A Very Long Day, Indeed
This day (Thursday) in the last week of the earthly ministry of Jesus has no record of Jesus doing anything in any public setting. It was the day that Jesus told two of His disciples to go into the city and prepare for the Passover meal. Jesus knew that once He entered the upper room for the meal, everything from that moment until the following day at 3 pm would be fast moving….the supper, Gethsemane, the arrest, trials before Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, and then the cross. Thursday was the “calm before the storm”. Jesus had “sweat drops like blood” as He prayed about the significant events of Thursday night and Friday.
Although the Biblical narrative of the trials of Jesus are brief, the agony they produced was excruciating. Jesus was struck by an officer in the court of Annas because the officer thought His answer to Annas was “less than respectful”.
In the trial of Caiaphas, Jesus is accused of being a blasphemer because under oath, He professed to be the Son of God. Although, Caiaphas made the charge and tore his robe as if he was in a rage over Jesus’ response. Yet, inwardly, Caiaphas was elated. He had longed for Jesus to say something that would give him grounds to get the Sanhedrin to comply with a death sentence. Now, Caiphas just had to add to the charges so that Pilate would allow a hearing to sentence Jesus to death. And, add the charges he did….charges of sedition, telling the people not to pay taxes, and declaring that He was a King. Those are all strong legal charges that a secular court would hear. Caiaphas knew that Pilate could not ignore these things.
Pilate was a soldier that had been appointed by Rome as Prefect over Judea. He was to maintain peace “militarily” and to make sure that the taxes that were levied on the Jews were collected and sent to Rome. Pilate sought to keep the delicate balance of pleasing Rome and still making the Jews cooperate with him by his overtures to the Jewish leadership. If the Jews because of some religious issue were to break out in a riot, Rome would blame Pilate for allowing that to happen. If Pilate “pushed too hard” as the governing leader on a given matter and the Jews were angry with an action of Pilate to the point of rioting, then Pilate would again be blamed by Rome. If Rome was displeased with Judea, Pilate would be deposed, the High Priest might well be deposed, and the good “financial flow” of funds into the coffers of Rome and the High Priest would be lost. So both the Jews and Pilate walked “on egg shells” trying to keep the powder keg of Judea peaceful…..at least on the outward appearance.
Pilate was handed the case regarding Jesus early on Friday morning (6 AM). Three times, Pilate declares that he finds Jesus “not guilty”. (John 18:38; 19:4; 19:6). After trying to reason with the Jewish leaders, declaring Jesus “not guilty”, having Jesus flogged, offering the choice of freeing Barabbas or Jesus, finally Pilate relents and turns Jesus over to be crucified.
On occasion, there are those that seek to declare that Pilate was really merciful and tried to keep Jesus from the cross. Pilate was simply trying to determine which way would be the “safest” gamble…..to release Jesus as a “whipped” victim or crucify Jesus as a Jew “not guilty” of a charge worthy of death. In the end, he determined to allow Jesus to be crucified, but he was not “off the hook”. His permissive act was the last thing Pilate did regarding Jesus. Pilate will meet Jesus again…this time, Pilate will stand before Jesus in eternity. It will be a most uncomfortable reunion as Christ dismisses Pilate from His presence……forevermore.