Narratives Of The Passion (Part 2).
Matthew 26 – 27; Mark 14 – 15; Luke 22 – 23; John 18 – 19.
When the Chief priests, the elders and the scribes were apparently satisfied that they had a tight case against Jesus’ blasphemous claims, the whole Council, together with their bound Prisoner, descended on the Judean Governor’s Palace. Pontius Pilate was the only person who had the authority to pronounce a death sentence. The four Gospels presented their own perspective of the trial before Pilate, and here, we look at what transpired prior to Jesus’ crucifixion at Golgotha.
Mark’s Gospel, probably the first to be written, laid the foundation for this scene. Pilate was not unfamiliar with the Sanhedrin’s abject jealousy over Jesus’ influence especially among the disenfranchised in their sphere of influence, and attempted to exonerate Him (Mark 15:10; Mark 15:14). However, Mark stated categorically that behind Pilate’s rationale for fast-tracking Jesus’ baseless conviction was his fears of a potential riot by Jesus’ vociferous accusers, therefore wishing ‘to satisfy the crowd,’ he bowed to their pressure (Mark 15:15). By taking the easier route of political expedience, he shared the same poisoned chalice that the Sanhedrin had imbibed, despite his wife’s plea ‘to have nothing to do with that righteous Man’ (Matt 27:19). I wonder how Pilate’s conscience coped with his self-contradictory decision? Our motivations in life’s critical decisions are customarily revealed through our speech, behaviours, and actions, and any incongruent decisions would predictably impact on our conscience and faith.
Luke’s Gospel narrated specific incidents that were left out by the other Gospels. He contrasted the release of Barabbas, a convicted insurrectionist, with the condemnation of an innocent and righteous Man, an ironic circumstance given the legendary fairness of the Roman and Jewish justice system (Luke 23:4; Luke 23:13-25). Furthermore, the blame for the Lord’s death was squarely placed on the Sanhedrin’s shoulders when Pilate ‘delivered Jesus to their will’ (Luke 23:25). He also mentioned King Herod and his soldiers mocking and abusing the Lord before Pilate, and this outrageous trial cemented their political relationship (Luke 23:11-12). Finally, as Jesus made His way to Golgotha, large crowds, including many women, lined the streets, ‘mourning and lamenting Him’ (Luke 23:27-31). Jesus’ other-centred gracious regard for the crowd came through clearly as He redirected their grief towards the sin of their nation in the face of God’s impending judgment (Mark 15:40-41; Matt 27:25; c.f., John 15:13-14). Christlikeness invariably centres us away from ourselves and is caught up in fulfilling the will of God (c.f., John 12:24-26).
John’s Gospel recorded at length, more than the other Gospels, Jesus’ responses to the accusations made against Him by the Sanhedrin and before Pilate. Given the implications of His replies, Jesus was attempting to seek a fair trial (given the trajectory of God’s grand plan for the salvation of man, His motivations here would probably be for the conscience of His detractors), but Annas and Caiaphas (the former and the present high priests respectively), had no intention for such a rule of law (John 18:20-23). When Pilate interrogated Jesus, His replies took a somewhat rather conciliatory tone; not an altogether unfamiliar angle for Pilate to relate to, as He addressed the issue of kingdoms and its vested authority being appointed by God (John 18:36-37; John 19:11). Pilate probably understood Jesus’ drift in their conversation about his own power to conduct a fair trial. In fact, he attempted on four occasions to have Jesus set free (John 18:31, 38; John 19: 6; John 19: 10-12), but when the crunch arrived, he abused his own authority by acceding to the Jewish leaders’ cry for Jesus’ blood. He thought he was being neutral by washing his hands off this matter, but in the things to do with God, neutrality is meaningless when there is a responsibility to discharge mercy and justice. However, this heinous crime against God came from the mouths of the chief priests themselves, when Pilate questioned, “Shall I crucify your King?” They replied, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).
Who then is this Jesus?