“And Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After this he went out again to the Jews and said to them, ‘I find no grounds for a charge in him.’”
“Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leaders and the people, saying to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people, but behold, I have examined him before you and I found no guilt in this man with respect to your charges against him. And neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving of death has been done by him. Thus I will punish and release him.’”
There is some overlap here, but Luke is really just providing us with a little more detail on the content of the conversation being had between Pilate and the Jewish authorities. Frankly, Pilate wants nothing to do with this Jesus. The offer to release is an interesting one that we will reflect on further when we approach the tradition of releasing a prisoner at Passover, but one can speculate what was going through Pilate’s mind. Here is an angry mob desiring Jesus’ death, if he releases this man to the mob, what else would he expect apart from the mob’s angry murder of the man? Essentially, he must know that Jesus’ blood will be spilled, the question will be, by whose hands and Pilate wants nothing of it — and neither did Herod, which is (on a human level) why they are passing Jesus back and forth like a hot potato. Of course, in hindsight, we recognize that each player in this account is culpable and the passing back and forth is divinely designed to ensure that all the wicked had a part in this man’s death.
And when speaking of “all the wicked,” that finger needs to be pointed at us as well. It is because of sin that Jesus was sent to die — and it is because of our sin that we need that sacrificial death of our Lord. That means we too are part of that guilty group that would condemn Jesus. We stand guilty with the crowd of shouting, “Crucify!” if only by our actions.
How often, too, we stand with Pilate in wanting to turn a blind eye toward sin and unrighteousness. It is easy to fall into that trap. Somehow we get it in our heads that if we don’t see it, touch it, taste it, smell it, or hear about it (like those five monkeys) we won’t be guilty of it. But what if we know about it? Washing our hands of the act, as Pilate did, does not excuse our guilt. God regularly calls his people to seek to work justice in this world, especially for the poor and outcast — and Jesus qualifies on both levels at this point! So, the sin of omission is just as damning as the sin of commission.
Loved ones, examine your lives and reflect on how God calls you to take a stand in this world. It might not be in a murder trial, but God might be calling you to take a stand against injustice in your local community and not remain silent even if remaining silent is the popular thing to do. Ultimately it is God’s design that our sins would be wiped clean by this work of Christ and the cross to come, but we must understand that we all stand guilty of Jesus’ death because of our sins. Let us live in a way that reflects that knowledge and does not follow the pattern of Pilate and Herod.
“Pilate replied, ‘Am I a Jew? Your people and the chief priests have delivered you to me — what did you do?’ Jesus answered, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, my subordinates would strive in order that I not be delivered over to the Jews. But at present, my Kingdom is not from here.”
I want to begin by noting two words in this text that might otherwise be overlooked. The first word is uJphre/thß (huperetes), which refers to an assistant or a subordinate on some level. Typically, the New Testament employs this term to refer to those soldiers serving under some sort of commander. Yet, oftentimes our English Bibles render this as “servants” here, which is not incorrect, but gives the impression that Jesus is referring to the Apostles and the other Disciples who are following in ministry — a group that hardly represents any threat to either the Roman or Jewish authorities. Instead, this likely should be understood in the context of Matthew 26:53 where Jesus, during his arrest, points out to Peter (who has drawn a sword clumsily) that he has the ability to appeal to his Father for 12 legions of angels that would come to his aid. Understood this way, we see the significance of Jesus’ statement here, for this indeed would be the decimation of both the Roman and the Jewish authorities.
The second word to note is the word, nuvn (nun), translated here as “at present.” Many of our translations omit this word as its role is simply to provide a temporal marker. Yet, that omission misses an important piece of theology — Jesus’ kingdom may not have then been part of this world, but it is now and one day it will fully be. After Jesus’ resurrection he ascended to the throne of glory and has had all things in subjection under his feet (Hebrews 1:3; 2:8). He rules as head of his Church (Ephesians 1:22) and though there is much that is still in open rebellion against him today, he is in the process (through the outworking of the Gospel) of putting all things under his subjection (1 Corinthians 15:25-27) so that at one point in the future every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11)!
Oh, Pilate, do you not understand? Oh, Caiaphas, will you not bow your knee? Oh, Herod, where is your kingdom now and how will your beloved Caesar come to your aid? Those men, working behind the murder of our Lord, did not realize the extent of their sin and Pilate the extent of the one whom he would usher to his throne. These men have indeed bowed before Jesus, though under the crushing foot of the power of he who spoke the universe into existence. Where is your kingdom now, you who persecuted our Lord? And you who have embraced the prince of the power of the air even in our day — your joy will be cut off unless you repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and for grace! Here is the judge of the universe being judged by puny men — the irony is staggering…indeed, Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world…at that time. Loved ones, it is now! Beware to whom you bow allegiance!
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him
Who brings good news, good news;
Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness:
Our God reigns, our God reigns!
– Leonard Smith
“And there grew a brotherly love for each other between Pilate and Herod on that day. Prior to then, they had enmity toward one another.”
Friendship probably is not adequate here. History has shown that oftentimes politics makes for strange bedfellows, and indeed, there are few stranger than this. The Galileans, over whom Herod ruled, were known as a rambunctious and wild bunch not suited to civilized society. Herod himself was a kind of Roman “wannabe,” always courting his Roman friends and building great edifices in the Roman style, but he was yet of the Jewish people and not to be fully trusted. He was also known for his crass immorality, something not new to Rome, but on the other hand, immorality always seems worse when someone else is practicing it. Pilate was a Roman overseeing Judea — the heart of Jewish authority and culture. Here was the temple and the place of sacrifice for the people. The Sadducees also made their home here, though there was always a sense of contention between the Roman and the Temple authorities.
Some point to the “enmity” that Luke comments on as reflecting back to the gruesome way that Pilate had executed some Galileans, mingling their blood with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1), but this event was relatively minor in the grand scheme of politics and seems odd to cause “enmity” between these two men, especially in light of Herod’s willingness to execute his own (John the Baptist, for example). It is probably better understood in the context of the resentment that these men felt toward each other. Herod resenting the privilege of the Roman Pilate to rule Jerusalem while he got stuck ruling over people in the “back woods” of Galilee. And Pilate resenting the fact that Herod allowed his people to be such trouble-makers while also seeking to court Caesar’s favor.
Yet, here the enmity ceases and becomes a sort of brotherly affection, though affection also is probably not adequate. Here, there is a mutual enemy, and to quote a Russian proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Rabbis have a similar proverb: “When the cat and the weasel marry together, misery becomes increased.” The real question is, “for whom will the misery be increased?” In other words, is the “mutual enemy” Christ or the Temple officials? Christ is certainly no threat to either man. Pilate recognizes Jesus to be innocent of the charges of the Priests and Herod is just disenchanted given that the great miracle worker will perform no signs for him.
While our Lord will suffer the actions of these earthly political powers, it seems almost as if the mutual enemy is the priestly class that rules the temple. One almost can picture Herod saying to Pilate, “How may we frustrate them further.” Evil here has no bounds.
One commentator argued that the wicked are unable to feel love or friendship. I would disagree, but would say that the kind of love and friendship that the wicked feel is wholly different than the love and friendship felt amongst genuine believers in Jesus Christ. The friendship of the wicked is self-serving and arrogant while the love of believers is holy, pure, and seeks the good of the other. The sad thing is that Christians often choose the love of the worldly wicked over the love of brotherhood in Christ. The former is easier and the latter can be costly, but the former is quite short-lived and is shallow in the end. The latter is eternal and is as deep as the oceans are wide. Which, beloved, will you choose? Which will you pursue? Friendship with this world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Something to think about…