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No Basis for a Charge…

“And Pilate said to the chief priests and to the crowds, ‘I find no basis for a charge in this man.’”

(Luke 23:4)

As I read this, I can almost envision Pilate in his frustration kind of thinking to himself, “What now? Here I am, woken up early, trying to get some breakfast, and I have to deal with this. It’s bad enough having Jerusalem so swollen with people due to their Passover celebration, but now I have to deal with this? Can’t these people give me even a little peace?” Perhaps I am reading a bit too much into Pilate’s thought here, but as a pastor, I know that I have had this kind of thought at times… “You guys are angry at each other over what? Did you listen to any of my sermon last week on Philippians 2?” When grown adults who know what the Word of God teaches on matters of dispute can’t seem to act upon the Scripture’s teaching and choose to behave more like Kindergarteners…well, you get the picture.

This is a little different as Pilate is a pagan and much more interested in pragmatic solutions that will preserve the peace in this very turbulent region of the world. Though the Jews were not a mighty military force, their region of the world was historically a difficult one to hold for long periods of time and the Jewish people were notorious for overthrowing larger and more highly trained armies through the use of guerrilla tactics. Pilate had no intention of having such happen on his watch. Even so, he begins at least, with integrity.

Some of our Bibles will render the term ai¡tioß (aitios) as “guilt.” Yet, the term is better translated as “basis for a charge.” Pilate has not examined the man, Jesus, as of yet, so he could not know anything of actual guilt. What he is doing, based on the ramblings of the priests and the shouts of the crowds, is making a kind of preliminary ruling — “you don’t have a basis for a capital case against him” — is essentially what Pilate is saying here. More will develop as the dialogue continues, but for now, Pilate is still insisting that this is a local case to be decided according to local laws. The bottom line is that this is an answer that the Priests could not accept because they wanted to put Jesus to death. If last night was a height of wickedness; this day would see new peaks by its end.

Were you there when they falsely tried my Lord?

Were you there when they falsely tried my Lord?

Oh, Oh, Oh, Sometimes it makes me want to Tremble

Tremble, Tremble…

Were you there when they falsely tried my Lord?



“Thus Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What charge do you bring against this man?”

(John 18:29)


Interestingly, John is the only one of the four Gospel writers that records this question from Pilate. The other evangelists simply record the Jews coming to Pilate and accusing Jesus, but John inserts the proper protocol in this context — that of waiting for the Roman official to address them before they start spewing forth hatred and lies. There is no question that there is a bit of a political dance that takes place with this trial, with the Jews seeking to manipulate Pilate into serving their ends (and thus in their minds, taking the blood of Jesus off of their own hands).

Certainly news of some sort has preceded the Jewish officials to Pilate and his aides have given him some degree of counsel as to the nature of this mob as they bring Jesus to him. The relationship between the Jews and Rome had always been a trying one and there is no question that Pilate had in the back of his mind ways in which he could maneuver this in his favor — or at least in a way that would maintain the status quo. Either way, politics as usual is about to begin.

The sad thing about political maneuvering is that we find it taking place in the church, not just in the broader culture. People forget that the church does not belong to them, but that instead it belongs to Christ Jesus. How folks fall into the trap of using church to meet their personal needs, to achieve their personal ends, or otherwise to build a reputation for themselves rather than to build a reputation for Christ. How often even pastors fall into the trap of tip-toeing over Truth because they fear it will offend or chase away members or visitors to the congregation. All of these things are no better than what we see Pilate and the Jewish officials engaged in — protocol, perhaps is being met, but personal agendas are being sought. May our lives and our churches seek Christ’s will in life, not our own.

Whose Hypocrisy?

“And when dawn came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people deliberated regarding Jesus so that they might put him to death. They bound him and led him away, delivering him to Pilate the governor.”

(Matthew 27:1-2)


“And at dawn, immediately the chief priests made deliberations with the elders and scribes and the whole of the Sanhedrin. They bound Jesus and took him away, delivering him to Pilate.”

(Mark 15:1)


“And the whole council of them arose and led him before Pilate.”

(Luke 23:1)


“Therefore they led Jesus away from Caiaphas to the Praetorium. But as it was dawn, they did not go inside the Praetorium in order that they not be defiled but could eat the passover.”

(John 18:28)


Do you see the irony of John’s account? Here are the priests and other leaders of the church conducting a secret and illegal trial designed to frame an innocent man being concerned about becoming ritually defiled by entering Pilate’s headquarters. It should not surprise us that Jesus called these men “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). They are concerned with the outward forms but have no regard for the inward spirit that is supposed to be guided by the forms. How often in the Old Testament we find God telling the people how he hated all of their sacrifices — not because the sacrifice was bad, but because they were just going through the motions and performing a ritual, not living a life of devotion.

Though we don’t live lives marked by blood sacrifices and ritual cleanliness any longer, how often it is that we end up acting in the way that these Jewish leaders did. How often we fail to get involved in the lives of those who are hurting because of what others in the community might say about them (or us!). How often we fail to evangelize prostitutes, drug addicts, homeless, or convicts in our midst. Our churches often participate in jail Bible studies and ministries, but how often do we embrace those same people once they have been released from jail? We are often quick to invite new people to church if they are “like us,” but what of those from a different cultural background, skin tone, or socio-economic strata? What do we mean then when we say that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek when we exclude people because of their background? How often we have condemned the hypocrisy of these Jewish leaders and have missed seeing our own hypocrisy?

Thus, it is in the midst of this that the Jews determine that their only solution is to put Jesus to death, and that is exactly what they seek to do by taking Jesus to Pilate. If you were a territory under Roman rule, it was Romans who reserved the right to capital punishment except for the case of blasphemy — hence their striving to convict Jesus of anything remotely close to a blasphemous statement — so it is to Rome they must appeal and thus to Rome they go, in this case in the form of the Roman representative who governed Judea — Pilate.