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Jesus before Pilate

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
June 13, 2021 12:01 am

Jesus before Pilate

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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June 13, 2021 12:01 am

Of all the people who were involved in the suffering and death of Jesus, why is Pontius Pilate specifically mentioned in the Apostles' Creed? Today, R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of Mark's gospel to take a close look at the Roman governor who condemned the King of kings to die.

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Today on Redoing Your Mind… Earlier this morning in our worship, we gave our affirmation of faith by reciting together the words of the Apostles' Creed. And you might notice that in that creed all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned, but apart from them there are two others who make it into the creed. We are told in the creed that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, and immediately after that affirmation of His entrance into this world through His mother Mary, the creed says, He was then suffered under Pontius Pilate. Have you ever wondered why it is that in the course of history and in the early centuries of Christianity that when the church formulated this symbol of faith that they were inclined to include the name of Pontius Pilate in this record, it could have just as well have been betrayed by Judas Iscariot, or denied by Simon Peter, or delivered by the high priest Caiaphas.

Instead it simply suffered under Pontius Pilate. Again, why should this third-rate Roman politician be elevated to such a level of importance in the history of the church? The immediate and simple reason, of course, is that because he was the presiding officer, the supreme judge in that earthly court that condemned Jesus to death. And in that role, as church historians and theologians agree, he functioned not merely as a local prefect of Rome, but as a publicus persona, that is, a public person who issued a judgment that was far more significant in terms of history than his own personal opinion. This record of Jesus before Pilate is filled with irony. Mark, as is his custom, gives us an extremely brief summary of the discussion that took place between Jesus and Pilate, if it's indeed proper to even call it a discussion.

But first a little background about the man before whom Jesus stood on trial for His life. Pontius Pilate was appointed by the Roman government to be prefect over this conquered land of Palestine. This was the custom in the ancient Roman Empire that whatever lands were conquered by the Roman legions would then be ruled by some representative of the senate and people of Rome in that particular locale. In terms of history, Pilate was the fifth such prefect over Palestine, and his tenure of office there was from A.D. 26 to A.D. 37, eleven years. It may not seem like a long time, but again one of the ironies of history is that Pontius Pilate had the longest tenure of any prefect of Rome in the land of Palestine. Now that might sound like a complement of his administrative capacity and of his gifts as a ruler, but on the contrary, to be posted by Rome to Palestine was anything but a political plum. It was perhaps the lowest land on the imperial totem pole for a young, aspiring Roman administrator to find his stripes, and to stay in that outpost for eleven years was not so much a sign of success as it was a sign of failure.

Other men who were posted in Palestine as prefect, if they did well, would quickly advance in the Roman system and be transferred to a better venue. But Pilate was stuck for eleven years in dealing with this very unhappy Jewish nation. His tenure finally ended not when he received a promotion, but when he was basically fired and banished from government by the Emperor Caligula. And you may recall that Caligula, second only to Nero, was one of the worst of all Roman emperors. And so to fail to impress Caligula gives again further evidence of what a dreadful administrator Pontius Pilate was.

But we not only have the record of the New Testament about Pilate, but we also have allusions to his tenure by the historian Philo and the Jewish historian Josephus, and they agreed that Pilate was inflexible, stubborn, and cruel. And the reason why he was finally banished was because of those characteristics in his personal behavior. During his reign there in Palestine, he was involved in several ghastly, bloody episodes whenever he put down insurrections or protests and rebellions by the Jewish people.

And there were times where he deliberately provoked them. For example, he invited the legions of Rome to enter into Jerusalem and into the temple area with banners that proclaimed the bust of the Roman Caesar, which was seen as blasphemous to the Jewish people. On another occasion, he was engaged in a public works project that you would think the Jews would celebrate in that he built an aqueduct that ran for twenty-three miles following the Roman architecture for building aqueducts, bringing water and refreshment into the city of Jerusalem itself.

That was the good news. The bad news is to finance it, he confiscated the money from the temple in order to build his aqueduct. So there was a sense in which the Jews even despised the water that Pontius Pilate brought to the city. But what is most important besides his stubborn brutality and cruelty are the points that were discussed in this brief meeting with Jesus. And if we look at all four of the gospels, we see that there were basically four things that were in the discussion, and I want to look at each of those briefly this morning. First of all, there was the question of Jesus being a King.

That was front and center in the discussion. Second of all, there was the discussion of Jesus' guilt or innocence. Thirdly, there was the discussion recorded by the Apostle John about Jesus' understanding of truth. And finally, there was the question of amnesty that Mark records in his gospel. So in the first instance, we see that the charges that were brought by the Sanhedrin to Pilate about Jesus were that He claimed to be the King of the Jews.

And as I mentioned before, any such statements running around the Roman Empire of somebody who would be king when the only king that was recognized was King Caesar would indeed provoke a political crisis. And so Pilate says to Jesus, is it true? Are you the King of the Jews? Now in the terse record that we have for Mark, Jesus' reply is very simple. You say that it is so. Now I think every translation that seeks to render this in English has a problem because the real force of the reply of Jesus would be something like this. So you say that you are a king, and it's like Jesus said, you said it. It's not just simply saying, well, you say that.

I don't say that. It's like what you're saying, Pilate, is the truth. Yes, I am a king. But as we read from the other accounts, Jesus qualified that by saying, but My kingdom, My kingdom is not of this world. If it were of this world, My subjects would rise up right now, Pilate, and free Me from this mob. But that's not the kind of king I am. In other words, you don't have anything to fear for Me in terms of your political power or the Roman government there with Caesar. My kingdom is not of this world. It's a transcendent kingdom.

Now in this discussion, I'll change the order of the four points that I gave you a moment ago. According to John when Jesus answered and says that business about you the King of the Jews, Jesus introduces another discussion. He said, for this reason I came into the world to bear witness to the truth, and everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

Isn't that interesting that in the middle of this discussion of kingship, Jesus changes the focus. He says to Pilate, do you want to know what I'm about? Do you want to know what my mission is? Do you know why I came into the world? I came to this world to bear witness to the truth.

Let me repeat it. Jesus said that the reason He came here was to bear witness to the truth. And you remember what Pilate said? What is truth? How ironic was that when the truth incarnate was standing right in front of Him?

And remember what Jesus said, I came to bear witness to the truth, and all who are of the truth hear My voice. Let me stop for a second. I don't know how many people are in this room right now, three, four hundred people. I can't see past your dresses and suits and shirts. I can't read anybody's heart in this room.

I can't even read my own. So I don't know who's in Christ and who isn't. But we're always told that the church in every age and in every place is a mixed body. There will be people in church who are unconverted, unregenerate, who don't hear the voice of Jesus because they're not of the truth.

And here's a good time to ask yourself about the state of your soul. Do you hear the words of Christ? Do you delight in the words of Jesus? Or do the words of Jesus bore you?

Perhaps they offend you. If that's the case, then you need to say, well maybe I'm not of the truth because Jesus said everyone who is of the truth, everyone who is a genuine, authentic truth seeker hears His voice. Then what does Pilate say? He gives his verdict. He says, I find no fault in the man.

Do you remember in Matthew's account it tells of Pilate's wife having a disturbing dream, and then after Pilate makes this pronouncement of the innocence of Jesus, he washes his hands publicly. I wash my hands of this matter, and I find no fault in him. Do you want me to crucify him?

Why? What evil has he done? Never in his whole life had Pilate more accurately spoke the truth than when he as the judge of Jesus in this public role said, I find no fault in him.

Eka homo, behold the man, the man, the man without a blemish, the man without a fault. Now why, dear friends, couldn't Pilate find any fault in Jesus? Was it because he didn't look hard enough?

No. There wasn't any to find there. You can't find what doesn't exist, and there was no fault.

There was no blemish in this man. So after this discussion of truth of the kingdom and Pilate's pronouncement of the last pronouncement of the innocence of Jesus, we come to the fourth aspect of this meeting, which perhaps has more irony than any. The subject of amnesty comes up. Pilate had a tradition that during the Passover festival he would give to the Jews a prisoner with full amnesty to be released, made completely free. And Pilate was aware of that, and he was very much troubled by the fact that the Jewish leaders had tried to manipulate him to punish Jesus whom he felt was innocent of any guilt, and he realized that they had delivered him to Pilate. To Pilate.

Why? Because of envy, one of the cardinal sins of fallen humanity, envy. Do you know how many miscarriages of justice, how many slanders, how much vandalism, how much violence, how much theft, how much murder, how much war has been waged on account of those three words, be cause of envy? Envy? It was envy that led to the death of Christ.

Instead of fallen humanity rejoicing that the perfect Redeemer had come, their envy blinded them to His greatness. And so Pilate is aware of that. He sees the dynamics. He knows what's going on. He reads the minds of the Jewish leaders. He says, they've only brought this guy here because they're jealous of him.

But I can't see that he's done anything. So I know how I'll let him off the hook. I'll offer him to the people. I'll offer amnesty. I'll release this man to you.

Which one do you want me to release, a murderer or your king? Again, Pilate completely misread the mob because they cried out, give us Barabbas. Well, Barabbas was his last name. It wasn't his first name.

Do you know what his first name was? Barabbas, according to the gospel of Matthew? Jesus. See, the option for amnesty was Jesus Barabbas or Jesus of Nazareth.

Which one do you want? Now let's just take that irony a step further. What does the name Barabbas mean? Remember when the Spirit enables us to address God as Father by which we say, Abba, Father? Jesus is called Jesus bar Joseph, Simon bar Jonah, bar means Son of, Barabbas means Son of the Father. Here is this murderer standing there, and Pilate said, do you want Jesus Son of the Father, Jesus Barabbas, or do you want this other Jesus? The irony is that the real Barabbas was the one they rejected because Jesus of Nazareth was Jesus bar Abba, Son of the Father, the only begotten of the Father. Not the Son of the earthly Father, Joseph, but the Son of the heavenly Father, Barabbas. But they didn't want the heavenly Son. They wanted a different Jesus, a Jesus they could live with, a Jesus for whom there was no envy, a Jesus who wouldn't make them feel guilty, a Jesus of this world. Beloved, for two thousand years the world has cried for a different Jesus, and the church has cried for a different Jesus. Give us one more like ourselves, one for whom we have no envy, no hatred. But you know, it wasn't like that the choice of the crowd was so close that Pilate had to poll the audience.

The vote was decided by acclamation. Give us Barabbas! All right. What do I do with the King of the Jews? No, that's easy. Him you can crucify. Crucify Him.

Give us Barabbas. Kill Jesus. Twice they cried out, crucify Him. Why, what evil has He done? And a third time they cried out, all the more crucify Him.

Verse 15 says it all, doesn't it? So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them, and he delivered Jesus after He had scourged Him, after He had beaten Him, after He had mocked Him, after He had shamed the very one He pronounced innocent. He gave them to the crowd to pacify them. Do you think Pilate was the last person in history to do that, friends? Pilate read the crowd, asked one of his assistants, what's the latest Gallup poll? What do you think would be the politically correct thing to do here? Keep the people happy.

What price? Justice. And so he delivered Him to be crucified.

What a travesty of shame. But the good news is even in that very moment, Pilate was putty in the hands of God, being used to bring about the redemption that God had ordained from all eternity. Even when things appeared to be the darkest for Jesus, everything was under God's perfect control and within His plan. It's good for us to remember that, isn't it? When circumstances around us seem out of our control, we can remember that God's perfect plan is well within His control. We're glad you've joined us for this Lord's Day edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb.

Dr. R.C. Sproul's sermon series from the Gospel of Mark is our focus each Sunday. We've been studying this book for several months, and I hope you've been with us throughout the series. But our resource offer today provides you with an opportunity to study Mark's gospel in depth on your own. When you contact us with a donation of any amount, we'll be glad to provide you with a digital download of Dr. Sproul's commentary on Mark.

You can request that online at You'll also find RefNet to be a rich source of biblical content. RefNet streams trustworthy teaching and preaching, Scripture reading, and audiobooks 24 hours a day. We've heard from so many listeners that RefNet has become their go-to app for Christian internet radio.

You can listen for free at any time when you go to or when you download the free RefNet app. Next week Dr. Sproul will take a look at the most evil event ever to take place on earth. Jesus, the perfect spotless Lamb of God, the one who never sinned, is crucified. I hope you'll make plans to be with us next Sunday for Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-05 01:50:06 / 2023-11-05 01:57:27 / 7

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