself was not a crime. Israel was allowed to have a king, and did at this time, King Herod. At this point, Pilate had no reason to think that Christ’s claim threatened anyone’s rule but Herod’s. Thus, this alone was not enough to condemn Him in the sight of Rome. Rome would have been willing to deal with the Lord Jesus as King of Israel just as it was willing to deal with Herod as the king as long as he didn’t try to rebel from under their rule. The Lord had given no indication that He would try to do that, and so Pilate saw nothing in this statement to condemn Him.

12. And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.

Their accusations were lies and foolishness, and so deserved no answer.

13. Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?”

As I said, Pilate would have kept close tabs on the Lord, and probably knew pretty well that what these men were accusing Him of was false. What really puzzled him, however, was the Lord’s failure to respond to these accusations. Most men, even when falsely accused, would at least try to speak up and attempt to justify themselves. That the Lord didn’t do this was a strange thing to Pilate indeed!

14. And He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.

The Lord’s silence here is another indication that He had submitted Himself to death already. He was not willing to defend Himself. He wanted to die, and we know the reason. He was sacrificing Himself on our behalf. What a wonderful Savior we have!

15. Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished.

Relations between Rome and the Israelites were strained to put it mildly. The people of the land of Israel were VERY discontent with Roman rule. It seems that the governor had created this custom to try to appear to be “getting into the holiday spirit,” and to help placate the people and get them to accept his rule. This custom was his attempt to pacify the people by throwing them scraps, so to speak, and to try to convince them that he wasn’t such a bad guy after all. Now, he thinks of this custom, and hopes to use it as a way to get out of this situation with the Lord Jesus.

16. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.

This notorious prisoner’s name comes from two Greek words, and basically means “son of the father.” That he was called this does not necessarily mean this was his name. It could easily have been something his followers called him. If so, this would mean that he meant it as “Father” with a capital “F,” and was suggesting that he himself was the son of God!

17. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus Who is called Christ?”

He hoped that Barabbas, having led a failed armed insurrection against Rome, would be so unpopular that no one would pick him over the Lord.

18. For he knew that because of envy they had delivered Him.

Perhaps he hoped this would bring them to their senses and make them realize that Barabbas was a far greater threat to them than the Lord Jesus.

19. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”

This is a strange occurrence. We know that this crucifixion was the Father’s will, and yet it would seem that this dream would indicate that God was trying to get Pilate to let the Lord Jesus go. Perhaps He was trying to demonstrate to us that Pilate’s decision to crucify the Lord in spite of His innocence was as without excuse as it could possibly be, for here even his wife urges him against it.

20. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

Notice who it is who is persuading the multitudes. One has to wonder what this multitude was doing gathered at the judgment hall in the wee hours of the morning in the first place? Most likely they were gathered for this very event…the releasing of one of the prisoners! And since it had not been known that Jesus would be a prisoner that day, and since He was arrested at night with only His closest disciples in attendance, we must admit that the vast majority of Jesus’ supporters were in bed at this time with no idea of what terrible things were happening to their Lord. Otherwise, surely an armed revolt would have taken place if they had known! But that was not what the chief priests and elders wanted, and that is precisely why they took Jesus at night. And that was not what God wanted either, for all these events were in His plan.

So who were these people gathered at the judgment hall in the early morning hours on the morning after the Passover feast? Why, the followers of one or the other of the prisoners who were held by the Romans and which may have been released that night, of course! And since they could not have had the Lord in mind when they came, it is very likely that the reason many of those people were there was to cast their vote for Barabbas being the one to be released! No doubt many of these people were sympathizers with his revolt, and had shown up at the judgment hall that night to ask for his freedom. So it could hardly be that it was very hard for the chief priests and elders to talk them into asking for Barabbas rather than Jesus, and certainly not much harder for them to work them up into asking for the Lord’s blood, since they were probably already emotionally on edge anyway, waiting in the middle of the night like that in hopes for their hero’s release. And yet, upon the emotional, spur-of-the-moment decision of a multitude of people gathered at the judgment hall in the middle of the night, we are expected to accuse all of the five million Jews living on the earth at that time of “rejecting their Messiah,” and are supposed to believe that God cast them off because of it! This is absolutely absurd, and is a totally unfair charge against the People whom God chose for Himself! It is only through the deeply seated anti-Semitism in the Christian church that such a belief has been able to live for so long. No, the vast majority of the people loved Jesus at this time, but, alas, they were all abed!

21. The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They said, “Barabbas!”
22. Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus Who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”
23. Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”

The chief priests and elders had done their work well, and the frenzied mob called for their God’s death.

24. When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.”

One might just as well wash one’s hands before committing adultery and say, “I really didn’t want to commit adultery, but you insisted. Let all the guilt be on your head!” This is a ridiculous gesture of Pilate’s. He had the power to release the Lord if he wished, and he had used the very fact of that power to try to bully Him earlier (John 19:10). Now, he tries to pretend like he is powerless, and the mob is forcing him to it. But this is not true! Pilate knew what was right, and yet he condemned an innocent man to death. He is guilty of the crime just as the chief priests and elders are (although not as guilty, as Christ Himself testified in John 19:11.) But he gave the order to crucify Jesus, and his Roman soldiers carried it out. Are we to label all Italians “Christ-killers,” then, as many do the Jews? Maybe we should stop eating Italian food? I suppose that would go over really well in our country!

25. And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”

These people could no more absolve Pilate of guilt than they could pass the guilt of Christ’s blood on to their children. They were an unruly mob, not even a lawful assembly, and even if they were a lawful assembly they would still have no power to do such a thing with their sin or the sin of anyone else. And Christ Himself absolved their guilt by requesting their forgiveness of His Father while He hung on the cross (Luke 23:34.) So neither Pilate, nor this mob, nor even the chief priests and elders, can be called “Christ-killers” and held responsible for His blood. Christ, the only One Who truly has power over sin, asked their forgiveness, and His word, not theirs, is the one that shall stand!

26. Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

This was a total miscarriage of justice on the part of Pilate. He knew it, and yet he went ahead and did it.

27. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him.

These now were Pilate’s soldiers, Romans, not the temple guard that had originally arrested Him in the garden.

28. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.

They stripped Him of His clothes, and then they placed this scarlet robe upon Him, the color that a king or royalty would wear.

29. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

No doubt these soldiers had heard that the Lord claimed to be a king. Since Pilate had pronounced sentence against Him, they would have concluded that His claims must have been in rebellion against Rome, although that was not in fact the case. Thus, they desire to humiliate Him a little themselves before He is led away to be crucified. To this end, they dress the One Who claims to be a King in royal robes in order to ridicule Him. This ridicule, unbeknownst to them, was all part of the Father’s plan, and the Lord Jesus had foretold that this would happen to Him in Matthew 20:17-19.

30. Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head.

These men did this to the Lord, but when was the last time you saw Italians go through a holocaust for it? Can we really be so foolish as to insist that such things are God’s judgment upon the Jews for Christ’s crucifixion? No, it is the wickedness of godless Gentiles that is truly responsible for terrible persecutions against the Jews like the holocaust. God has nothing to do with the many torments the Jews have gone through in recent times.

31. Then when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His Own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.

Having had their fun and properly humiliated the rebel against Rome, they remove the robe and cloth Him in His Own clothes once more before leading Him away to be crucified.

32. Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross.

Many legends surround this man, but Scripture backs up none of them. The soldiers had a right by Roman law to force a man to carry any object for a distance of about a mile. Thus, they randomly chose this Simon of Cyrene out of the crowd, perhaps because he looked strong and capable, and made Him to carry the cross. Notice, too, that the Scriptures never say that Simon had to carry the cross because the Lord had stumbled under its weight. That is something that is read into the account, but is never stated by the Bible.