Thursday, August 2, 2018
Trials and Denials
before 1:00 AM
Remember, Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Sanhedrin just after midnight of Friday, 14 Nisan, which had begun at the past sunset.
Jesus first brought to Annas
Luke 22:54a, John 18:12b-14
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him first into the high priest's house, to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.
It says Jesus was brought to the house of the Chief Priest Annas, but Caiaphas was the Chief Priest that year. How does that work? Very easily, actually. In 6 A.D., Annas had been installed as the first High priest by the Roman Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, who was the legate governor of Syria.
If the name Quirinius sound familiar it it because he was mentioned in Luke 2:1-2.
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register all the empire for taxes. This was the first registration, taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to his own town to be registered.
This was the census that forced Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem, where Jesus was then born. Quirinius became the guy in charge of such censuses, which were highly resented by the Jews since they were forbidden under Jewish law. Quirinius gained power over Judea, Samaria and Iudaea. He served until 12 A.D. One of his last acts in this capacity of Legate was to access Judea for taxes. This census led to the revolt of Judas of Galilee and the formation of the Zealots, according to Josephus. Anyway, it was Quirinius who made Annas the High Priest in 6 A.D.
Annas served as High priest until 15 B.C., a period of ten years., when he was deposed by Procurator Gratius. Despite that he remained one of the most influential powers both socially and politically as well as Religeously. His son-in-law Caiaphas was named High priest in 18 B.C. by the then Prefect, Valerius Gratus, who immediately proceeded Pontius Pilate in the office. Caiaphus remained very much a puppet to his father-in-law Annas.
There is nothing odd that Annas was still called High Priest here. We still address people who held powerful positions this way, for instance, President Bush or President Obama, although they no longer hold the office.
The palatial home that Annas lived in was also residence to other of the Temple Priests and it is obvious a number were in attendance when Jesus was led there.
Jesus Before Annas
John 18: 19-24
The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.”
When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”
Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
The arrest in the Garden came just a little past midnight. The soldiers, who accompanied the Priests and Officials were the Temple Guard, not Roman soldiers. It was not a long walk from the Mount of Olives to Annas’ palatial mansion located on the Temple Mount in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Peter and John Follow to The High Priests Courtyard
Matthew 26:58, Mark 14:54, Luke 22: 54b—55, John 18:15-18
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance and so did another disciple, as far as the courtyard of the high priest.
The Informal Trial by the Sandhedrin
Matthew 26:57, 59-68, Mark 14:53, 55-65, Luke 22:63-65, John 18:24
Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.
Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.
And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”
But Jesus remained silent and made no answer.
And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of Blessed God.”
Jesus said to him, “I am. You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?”
And they all condemned him as deserving death. They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit on him to cover his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
And the guards received him with blows.
Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.
It says Annas sent him bound to Caiaphus, who was at the time the official High Priest. Caiaphus did not live far from Annas, both living on the Temple Mound. Caiaphus’ Palace was largerthan his father-in-laws. The picture on the right is the concept of what Caiaphus’ Residence looked like.
The Sanhedrin had quickly assembled here and they began questioning Jesus. The approach broke with the Jewish trial law, which provided safeguards for the accused. Like out law, the accused was not required to incriminate himself. Any case against the accused should have been shown by witness testimony with the witnesses for the defense going first and then those for the prosecution. There were no defense witnesses present here. Meanwhile, the prosecution desperately sought men who would give false testimony against Jesus. They had a hard time finding any and the couple they did present apparently had conflicting stories to tell. What they did say was obviously overheard as Jesus and his Disciples left the Temple for the last time.
Now we probably can assume that when it talked about John and Peter following to the High Priest’s house, it was probably to this home of Caiaphus.
When Caiaphus tore his robe he, himself, was breaking The Law. Leviticus 21:10 states:
The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes.
Matthew 26:58; 69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:62, John 18:15-18; 25-27
Courtyard of the High Priest’s Residence
Friday, between 3 and 4:30 AM
Since that disciple [The other disciple who followed with Peter, who was John] was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in.
The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.
And going inside he sat with the guards to see the end.
Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.
And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them
Now Peter was below sitting outside in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, she said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.
But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know nor understand what you mean.”
“This man also was with him.
“But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”
And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girlsaw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.”
And a little later Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”
And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, one of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him? Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you. Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.”
But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.”
And immediately while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.a second time and the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
And he went out and wept bitterly.
These are the denials of Peter that he knew Jesus. Being spread over four Gospels it is a little difficult to follow the exact sequence, so I did best I could with what seemed the most logical.
One of the things that can come into question here is where it says: “Immediately a rooster crowed the second time. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”
If Peter was in the courtyard outside and Jesus was beingquestioned by Caiaphus inside the house, how is it they could look at each other?
Simple. When you are in your house, don’t you sometimes notice what is in your backyard or on the street out front? In the sketch of Caiaphus’ palace you can see the courtyard to the front just inside a large entry gate. Beyond it is the area where Jesus was most likely questioned. This is inside on a floor above the courtyard and fronted by several windows. Jesus could have easily turned his head to look outside and see Peter from this advantage point and Peter could see Jesus standing there looking at him.
Sanhedrin’ Formal Condemnation
Somewhere before 5:00 A.M.
Matthew 27:1-2, Mark 15:1, Luke 22:66—23:1, John 18:28a
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people held a consultation with the scribes against Jesus to put him to death.
And they led him away to their council, and they said,,“If you are the Christ, tell us.
But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”
So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?”
And he said to them, “You say that I am.”
Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
Then the whole company of them arose and they bound him.
Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.
It was early morning.
Left: The Preatorium, the governor’s mansion of Pilate.
Here is the question, was this trial by the Sanhedrin of Jesus legal?
First, who were the Sanhedrin? They were a group of 71 men made up of the Pharisees, priests, Sadducees and scribes. They met in the Chamber of Hewn Stones inside the Temple daily to adjudicate both civil and penal crimes. This was the Great Sanhedrin, something akin to the Supreme Court. It’s decision was very final. Once made, anyone who went against the judgement was put to death as a zaken mamre, a rebellious elder. The Sanhedrin could accuse, but not initial arrests of lawbreakers.
They did not initiate Jesus arrest; although, some who served on this council probably were involved in that initiation.
The court only met during the day and adjourned at sunset. Proceedings were required to be concluded on that trial day. If the judgement might involve an execution, it could not be held on the eve of a Sabbath because an execution was forbidden on a Sabbath. Criminal proceedings began after the morning sacrifices and ended after the afternoon sacrifices; therefore, between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. Generally verdicts and sentencing was not announced until the next day in case any of the judges changed his mind.
First of all, this trial occurred “very early in the morning, at daybreak”, not at all after the morning sacrifices had been held. It was also the eve of a Sabbath and so being a trial with the potential of an execution should not have occurred on the day it did.This trial was obviously a rush to judgement and also had been predetermined by the judges before any testimony was heard. All they needed were two witnesses to justify their decision.
Because under the law it required at least two witnesses for a conviction.
On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. Deuteronomy 18:6
Recall, when Jesus was brought to Annas immediately after his arrest, those there “were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, For though many false witnesses came forward baring false witness against him, their testimony did not agree.” They needed two accusing witnesses in order to even consider trying Jesus and they had difficulty finding any.
The accused was entitled to testimony of defense witnesses, but there were none at Jesus’ trial.
The Sanhedrin got the sentence they wanted in what amounted to a Kangaroo Court, so why did they bind Jesus and send him to Pontius Pilate?
Because somewhere about 30 A.D. the Sanhedrin lost the right to execute anyone. People could only be put to death by the consent of the Roman Government.
Judas Iscariot Commits Suicide
Matthew 27:3-19, Acts 1:18
Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”
They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”
And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.”
So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me
Matthew says he is quoting Jeremiah here and that has caused some problems for some scholars because no such quote is found in the books of Jeremiah.
It is much closer to what is written in verse 13 of Zechariah 11:
Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.
One of the possibilities here is the fact that Jeremiah was generally listed first in the rabbinical order of the prophetic books. This sometimes led to rabbis and others referring to the whole collection of the prophetic books with the term “as in Jeremiah.” I think a more likely explanation is Matthew says “what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah”. This prophesy may have been orally handed down from sayings of Jeremiah, rather than anything written.
As to Judas death, we will have more to say later, for some claim there is a contradiction concerning how he died given in Acts. So, maybe this is enough of a teaser to keep you coming back to find out what it was.
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”
(Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
“‘Let another take his office.’
First Time Jesus is Before Pilate
About 5:00 A. M.
Matthew 27:11-14, Mark15:2-5, Luke 23:2-7, John 18:28b-38
They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”
Now Jesus stood before the governor and they began to accuse him, saying, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.
Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”
This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
Death for blasphemy had been established in Leviticus 24:10-16:
Now an Israelite woman's son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, and the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in custody, till the will of the Lord should be clear to them.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”
Remember that at the trials before the Sanhedrin Jesus had been found guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God. The Jews would have taken him and stoned him to death under their law; however, they could not exercise their judgment under the current Roman Law at that time. There is data saying the Jews lost the right of execution in or around 30 A.D. This was later reinstated. More likely is in those years the execution of anyone needed the approval of the Roman government.
It appears that the Prefect of Judea would have been the person to grant the Jews a right of execution, which means Pontius Pilate would have had that authority. It appears the Sanhedrin never did the legal formalities to acquire the right in the case of Jesus. This is probably because the Jews wanted to put it all in the hands of the Roman, rather than themselves.
It actually came about this way because stoning was not the death prophesied for Jesus. Probably the clearest example is Psalm 22. Jesus said in John 12:30-33 that he would die by being lifted up. You are cast down, not lifted up for stoning:
Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
Now some might think he meant he would be lifted up to Heaven, but John makes it clear he is talking of the manner of his death in verse 33.
In Luke 9 Jesus says this in verses 21-22:
And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
He predicted his death here I do not think the next verses 23-24 referring a cross was a coincidence or just an expression:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
All this speaking of being lifted up alludes back to the scene in Numbers 21:4-9. The Hebrews were setting out in the wilderness and the people, as usual, got impatient and began complaining. God sent serpents against them and what happened next was a picture of Christ on the Cross paying for our sins.
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, togo around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
But the Jews now needed a reason why the Roman should execute Jesus, so they settled on treason. Thus, they took Jesus to Pontius Pilate.
Pilate was the prefect of Judea, that is the Governor, a position he got in 26 A.D. from the Emperor Tiberius as the result of favoritism. The chief administrator of the Roman Empire for Tiberius, one Sejanus, obtained the appointment for Pilate
His appointment proved very unpopular with the Jews. He was very insensitive to his Jewish subjects and insulted the Jewish religion. He did such unwise things as hang worship images of the emperor all over Jerusalem. The Jewish historian Josephus pictured Pilate as a stubborn, headstrong, strict and authoritarian leader, indicating, although both rational and practical, he never understood how far he could go. He caused both the Jews and the Samaritans to engage in riots and tried to abolish Jewish Laws and the privileges that the Jews had been allowed.
He was always protected by Sejanus until 31 A.D., when Sejanus was discovered having intrigues designed to overthrow the emperor. So, that year Tiberius had him executed and Pilate found himself on shaky grounds for his own behavior. This may be how the Jews took advantage of his vulnerabilities to achieve their wishes to have Jesus executed.
His own cruelty and lack of discipline eventually brought Pilate down. He attacked the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim in 36 A.D. and they in turn reported him to the Prefect of Syria, Vitellius. As a result, Pilate was ordered back to Rome and tried for cruelty and oppression, as well as executing men without proper trial. Found guilty, he was ordered at some point after 36 A.D. by the then emperor Caligula to commit suicide.
This was the man the Jews brought Jesus before with a charge of treason to Caesar.
”We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “You have said so. Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”
Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
This is the most honest thing spoken during all the trials. It is still a valid question for our own times. What is truth? There is much information flying back and forth in our times, more than ever before, and very few know what is true. The only truth is to be found in the Word of God. Truth stood before Pilate and he failed to recognize it.
But when he was accused of many things by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Have you no answer to make? Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”
But he gave him no further answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews.
Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”
But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”
When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.
This is called kicking the can down the street. Our politicians do it all the time.
Jesus before Herod Antipas
Before 6:00 A.M.
When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer.
The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him.
And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been an enemy with each other.
Why in the world did Pilate send Jesus to Herod Antipas at this point? These two guys were not exactly bosom buddies at the time, and we’ll speak to that in a moment. When Pilate learned Jesus was from Galilee he saw an opportunity to extricate himself and put it all on someone else. Let Herod deal with it.
A little history is needed. Once upon a time, Herod the Great was the undisputed King of Judea and the surrounding providences. He ruled with an iron, and bloody, hand. He was King when Jesus was born and tried to wipe out Jesus then by killing all the boys two years old or younger in Bethlehem. Not long after that, Herod the Great died a pretty horrific death. Josephus wrote that Herod suffered from “a fever, and intolerable itching of the whole skin, continuous pains in the intestines, tumors of the feet as in dropsy, inflammation of the abdomen, and gangrene of the privy parts.”
Dropsy is an old fashion term for edema and privy parts referred to his genitals. It used to be thought he had gonorrhea, but more recent medical determinations point to the cause of death being chronic kidney disease accompanied by an infection of the male genitalia known as Fournier’s gangrene. This would have a bad odor, which most likely attracted flies to the dead or dying flesh. Flies would lay eggs and these would eventually hatch into maggots, which probably were the worms mentioned as eating his flesh before he died in Acts 12:23.
When Herod the Great died, his kingdom was divided among his three sons, Herod Archelaus, Philip and Herod Antipas. This didn’t sit well with Antipas, so he traveled to Rome and petitioned that he be named over the lands in toto, but his request was denied. Antipas was given rude only over Galilee and Perea. Philip got the land northeast of the Jordan and Herod Archelaus inherited the meat of the kingdom, Judea, Samaria and Idumea.
But Archelaus botched things so badly, that in 6 A.D. Augustus deposed him and banished him to Vienne in Gaul. Archelaus territory was made a Roman province and a Prefect was named to govern. Antipas felt he should have been given the area and he seethed and was an enemy of the Prefects there after. Pontius Pilate was the fifth Prefect of Judea. Antipas remained over Galilee and Perea, and he held more animosity toward Pilate than the four prelates before him.
Since Galilee was Antipas’ province and Jesus was considered a Galilean why not pass the buck on what to do with this itinerant minister to Herod Antipas.
As it turned out, Jesus didn’t perform any tricks for Herod, so he mocked him, put him in fancy clothes and sent him right back to Pilate like a bad penny.
Now, both Pilate and Herod didn’t find any guilt in Jesus and neither saw any reason to kill him. I think this agreement on these points is what characterized them as becoming friends that day.
Jesus Second Appearance before Pilate
About 6:00 A.M.
Matthew 27:15-31, Mark 15:6-20, Luke 23:13-25, John 18:39 —19:16a
Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him.”
But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner among the rebels in prison who had committed murder in the insurrection started in the city, a man called Barabbas.
This is a passage the skeptics like to pounce upon and say there is nothing beyond these Scriptures which speaks of such a thing. So what does that prove? Absolutely nothing. If we look back on any ancient history and depend on a multitude of sources to verify it, we would have to dismiss much of what we claim to know about antiquity. The Bible is a reliable source in itself. It also contains more than one witnesses account to these events.
Besides, just because some one else didn’t pen a volume addressing this specific tradition concerning either Passover or Pilate does not mean that such prisoner releases or exchanges weren’t engaged in at the time.
The Mishnah recording Jewish oral traditions and collected in writing around 300 A.D. says, They may slaughter the passover lamb…whom they have promised to bring out of prison.” A portion of papyrus quotes a Roman governor of Egypt saying: “you were worthy of scourging, but I gave you to the crowds.
There is a parallel in Roman law which indicates an imperial magistrate could pardon and acquit individual prisoners in response to the shouts of the populace.
For comparison, criticism is heaped upon the Gospels because they were written a couple or so decades after the crucifixion, but the same scholars except the biographies of Alexander the Great which were written 500 or more years after he died, and to this day we actually don’t know how Alexander died.
When was Julius Caesar assassinated? History books, except for one (The Biblical Chronology that says it was in 49 B.C.) say it was on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. This comes from the writings of the ancient historian, Pliny, who said so. Pliny also said there was a solar eclipse that year. He quotes Augustus as saying soon after Caesar’s death a comet flew across the northern skies for seven days. Well, there was no solar eclipse nor comet in 44 B.C. There were both in 49 B.C. So was Caesar fatally stabbed in B.C. 44 or 49?
If you want something a bit closer, who can tell me when Shakespeare was born and when he died? After all, Shakespeare was penning his plays just about 400 years ago. If you look up these dates you will probably find he was born on April 23, 1564 and died on April 23, 1616. Quiet a coincidence that he died at age 52 on his birthday. Except nobody really knows the exact days. They have a baptismal certificate for William dated April 26, 1564, so they extrapolated he was born three days earlier because it was a tradition to be baptized three days after birth. But it wasn’t always the case, so it is a guess.
Not much is known about the circumstances of his death, such as how. he was reportedly in good health, yet he died relatively young. The exact day is also unknown, so they picked April 23, his birthday, and also because it was St George’s Day, the Patron Saint of Great Britain. It just felt appropriate.
So when the crowd came up and had gathered, and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. Pilate said to them, “But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!”
Now Barabbas was a robber.
We do not know much of anything about the man Barabbas. From the few scriptures given, Barabbas may well have been an insurrectionist against Rome. Luke 23:19 says he was in prison for committing murder during the insurrection. We don’t know which insurrection, but uprisings against Roman rule had been flaring regularly for decades. Oddly enough, his name was Jesus Bar Abbas, meaning Jesus the son of the father, a name that could have easily been given to Jesus. However the first name of Jesus being given to Barabbas appears in very few manuscripts, so we can’t accept it as true.
If Barabbas was a notorious prisoner taken in an insurrection, which does seem to be the case, it may help explain the choice of the people beyond just the prodding and bribery of the Priests and Pharisees. Murderer or not, such a man might be viewed as a hero to the population for being involved in a insurrection against Rome. I would also still opine that people had given Jesus a hero’s welcome into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday because they viewed him as the warrior Messiah about to free them from Rome. Instead, he has been arrested and looks rather powerless. A number of people may have turned against him as a phony.
“Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, orJesus who is called Christ, the King of the Jews?” For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead.
Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.
Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” And they said, “Barabbas.”
Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
They all said, “Let him be crucified!”
And he said, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.”
But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. They shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.”
And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” And their voices prevailed.
So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. Wishing to satisfy the crowd then, he released for them Barabbas, the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked,
Talk about vacillating? Who did Pilate fear the most? Rome, the Jews or his wife? He certainly did not fear God. He is doing everything to escape responsibility for what he knows is wrong. He gives in because he fears not doing so could cause a riot, but a riot is not the problem. He certainly has the man power available to quell any riot. What he fears is censure from Rome if the Jews do riot. He has had enough criticism from his superiors. Yet, his wife’s dream also weighs on his mind, so he washes his hands as if this gesture absolves him of any guilt in the matter. He tries one more gamut.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand.
Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.”
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”
When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”
The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”
When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.
He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. and having scourged Jesus, delivered him over to their will. to be crucified.
And kneeling before him, they [the soldiers] mocked him, and they began to salute him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
You don’t want to ever be scourged, certainly not the way the Roman’s did it. Here is a description of the practice:
The usual instrument was a short whip with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim’s back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross. After the scourging, the soldiers often taunted their victim.
At this point Jesus would have been a bloody mess. By this time he had been struck and or slapped , especially about the head on five occasions by multiple attackers; beaten once by soldiers and scourged, and the worse was yet to come.
Those who delivered Jesus over to Pilate were the Sanhedrin and the priests. They sat in Moses seat, as Jesus had said in Matthew 23:2. As was said in Verse 3 of the same passage, “So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” Because they had the authority to claim death to Jesus then it is they who bare the greater sin. Of course, this doesn’t absolve Pilate or the people crying crucify him, for they should not practice what the Jewish authorities preached. The condemnation of Jesus does not fall upon the Jews or the Romans. It falls upon us all because it is our sins that made it necessary.