11 Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.”
12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.
13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?”
14 But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.
Jesus’ appearance before Pilate is also in Mark 15:1-2; Luke 23:1-5 and John 18:28-38.
The other gospels, in their description of the trial before Pilate, include some details not given by Matthew. Pilate, after a preliminary hearing of the case and on learning that Jesus was of Galilee, as a friendly gesture, sent Him to Herod, who was in Jerusalem at the time. Herod, after encountering complete silence from Jesus, sent Him back to Pilate to be judge. Jesus had three Roman trials, first before Pilate, then before Herod, and then again before Pilate. Matthew, Mark and John combine the two trials before Pilate.
According to Luke 23:1-2, the trial began with various accusations being leveled against Jesus, including that He perverted the nation, forbade to give tribute to Caesar and claimed that He was a king. It is at this point that Matthew begins his record because of the special interest in the gospel of Matthew in Jesus Christ as King. — Walvoord, page 228.
The Roman governor had absolute legal authority to deal with non-citizens, such as Christ, and to prescribe the death penalty, without fear of having his authority challenged. Several observations may be made concerning Pilate and the legality of the trial of Christ. First, since Pilate was governor of Judea, and this was to be a capital offense, he was the proper person to conduct the trial of Christ. Second, he was quite correct in initially declining to hear the case, since the first charge was so vague (see John 18:30). Third he acted in accordance with Roman law when there was an indictment for treason leveled against Christ (Luke 23:1), and he questioned Christ privately concerning this matter, deciding He was innocent. At this point Pilate had the legal authority to release Christ, but he did not. — Pentecost, page 467.
Pilate was in a tough spot. He apparently found Jesus to be guiltless and wanted nothing to do with the trial. But he had been in repeated difficulties with the Jews because of rulings he had made in the past and his superiors in Rome weren’t happy with the state of unrest. If Pilate had acted on his inclination and foiled the plot of the Jews, things would have been upset again and he may well have been recalled to Rome. This doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it does help explain it.
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