Session #16  (Most quotes are NIV)


Back now to our old “sneak-thief” Judas!  Matthew 27:3-10 tells us that Judas, shocked that Jesus was being railroaded to go to the cross, “repents”—well, sort of repents.  “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders.”  Seized with remorse?  Well, Judas, what did you THINK was going to happen?

This gives us a great insight into the character of Judas.  Firstly, it is clear that the money was the only thing he was thinking about, so he hadn’t thought the whole thing through before he betrayed our Lord.  Secondly, he now thinks everything can be undone if he just gives the money back.  There is no repentance here:  Judas has a change of mind, but he doesn’t have a change of heart.

Most of us know the story:  Judas says “Take the money back!”  The Jewish Leaders say “No, its yours.  A deal is a deal!”  So, Judas goes to the Temple grounds, throws the money into the Temple and proceeds to hang himself.  The leaders say “We can’t put this money into the Temple Treasury because it is blood money.”  And they used the money to buy a Potter’s Field to bury strangers.  

There are some textual problems with the story of Judas which I was going to address here, but they are too complicated for this format.  Perhaps a Bible Class session would be a better place to explain them.  I’ll give you a hint:  the Hebrew word for “Potter” and for “Treasury” is only one letter difference!  However, be assured that Matthew, using a deliberate miss-direction and pointing to a manuscript error which Matthew knows exists in the Hebrew text of Zechariah, is making a point of showing the consequences of rejecting Christ.  Remember that Matthew is writing his Gospel for a Jewish audience—they would get this better than Gentiles.


Did Pilate know that Jesus was coming up for trial on this Friday morning?  Caiaphas was a slick politician.  He wouldn’t risk “surprising Pilate” with anything during Passover week.  If Jesus needed to cough, Caiaphas would get Pilate’s approval first!  

Remember that the Jewish Council wanted to kill Jesus themselves on a “desecrating the Temple” charge, and then claim their right under Roman law, but the witnesses couldn’t agree on anything!  They probably knew this was a bad idea, and might make Pilate “nervous!”

All four Gospels give us their version of the early exchanges between Pilate and Jesus.  John 18:28-38 gives us the most information.  But Luke 23:2 has a nice summary of the first round of charges which the Jewish Council brings to Pilate:  “Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate.And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.’”

They start with three charges: 1. Subverting the nation 2. Refusing to pay taxes 3. Claiming to be a King!  Pilate doesn’t care about the first two charges, but he can’t afford to overlook that last one:  if Jesus is claiming that he is a “king,” that’s sedition, and Rome doesn’t look kindly on attempts to overthrow the government.

Before Pilate gets serious about addressing these charges, he decides to have a little fun with this band of Jews whom he detests.   John 18:29-31 says  “So Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’  ‘If he were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we would not have handed him over to you.’  Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’  ‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ they objected.” 

Pilate gets them to admit that they are ruled by Rome and are therefore depending on Rome to do their dirty work.  They don’t have the power of execution!  In other words, Pilate says:  “Before we get going here, let’s remember WHO is the boss!” and they have to admit “Yessir, YOU are the boss.”

John 18:28 and 18:33 refer to the “palace” where this trial takes place.  This is undoubtedly the Fortress Antonia which is located next to the Temple grounds on the north side of Jerusalem.  A careful reading of all four Gospels shows that at this point, there is no “mob” of people at the trial.  This seems to be primarily the Jewish Council (“the whole assembly”) which stands before Pilate to accuse Jesus.  (See Mark 15:1, Matt. 27:2, Luke 23:1; John 18:28)

All four Gospels have the exchange:  Pilate asks Jesus “Are you a King?” and Jesus answers “Yes.”  But again, John gives us far more detail, including John 18:34-35 and another little glimpse at the anti-Semitism of Pilate.   “’Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’  ‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’”  Jesus says “Yes” to the charge of “King” in the Gospel of John too, but he explains to Pilate that his Kingdom is not an earthly one.  I almost get the feeling here that Pilate “kind of likes” Jesus.

IMPORTANT:  it is in the Gospel of John that Jesus says “I’m here to bear witness to the truth,” and Pilate says “What is truth?”  This is a theme, founded on John’s introduction (“Prologue”) 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  That’s quite a statement:  all we got from Moses is the Law, but if you want the real truth you have to look to Jesus!

The result of the first round:  Luke 23:4–Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”  “The crowd” (τοὺς ὄχλους) is a reference to “the whole assembly.”   The Council and its attendants amount to a fair number of people.

At this point, both Mark 15:5 and Matt 27:14 tell us that 1. The Chief Priests are coming up with more accusations—anything that might stick, 2. Jesus won’t answer any more questions and 3. Pilate is a bit surprised that Jesus remains mute.

Then the Jewish leaders put their foot in the bucket!  They said “He started this even up in Galilee.”  Galilee?  Pilate has already figured out that this is an attempted lynching and he wants nothing to do with it.  Here is Pilate’s “out.”  If Jesus is a Galilean, that’s Herod territory!  Let Herod give his opinion.  Off to Herod he goes, under heavy Roman guard of course!


Galilee (“up north”) was the best land, and most of it was being bought up by non-Jews!  The Galileans were a very devout group of Jews with highly nationalist goals, especially since their land was being sold out from under them.  This made Galilee in Jesus’ time a seat of unrest and highly susceptible to “messiahs” who promised to free them from the Romans.

Herod Antipas (who had beheaded John the Baptist), one of the sons of Herod the Great, held the title “Tetrarch of Galilee” although he wanted the title “King” like his father.  He had a Jerusalem palace about 3 or 4 blocks from the Fortress Antonia.  Luke 23:6-12 is the only reference to Jesus’ side trip to Herod.  Galilee is a neighboring province, ruled by Herod.  Since one of the charges is that Jesus was stirring up trouble in Galilee, why not get a “second opinion?”  (That was allowed in Roman trial procedure; Herod would serve as a “consilium.”)

Antipas had very little Jewish blood, but he was more “Jewish” than Pilate.  Perhaps Pilate hoped that this half-Jew would opine that Jesus was innocent, and that would give Pilate extra protection for a not-guilty verdict.  (“Well, Herod thought he was innocent too!”)

Herod’s behavior here is less than exemplary.  Luke tells us that Herod was more interested in a little entertainment (“Do a miracle for me!”) than examining the prisoner.  When it became obvious that no miracles were forthcoming, Herod had his soliders dress Jesus up as a mock “King” and Herod sent him back to Pilate.  Luke 23:12 “That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.“