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God’s Word for You

Luke 23:13-15 no basis for your charges against him

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, June 7, 2019

13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people,

We are about to see that Pilate will make a point of doctrine without realizing the depth of what he says, that Christ was declared righteous and innocent by the highest court of the Gentiles and by the highest court of the Jews. To hear this verdict, he gathered together the three estates of mankind to hear this verdict, for the judgment of Christ’s innocence was not whispered in a corner, but delivered as a judgment in public for the whole city to hear.

He called the chief priests, and we remember that the first estate of man is the church, since God created a way for man to worship him even before he gave man a wife (Genesis 2:17).

Luke does not adhere tightly to the order of creation in his text, nor would we expect him to do so for his friend Theophilus, but lists the leaders of the people first (both from church and state) and the people last. Perhaps the intention of Pilate was to call forward those most interested or affected by the verdict he intended to present. Whatever the reason for the order before us, Pilate called the rulers of the people next. Civil leadership or government is the third estate of man, made necessary by the Fall. Without sin, there would be no need for police, princes or presidents, but fear and the need for social justice came from the Fall along with jealousy, murder, theft, cheating, swindling, and other crimes. And so the government was established by man as early as the time Cain began to built his little city for protection (Genesis 4:17). God regulated this second estate of man, the government, and gave it rules of conduct in the civil law of Moses, such as the laws about establishing judges (Deuteronomy 16:18-20), establishing law courts (Deuteronomy 17:8-13), and choosing a king (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

The people were called forward, and although wives are not mentioned we are certain that husbands, wives and their families were present since this was the Feast of the Passover when whole families would travel together to celebrate according to the Law of Moses so that they could present their offering at the Lord’s altar (Leviticus 23:6-8). Therefore the group assembled here was made up of families, which form the second estate of man. God gave to Adam his wife (Genesis 2:18) and sanctified their marriage.

So who in Jerusalem could have heard Pilate’s verdict? The whole city was invited, and many representatives, at the very least, were present to hear the governor’s words.

14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who is inciting the people to revolt. I have examined him in your presence. And I have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us.  As you can see, he has done nothing worthy of death.

For the second time, Pilate declared Jesus’ innocence, and even added Herod’s name to his verdict of not guilty. Therefore, the highest courts in Israel, Jew and Gentile, had (in Pilate’s mind) found Jesus innocent. He simply did not understand the degree of jealousy and hatred that were festering in the hearts of the men of the Sanhedrin. As the ancient Clement said: “Study the sacred Scriptures… The upright have been persecuted, to be sure, but it was by the lawless. They have been imprisoned, but it was by the impious. They have been stoned, but it was by transgressors. They have been slain, but by such as have been possessed by a depraved and unjust jealousy” (1 Clement 45:2-4).

The charge of inciting a revolt was a sin against the Eighth Commandment, and to do so in God’s name was a sin against the Second. Jesus endured this and the other charges without defending himself. He did this out of love for us, not out of disregard for any human legal system. His eyes were on the cross, to atone for all of our sins against the Second and Eighth Commandments as well as all the other sins we commit. Jeremiah proclaimed God’s fury over those who lie and deceive by his name, and who give false testimony: “Should I not avenge myself on a nation like this one? A terrible thing has happened. A horrible thing has happened in the land. Prophets prophesy lies, priests rule by their own authority, and my people love this. But what will you do in the end?” (Jeremiah 5:29-31 EHV).

And yet what was this that was happening? Jesus Christ, lied to and lied about, and convicted by false witness, was willing to bear the punishment of those who lie and who bear false witness. He did this out of love and his infinite compassion for all of us who are guilty of sin. He did this to set us free, to make us his own, and to rescue us from the power of the father of lies.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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