From Pilate to Herod and Back Again
ALTHOUGH Jesus makes no attempt to conceal from Pilate that he is a king, he explains that his Kingdom is no threat to Rome. “My kingdom is no part of this world,” Jesus says. “If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” Jesus thus acknowledges three times that he has a Kingdom, although it is not of an earthly source.
Yet, Pilate presses him further: “Well, then, are you a king?” That is, are you a king even though your Kingdom is no part of this world?
Jesus lets Pilate know that he has drawn the right conclusion, answering: “You yourself are saying that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.”
Yes, the very purpose of Jesus’ existence on earth is to bear witness to “the truth,” specifically the truth about his Kingdom. Jesus is prepared to be faithful to that truth even if it costs him his life. Although Pilate asks: “What is truth?” he does not wait for further explanation. He has heard enough to render judgment.
Pilate returns to the crowd waiting outside the palace. Evidently with Jesus at his side, he tells the chief priests and those with them: “I find no crime in this man.”
Angered by the decision, the crowds begin to insist: “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, even starting out from Galilee to here.”
The unreasoning fanaticism of the Jews must amaze Pilate. So, as the chief priests and older men continue shouting, Pilate turns to Jesus and asks: “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?” Yet, Jesus makes no attempt to answer. His calm in the face of the wild accusations causes Pilate to marvel.
Learning that Jesus is a Galilean, Pilate sees a way out of responsibility for him. The ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great), is in Jerusalem for the Passover, so Pilate sends Jesus to him. Earlier, Herod Antipas had John the Baptizer beheaded, and then Herod became frightened when he heard about the miraculous works Jesus was performing, fearing that Jesus was actually John who had been raised from the dead.
Now, Herod is overjoyed at the prospect of seeing Jesus. This is not because he is concerned about Jesus’ welfare or that he wants to make any real attempt to learn whether the charges against him are true or not. Rather, he is simply curious and hopes to see Jesus perform some miracle.
Jesus, however, refuses to satisfy Herod’s curiosity. In fact, as Herod questions him, he does not say a word. Disappointed, Herod and his soldier guards make fun of Jesus. They clothe him with a bright garment and mock him. Then they send him back to Pilate. As a result, Herod and Pilate, who had formerly been enemies, become good friends.
When Jesus returns, Pilate calls the chief priests, the Jewish rulers, and the people together and says: “You brought this man to me as one inciting the people to revolt, and, look! I examined him in front of you but found in this man no ground for the charges you are bringing against him. In fact, neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us; and, look! nothing deserving of death has been committed by him. I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
Thus Pilate has twice declared Jesus innocent. He is eager to free him, for he realizes that it is only because of envy that the priests have handed him over. As Pilate continues to try to release Jesus, he receives even stronger motivation to do so. While he is on his judgment seat, his wife sends a message, urging him: “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I suffered a lot today in a dream [evidently of divine origin] because of him.”
▪ How does Jesus answer the question regarding his kingship?
▪ What is “the truth” about which Jesus spent his earthly life bearing witness?
▪ What is Pilate’s judgment, how do the people respond, and what does Pilate do with Jesus?
▪ Who is Herod Antipas, why is he overjoyed to see Jesus, and what does he do with him?
▪ Why is Pilate eager to free Jesus?