Jesus Before Pilate and Herod

We are continuing to meditate on the last hours that led up to the crucifixion of Christ (Scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts). When the elders and priests brought Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor, the accusations had changed from blasphemy to one of insurrection against Rome and the refusal to pay taxes to Caesar.

2And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.” 3So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. 4Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” 5But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” 6On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he 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. 9He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies (Luke 23:2-12).

The priests knew that they could not get Pilate to render judgment on Jesus with an accusation of blasphemy, so they accused Christ of subversion against Caesar and teaching the people not to pay taxes to Caesar. This was an outright lie. Jesus had answered earlier to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s (Luke 20:25). They also added that Christ claimed to be a king (Luke 23:2) and that He had been subverting the nation (v.2), the very thing of which Barabbas had been found guilty. Barabbas had been accused of murder and insurrection and was being held in Pilate’s residence, the fortress Antonia.

Pilate wasn’t stupid. He knew what was happening. He knew that the actions of the religious elite were out of envy (Mark 15:10), but he was put in a difficult position. He was under pressure to quell any riots that could arise against Rome, but he also saw the deviousness of the Jewish religious leadership in trying to get him to kill Jesus when he could see no wrong in the man. Added to this moral dilemma with which he was wrestling, his wife came to him with a bad dream. Her dream was concerning this condemned Man, Jesus:

While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him” (Matthew 27:19).

When the ruling priests let it slip that Christ was from Galilee, an area known for subversion to Rome, Pilate thought that he could pass the buck to Herod Antipas, who had jurisdiction over that area. He thought to let Herod be the one who would convict Christ. He saw this as his way out of a difficult decision, so he sent Jesus to be questioned by Herod (v. 7). However, when they dragged Jesus before Herod, Christ answered none of his questions.

After Herodias, Herod’s wife, had manipulated him into killing John the Baptist, something had died in Herod. His heart had grown hard, and, whereas, once he would listen to spiritual things with John the Baptist, now all he wanted was a religious show. After Herod had tried for some time to have Jesus astound him with His miracle-working power, he finally gave up and sent Him back to Pilate. Herod had seared his conscience by his rejection of truth (1 Timothy 4:2). It is a sad day when our conscience is no longer open to hear the truth of God’s Word. Pilate, at least, was open to spiritual things, saying to Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). If you have an enquiring mind concerning spiritual things, consider the fact that God has put that questioning and enquiring mind in you because He is calling you to Himself.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 62 at this link, Jesus Before Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:1-25). Keith Thomas

Whose Son Is the Christ?

We have been meditating on the week before the crucifixion of Christ. After Jesus had confronted the selling of animals in the temple courts, a place dedicated to prayer for all nations, the leaders of the Jewish nation argued with Jesus, trying to undermine the spiritual authority that Christ had with the people. The Lord won each and every argument, before turning to give them a question to answer:

41Then Jesus said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? 42David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: ” ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 43until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 44David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” 45While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46″Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely” (Luke 20:41-47).

The Lord finishes the whole debate session with a warning to His followers and a reminder of Who He really is. He reminded the leaders that David called the promised Son of David to be “Lord.” In ancient times, great respect was paid to the eldest head of the family. God told King David that one of his offspring would be established on the throne of David forever (2 Samuel 7:8-16). This Son of David would be the Messiah or Christ, which literally means “the Anointed One.” David speaking prophetically called this descendant of his “Lord” (Psalm 110:1). As to His physical nature, Christ was this Son of David, but He was (is) also the Lord of heaven. Jesus was going back to the very statement that incited the anger of the religious leaders. He wants them and us to understand Who He really is and from where His authority comes.

The warning about the religious elite is very pointed and serious. He is calling out the hypocrisy and the corrupt lifestyle of these leaders, saying that they will receive severe punishment. He was concerned about protecting His followers from false teaching and from those who would try to lead them astray. Soon, He will be taken from them, and at that time, it will be important for them to look beyond the present evil physical world and to see Who He really is, viz. the Son of God, the Christ. The whole concept of the Resurrection is about to take on new meaning for His disciples when Christ Himself will be raised from the dead. This will cause them to replay in their minds all the things He had taught them.

Prayer: Open our eyes to see Who You really are. Grant us grace when we experience opposition to our faith in You. Amen.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 54. Luke 20:20-47. Questions About Eternity. Keith Thomas

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

45Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. 46“It is written,” he said to them,” ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” 47Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words (Luke 19:45-48).

It was confrontation time! One person, Jesus, stood against the High priest who was overseeing a corrupt system. The Court of the Gentiles in the Temple had been taken over by money changers and merchants hired by Annas, Caiaphas’ father in law, who had also been High Priest. When birds or animals were brought to the Temple to be sacrificed, they would often be refused for no apparent reason other than the fact that Annas wanted more money. A worshipper that bought an animal inside the Temple precincts would be charged fifteen times more than one bought outside the Temple, but if a person bought it outside the temple, although it was much cheaper, the priests who inspected the animals, would often refuse it, thus forcing the worshipper to buy another animal inside the temple.

Annas presided over everything that was going on and was responsible for this system of purchase and trade, which exploited the poor. The Temple tax also had to be paid in Israelite Shekels. Visitors from different nations would be short changed and robbed, but there was nothing they could do against it, such were the corrupt practices that went on in the temple courts. Instead of a place where the Gentiles could pray and seek God, they smelled animal dung and the clink of coins. It would have saddened any true worshipper who understood how people were being treated in the Name of God. Mark records how Jesus responded to such behavior in the House of God:

15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts (Mark 11:15-16).

The Lord’s passion for His Father’s Name and glory burst forth in controlled anger. Later, the Apostle John writes: His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). His courage and zeal captured their hearts. How they adored Him for what He did that day. He was outraged at the religious leader’s insolence and greed. Just picture the scene: the money rolling everywhere, people scrambling for all they can grab as tables are overturned, doves flying in all directions, getting their freedom instead of being used for dishonest profit. The picture is one of bedlam inside the Court of the Gentiles. God had spoken that His house would be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7), but instead they were selling animals and birds.

Can you imagine the leading Jews being challenged by someone whom they believed was an illegitimate son from Nazareth? Their thoughts turned towards violence toward the One who challenged their practices (v.47). Where did He get the authority to do and say such things? They may have thought: “How can He assume to tell us we cannot sell our goods in the Temple precincts?” Surely, Jesus must have known that this behavior would not earn Him any friends or favors in the Temple Courts. His brave actions exemplified His passion and fervor for His Father’s house. May this same attitude be in us too, a passion for the household of faith.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 52. Luke 19:28-48, The King Comes to His Temple. Keith Thomas

You are the Body of Christ

When the Lord Jesus confronted Saul on the Damascus road during his persecution of the Church, the Lord said to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). He didn’t ask him why he was persecuting Christ’s people, but why was he persecuting Him? Those who belong to Christ have been brought into such unity in the Body of Christ, that when one of us is hurting, He is hurting along with us. If I bang my knee against the table, it may be my knee that is throbbing but the pain is felt in the whole body. First of all, Christ hurts when we hurt, but more than that, we should be so close in our relationships in the Body of Christ that each one of us feels what our brother or sister is going through, and hurts alongside of him or her:

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:24b-27).

Christ feels what we feel because we are one with Him. In another place, Paul the apostle also talks about this organic unity that we have with Christ, saying, “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:5).

What do you think Paul means by saying that we belong to one another? To be a disciple of Christ is to be aware that we no longer live for ourselves but for Christ and learn to live in relationship with others in the Body of Christ. True biblical Christianity is to be growing in relationship with others in the Body of Christ and sharing your life with them, under the direction and leadership of Christ. By saying that He is the True Vine, Christ is saying that He is not just the rootstock, but that He is the whole vine. He is the sum of all the parts of what the Father has planted. It is as if He is saying, “you have a part in me. You have a portion in the expression of My life. In fact, I have called you to be a fruit-bearing expression of My life.” Faith in Christ is the root. Discipleship is the fruit. Discipleship is the outward manifestation of our union and communion with Christ. He has made us organically one with Himself, so that we can be one in togetherness with Him, as He is one with the other members of the Trinity, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. The Tri-une God is in Himself a community of oneness. He wants us to know His community life.

Keith Thomas

Jesus’ Control of the Wind and the Waves

Jesus Still the Tempest
William Hole, 1908

22One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. 24The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:22-25).

The Sea of Galilee is more than six hundred feet below sea level and famous for its sudden squalls. While visiting Israel in 1978, I had the opportunity to work with the local fishermen on their diesel –powered fishing boat one evening on the Sea of Galilee. I am an ex-fisherman from the east coast of England, so I found this experience very interesting, and the fishermen were happy to have me come along. We drank Turkish coffee all night, and compared our fishing methods. Even though they had modern electronic gadgets to find the fish, we caught little. The weather was fairly calm, but they did tell me that it can be a dangerous place when the weather worsens. Still, I am sure that the storms these men have witnessed in their lifetime was nothing compared to the storm that the disciples faced.

It is possible that the storm was not natural in origin. Satan is called, “the prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2. In another place, he is called the “prince of this world” (John 12:31). Does he have power to manipulate the weather? When Satan tempted Job, God replied to Satan by saying, “Everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger” (Job 1:12). Being given permission, we read that the result was that fire came down from the sky, burning up the sheep and the servants, followed by a strong wind that struck the house where his sons and daughters were eating, causing the death of all. I don’t know if this incident we are studying today was of satanic origin, but let us not underestimate our adversary. He does have power, but the Spirit Who is in us is greater than the one who is in this world (1 John 4:4). It is possible that Satan tried to hinder the Lord Jesus’ mission of casting out the Legion demon on the other side of Galilee.

To back up my thought that maybe this storm was demonically inspired, is the usage of the word translated “rebuked” in verse 24. Jesus rebuked the wind and the waters. Doesn’t that sound strange to speak to the wind? The Greek word used is epitimao. It can be translated, “To blame, censure, chide, rebuke, warn or berate.” It is an abrupt, curt, and biting charge pointedly expressing disapproval and connotes a sharp or harsh tone. In Mark 1:25, the same word is used thus: 25But Jesus rebuked the spirit and said, “Be silent! Come out of him!” (The context is of a demon being cast out of a person in the synagogue in Capernaum). The same Greek word is used in another place while Jesus was casting out a demon from a boy. The Word of God says: 18Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out, and he was healed from that moment (Matthew 17:18). Jesus was not soft with demons. He spoke sternly, with authority, and with a strong command, and as strange as it may sound, this is the same way He spoke to the wind and the waves. A remarkable thing happened as He spoke curtly to the wind and waves, i.e. a complete calm came over the waves, and the wind absolutely stopped!

I can tell you, having been at sea for many years, that is not natural. I have never seen a complete calm come over the sea and cause immediate effect to the waves. A strong wind takes time to slowly die down. Even if it was of natural origin, waves cannot become calm in seconds. The swell of the waves carries on for some time after the wind dies down. The hardened fishermen in the boat had never seen phenomena like this. Luke tells us that they were struck with fear and amazement (v. 25). We are again struck with the power and authority of Jesus. If He can still the storms on the Sea of Galilee, He can certainly still the storms in your life.

Keith Thomas