Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. 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.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When 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. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even 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. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”
Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.
It’s kind of an awful metaphor the way the priests treated Jesus. They asked for a murder to be freed instead of Him. Imagine, preferring to have a killer walk among you than the Son of God! But we make similar decisions every day. We choose pleasures of this world over God. Every time we sin we choose evil over God.
And do you see how they try to rationalize it? “He is stirring up the people, causing unrest!” “He is lying!” “He is blaspheming!” “He is telling us to disobey your government!” None of which is true, by the way. But I don’t think the Pharisees were trying to betray God. I think they really did believe Jesus was lying and that they were being faithful followers. But then, we don’t usually think we’re sinning either. At the time we might rationalize, or let our pride take over so that we believe we’re doing the right thing, or at least the right thing for ourselves.
But Pilate and Herod both knew. They could see that the priests were wrong. I think it’s very important for us to keep our eyes and ears open. If everyone is telling us we are being unkind, they’re probably right. Sometimes we need to have the humility to acknowledge that someone, maybe even a non-believer, might be able to recognize right and wrong just as well as we do. We need to be open to constructive criticism and be self-reflective enough to apply it. We don’t want to make the same mistakes the pharisees and chief priests did…