God’s Word for You
Luke 23:1-4 Christ, a king
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, June 3, 2019
We return now to the conclusion of Luke’s Gospel. I made a break in our devotions on Luke because Easter appeared in our lives so delightfully last April, and I couldn’t bring myself to return to the trial of the Savior so soon after the celebration of his resurrection. Now that nearly two months have passed, we will continue the scene in Pilate’s court and then on to Golgotha.
23 The whole group of them got up and brought him before Pilate. 2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man leading our nation astray. He forbids people from paying taxes to Caesar, and claims that he himself is Christ, a king.”
3 Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
He answered: “It is as you say.”
4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
The “whole group” (τὸ πλῆθος αὐτῶν) refers to the whole assembled number of the Sanhedrin. There may have been a few who did not go (I think I would be right in guessing that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were believers, did not participate), but we can imagine more than sixty members of the Sanhedrin flocking across the city together, their elaborate robes billowing in the April breeze like a murder of crows or a venue (flock) of vultures, demanding the death of their prisoner. Pilate was in Jerusalem during the festival to prevent trouble, and here trouble came flocking to his doorstep.
The Sanhedrin swept up the steps to Pilate’s Stone Pavement (Gabbatha, John 19:13) as a swarming mob, with Jesus pushed or pulled along with them. The charges against the rabbi went from the ambiguous to the serious:
1, “Leading our nation astray.” Jesus certainly had large crowds that followed him, but he never preached rebellion against either Rome or Herod, only that people should beware the false teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (who made up the Sanhedrin).
2, “He forbids people from paying taxes to Caesar.” This was a lie, but public protests rarely stop to fact-check. In fact, spies from the Sanhedrin had tried to trap Jesus into opposing Caesar (Luke 20:19-26), but Jesus had responded. “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25).
3, “He claims that he himself is Christ, a king.” Anyone setting himself up as a king opposed to Herod would therefore be opposed to Rome. This charge was very serious, and Pilate was in position in part to quell this very sort of rebellion and enforce Rome’s position at all times.
From their description of the accused Jesus, Pilate seems to have expected a pretty rough character to have been the leader of this rebellion. But now, as Pilate saw Jesus for the first time, he saw a young rabbi bound and already roughed-up by these old men in their flowing robes. They didn’t act afraid of their prisoner in any way. All four Gospel catch the surprise in Pilate’s voice and emphasize the word “you” in his question: “YOU are the king of the Jews?” Jesus could not deny the question asked in this way, even though he was not the sort of king Pilate would have expected. His, “You have said so” is almost tantamount to saying, “In a manner of speaking.”
Pilate stated his verdict three times: “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” Despite this, Jesus did not defend himself or try to get away. He had every opportunity to wriggle out of the charges, get away from the danger, to appear to see eye-to-eye with the Sanhedrin; he might even have worked things out in such a way that he could have laughed off the whole thing with Pilate. But he didn’t. His plan was not to survive. His plan was to give up his life as a ransom for all mankind. Isn’t it obvious to all that no one could help him in this selfless, gracious and loving act?
Reflecting on this later, Peter wrote: “‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ (Isaiah 53:9) When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:22-24). His love for you means your salvation.
Pastor Timothy Smith