Before Pilate

Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
~ Zechariah 11:8

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
~ 1 Kings 18:17

Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.
~ Jeremiah 38:4

Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.
~ Amos 7:10

And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die. And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them. They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.
~ 1 Kings 21:10-13

False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.
~ Psalm 35:11

They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. Selah.
~ Psalm 62:4

Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.
~ Psalm 64:3-6

For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.
~ Jeremiah 20:10

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.
~ John 19:19-21

But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.
~ Psalm 38:13-14

A Commentary on Luke Chapter 23:1-13, by J.C. Ryle.

Section 134. Jesus before Pilate and Herod, Luke 23:1-12

And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked him, saying, Are you the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, You say it. Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him. Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him. And Herod with his men of war set him at nothing, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.

Let us observe, for one thing, in this passage — what false accusations were laid to our Lord Jesus Christ’s charge. We are told that the Jews accused Him of “subverting the nation, forbidding to give taxes to Caesar, and stirring up the people.” In all this indictment, we know, there was not a word of truth. It was nothing but a devious attempt to enlist the Roman governor against our Lord.

Lying and slander are two favorite weapons of the devil. He was a liar from the beginning, and is still the father of lies. (John 8:44.) When he finds that he cannot stop God’s work — his next device is to blacken the character of God’s servants, and to destroy the value of their testimony.

With this weapon, he assaulted David, “False witnesses,” he says, “testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.”

With this weapon, he assaulted the prophets. Elijah was accused of being a “troubler of Israel!” Jeremiah was accused of undermining the nation, and being a traitor!

With this weapon Satan assaulted the apostles. They were “pestilent fellows,” and men who “turned the world upside down.”

With this weapon he assaulted our Lord all through His ministry. He stirred up his agents to call Him a glutton and a drunkard, a Samaritan and a devil! (Luke 7:34; John 8:48.)

And here, in the verses before us, we find Satan plying his old weapon to the very last. Jesus is arraigned before Pilate upon charges which are utterly untrue.

The servant of Christ must never be surprised if he has to drink of the same cup with his Lord. When He who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, was foully slandered — then who can expect to escape? “If they called the master of the house Beelzebub — then how much more will they call those of his household?” (Matthew 10:25.)

Nothing is too evil to slander a saint with. Perfect innocence is no fence against enormous lying, calumny, and misrepresentation. The most blameless character, will not secure us against false tongues. We must bear the trial patiently. It is part of the cross of Christ. We must sit still, lean back on God’s promises, and believe that in the long run truth will prevail. “Rest in the Lord,” says David, “and wait patiently for Him.” “He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:6, 7.)

Let us observe, for another thing, in this passage — the strange and mingled motives which influence the hearts of unconverted great men. We are told that when our Lord was sent by Pilate to Herod, king of Galilee, “Herod 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 some miracle.”

These words are remarkable. Herod was a sensual, worldly man, the murderer of John the Baptist — a man living in foul adultery with his brother’s wife. Such a man, we might have supposed, would have had no desire to see Christ. But Herod had an uneasy conscience. The blood of God’s murdered saints, no doubt, rose often before his eyes, and destroyed his peace. The fame of our Lord’s preaching and miracles had penetrated even into his court. It was said that another witness against sin had risen up, who was even more faithful and bold than John the Baptist; and who confirmed his teaching by miracles!

These rumors made Herod restless and uncomfortable. No wonder that his curiosity was stirred, and he wanted to see Christ.

It may be feared that there are many great and rich men like Herod in every age of the church — men without God, without faith, and living only for themselves. They generally live in an atmosphere of their own — flattered, fawned upon, and never told the truth about their souls — haughty, tyrannical, and knowing no will but their own. Yet even these men are sometimes conscience-stricken and afraid.

God raises up some bold witness against their sins, whose testimony reaches their ears. At once their curiosity is stirred. They feel “found out,” and are ill at ease. They flutter around his ministry, like the moth round the candle, and seem unable to keep away from it, even while they do not obey it. They praise his talents and openly profess their admiration of his power. But they never get any further.

Like Herod, their conscience produces within them a morbid curiosity to see and hear God’s witnesses. But, like Herod, their heart is linked to the world by chains of iron. Tossed to and fro by storms of lust or ungovernable passions — they are never at rest while they live; and after all their fitful struggles of conscience — they die at length in their sins. This is a painful history. But it is the history of many rich men’s souls.

Let us learn from Herod’s case, to pity great men. With all their greatness and apparent splendor — they are often thoroughly miserable within. Silks and satins and official robes, often cover hearts which are utter strangers to peace. That man does not understand what he is wishing for — who wishes to be a rich man.

Let us pray for rich men — as well as pity them. They carry a heavy weight in the race for eternal life. If they are saved, it can only be by the greatest miracles of God’s grace. Our Lord’s words are very solemn, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle — than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24.)

Let us observe, finally, in this passage — how easily and readily, unconverted men can agree in disliking Christ. We are told that when Pilate sent our Lord a prisoner to Herod, “That day Herod and Pilate became friends; before this they had been enemies.” We know not the cause of their enmity. It was probably some petty quarrel, such as will arise among great as well as small. But whatever the cause of enmity — it was laid aside when a common object of contempt, fear, or hatred was brought before them. Whatever else they disagreed about — Pilate and Herod could agree to despise and persecute Christ.

The incident before us is a striking emblem of a state of things which may always be seen in the world. Men of the most discordant opinions — can unite in opposing truth. Teachers of the most opposite doctrines — can make common cause in fighting against the Gospel.

In the days of our Lord, the Pharisees and the Sadducees might be seen combining their forces to entrap Jesus of Nazareth and put Him to death.

In our own times, we sometimes see Romanists — and Socinians; infidels — and idolaters; worldly pleasure-lovers — and bigoted moralists; the friends of so-called liberal views — and the most determined opponents of all changes — all ranked together against evangelical religion. One common hatred binds them together. They hate the cross of Christ!

To use the words of the apostles in the Acts, “Against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, are gathered together.” (Acts 4:27.) All hate each other very much — but all hate Christ much more!

The true Christian must not count the enmity of the world to be a strange thing. He must not marvel, if like Paul at Rome, he finds the Way of Life, a “way everywhere spoken against,” and if all around him agree in disliking his religion. (Acts 28:22.) If he expects that by any concession, he can win the favor of man — then he will be greatly deceived.

Let not his heart be troubled. He must only expect the praise of God. The saying of his Master should often come across his mind, “If you belonged to the world — then it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you!” (John 15:19.)