Invitation to DiscussLuke 23.1-25

Then the whole company of them arose, and brought him before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying “We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and that he himself is the Messiah, a king.”

And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

And he answered him, “You say so.”

And Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, “I find no fault with this man.”

But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. So he questioned him at some length; but he made no answer.

The chief priests and the scribes stood by, accusing him.

And Herod, with his soldiers, treated him contemptuously and mocked hi; then, arraying him in gorgeous apparel, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, I did not find him guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him; I will therefore chastise him and release him.”

But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas” — a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder.

Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify him!”

A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no crime deserving of death, therefore I will chastise him and release him.”

But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for, but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

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One response

  1. Ugly story! I’ve felt very much like not commenting. But no one else seems to, either.

    Getting on with it: William Herzog seems to explain this best: “A show trial is one way of processing deviants in an authoritarian society… a form of political theatre…. In a show trial, the guilt of the person to be tried has already been determined, usually on political grounds…. The purpose is not only to execute a subversive but to publicly shame and discredit an enemy of the state so as to discredit and degrade everything he represents….

    “James McClaren has studied over 20 cases of ancient decision-making processes (from the Hasmonaean period through the first Jewish Revolt…) In every case, the decision making was really in the hands of the ruler and a very few members of the ruling class, a cadre including the ruler and some inner circle of his political friends and allies. The equivalent of congressional bodies or deliberative assemblies, like the Sanhedrin, simply didn’t play a role. The task of the small body was to rubber stamp what the ruler and the power brokers of the ruling class wanted to happen….
    ….
    “There is a growing consensus that the Gospels increasingly shift responsibility for Jesus’ death away from Pilate and place it on the shoulders of the Jewish elites…

    “The crowd is vacillating only if it is the same crowd… that accompanied Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem for the Passover… but the crowd that assembled in the upper city by Pilate’s palace was a crowd of clients indebted to their powerful patrons, who coached them what to say….

    “It certainly is possible that Luke is whitewashing Pilate, the Roman prefect, although that is not an easy job. Other ancient authorities depict Pilate as brutish, boorish, violent, and shortsighted, with no concern for issues of justice…. In fact he was noted for ‘executions without trial’…

    “In light of what is generally known about Pilate’s character… is it possible to interpret his actions during Jesus’ show trial in a way that differs from the usual reading?… [saying ‘John’ may be historical in this detail]: ‘Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the praetorium… They themselves did not enter the praetorium, so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover’… Given what is known about Pilate’s utter disregard for Judean sensibilities, he could not have viewed their refusal to meet him on his ground in a positive light… He knows that they would consider themselves defiled if they set foot in his praetorium. However, he can turn this to his purposes… [examining Jesus out of earshot, then coming back to say, ‘Judge him by your own law.’] He says this not because he believes Jesus is innocent but because he wants to rub their noses in the fact that they cannot execute their prisoner… He simply used Jesus to reinforce the brutal realities of Roman domination.”

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