Flashback Episode — Facing the Important Decision: Luke 23:1-12

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After Jesus was arrested and condemned, the religious leaders take Him to Pilate. The religious leaders do this because they did not have the legal right to execute anyone since they were under Roman rule. Only the Roman government could sentence someone to death, and that is exactly what these religious leaders had decided Jesus deserved.

Let’s read about what takes place from Luke’s gospel, chapter 23, using the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, Luke describes what happened:

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.”

Pausing briefly here, it is interesting to look a little closer at the charge the religious leaders accuse Jesus of. This charge, while worthy of death in Rome’s eyes, doesn’t fit with what Jesus has actually taught. It would be foolish for these leaders to think that Pilate didn’t have a handle on who Jesus was and have already assessed Jesus’ threat to the Roman occupation of this region.

The claim these leaders bring against Jesus is about as generic of a charge as you could find, and it also breaks one of the Ten Commandments. When looking at this charge, while Jesus did claim to be the Messiah, we don’t find Him anywhere opposing paying taxes to Caesar. Instead, we have Him brilliantly answering the question of taxation in favor of paying Roman currency to the Roman government.

In the charge the leaders bring against Jesus, they break the commandment regarding sharing false testimony about one’s neighbor. While this seems minor when compared to the other commandment these leaders are clearly breaking, which is the commandment about not murdering someone, it is interesting to see that these leaders are clearly breaking God’s Law in order to protect their tradition.

It’s also interesting to note that this might hint at the truth that once someone breaks one of the commandments, it is easier to break the others.

However, how does Pilate respond to this charge? Let’s continue reading to discover what happened. Picking back up in verse three:

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

Let’s pause here briefly because this doesn’t seem like much of an interrogation. John’s gospel describes in greater detail a conversation that Jesus has with Pilate. With how the gospels are written, and the unique details that each includes, it’s possible that John’s gospel’s conversation happens at this point, but it could also happen at the end of our passage for this episode.

For that reason, next week, we’ll look at John’s gospel and this conversation Jesus has with Pilate a little more closely.

With that said, after Pilate announces to the religious leaders that he doesn’t find any basis for a charge against Jesus, we continue reading in verse 5, which tells us:

But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

It is interesting in my mind to read Luke’s concluding note about Herod and Pilate becoming friends that day. Herod and Pilate were likely two of the most opposite people one could find, and they hated each other – that is until they both had met Jesus. While neither likely placed their faith in Jesus after this point, it is fascinating to see that a shared experience is enough to turn enemies into friends.

It’s also interesting to wonder why Herod was in Jerusalem at that time. While it was a Jewish festival and a time for Jews to travel to Jerusalem, Herod wouldn’t have cared about that. Part of me wonders if this was because not long before this, when being pushed out of a town, the religious leaders warn Jesus that Herod is out to kill Him. In response, Jesus tells them to tell Herod a somewhat odd message, but one that might have been understood in Herod’s mind to relate to this weekend. It’s possible Herod was in Jerusalem because he believed he would get to meet Jesus, and because Jesus sent him the message that He did.

However, Herod’s meeting with Jesus wasn’t all that fulfilling. Herod wanted to see a miracle, or at least hear a response from Jesus to any of the questions he had or about the accusations of the religious leaders. After getting tired of the silence, Herod dresses Jesus up like a king for fun, and sends Him back to Pilate.

It is interesting in my mind why Jesus would remain silent in front of Herod, but He would respond to Pilate. Perhaps Jesus knew the attitude and heart of each leader, and He knew that Herod was unreachable. From what we read described in this passage, Herod comes into his meeting with Jesus with an agenda and an expectation. If Jesus had done anything to satisfy Herod’s agenda, Herod would likely have released Him. Herod had heard about Jesus, and he wants something to satisfy his curiosity.

If Jesus had performed a miracle for Herod, not only would God not receive any of the glory, which was one of the main reasons Jesus did miracles, but Herod likely would have released Jesus as a token of gratitude. Herod was outside of his jurisdiction in Jerusalem, and because of this, he could not execute Jesus here. Herod could have carted Jesus away to the area he did have jurisdiction over and kill Him there, but that wouldn’t have satisfied prophecy, and silence doesn’t warrant death.

Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate because Jesus isn’t being fun, and because Jesus isn’t responding to his demands.

In this passage, and in the discussion Jesus has with both Herod and Pilate, we discover that Jesus strategically responds in a way that maintains His innocence, but that also does not prompt Him to be released. Neither leader believed Jesus was worthy of death, but neither leader was willing to free Jesus against the wishes of the religious leaders.

This dilemma is similar to a choice that we all must make in our lives. The choice is simple to describe, but challenging to decide. The choice is this: What will you decide about Jesus?

When you think about Jesus, will you think of Him as a Jewish carpenter who had some profound things to say and who died too soon because He was betrayed by someone He thought was a friend. Or when you think about Jesus, will you see Him as God who came to earth as a human and who chose death to pay the price for our sins when He did not deserve them. One way paints Jesus as a man, the other way paints Jesus as a Savior.

Culture wants you to leave Jesus as a man in the pages of history because it is the easy thing to do. However, if Jesus came to be our Savior, then there is no more relevant of a time than today to place our hope, faith, trust, and belief in Him to save us for eternity!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

If you haven’t made the decision about who Jesus is yet, take the time to make your decision today. When your life ends, it would be a tragedy if you were left on the fence and Jesus ended up being important. Through my personal study, I have chosen Jesus, as you likely have guessed, and I believe this decision is the only decision that matters from the perspective of eternity.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God. God wants a personal relationship with you, and while He sends people into our lives with ideas and good things to think about, He doesn’t want anyone getting in the middle of your relationship with Him.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 39: When Pilate and Herod meet Jesus, they end up becoming friends when they had been enemies. Discover how this friendship might have happened, and the important decision we all must make before our lives end.

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