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Day 33: Jesus Before Pilate

Reflect: The Jewish people had authority to take care of their own legal issues when it came to religion. There is good evidence that at this time the Jewish Sanhedrin did not have authority to carry out capital punishment. This is why the Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pilate (the governor), who had the authority under the Roman law to crucify. But, if this was a religious matter that the Jewish leaders were having with Jesus, then the Roman authorities did not want to get involved. Nevertheless, Jesus goes before Pilate. Notice what is said in Matthew 27:14, “But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.” In Greek this phrase “to the great amazement” is thausmadzo.

It means wonder; to be at a loss of words; or to be shocked and amazed. Pilate was at a loss by Jesus’ silence because Roman law permitted an accused prisoner three chances to say something to defend one’s self. If a prisoner did not say anything to defend himself, then he would be charged as “guilty.” Jesus’ three opportunities to defend Himself are in Matthew 27:11, 12 and 14. Jesus not defending Himself is a fulfillment of a prophecy written about His death in Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” Pilate determines Jesus is innocent of breaking any Roman law and sees this as a religious matter. He responds to the crowd again of leading priests and people that have gathered, “I find nothing against this man. (Luke 23:4)” Pilate sees a legal loophole to release Jesus – the custom of setting a prisoner free at Passover. Thinking there is a way out for Jesus, Pilate offers the crowd a choice between the worse criminal, Barabbas, a known violent revolutionist or Jesus to be set free. But, the accusers would rather see Barabbas, the murderer set free. The tension grows and the crowd comes close to starting a riot as they begin to shout louder and louder, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate washes his hands as a response and tells the crowd, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours” (Matthew 27:24) What is the response of the angry crowd? “And all the people yelled back, ‘We will take responsibility for his death—we and our children!’” (Matthew 27:25)

He was full of emotions, yet able to stand in silence.

Respond: What are you feeling and thinking after reading these passages? Does it break your heart? Does it leave you feeling silent and reflective? Can you imagine hearing the screams of the mob being caught up in their angry emotions and saying that they will take the responsibility of Jesus’ blood on themselves and their children? When emotions run deep, our words and behavior can get out of control. Sometimes, our words and actions cost us a high price. It’s best if we can take a breath and pause before speaking out of our emotional biases. Billy Graham put it this way, “We should ask ourselves three questions before we speak: Is it true? Is it kind? Does it glorify Christ?” Today, allow yourself to be quiet and reflective as you think about Jesus before Pilate. He was full of emotions, yet able to stand in silence. The crowd was full of emotions and shouted words that many of them no doubt regretted. These are two very different responses to emotional turmoil. As you have conversations with others, before you speak, think about how your words and actions influence people around you and have consequences. Jesus loves you so much that He suffered for you, and He wants to help you make good decisions. You can ask Him to help you with your emotions and responses.

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