Luke 23:1-5 (CEV)
1Everyone in the council got up and led Jesus off to Pilate. 2 They started accusing him and said, “We caught this man trying to get our people to riot and to stop paying taxes to the Emperor. He also claims that he is the Messiah, our king.”
3 Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Those are your words,” Jesus answered.
4 Pilate told the chief priests and the crowd, “I don’t find him guilty of anything.”
5 But they all kept on saying, “He has been teaching and causing trouble all over Judea. He started in Galilee and has now come all the way here.”
A Reason To Kill Him
A little historical background note to get us started. The Jewish leaders do not have the power to kill Jesus on their own. In the Empire that they are a part of they have been given limited powers over things of a religious nature, but they need civil (Roman) authority to enact the death penalty.
And the problem with that is that their case against Jesus has everything to do with Jesus upsetting their religious system, and nothing to do with anything that the Romans will really see as a threat.
Remember in our last study when the religious leaders were questioning Jesus? The issue was whether or not Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. The issue was that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. The issue was that these statements were radically heretical and deeply blasphemous – they went against what the chief priests and teachers of the law understood to be true about God, and so they could not be allowed to continue to exist.
Except that to find a way to kill him, they had to find a reason for the Roman’s to kill him.
So they take his words and they twist them so that they will be heard in a certain way. They play on the jealousies of Herod Antipas (who is technically the ‘King of the Jews’). They play on Roman worries about riots and violence. They play off of the ever-unpopular taxes that Rome needs to fund its armies and roads and aqueducts and coliseums and elaborate system of emperor-worship.
Pilate seems to sense what’s going on here.
Perhaps he has heard Jesus speak at some point.
Perhaps he’s heard positive reports back about him.
Perhaps he simply feels like a parent who is tired of being called to weigh in on the minutiae of ongoing internal disagreements and disputes between the various Jewish religious factions.
Whatever the cause, Pilate seems highly unconvinced by the evidence he’s presented with, and so tries to dismiss the case, but the Jewish leaders haven’t come this far to let Jesus out of their grasp at the last minute.
In fact, it’s to the point where they no longer seem to care too much about truth.
As with so many people throughout history who have felt their grip on power loosen, they respond with the first sound bite of fear-mongering they can think of. “He has been teaching and causing trouble all over Judea. He started in Galilee and has now come all the way here.”
It’s irrelevant that there has been no trouble. It’s irrelevant that the people have in fact been incredibly pleased to have him around. It’s irrelevant that he’s never been armed, never advocated for an insurrection and actually healed the one person his followers tried to injure.
But these guys are terrified, and, like so many others before and since, their fear leaves them ready to fight.
They feel threatened, attacked, and undermined by this itinerant preacher from the back hills of Galilee, and they are tired of it all.
So they look for whatever reason it will take to kill him.
- Why do you think Pilate didn’t immediately ‘buy in’ to the request of the religious leaders?
- When have you noticed you are acting out of fear?
- How does fear affect your relationship with the truth?
- We have learned throughout the book of Luke that the only way to get rid of fear is by embracing love – if you want to cultivate a truth-telling posture, what changes might you need to consider?