Sunday, March 17, 2013

Luke 22:66-23:25 - Jesus on Trial

Ecce Homo! (Pilate presents Jesus to the crowds)
Calvary is the greatest paradox of all time. The same injustice that condemned innocent Jesus accomplished the justice of God. The cruel hands that whipped and nailed were instruments of God’s holy purpose. The devilish plot to murder the Son of God became the means by which the world was delivered from Satan’s control. The cross, a symbol of brutality and fear, is now a beacon of hope for the world.

Pilate questions Jesus
Jesus was crucified for all the wrong reasons – hatred, jealousy, greed. But out of this polluted soil God grew the tree of eternal life. As Jesus enters the Valley of the Shadow of Death, watch the Grace that marks every step He takes.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 22:66-23:25 to teach believers that Jesus’ purpose in coming is not to threaten us, but to assume His Throne; not to entertain us, but to take away our sin; and not to please us, but to save us.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about why Jesus came.
Pray and Read:  Luke 22:66-23:25

Contextual Notes:
All of Luke’s Gospel has been building toward these climactic final hours in Jesus’ life. The first four chapters give a wide-angle shot at Jesus’ first 30 years. The next five chapters show snapshots of Jesus’ two-and-a-half-year ministry in Galilee. Chapters 10-19 give us Jesus’ 6 month travelogue as He ministered on His way to Jerusalem. With dramatic close-ups, Luke zooms in on Jesus’ final week in chapters 20-24. It is in these final photos that we see the reason for the rest of Luke’s book. The plot takes a terrible twist, but it is a role the main character has been preparing since the beginning of time.
Throughout his Gospel, Luke emphasizes the importance of walking in faith and avoiding unbelief. He has made it clear that every individual who meets Jesus Christ must make a decision about Him. Christ must be received or rejected. His claims must be believed or denied.[1] Once Jesus enters Jerusalem, Luke urges us to trust Jesus because He is worthy to be praised (Luke 19:28-40), and the only Hope for a doomed world (Luke 19:41-44). He stands by His Word (Luke 19:45-48), and He has ultimate authority (Luke 20:1-8). Luke calls Jesus our Inheritance (Luke 20:9-16), our Cornerstone (Luke 20:17-19), our Lord (Luke 20:20-26), our Resurrection (Luke 20:27-40), our Messiah (Luke 20:41-47), and our Provider (Luke 21:1-4) as we watch and pray until He returns (Luke 21:5-38). In the Last Supper, Luke identifies Jesus as our Passover Lamb (Luke 22:1-23) and Suffering Servant (Luke 22:24-38). Jesus models prayer in testing (Luke 22:39-46), grace in betrayal (Luke 22:47-53), and strength in trial (Luke 22:54-65). In the passage before us, we see Jesus’ purpose in coming: Not to threaten us, but to assume His Throne; not to entertain us, but to take away our sin; and not to please us, but to save us.

Sermon Points:
1.   Jesus does not come to threaten us – He comes to assume His Throne (Luke 22:66-71)
2.   Jesus does not come to entertain us – He comes to take away our sin (Luke 23:1-12)
3.   Jesus does not come to please us – He comes to save us (Luke 23:13-25)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Luke gives the most complete account of Jesus’ trials.[2] Jesus’ hearing before the full 71-member Sanhedrin occurs at daybreak on Friday morning. By waiting until morning for an official hearing, they maintain some semblance of legality. Night trials were illegal. The purpose is to gather evidence to bring charges of Messianic claims against Jesus before the governor.[3] In the eyes of the Sanhedrin, Jesus is a false prophet and a dangerous threat to national stability. They must expedite this matter to eliminate the threat to their position and authority.

b.   Luke 22:66 – The Sanhedrin convened early in the morning in a meeting hall in the Temple in the Chamber of Hewn Stone. Assembled in a semicircle with the high priest at the center, they made decisions as a whole, but not all members agreed. The Sanhedrin’s power was closely tied to the Roman governor’s politics. The historian Josephus reports that Herod the Great consolidated his reign by ordering the execution of the whole Sanhedrin, and he held the council in tight check. Under Roman governors, the Sanhedrin had greater influence, including wide-ranging judicial and administrative jurisdiction.

c.   Luke 22:69 – the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand: This phrase spoken by Jesus combines the image of the Son of Man from Daniel 7:13-14 with the exalted Messiah in Psalm 110:1-2. Jesus not only claims to be a merely mortal Messiah, but the Cosmic Ruler, deity on the Throne.

d.   Luke 22:70-71 – Are you the Son of God? The Sanhedrin is asking whether He is the Messiah. The OT promised that the Messiah would have a special father-son relationship with God.  Here, the Sanhedrin charges Jesus with blasphemy for daring to call himself the Son of God. They think they have cleverly tricked him into giving an answer they can use, but Jesus warns them that they will have dealings with Messiah again one Day, in a very different situation for them.

e.   APPLICATION: Have you noticed that though threatened, Jesus, who was the only One who had any real power there, did not threaten His adversaries? Jesus had a higher purpose and calling than most of them could imagine. I say most, because present in the gathering were Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. It is so easy for us to return tit for tat and to retaliate when we are attacked. Instead, Jesus pointed them to His higher purpose by pointing them to Scripture. He did not use the Bible to beat them over the head; He pointed them to texts that plainly pointed to who He is.

a.   Luke 23:1 - With Jesus’ guilt affirmed as far as they could see, the Sanhedrin turns Him over to the Roman prefect, Pilate, to have him executed. An early morning visit was important since Roman officials met the public only from sunrise to noon. According to John, the Sanhedrin could not administer capital punishment, so they brought Him to Pilate.[4] He was probably at the Fortress of Antonia overlooking the Temple, and he was there for the feast to maintain order.

b.   Luke 23:2-3 – They began to accuse Him: The Jews are convinced Jesus needs to die, but they had to frame the charge in political terms to get Pilate to take notice. The Jews bring Jesus before Pilate in a local magisterial court to hear charges and pronounce sentences. They couch the charges in a more political tone: misleading the nation, opposing Roman taxes (a serious but blatantly false charge[5], Luke 20:20-26), and claiming to be Messiah, a king. Luke’s central emphasis is Jesus’ innocence. Neither Pilate nor Herod find any guilt in him (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22). Later, the repentant criminal on the cross and the centurion will also affirm His innocence (Luke 23:41, 47). Jesus is the righteous and innocent suffering servant.

c.   Luke 23:3-4 - “Are you the king of the Jews?” The title of Messiah or Christ would have carried little significance for Pilate, but king would represent a threat to Roman authority. “Yes, it is as you say”: literally, “you have said so.” Pilate looks at Jesus and judges that He is not a political threat.

d.   APPLICATION: How many say Jesus is the Son of God, but in their hearts do not really believe. What counts is not saying Jesus is the Son of God, but in committing ourselves totally to Him in the absolute conviction that these words are true.

e.   Luke 23:5 – He is a Galilean: Judeans considered themselves better than Galileans. Judea was more urban and a hub of Mediterranean culture. Galilee was more rural and mistakenly considered more provincial.

f.    Luke 23:7 – Sent Him to Herod: Herod Antipas was an evil man. He ruled as tetrarch over Galilee and Perea from the death of his father Herod the Great in B.C. 4 until A.D. 39. He is the same Herod who executed John the Baptist (Luke 3:19-20), and was a distant but curious spectator of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 9:7-9; 13:31-32). He tried to represent himself as a faithful Jew, just like his father. Pilate may have wanted to avoid personal liability for a difficult decision or let Herod deal with the headache, so Pilate refuses jurisdiction over the case. Herod also as in Jerusalem for the Passover, probably staying at the Hasmonean palace west of the Temple.

g.   Luke 23:8-9 – Jesus gave him no answer: Herod is an example of a superficial man. He has heard about Jesus. He is interested. Herod sees Jesus as a curiosity and a source of entertainment. He wants Jesus to perform for him, some miracle or sign. But Jesus is not a performer. He is the King who takes away the sin of the world. Isaiah 53:7 says the Suffering Servant will not open his mouth before his oppressors.

h.   APPLICATION: Jesus does not reveal himself to those who are curious or want to be entertained. But He is always present for the one who is an honest seeker.

i.    Luke 23:11 – Dressed Him in an elegant robe:  Greek says “bright” (lampros) clothing, either white (characteristic of Jewish kings) or regal (purple) to mock Jesus.

j.    Luke 23:12 – Herod and Pilate became friends: Pilate and Herod Antipas had good reason to be suspicious of each other, since Pilate governed the land of Antipas’ father, Herod the Great, land which Antipas hoped to rule one day.[6] Friendship meant political alliance.

k.   APPLICATION: We see it all the time. People will show up for a party. People who are not growing in Christ will show up for entertainment and candy at the church, but they cannot make it for worship on Sunday. Let me help you with something. The church is not a public service agency. The church is not an entertainment hub. The church is not a country club. The church is not a drop-off child care. But a lot of people – a lot of church members think it is. The church is the Bride of Christ. It does not exist just for your social enjoyment and to provide a safe place for your kids to play ball. The church is an institution of God, and it serves the purpose of His Son and her Groom, Jesus Christ. His purpose is not candy and concerts, dinners for the senior adults and ski trips for the youth. His purpose is clearly outlined in Matthew 28:18-20, where He commands the church to be about the business of making disciples of all the ethnic groups on the planet (cf. Acts 1:8). His purpose is to send out the Good News that Jesus came to save sinners. If the church is not doing that, then the church is not functioning in a role that is obedient to the Lord.


a.   Luke 23:13-15 – With Jesus back in His custody, Pilate assembles the Sanhedrin and the people and conducts a fourth and final phase of Jesus’ trial. Pilate will declare Jesus innocent three times to no avail (Luke 23:4, 15-22). The Jews want what they want, no matter whether it is right or not (Luke 23:21, 23).

b.   Luke 23:16, 22 – I will punish him: Pilate uses a mild verb (paideuo) to mean discipline or instruct, a euphemism for a beating, like our “teach him a lesson.” The Romans had three kinds of beatings: the fustes, flagella, and verbera. The first was the lightest and just a warning. The third was most severe and given as a prelude to execution. Pilate intends to give the light punishment, but as it turned out, Jesus received the harsh verberatio when Pilate conceded to his crucifixion (Matt 27:26; Mark 15:15).

c.   Luke 23:16, 19 - And I will release him: Luke doesn’t tell us, but from the other Gospels we note the custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover. The crowd cries out to release Barabbas, a terrorist, instead of Jesus. The first century was a hotbed of revolutionary movements leading up to the Jewish revolt of A.D. 66-74. Barabbas was one of them. He would appear to Pilate to be a greater danger than Jesus. Pilate wanted to release Jesus for two reasons. First, he knew they had handed Jesus over to him out of envy (Matt. 27:18), and second, Pilate had been warned by his wife to avoid getting involved with a Jewish plot (Matt 27:19). Romans were known for emphasizing justice, but as politicians they were sensitive to crowd control. So efficiency in ruling provinces and keeping peace took precedence over individual justice.

d.   Luke 23:24-25 – Pilate surrendered Jesus to their will: Pilate was a Roman pragmatist interested in maintaining his own power than in providing justice for every individual under his jurisdiction.

e.   APPLICATION: Which do you do more often? Do you surrender yourself to Jesus’ will, or do you more often surrender Jesus to your will or the wills of others around you in order not to cause a problem for yourself?


[1] When the Gospel shifts gears at Luke 9:51, Luke urges us to prioritize faith over unbelief (Luke 9:57-11:36) and warns us to trust the Lord rather than ourselves (Luke 11:37-12:59).Christ then calls us to a Kingdom marked by grace (Luke 13:1-21), repentance (Luke 13:22-35), provision (Luke 14), and redemption of the lost (Luke 15). Luke warns us to prepare for His Return by responding in repentance (Luke 16), obedience (Luke 17:1-19), faithfulness (Luke 17:20-37), and persevering prayer (Luke 18:1-8), and humility (Luke 18:9-14), and complete reliance on Christ (Luke 18:15-17). True faith is complete reliance on Christ’s provision (Luke 18:18-23), power (Luke 18:24-30), Person (Luke 18:31-34), and mercy (Luke 18:35-43). Therefore, Jesus draws us into His Presence (Luke 19:1-7) and purpose on the planet, “to seek and save the lost,” (Luke 19:8-10), assigning us a mission until He returns (Luke 19:11-27).
[2] He alone tells of the hearing before Herod and of the fact that there were two sessions before Pilate.
[3] Scholars have noted that Jesus’ trial as reported in the Gospels violates various regulations concerning judicial protocol set forth in the Mishnah, from late second century regulations which might not have been in place in the first century.
[4] Later rabbinic tradition and Josephus confirm this limitation. Josephus says that the high priest Ananus was deposed for orchestrating the execution of Jesus’ half-brother James during the interim between Roman governors Festus and Albinus.
[5] Twenty-five years earlier (in A.D. 6) Judas of Galilee provoked an insurrection in Judea over Roman taxation.
[6] The Jewish philosopher Philo says that Pilate offended the Jews by setting up golden shields with patron’s names in the Herodian palace in Jerusalem. Four sons of Herod the Great (including Antipas) brought charges against him to Emperor Tiberius who ordered Pilate to remove them. Pilate once pilfered the Temple treasury for funds for an aqueduct (cf. Luke 13:1). These kinds of incidents made them rivals.