Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller


The Pitable Pilate

Matthew 27:11-31

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Pilate is one of the most pitiable figures in all of history. He was a pawn in the hands of the religious leaders of Israel, who knew just what buttons to push to get this disgusting Roman governor to do their dirty work. The religious leaders also knew which levers to pull to get the crowd to go along with their deed and push Pilate over the edge. Pilate considered himself a strong man, but he was nothing in the face of these connivers. And through it all Jesus, who could have saved Himself very easily, instead allowed Pilate to go along with the religious leaders, and also allowed Roman troops to torture and mock Him. Because in reality, they were all pawns in God\'s plan to use man\'s evil to accomplish God\'s incredible good.

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11

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Jesus stands accused of treason. So Pilate asks Him straight out \"Are you the king of the Jews?\" Jesus answers affirmatively, but in the same way as he answered Caiaphas - \"you have said so.\"

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John 18:33 - 37 gives us more detail about their conversation, so let\'s turn there. Jesus asks Pilate a question which indicates that Pilate is merely performing his task as governor and this whole thing is at the bequest of the Jews.

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When Pilate asks Him \"What have you done?\" Jesus answers clearly-but in a way that shows He is not a political threat to Pilate or Rome (\"my men would fight for me\") but is the Messiah-a religious leader who would be no threat to the Roman government.

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As the interrogation goes on, it is clear the Pilate knows Jesus is innocent and is speaking the truth-a truth Pilate rejects.

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\"What is truth?\" is a question all too many wrestle with without coming to an answer-feeling that truth is relative so there are no absolute truths.

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12 - 14

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Luke 23:1-5 gives us the charges leveled against Jesus:

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Luke 23:2-3 \"We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.\"

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Other versions say \"perverting\" or \"subverting\" the nation. So tax evasion, treason, and undermining law and order - pretty serious charges.

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So why didn\'t Jesus answer? Two reasons. 1) It was prophesied in Isaiah: 53:7

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; ?like a? lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 2) To not answer the charges, Pilate would be forced to find him guilty, even though he knew that Jesus had broken no Roman law. Condemned as an innocent man was exactly what Jesus wanted so He either said, or in the case didn\'t say, exactly what it took to be crucified.

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15 - 19

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Pilate is trying every which way to get Jesus off of his hands. Barabbas was apparently a murderer who was part of an insurrection. He was just the type of person the Jewish religious leaders had accused Jesus of being. Perhaps by seeing the stark contrast-the murderous Barabbas vs. the serene Jesus, the crowd would side with Jesus. One thing to keep in mind, however, Barabbas might have been seen as a hero trying to overthrow Rome as a political messiah.

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One way Pilate knew it was a frame-up was that the Jews themselves gave up one of their own and demanded his execution.

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In the midst of this Pilate\'s wife comes in having \"suffered terribly\" in a dream. Even Pilate\'s wife tells her husband this is wrong. Yet like a chess game drawing to its close, Pilate is about to be check-mated.

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20 - 26

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The religious leaders basically overrule Pilate\'s own wife-by getting the crowds to side with them. This threat to the peace was exactly the right lever to pull. Pilate could not afford a riot-he was already on shaky ground with Rome. It\'s likely that the religious leaders either bought people off or threatened them. It\'s amazing to me how many people show up at protests only because there is a protest, not because they have any passion or even knowledge of what\'s at stake.

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Pilate\'s vain attempt to \"wash his hands of the whole thing\" did nothing. He still ordered the crucifixion. Notice, Jesus was not convicted under Roman law since no valid legal evidence was presented. Though he was condemned by Jewish and Roman leaders to death, He did not deserve it.

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The statements by the crowds probably came from 2 Samuel 1:16 where David declared that the blood of Saul should be on the head of the Amalekite warrior. They had no authority to proclaim this, but it was a way to get Pilate to crucify Jesus and so that\'s what they shouted.

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Pilate was actually no stranger to the idea of getting crowds to do his will. Here is a quote from Josephus about Pilate: \"At another time he used the sacred treasure of the temple, called corban (qorban), to pay for bringing water into Jerusalem by an aqueduct. A crowd came together and clamored against him; but he had caused soldiers dressed as civilians to mingle with the multitude, and at a given signal they fell upon the rioters and beat them so severely with staves that the riot was quelled.\" (The Aqueduct- Josephus, War 2.175-177, Antiq 18.60-62)).

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The flogging with many lashes (the Romans had no limit) took place with a whip embedded with pieces of bone and metal. It was designed to make the condemned die on the cross more quickly, but could be fatal in and of itself. Luke and John tell us that Pilate hoped that the torture would satisfy the blood-lust of the crowd, but it was not to be.

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27 - 31

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The \"Company\" was probably about 200 men who had come with Pilate to Jerusalem for the feast in order to keep the peace and protect Pilate. One of the soldiers took a cloak, maybe one of the purple cloaks worn by a Roman soldier, and put it on Jesus. The crown of thorns may or may not have been stuck to Jesus\' head. They could have faced outward as a mocking of an eastern crown which had \"rays\" going outward like the sun. They then beat Him with a mock scepter. Such beatings were apparently commonplace. I\'ll note that later on, some of these same soldiers realize Jesus was not just an ordinary prisoner.

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Conclusions

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Whatever happened to Pilate? All we know comes from Josephus, who tells us that by A.D. 36 he was no longer over Judea. After a man claimed he would show the sacred vessels of Moses gathered a crowd on Mt. Gerizim. Before the people could ascend, Pilate\'s cavalry attacked and slaughtered a great crowd. The Samaritans who were left appealed to the regional governor and Pilate was removed from office.

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In a way, Matthew presents a pretty good picture for us here in this section-a cross section of how humans deal with and rejects the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Pilate: reason, intellect, indecision

Elders: threat to power and pride

Crowd: influenced by others, going along to get along, no serious consideration

Soldiers: antagonism, giving in to base nature that fights God

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They all have something in common:

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Ephesians 4:17-24 Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.

20 But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, 21 assuming you heard Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus: 22 you took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires; 23 you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; 24 you put on the new man, the one created according to God\'s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

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Futility: empty

Understanding: thoughts as well as emotions.

Ignorance: to not know (we get agnostic)

Hardness: petrified, calloused, blind - perhaps cataracts?

Callous: apathetic (passed feeling)

Put off: cast away

Put on: sink into a garment

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When you don\'t know the truth as proclaimed by Jesus you are basically ignorant. Your thoughts and emotions are empty of reality. That leads to a callousness which then wards off conviction. Once we \"hear\" Jesus, and become His apprentice we are \"taught\" by Him and we cast off that old way and sink into the character of Jesus.

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No longer then do we live like the Roman and Jewish men we see in Matthew 27, but like Christ, who simply and gently gives the truth of who God is and what the Messiah is about. How does this happen?

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Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

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You don\'t really hear until you hear Jesus.

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Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and? active, sharper than any? two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and? discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

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The only way to break through the static is with the simple truth of the gospel of Jesus: know your evil nature, know your only Savior.

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Many times the only instrument that can make it through is the Word of God, so let\'s know it, learn it, study it, and declare it proudly!

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More about Pilate here: http://www.bible-history.com/empires/pilate.html

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