“Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.”Matthew 27:11
Have you ever followed a high-profile trial? Today’s technology can literally bring us into the courtroom like never before to experience the entire proceeding and follow the whole trial. Doubtless, you can recall at least one major trial in your lifetime that left your mouth agape as you watched the spectacle unfold right before your eyes. Well, in today’s Scripture found in Matthew 17, we find an account of the most infamous trial in all of human history.
The court is now in session.
Judge: The Honorable Pontius Pilate – Governor of Judea
Plaintiff: The Sanhedrin – Leaders of the Jewish Tribunal
Defendant: Jesus of Nazareth – Carpenter, preacher, religious leader
Charges: Blasphemy, opposition to Roman taxation of the Jews, incitement of a revolt, claims to be the Messiah and King of the Jews
Witnesses: Herod Antipas and Pilate’s wife
Our plaintiff today presents the accused, Jesus of Nazareth, to the Honorable Pontius Pilate, on charges asserted to merit the death penalty. The plaintiff lacks the authority to fulfill the death sentence, so they must have the verdict of Judge Pilate.
The Judge reviews the evidence and accusations against Jesus, finding no fault with Him. The plaintiffs insist.
The Judge brings forth a witness, his own wife. The Judge’s wife says she had a dream about Jesus and begs the Judge to have nothing to do with Him. Dreams carried great significance in the first century and were considered as evidence worthy to be brought forth in a court of Roman law.
The Judge brings forth a second witness, Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. Herod testifies to Jesus’ innocence upon cross-examination of the defendant.
The Judge is conflicted. He finds no fault in the accused but does not want to show favor to the Sanhedrin. The Judge offers a compromise to the persistent plaintiff. He will have the accused beaten for His crimes and released.
The plaintiffs angrily demand the death penalty and will accept nothing less.
Finally, the Judge calls the defendant in for question. He has done everything in his power to exonerate the man before him. The Judge gives the defendant a final opportunity to testify on His own behalf and make His defense, desperate for an excuse to acquit the accused.
The defendant remains silent. The Judge has no choice.
Sentence: Death by crucifixion.
The Judge releases Barabbas to the Jews and sends the defendant to His death.
Jesus, in His right standing as the Son of God, is the only one through this whole scene who remains silent and in control. He gives no defense against the crimes of which He is falsely accused. He only gives Pilate one sentence, “It is as you say” (Matthew 27:11). He does not get on His knees and beg for mercy. He does not list all the healings and miracles that He performed over the years, nor does He testify to His innocence. He does not suggest Barabbas be put to death and His own life spared. His silence speaks louder than any words He could say, and Pilate is awestruck.
One day, you and I will stand before the Judge. Unlike Jesus, we do not stand falsely accused; rather, we are truly guilty. We deserve the punishment for our sins, which is eternal separation from God. But because of what Jesus did on that day many years ago, you and I can walk away innocent and free. We have been marked ‘not guilty’ by the blood of Christ.
Jesus had full faith in God’s perfect plan. The truth needs no defense. Jesus was a beautifully innocent King, who willingly faced death in order to make you and me as innocent and blameless as He.