Christ the King: Gospel Analysis
The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2006.
Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 307.
#334, #336. Jesus Delivered To Pilate, The Trial Before Pilate
Matthew 27:1-14, Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:1-5, John 18:28-38
-Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas. (John’s gospel) We remember from earlier lessons that Herod the Great (Herod the Great Builder) had erected several large, grandiose Roman buildings in Jerusalem. We remember that the Romans were fine craftsmen and artisans. These Roman buildings in Jerusalem would have been as opulent as similar buildings in Ephesus and other centers of Roman culture. Unlike Ephesus, the Roman armies leveled Jerusalem in 70 CE. But during Jesus’ time on earth, there were several grand Roman buildings in Jerusalem. Jesus visited an impressive city.
In the diagram below, identify both the house of Caiaphas and Herod’s palace. It is most likely that Herod’s palace was the official residence of Governor Pontius Pilate when he visited Jerusalem for special occasions such as the Passover feast. Herod’s palace is “the preatorium” in the gospels. This is review from last week.
A person can see models of the Palaces of Caiaphas and Herod in the Holy Land Hotel.
Palace of Caiaphas
This is where informal meetings of a small Sanhedrin were held. Peter denied Jesus in one of these courts. This model at the Holy Land Hotel is a scholar's conception showing how the site may have looked in Jesus' day.
-To the headquarters (the praetorium.) The praetorium“denotes the place of residence of the chief official in the subjugated Roman territory. In Palestine, the Roman governor’s permanent residence was at Caesarea (Acts 23:33-35 which places the Roman governor in the praetorium of Herod.) Here we are concerned with the governor’s residence in Jerusalem, occupied during festivals or in times of trouble. … (The gospels) envision a large building with an outside court where the Jewish crowd would assemble. There would have been inside rooms, including bed chambers (e.g. Pilate’s wife) and barracks for soldiers. … The location of the Jerusalem praetorium is uncertain, but there are two likely candidates, both mentioned by Josephus. 1) The fortress of Antonio and 2) The Herodian Palace on the West hill (today near the Jaffa gate) which dominates the whole city. Herod the Great built this as a more grandiose dwelling and moved here from the Antonio in 23 BC. From the evidence in Josephus and Philo, this served as the usual Jerusalem residence for the Roman procurators.” (Brown, JOHN, V. 2, p. 845.)
Palace of Herod
“King Herod built a fantastic fortified palace to provide protection for the Upper City. Just like the Temple, Herod's Palace was constructed on a platform, about 1000 feet (from north-south), and 180 feet (from east-west). The Palace consisted of 2 main buildings, each with its banquet halls, baths, and accommodation for hundreds of guests. It was surrounded with groves of trees, canals, and ponds studded with bronze fountains.”
The praetorium of the trial of Jesus was located at Herod's palace which was actually the official residence of the Roman governors when they came to Jerusalem during major Jewish festivals.
Unfortunately, nothing remains of its construction.
This model at the Holy Land Hotel is a scholar's conception showing how the site may have looked in Jesus' day.”
Remember that we are dealing with grandiose Roman architecture and construction. If a person visits Rome or Ephesus today and sees the ruins from the grand Roman culture of the past, a person is overwhelmed by the engineering, architecture and construction of these Romanesque colossal sites. The Roman architecture in Jerusalem was no different. The Jerusalem of Jesus’ day was not a backwater “hick town” but the capitol city of that area of the world. Jerusalem could “boast” of many large Roman buildings erected by the builder of all builders, Herod the Great.
On the above model, focus on the platform which was longer than three football fields. Memorize the grandeur of the building in the model above. It seems to be an accurate representation of the building in which Jesus was tried by the Roman governor and then scourged.
-It was early in the morning. At daybreak. The Roman officials began their work before dawn.
-They themselves did not enter the headquarters (praetorium),so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. “The reference to the coming Passover supper makes it clear that for John, Jesus was tried by Pilate and crucified on the day before Passover.” (Brown, JOHN, V. 2, p. 846).
-So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ This is the first mention of Pilate in the book of John. Pontius Pilate’s name would have been known to the early Christians since his name is mentioned it the book of Acts (3:13, 4:27. 13:28) and also in the Apostle’s Creed. “He was of lower nobility as contrasted with senatorial rank. He ruled Judea from 26-36 AD. Judea was a lesser imperial province. … Pilate is usually identified as a procurator. … A reasonable amount about Pilate is known from Jewish writing and the picture is not favorable. Philo attributes to Pilate robbery, murder and inhumanity. Josephus writes vividly of his blunders and atrocities (e.g. the slaughter of the Galileans mentioned in Luke 13:1).” (Brown, JOHN, V. 2, p. 847).
FROM A SERMON
“It is with this mood of rioting, polarizations, and a nation and city torn apart, that we approach the governorship of Pontius Pilate. Pilate was the governor of Jerusalem and Judea. Pontius Pilate, during his ten years as a governor, from the year 26-36 CE, had thirty-two riots. 32 riots in mere ten years. Three major riots a year for ten consecutive years. The Jews hated the Romans. They hated the Roman taxes. They hated the Roman insensitivities to their religion. The Jews of that time were constantly on the edge of rioting, especially the Galileans.
I would like to briefly tell you about three riots during the reign of Pontius Pilate. These reports come from Philo, a Jewish theologian, and Josephus, the Roman historian.
The first riot was like this: The Jews were fanatics about God, and they were absolutely committed to their second commandment, you shall have no graven images of God. Idolatry was the worst of sins; worshipping a graven image, a carved image of God. Carved or crafted images of God were absolutely and totally forbidden. In the year 26 CE, shortly after Pilate become governor, Pontius Pilate came riding into the city of Jerusalem with his troops bearing their standards or flag poles. On the top of every flagpole was a carved image of Caesar, the bust of Caesar. No Roman governor had done this before, parading with a carved image of Caesar. It was a total insult to the Jews, and so a riot began. The Jews first came out by the hundreds and then by the thousands to the home of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, and for five days, they staged a sit-in, much like college students stage a sit-in on the college campus, on the front law of the college president. Pilate was infuriated with the protestors. He rounded up some of them into an auditorium and killed several of them. The Jews continued their civil disobedience, passively offering their necks to be sliced. The protests were effective; Pilate backed down; and the busts of Caesar were removed from all the flagpoles. But lives had been killed and this was the first of many more riots to come.
Let me tell you about the second riot that Pilate precipitated. Pilate wanted money to be taken from the temple treasury in order to build a pipeline to bring water into the city of Jerusalem. Like Arizona and California today, Jerusalem had water problems. Jerusalem had to get money in order to build an aqueduct so water could be transported to the city. Where was Pilate going to get the money? He didn’t have federal funds to draw on; he didn’t have any extra tax money sitting around. So Pilate went to the temple treasury, to the sacred money, to the money of Annas and Caiaphas. Pilate stole or borrowed the money from the temple treasury to build his aqueduct, and immediately, the rioting began. This time Pilate ordered his soldiers to dress up as plain-clothes men, secretly to arm themselves and mingle with the rioting mobs. As the signal was given, these Roman soldiers, dressed as civilians, bludgeoned the Jews with their weapons, clubbing and stabbing the Jews to death. Thus another riot was stopped during the reign of Pilate. Pilate, of course, was hated. And the neighboring governors started sending letters to Emperor Tiberius in Rome complaining about Pilate’s brutality in handling the riots. (Again, this useful material comes from Josephus, the historian, and Philo, the Jewish theologian, both writing at this time.)
Let me tell you about the last riot, the 32nd riot under Pilate. This riot was in the year 36 CE in Samaria. A Samaritan told some Jews that he would show them where Moses had hidden sacred relics on a mountain. People were going on a wild goose chase, up to the top of the mountain, looking for a copy of the Ten Commandments, the sacred relics of Moses. The Jews had small arms with them. Pilate, hearing that the Jews were armed, ordered his horsemen to attack and kill the essentially defenseless Jews. It was a bloodbath, a slaughter of innocent people. One neighboring Roman ruler was so upset about Pilate’s slaughtering of the Jews that he sent another letter to Caesar Tiberius in Rome complaining about Pilate. Shortly thereafter, Pilate was removed from office because of his brutal handling of the riots. As Pilate traveled to Rome, Emperor Tiberius died, and we don’t ever know what happened to Pilate. Pilate disappeared into the pages of history; only to have his name repeated every Sunday in our creed, “crucified under Pontius Pilate.” Maybe our creed should have said, “Jesus was crucified under the riots of Pontius Pilate.” Our creed would have been more historically accurate.
Pilate was a person who was sick of rioting, sick of the mobs, sick of a nation torn apart by strife. It is with this awareness of Pilate and his riots that we begin to more clearly understand what happened to Jesus on that Friday morning in Jerusalem.
Pilate had already arrived in Jerusalem with his wife, Procula, and 600 troops. Yes, 600 armed soldiers. The soldiers had come prepared; they were well armed and trained to exercise control if another riot erupted. Normally, Pilate lived in Caesarea on the Coast, but Pilate would come to the capital city, Jerusalem, whenever the city was jammed with potentially rebellious pilgrims. It was Passover time on that particular Thursday and Friday, and there were two-three million people jammed into Jerusalem. So Pilate came from Caesarea by the Sea, his home residence, to Jerusalem with 600 troops and 600 horses, “just in case.”
Thursday night, nothing happened. It was calm that Thursday night, but Friday morning, all hell broke loose. Annas, the old man and power behind the high priest, and Caiaphas, his son-in-law and current chief High Priest, brought Jesus to Pilate. Annas was first high priest, then four of his sons were high priests, and now his son-in-law was high priest. Annas kept the high priestly power in his family. Annas and Caiaphas, the two religious leaders and thugs, brought not only Jesus, but a large mob of shouting, yelling, shrieking Jews who were bent on rioting at the least provocation. Annas and Caiaphas brought their charges against Jesus, telling Pilate that Jesus claimed to be king of the Jews. Annas and Caiaphas stirred up the people into a riotous mood, and falsely said that Jesus forbid the citizens to pay the proper taxes to Caesar. Annas and Caiaphus finally played their trump card when they said: “Pilate, if you are a friend of Caesar, you better execute this revolutionary, this seditionist, this anarchist. Pilate, you better have him killed.”
Pilate then questioned Jesus and found no guilt in him; Jesus was innocent of the charges that the two high priests had brought against him. Pilate saw through the sham; Pilate saw through the scheme of Annas and Caiaphas. Pilate wanted to dismiss the whole affair as a nuisance, but the two powerful high priests incited the crowds to begin rioting. The Bible says, “In order to avoid a riot,” Pilate condemned Jesus to death.
Pilate was caught in the middle and he didn’t like it. There was no neutrality before the cross. There was no middle ground.
When I think of Pilate, he was not like Annas and Caiaphas who blatantly wanted to have Jesus killed. Pilate was not like Judas, who betrayed Jesus for money, greed and material prosperity. Pilate was not like Peter, who denied Jesus at the crucial hour, pretending he never knew Jesus. Pilate was like none of these. Rather, Pilate was one of those people who wanted to remain neutral, who didn’t want to become involved. He wasn’t for Jesus nor was he against Jesus. Pilate was the man in the middle and he wanted to remain the middle where he thought he could save his skin.
There is one basic lesson to be learned from Pilate: Before the cross of Christ, there is no neutrality. The cross of Christ always demands a decision. Pilate, during the trial, asked, “What shall I do with Jesus?” There was no middle ground. Either he was to cast his lot for Christ or against him. The cross does that. During the whole passion narrative, the cross forces people into a decision. People had to make a choice, either to be for Christ or against him. There was no neutrality.
Let me give you some examples of this. The eleven disciples. When Jesus was arrested in the garden, the disciples had to make a decision, either to be crucified with Jesus or to run away. The disciples made a decision: they ran. There was no neutrality.
Or, Simon Peter out in the courtyard at the home of Caiaphas. A maid asked Peter the question: “Are you one of the Galileans or not?” Peter had to make a decision. “I am not,” he said. Again, there was no neutrality.
Or, two men were on the cross on either side of Jesus at Golgotha. One criminal made a decision to ridicule Jesus; the other criminal made a different decision and said, “Remember me when you come into your kingly power.” Again, there was no neutrality.
It is the nature of the cross that compels us to make a choice, whether a person has to make a snap decision or a slow decision. There is something about the cross that compels us to make a choice, either for him or against him. You can’t find a middle ground when it comes to Christ, even though at times we try to.
This is clearly expressed in a poem:
‘I stood alone at the cross of Christ,
In the hush of twilight dim,
And faced the question
That pierced my heart,
What shall I do with him?
Crown or crucify, what shall it be?
No other choice is offered me.’”
End of sermon.
-They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ The Jewish authorities knew that only the Romans had the power to execute Jesus.
-Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.’ Pilate knew the Roman law and Jewish law. Pilate didn’t want to get involved in this mess. He didn’t want to get involved with an “in house” squabble among the Jews.
- The Jews replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’ (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) The phrase, “the Jews” is a summarization of all those Jewish leaders who were hostile to Jesus e.g. the elders, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and others in positions of governing authority.
Jesus knew by what kind of death he was going to die. He had prophesied that he was to “be lifted up” and to be “lifted up” meant to be “lifted up” onto a cross, which was the Roman means of execution.
The Roman government retained the power to execute. That is one primary way that the Romans retained political power in their provinces.
“A death penalty could not be executed unless Rome issued it (Josephus Jewish Wars 2.8.1 117; Jn 18:31). So the leadership takes Jesus to Pilate. The charges must be formulated in a way that causes Pilate, as procurator and protector of Roman regional concerns, to be worried about his future as governor if he does not stop Jesus. (Kinman 1991).” http://www.biblegateway.com/cgi-bin/webcommentary?language=english&version=niv&book=luke&chapter=23
- They 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.’ Then Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered, ‘You say so.’ (Only Luke) The Jewish leaders wanted to frame Jesus, so that he would be executed. The charges that needed to be brought against Jesus was that he was a revolutionary, and not loyal to Caesar. We recall that Pilate had faced thirty-two riots in his term in office and he knew first hand the political pandemonium associated with revolutionaries.
"He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar." This charge concerning the poll tax is patently false, as 20:25 has already shown. But the charge is clever, because Pilate's major political responsibility is the collection of taxes for Rome. A second element in the charge is also a source of concern. The taxes go to Caesar, raising the issue of Pilate's personal loyalty or disloyalty. Failure to act against one who opposes Caesar would mean one is not a friend of Caesar either. Servants of Rome unfaithful to Caesar are not servants for long!” http://www.biblegateway.com/cgi-bin/webcommentary?language=english&version=niv&book=luke&chapter=23
The gospel for Christ the King Sunday, Series B, begins here:
-Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ In the Gospel of Jesus, we find Pilate going in and out of his headquarters. Pilate ordered Jesus into his palace. All four gospels have Pilate asking that same question: “Are you king of the Jews?” Perhaps there was a lingering memory within Pilate’s mind of the Maccabean revolt from years before and the Jewish masses hoping for a political liberator. Such was the mood from the Palm Sunday parade a few days earlier when the masses were calling for a new messiah, a new liberator to free them from the oppression and insensitivities of the Roman occupiers of the land.
-Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ Jesus answered Pilate right back.
-Pilate 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?’
-Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. Circle this phrase. Underline it. Highlight it. Memorize it. God/Christ is to rule our lives but this reign of God over our hearts and habits is not like the earthly reign of kings. The “kingdom” is Jesus’ primary teaching in the first three gospels. There are miracles of the kingdom, parables of the kingdom, teachings of the kingdom. The kingdom is where ever God/Christ rules in our hearts, lives or our communities.
FROM A SERMON
“I would like to suggest to you that this king and the spirit of his kingdom lives on and are the strongest force in the world. This kingdom will be forever challenged but never defeated.
All kings die. All presidents die. All dictators die. Every one of them has died and few of them are remembered. In the thousands of years of history, their names are already or will be gone, disappeared, forgotten, but there will be one king...one name that will continue. The spirit of his kingdom is alive today as much as it was 2000 years ago.
The great nations will rise and fall. Think of the great nations today. The United States, Russia, China, Germany, France, England, Japan, and in two thousand years from now, their names will be like Pamphilia, Gad, and Silica. For all the great nations which are so powerful today have their nanosecond in history, and are gone and their names are barely remembered. The spirit of God’s kingdom will live and shine when all these kingdoms of the earth have since passed away.
What I am suggesting to you is that “they” attempt to execute Jesus in every generation, but no one has been able to kill the king. No one has been able to kill the spirit of his kingdom. Kings have come and gone, and kingdoms have come and gone; and intellectuals have come and gone. All of them have at one time challenged this king with their weapons or intellect, and then, they have all died. But THE king? THE king and the spirit of his kingdom live on into God’s eternal future. You see, the king is the Spirit of the Living God and there is no earthly king, no nation, no skeptic who in any way compares to the everlasting king, the ruling Spirit of the Living God.”
-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.’
-Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Pilate is interested in this line of questioning. Pilate wants to know if Jesus is really a threat to him.
-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.’ Jesus’ life had a fundamental purpose and destiny: to witness to the truth. Jesus has come into the world to testify that he wants to rule the hearts and habits of human beings, the minds and movements of our daily lives. That is the truth: Jesus wants to rule our hearts and lives. Jesus wants to be THE Lord of our lives. That was and is the destiny of Jesus.
We, the follower of Jesus, know his voice and listen to his voice, as sheep know and listen to the voice of their shepherd. The mark of a loyal disciple is listening, listening to the words of Jesus. We recall the contrast between Mary and Martha. Martha was distracted and worried about many things. Meanwhile, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him. The disciples of Jesus listen to his voice.
-Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’ Circle, highlight, memorize. We remember Pilate for many reasons and one reason we remember him is because of this fundamental question: “What is truth?” Standing in front of Pilate was Jesus who was/is the embodiment of truth. Jesus spoke the truth: the truth that there is a personal God; the truth that God is a loving Father; the truth that God knows the numbers of hairs on our heads; the truth that the great commandments of God are to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus embodied the truth about God and the way that we human beings are to live and love. What is truth? Look at Jesus, listen to his voice, and see who he is and you will discover the Truth about God and your own life.
-After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, ‘I find no case against him. Three times in the Gospel of John we hear that Jesus was declared “not guilty.” (In John 19: 4, 6). Jesus was also declared “not guilty” three times in the Gospel of Luke also. (Luke 23: 4, 14 22).
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