It was early Friday morning when the priests led the Lord to Pilate. Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea, and had come up to Jerusalem apparently to keep order at the time of the Passover, the city being so full of strangers at that time there was more danger of disturbance. And so the priests brought the Lord to his palace and asked him to judge and condemn Him.
When Pilate asked the Lord, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" He answered, "Thou hast said"; which meant that it was true. But to the many angry charges of the priests He made no answer. Pilate knew that the Lord had done no wrong, but he was afraid of the angry priests and people.
Pilate offered to let the Lord go free; for it was the custom for him to let some prisoner go free at the Passover season. But the priests urged the people to ask for Barabbas who was in prison for really doing wrong, and they cried out that the Lord should be crucified. Pilate had not courage to refuse them, and said it should be as they asked.
Then for a little time the Lord was left with the soldiers, and they mocked Him, dressing Him in a purple robe and putting a crown of thorns on His head, and calling Him King.
After this He was led away to be crucified. They went from Pilate's palace through the streets to the north gate of the city. They met one Simon from a far-off country, perhaps near the city gate, and made him bear the heavy wooden cross. It was a sad sight to all who loved the Lord; but turning to the people the Lord told them not to weep for Him. No, we need not weep for the Lord, for really He was King, and He was each moment becoming a stronger and more glorious King.
The first scene of the trial and condemnation of the Lord was before the priests at the palace of Caiaphas. The second scene is at Pilate's palace; for early on the Friday morning they went to Pilate to demand that the Lord should be crucified. The story is very briefly told in Mark; many other particulars are given in the other Gospels.
They probably crossed from the temple hill to the hill of Zion, where the great palace stood. It was early Friday, the day of preparation for the Sabbath of the Passover week. The priests would not go into the heathen's house lest they should be defiled. They stood without, and Pilate set his chair on a raised pavement before the gate. The priests charged the Lord with claiming to be a king, and arousing the people against the Romans. Pilate went into the judgment hall and asked the Lord of His kingdom. He said, "I am a king," "My kingdom is not of this world."
Pilate knew that the Lord had done no wrong, and came forth and told the people so. He offered to release the Lord, for it was the custom to release some prisoner at the feast; but they cried out for Barabbas, a man who had taken part in an uprising and committed murder. What then should be done with the Lord? They cried out, "Crucify Him, crucify Him."
There came to Pilate a message from his wife, saying, "Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him." But Pilate dared not oppose the cries of the multitude. He washed his hands before them, as if that could free him from guilt; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
The Lord was scourged, as was the custom before crucifixion, and the soldiers in the palace put on Him a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns, and a reed in His hand, like a sceptre, and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
Once more the Lord came forth before the people, wearing the robe and crown, and he said, "Behold, the man!" (L. 16) "Crucify Him," the priests and people cried. Who was in truth the man and king? The priests driven on by cruel passion, Pilate fearing to do right, or the Lord, who conquered every selfish feeling, and who stood before them in the strength of perfect truth and goodness?
1. "Straightway in the morning." What day was it? Who was Pilate? Who was Barabbas?
2. Why did Pilate not release the Lord? Who was the more to blame, the priests or Pilate? (John 19:11)
3. Who was gaining a real victory; the priests, or Pilate, or the Lord?
In the old days priests represented the Lord in the power of His love, and kings represented Him in the power of His truth. They represented the power of will and understanding in a man. In our story the same two powers or elements of character are represented by the priests and Pilate. How true it is when the will is evil, that it compels the understanding to carry out its purpose, as the priests urged Pilate and he dared not refuse. (R. 20; E. 31)
The choice was made between the Lord and Barabbas. It was simply the acting out of the choice they were making in their own souls, releasing the spirit of violence and murder, and rejecting the true manliness of the Lord. We also must often choose between the Lord and Barabbas. (A.4751; E. 740)
The soldiers arrayed the Lord as a King and mocked Him. This was permitted to be done because it pictured the contempt which the Jews were showing for the Lord as the heavenly King and for His kingly power. The crown of a king is especially an emblem of wisdom and the purple robe suggests the love from which he rules. Both these they ridiculed and despised. (E. 577, 627)