Luke 23:1-25 (NIV)
Jesus Before Pilate and Herod
1Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar
Wait a minute! Didn’t Jesus just say, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” ?! (See Luke 20:25.)
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.
This Herod, Herod Antipas, is the son of Herod the Great, who had met with the Wise Men and had ordered the killing of the baby boys in Bethlehem. Herod Antipas, who ruled the region of Galilee for the Romans, was responsible for the death of John the Baptist. Upon hearing news about the work of Christ, Herod was afraid that Jesus was actually John come back from the dead (Mark 6:16).
Herod heard truth from John, and saw the one who is “the way, the truth, and the life” in Jesus. He disregarded them both.
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.
I was in high school the first time I heard the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. One song that has stayed with me through the years is King Herod’s Song, perhaps because Herod was so outrageous. I had not realized that Jesus had been treated so disrespectfully (although how I thought the Romans would crucify someone respectfully is lost to me now!). Anyway, HERE is the song that shaped some of my understanding of the humiliation and mockery Christ suffered in going to the cross so that my sins, and the sins of all the world, could be forgiven.
13Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”
18With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” 19(Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
from Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who
by Frederick Buechner
Pilate told the people that they could choose to spare the life of either a murderer named Barabbas or Jesus of Nazareth, and they chose Barabbas. Given the same choice, Jesus, of course, would have chosen to spare Barabbas too.
To understand the reason in each case would be to understand much of what the New Testament means by saying that Jesus is the Savior, and much of what it means too by saying that, by and large, people are in bad need of being saved.
20Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
22For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”
23But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
Ah, Holy Jesus, how hast thou offended?
That man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.
Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
for man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter Passion,
for my salvation.
Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee;
Think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.
–written by Johann Heermann, translated by Robert Bridges