Luke 23:1 – 12
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.’ 3Then Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered, ‘You say so.’ 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no basis for an accusation against this man.’ 5But they were insistent and said, ‘He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.’
6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
As we said, Luke has put the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin in the early morning, rather than during the night. This way, there is no delay between the time of the assembly, and their immediately rising to take Jesus before Pilate. They had convicted Jesus of blasphemy, but they could only put people to death by stoning; they wanted Pilate to put him to death in a more cruel way. Notice the difference between their accusations in the Sanhedrin and those before Pilate: before the Sanhedrin, the accusation is blasphemy, that he claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God. But before Pilate, the accusation is treason against the emperor, forbidding the payment of taxes to the emperor (untrue), and declaring himself king. Pilate’s question, then, is directly to the point, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus’ response, to them, as it was to the Sanhedrin, is “You say so.” Pilate tells them he finds no basis for their accusation; they insist – saying he goes about stirring up the people from Galilee to Jerusalem.
The religious leaders in first century Jerusalem knew a thing or two about “spin”. They tell half truths in order to manipulate Pilate into giving them what they want. We should have a little sympathy with Pilate; after all, there are many who try to manipulate us today.
Pilate thinks he sees a way out – the man is from Galilee! That is in Herod’s jurisdiction, and Herod is in town for the Passover! So Pilate sends him to Herod, the same Herod who had been fascinated by John the Baptist until he had been manipulated into cutting of John’s head by his wicked wife Herodotus. Herod had wanted to meet this Jesus; maybe he would perform some miraculous sign and be good entertainment. But even though Herod questioned him with contempt for a long time, Jesus did not respond. Finally, having had his soldiers mock him, he sent Jesus back to Pilate dressed in an elegant robe.
And so, very early on Friday morning, after no sleep at all the night before, Jesus has been questioned by three different courts. He has endured patiently their mocking and questioning. I doubt that I would have the patience or courage to endure those trials. Some portray Jesus as being dragged before these rulers with head hanging low. I don’t picture the scene that way. I see Jesus walking boldly before those who would try him, knowing that he is the ultimate judge, holding his head high, and looking them in the eye. I think that is what threw Pilate – he was accustomed to prisoners groveling and begging! Jesus, the ultimate judge, would forgive those who tried him, and put him to death, before his death. That is who he was.