Happy April Fools’ Day! Have Fun!
28Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32(This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) 33Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.
The night has passed – was Jesus questioned all night? There is a tradition in Jerusalem that he was held in a dungeon at Caiaphas’ house until morning. (see the attached photo) At first light, however, they take him to the Antonia Fortress, to Pilate (who resides in Caesarea, but has come into Jerusalem for the Passover). The High Priest and other religious leaders would not enter Pilate’s fortress, for fear of defiling themselves and being unable to eat the Passover. They demand that Pilate come out to them; he meets them on a porch or portico, and asks what accusation they are making against this man. (the second photo is the chapel at the sight of the Antonia Fortress.)
The religious leaders reply that they would not have brought him to Pilate if he were not a criminal! But Pilate tells them to go try him themselves. Their reply tells him exactly why they have brought Jesus to him – they cannot legally and publicly put him to death. They could stone someone, but they could not carry out the death sentence of crucifixion. The author says this was to fulfill the prophecies regarding how Jesus would die. The religious leaders have convicted Jesus of blasphemy, but before Pilate they accuse him of treason against Rome.
Pilate himself questions Jesus, inside, away from the crowd. It is an interesting exchange – Jesus knows the outcome; he is not vested in defending himself. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks. And Jesus replies, as he often does, with a question, who told him to ask that? Pilate, who was known for his cruelty, snaps back – “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own priests have brought you to me. What have you done?” Jesus replies, “My kingdom is not of this world.” “So, you are a king?” And Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” And Pilate responds, “Que es veritas?” “What is truth?” The world, and all her philosophers have debated that question – but Jesus had already answered. He is truth.
Pilate goes back out to the “Jews” and says, “I find no case against him.” He offers to release a prisoner to them – shall he release the “King of the Jews”? But the crowd, which is at this early morning hour, summoned by and in the payment of Caiaphas, cries out – Release Barabbas!