The Greatest Trial Ever Held
The story of Pilate
It was a long and difficult night. Jesus' best friends abandoned him. One of his closest colleagues committed suicide. Police arrested him. Religious people treated him with disdain—they mocked him, hit him, and spit in his face.
When the sun finally rose, it dawned on Jesus' day to die. He was hours away from experiencing one of the most horrific forms of capital punishment ever devised by sadistic executioners. But first there was a trial.
The Jewish authorities wanted Jesus dead but didn't have the legal authority to order an execution—that would require the verdict and sentence of a Roman court. The authorities resented Jesus' popularity and accused him of blasphemy against God, but the Romans couldn't have cared less whether Jesus was popular or if he blasphemed the Jewish God; the Romans blasphemed the Jewish God all the time.
Legally, the Jewish authorities needed a charge that would hold up in a civil court. Their best shot was to accuse Jesus of claiming to be the king of the Jews—it sounded like treason. They dragged Jesus to the outside courtroom in front of the governor's palace and pressed their accusation. The governor asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate, the governor, asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?" But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
Pilate and the Jews essentially hated each other. Pilate was procurator, which meant that he was appointed by and accountable to the Emperor and not the Roman senate. Though "governor" is a close enough title ...
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Leith Anderson is pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).