Matthew 27:1-26 Part 3


The Sanhedrin had met for the second time.  And with the six o’clock (AM) hour having passed, they bound Jesus and led Him away toward the praetoriam (Herod’s castle, where Pilate was staying) in order to secure the death penalty from the Roman governor.  The text doesn’t say it, but I’m sure that all the temple attendants and the contingent of temple guards were present – along with a full assembly of the Sanhedrin.  So this was an even larger crowd than had gone to arrest Jesus down in Gethsemane six or eight hours before.

Remember that Jesus had been “near death” in Gethsemane….  The Father had begun the “abandonment” of the Son.  Sin was being imputed; and the curse of separation was beginning.  And Jesus was – not only passively, but – actively receiving the full penalty of Covenant disobedience for all His Father’s people!

So in the beginning throes of the curse and the penalty, Jesus had been led to the temple complex (on the dome of the rock) where He was thrust completely outside the pale and protection of the Law… unmercifully beaten with rods and clubs and fists… mocked and jeered and humiliated, and covered with human spittle.

While Peter and John and Judas watched in horror, the leadership of Israel turned the full wrath of depraved mankind on God’s Messiah – and ripped and tore at Him as jackals and wolves.

Isaiah had prophesied it all, hadn’t he?


“He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed.”


Matthew, in the most perfect and logical place for it, then parenthetically attests to Judas’ remorse and self-destruction; and reveals the connection between the “blood-money” purchase of the cemetery for Gentiles and the prophetic word of Jeremiah and Zechariah.  Purchased by the blood of Christ, the pagan Gentiles, following God’s judgment of Israel, have a “resting place” in Zion!  The “land” is theirs following the expulsion of the disobedient covenant people!

And, ironically (from our view), it was the priests of Israel themselves who went out and purchased the plot of ground with that money (fulfilling the prophecy against themselves)!  God in His sovereignty never leaves one stone unturned or one prophetic Word unfulfilled.  It is the raging and rebellion of the self-deceived (Psalm two) that’s so “laughable” to God; for He is using their own self-deception to do His bidding – so whether they want to be… they’re still His servants!!

So our Lord has actively chosen to receive the full brunt of God’s judgment for sin.  His will was set on obedience – no matter the consequences; no matter the pain; no matter the abandonment (God the Son abandoned by God the Father).  Glorify the Father (satisfy Him)… do His will… save His people.  Actively seek (not just endure, but seek) – and take the punishment for them.

So He’s led, now (His condition is now what you might expect – after His having suffered so), (He’s led, now) to Pilate (at the praetorium – not far from the temple complex); the large crowd so different from the one that followed Him into Jerusalem (this one enraged and “bent” on His destruction).

Shortly after six in the morning on Friday (the day of the sacrifice – the day the chief priest entered into the holy of holies), the Roman governor awakened to find the entire leadership of Israel at the praetorium complex (the priests, the elders of the tribes, the pharisee/lawyers, the temple guard and all the attendants…).  They wanted a legal audience… something about a “death penalty” for a Galilean Jew Who thought He was “King of the Jews”.  Surely the governor must have heard about this Man… everybody had.  This “Jesus” had quite a large following.  And He had frightened some people.

Pilate probably thought that his attendance at the Jewish Passover was enough of an inconvenience for him… but it was “politically correct” for him to be there, since this was the biggest “festival day” of the year for those who he was sent to govern.  (And it was Rome’s policy to allow these local traditions to continue.)

But Rome had almost lost patience with Israel several times before… it had threatened military action to crush all the resistance!  We’ll say some more about this later, but oppressive governments are used by God (all through Scripture) to chasten the disobedient!

But now Pilate was faced with a very sensitive situation (a real inconvenience) – especially at a time when people from all over the empire were here.  How he handled this might affect the festival negatively; and since there were attendees and delegates here from every province of the empire, word of every event in Jerusalem would go back home with them.  And a major incident in this rebellious province would surely be addressed in Rome.  And Pilate might lose his governorship, and his career… and maybe even his life!

So, even though it’s early in the morning on this Passover day, Pilate comes out of the castle to meet the leaders of Israel.

Matthew says (verse eleven)


“…and Jesus was made to stand before the governor….”


Most texts say “and Jesus stood….”  But this is in the passive voice:  He was “made to stand”.  He had already been condemned to die; but the Sanhedrin had to get the governor’s “acquiescence” in the sentencing (Roman law)!  In other words, the Roman magistrate had to agree with the court’s finding; and he (the higher law officer) had to pass sentence upon the accused person.  So Jesus, the Anointed of God, was made to stand (legally) before the Roman governor!

Pilate was to hear the arguments in the case and either agree with the Jewish court’s findings, or negate the entire proceeding.  This wasn’t an appellate court (where the accused could appeal to a higher magistrate).  All the Sanhedrin had to do was to bring enough pressure to bear on this Man that he would just let them do what they wished to do!

But the pressure on him came from every direction!  Pressure from Rome; pressure to have a peaceful festival; public opinion (people from all over the empire); the zealots of Israel who were ready to rebel at the drop of a hat; potential riots from the huge crowds who followed this Man Jesus; career stability; the traditions of the Sanhedrin…!  And then, as we read in the text, there was great pressure from his own wife!

If he didn’t allow the highest Jewish court to do what it wished with its own, then how severe would the complaints and accusations be… back in Rome?  If the whole city turned to chaos and rioting, and people from other provinces were killed and injured during Passover, how would his governorship be seen in the rest of the empire?

We’ve already seen that this man could be extremely cruel and decisive; he could be deceptive; he would shift blame to others without remorse.  This man was totally loyal to the emperor, but, a consummate politician, he was very concerned with political expedience.  Very pragmatic, he would do only that which was to his advantage….

But now he was being put into an awfully difficult, very visible position in which none of his options were particularly acceptable.  There was no advantage to him… no matter what he did!

Now, Matthew’s account, although perfectly correct in all that he says, omits much of what happened in this initial hearing before Pilate.  He simply says (verse eleven) that Jesus was made to stand before Pilate; Pilate says to Him,


“You are king of the Jews?”  And Jesus affirms the content of the question.  He says, “You say.”


But you need to hear two other passages which will broaden our knowledge of this event.  As I said, Matthew’s account is perfectly factual; but brevity is his style (this isn’t a history… it’s the Gospel!).

So, first, listen to Luke at the beginning of chapter twenty-three:


“And the whole multitude of them arose and led Him unto Pilate.  And they began to accuse Him saying, ‘We found this One perverting the nation and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar saying that He Himself is Christ – a King!’”


So Luke adds that when Jesus was made to stand before Pilate, the governor heard the accusations against Him.  And the accusations were not the same as those for which He had receive the death penalty!  When Pilate becomes the “judge”, the accusations are formulated in such a way as to elicit a negative response from a Roman governor… where before they had to do with blasphemy – a death penalty offense in God’s Law!

The priests (and it’s assumed here that Caiaphas is the prosecutor), (the priests) accuse Jesus of perverting the nation (which now belongs to Rome), forbidding tribute to Caesar (with-holding taxes, which foments rebellion), and (since kings were “anointed”) calling Himself the “Christ” (the Anointed One) – a King (depriving Caesar of his rightful title and worship!).

See, never would the Sanhedrin have brought these kinds of charges against Jesus in the Jewish assembly.  They had to do with Roman interests!  And, in order to gain the ruling that they wanted, the priests completely changed the focus of the accusations to those that would offend Pilate.

We’re very familiar with this kind of double-mindedness among our politicians today; but we need to see that it was the “system” of injustice, and the manipulation of justice (inherent in pharisaical Israel) that was brought against the Just and Righteous Jesus Christ.  God was using His servant/magistrates to cause the oppression of His Son… and all in order to bring salvation to His people.

Now, the apostle John expands this event even more.  Where Matthew covers it all in a verse or two, John spends twelve verses on it.  Listen to what he writes (in chapter eighteen):


“Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment; and it was early; and they themselves did not go into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled but they might celebrate the Passover.

Pilate then went out unto them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’  They answered and said unto him, ‘If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up unto you!’

Then Pilate said unto them, ‘Take Him and judge Him according to your law.’  The Jews then said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put any man to death….’

Then Pilate entered into the praetorium again and called Jesus; and said unto Him, ‘You are the King of the Jews?’  Jesus answered him, ‘Do you say this of yourself, or did others tell you of Me?’

Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew?  Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You unto me; what have You done?’  Jesus answered, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world; if My Kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews:  but now is My Kingdom not from here.’ [i.e. it doesn’t originate here)

Pilate then said unto Him, ‘Are you a King then?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a King.  To this end was I born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the Truth.  Every one that is of the Truth hears My voice.’

Pilate says unto Him, ‘What is Truth?’  And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and said unto them, ‘I find no fault in Him.’


Now, what we find, then, in the Gospel of John, is that Pilate, upon coming out and hearing the charges against Jesus (the Jews wouldn’t go into the Gentile palace), he then takes Jesus into the “praetorium” (the hall of justice in Herod’s castle) to examine Him privately.

In the first place, that must have delighted the priests and the elders; because this Man who calls Himself “the Anointed of God” has entered into a “Gentile” establishment and is, therefore, ceremonially “unclean”!!

Secondly, we see that Jesus answers the governor’s questions and declared the Truth (more about that later, maybe).  But this is where the question in Matthew’s text occurs – inside the praetorium.  Pilate looks at Jesus – bound, and covered with cuts and abrasions and human spit – and he must not think that Jesus looks much like a King; because he asks Him (perhaps a little cynically, maybe even with a bit of pity), “You are King of the Jews?”  And, as we read, Jesus answered him… confirming the content of the question.

But the point here is that Pilate seems convinced that this Man is no threat to him or to Caesar – or to the Jews!  There was no discernable sedition in His answers; and He has no designs to overthrow the government.  He’s probably some radical mystic with a following; and He’s broken no Roman laws.

So Plate, having satisfied himself about this Man, comes back out of the praetorium (with Jesus) and speaks to the crowd.  And he says to them that he can find no fault in the Man!  He’s guiltless, and he’s seemingly harmless!

Now I want you to understand that Pilate has ruled on Jesus’ behalf!  He has heard the accusations from the leadership of Israel; he has taken Jesus aside privately and examined Him; and he has come back out and spoken his judgment in the case!  He has a “finding”; he had judged the case (made a ruling), and has found the accused Person faultless!

But, as John goes on to say, there was then a “flood” of further, vicious accusations bursting forth from the priests and elders of Israel!  (And remember, “devil” means slanderer – accuser.  He constantly approaches the judgment seat and accuses the people of God of heresy and blasphemy!)

But this is where Matthew’s verse twelve comes in:


“And that in which He was to be accused by the chief priests and elders, He caused Himself to answer nothing.”


His silence before His accusers was prophesied, wasn’t it?


“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.”


He stood silent!  He answered them not a word!

The obvious reason for that was that He had been found guilty of nothing in His “trial” before Annas and Caiaphas.  In a completely illegal trial, with no charges, and with no witnesses – for the prosecution or the defense – the Blameless Jesus had been brutally attacked and sentenced to death.  And the stream of accusations now being screamed at Pilate were also groundless!  The Innocent One of God was now being charged with all the sins of men; and the Lamb of God was receiving the guilt of His Father’s people.

But, also, consider this.  Pilate had ruled.  He had judged Him and pronounced Him innocent.  Cynically pitying the Man (in His condition), he had come out and declared Jesus faultless.

And, therefore, since Jesus had already been judged “innocent”, why should He speak to further accusations?  So he just stood there… and looked at the governor.  With all eyes on Him and the governor, He… looked at Pilate.  Silence.  Intense silence.  Not a word.  The governor’s judgment had been declared.  He had ruled against putting this Man to death.

But, Pilate… under heat… with the Sanhedrin angrily contesting the verdict, and with the intensity of the silence focusing the entire event upon him… (Pilate) buckled.  And he shifted the immense “weight” of the moment back over to Jesus.

Matthew records what he did (verse thirteen).  He said,


“Do You not hear what things they are testifying against You?”


Do you see what he did?  Having already examined Jesus and having found Him faultless, he now reopens the case!  Because of his situation, he reopens the case!

But he has already pronounced Him guiltless!!  Does that verdict stand?!  The Man isn’t liable for death!  It may appear to be fair for an accused person to face his accusers; but does the ruling stand?

And if Pilate is now uncertain of his former verdict, the least he could do (upon wavering) is to take Jesus back for re-examination!!

But having ruled against death for this Man, it is the Roman governor’s duty to silence the accusers!  But, like most, he was ambivalent to the Christ… and to justice (goes one way, and then another – with the wind and the tide… whatever’s expedient!).

He should have enforced the judgment with soldiers; but his cowardice speaks eloquently of him.  He shifts the responsibility back to Jesus to answer charges!  But Jesus’ silence upholds the verdict.  “I find no fault in this Man.”

More silence (verse fourteen)!  And Pilate is astonished, because, once more, the responsibility comes right back to him.  Having been declared “without fault”, Jesus would not accept the responsibility of answering more charges.  And all eyes are back on Pilate.  More deafening silence.  And shame.  Pilate, the representative of the fourth great kingdom of the world, at the top of Mt. Zion, could not stand on his own judgment.

I’ll have much more to say about this, and about the following verse, when we assemble next Lord’s Day.