Pilate Looks for a Loophole
When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
— Luke 23:6,7
Pilate had never had a problem with causing bloodshed in the past, so it seems strange that he balked at the thought of crucifying Jesus. As governor and the chief legal authority of the land, Pilate had been invested by Rome with the power to decide who would and wouldn’t live. This Roman governor was infamous for his cold-hearted, insensitive, and cruel style of leadership and had never found it difficult to order the death of a criminal — until now.
There was something inside Pilate that recoiled at the idea of crucifying Jesus. The Bible doesn’t state exactly why Pilate didn’t want to crucify Him, but it makes one wonder what he saw in Jesus’ eyes when he interrogated Him. We do know Pilate was shocked at the manner in which Jesus carried Himself, for Matthew 27:14 tells us that Pilate “marveled greatly” at Jesus.
The words “marveled greatly” are from the Greek word thaumadzo, which means to wonder, to be at a loss of words, or to be shocked and amazed. A man like this Jesus had never stood before Pilate before, and the governor was obviously disturbed at the thought of murdering Him.
In fact, Pilate was so disturbed that he decided to probe deeper by asking questions. He was looking for a loophole that would enable him to escape this trap the Jews had set both for Jesus and for himself as well. Indeed, the Jewish leaders had carefully schemed a trap with three potential results, all of which would make them very happy. The threefold purpose of this trap was as follows:
1. To see Jesus judged by the Roman court, thus ruining His reputation and guaranteeing His crucifixion, while at the same time vindicating themselves in the eyes of the people.
To ensure that this happened, the Jewish leaders falsified charges that made Jesus appear to be a bona fide political offender. These were the charges: 1) that He had perverted the whole nation — a religious charge that was the responsibility of the Sanhedrin to judge; 2) that He had commanded people not to pay their taxes to Rome; and 3) that He claimed to be king (see Luke 23:2). According to Roman law, Jesus should be crucified for claiming to be king. If these charges were proven true, Pilate was bound by law to crucify Him. If this is what followed, the first purpose of their scheme would have worked.
2. To see Pilate wiped out and permanently removed from power on the charge that he was unfaithful to the Roman emperor because he would not crucify a man who claimed to be a rival king to the emperor.
Had Pilate declined to crucify Jesus, this rejection would have given the Jewish leaders the ammunition they needed to prove to Rome that this governor should be removed from power because he was a traitor to the emperor. News would have reached the emperor of Rome that Pilate had permitted a rival king to live, and Pilate would have been charged with treason (see John 19:12).
It is interesting that this same charge was brought against Jesus. It was a charge that most assuredly would have led to Pilate’s own death or banishment. If Jesus was allowed to go free by the Roman court, the Jewish leadership would have been thrilled, for then they would have had a legal reason to expel Pilate from their land. Thus, the second purpose of their scheme would have worked.
3. To take Jesus back into their own court in the Sanhedrin if Pilate would not crucify Him, where they had the religious authority to stone Him to death for claiming to be the Son of God.
The truth is, the Jewish leaders never needed to deliver Jesus to Pilate because the court of the Sanhedrin already had the religious authority to kill Jesus by stoning for claiming to be the Son of God. Even if Pilate refused to crucify Jesus, they fully intended to kill Him anyway (see John 19:7).
So we see that the trip to Pilate’s court of law was designed to turn Jesus’ arrest into a political catastrophe that would possibly help the Jewish leaders get rid of Pilate as well. But if Jesus had been freed by the Roman court, they intended to kill Him anyway. This was the third part of their scheme.
The solution to this mess was easy! All Pilate had to do was crucify Jesus; then he would have happy Jewish elders on his hands; no charges of treason leveled against him in Rome; strengthened ties to the religious community; and a guarantee of remaining in power. Pilate just had to say, “CRUCIFY HIM!” and this political game would be over. But he couldn’t bring himself to utter those words!
Instead, Pilate gave Jesus three opportunities to speak up in His own defense. But Jesus said nothing. Isaiah 53:7 (NKJV) says, “…As a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” According to the law, Jesus should have automatically been declared “guilty” because He passed up three chances to defend Himself. But this time Pilate simply could not permit himself to follow the due course of judicial process. He sought instead to find a way out of this dilemma.
As noted above, perhaps Pilate saw something in Jesus’ eyes that affected him. Maybe Jesus’ kind and gracious behavior grabbed Pilate’s heart. Others have speculated that Pilate’s wife may have secretly been a follower of Jesus who told her husband about His goodness and the miracles that had followed His life. Matthew 27:19 reports that Pilate’s wife was so upset about Jesus’ impending death that she even had upsetting dreams about Him in the night. She sent word about her dreams to Pilate, begging him not to crucify Jesus.
As Pilate probed deeper in his interrogation, he discovered that Jesus was from Galilee. At long last, Pilate could breathe a sigh of relief. He had found the loophole that shifted the full weight of the decision to his old enemy, Herod! Galilee was under the legal jurisdiction of Herod. What a coincidence! Herod just “happened” to be in Jerusalem that week to participate in the Feast of Passover!
Pilate promptly ordered Jesus to be transferred to the other side of the city to the residence where Herod was staying with his royal entourage. The Bible tells us, “And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him” (Luke 23:8). However, it didn’t take long for Herod to get angry with Jesus and return Him to Pilate!
What do you think went through Jesus’ mind as He stood before first a Roman governor, then a Jewish king — only to be shipped back to the Roman governor again? Have you been feeling knocked around and passed from one authority figure to another at home, at church, in the workplace, or in the governmental system? If so, you can feel free to talk to Jesus about it, because He really understands the predicament you find yourself in right now!
Hebrews 4:15,16 says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Since Jesus understands your dilemma, I advise you to speak freely to Him about the emotional ups and downs you feel as a result of your situation. His throne is a throne of grace — a place where you can obtain mercy and find grace to help in your time of need.
So go before God’s throne today. He will hear you, answer you, and give you the power and wisdom you need to press through this time in your life!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am so glad You understand when I feel confused about the person I am supposed to report to and to whom I am supposed to be accountable at work and at church. Sometimes I feel like my leaders send me back and forth, not knowing what to do with me or to whom I am supposed to report, which makes it hard for me to do my job. I know that those who are over me have their own challenges, so I want to be helpful to them, not judgmental of them. Please give me the wisdom to know how to behave in a godly manner in this environment.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I have the mind of Christ for my situation. I am not in confusion; rather, I walk in peace in every situation. Because Jesus has been in my same place, I go to Him to tell Him about my situation, and He gives me all the mercy and grace I need to be successful in this place where He has called me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Do you feel like you are knocked around from one authority to another at your job or in your position at church? Are you confused about whom you are really supposed to be accountable to?
2. Have you ever asked for clarification regarding this matter? If you didn’t understand what you were told, did you seek further clarification to avoid confusion?
3. If you’ve done all you can to properly report to the authorities who are over you and they still don’t like the way you are reporting to them, have you prayed and asked the Lord to help you become what your authorities need you to be?