Jesus Goes Before the Authorities
[Luke chapter 23, verses 1-12]
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After taking a break for Thanksgiving last week, I’d just like to say it’s good to be back, and I thank God for restoring and refreshing me during my time of rest. I hope everyone did as well as I did, if not better! Two weeks ago when we finished up chapter 22, Jesus had just been brought before the Jewish authorities after being arrested by them in the middle of the night, something law enforcement has always been noted for. This week as we continue with part 1 of chapter 23, we find Jesus being brought before Pontius Pilate, who in turn sends our soon-to-be-risen Savior to King Herod for jurisdictional reasons. So let’s get started with this week’s lesson beginning at verse one.
“Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began accusing him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes paying taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.’ So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and to the crowd, ‘I find no basis for a charge against this man.’ But they insisted, ‘He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.’ Upon hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at the time.” (Luke 23, verses 1-7)
So at this point Jesus has just made his court appearance before the Temple ruling body and quickly found ‘guilty’ of allegedly pretending to be the Messiah found in their own scriptures. As before, these scriptures were the Law and the prophets of old, what we now call the Old Testament, or what Jewish people call the Torah (pronounced Tor-AAH in Hebrew). The Temple authorities and chief priests, together with the Temple Guard who were presumably still there guarding Jesus, then brought him before Pilate to have Jesus charged with fomenting a revolt. They also bore additional false testimony, saying Jesus was opposed to taxation. Yet Christ had already said, “Then pay unto Caesar what is Caesar, and unto God what is God’s.” (Luke 20: 25) But under Roman law at that time, this still evidently carried insufficient weight to even consider any prosecution.
“….‘I find no basis for a charge against this man.’ But they insisted, ‘He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.’” As before, Pilate reminded the crowd of Jesus’ accusers that the teachings of Christ did not legally constitute an insurrection against the Roman Empire. Then Herod sends Jesus to King Herod, who was king over Judea where Galilee was located, and who was the son of the elder King Herod, who had all the first-born male children under age 2 killed in Matthew chapter 2, verses 12-18. The irony of this is strikingly inescapable! The son of King Herod I, Herod II, was going to get an opportunity to prosecute Jesus under the law. To call this a conflict of interest would be a huge understatement! Herod II must have figured out that his father had not succeeded several decades before, and that Jesus had somehow escaped his father’s ‘baby dragnet’. So Herod II may have viewed this as an opportunity to avenge his deceased father. Now let’s move on to the second half of today’s study, beginning at verse 8.
“When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a very long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends – before that they were enemies.” (Luke 23, verses 8-12)
Based on the apostle Luke’s narrative here, king Herod II saw Jesus as some kind of guru who would willingly perform for him in the hope of possibly being set free. The young Herod clearly had no clue as to the true identity of our Lord and Savior. But it was then that Herod found out why Jesus never came to see him, even though he had apparently extended an invitation that had been ongoing for at least a year or two. “He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” All right, I’m sure you all remember the “Miranda rights” – ‘you have the right to remain silent’, etc. in the event someone gets arrested? This passage of scripture is the basis for that legal argument, as well as for the Supreme Court decision that followed it. Jesus never accepted any of Herod’s invitations because Jesus already knew more about King Herod than Herod knew about himself. Just as surely as Jesus had ignored Herod’s previous invitations, our Redeemer pointedly ignored every one of Herod’s questions with remarkable steadfastness. As you can see, Herod became increasingly irritated at Jesus’ refusal to respond in any way. So did our Lord’s accusers.
Our Lord and Savior stood firmly and silently as the volume and the tempo to Herod’s questioning increased to the tune of the accusers who had brought Jesus before King Herod. “The chief priests and teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him.” You will recall in our earlier studies of Luke’s gospel how we observed a certain contingent of Hebrew scholars and high priests that shadowed Jesus and the Twelve everywhere they went. From town to town and from village to village, they straggled along pretending to be admirers until – at what seemed like just the right moment to them – they found opportunities to ask Jesus trick questions of one kind or another in the hopes of tripping him up or catching him in some sort of contradiction. As you also undoubtedly recall, Jesus would stymie the efforts of these ‘religious leaders and teachers of the law’ every single time. Moreover, this had been going on for at least the last couple of years. A huge expenditure of time and travel had been invested in this effort up to this point by the Temple leadership – and the Pharisees, Saduccees and Temple high priests had nothing to show for it. And by this time they were enraged at Jesus and everything he represented because they felt their livelihoods were threatened by what He taught. And, they were absolutely right.
So all of this had built up until this moment. It was the Hebrew religious leadership’s first chance to strike, and they struck hard. Really, really hard, even to the point of obsession. The apostle Luke wrote that they were “vehemently accusing him”, and even that may be an understatement. “Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends….” All of the frustration the Temple leadership’s inability to catch Jesus in a lie or a contradiction was erupting as this was occurring. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest, I would classify this as a 99, and that’s no joke either! These people were absolutely livid!
They were using a tactic similar to what the police use today. They were bullying and assaulting our Lord in the hopes of provoking Jesus – to see if they could make him snap (sound familiar?)! You know, so they could press additional charges. When that didn’t work either, Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate, complete with his brand new “robe” which sealed the Lord’s fate as well as Herod’s own condemnation. Next week when we return, we’ll get into detail about what happens next. Even if you’ve heard or read this story before, relating this Gospel of Luke in a Progressive interpretation so that it is most applicable in a 21st century frame of reference is why I write these Biblical studies on the various apostles (The Apostle Paul is already in print, you can learn more here). The more relevant I can make these ongoing studies, the larger audience I will attract, and that’s what I’m here for. It’s about souls, people. It’s not about me, it’s all about Christ Jesus our Lord! See you next week for part 2 of Luke chapter 23.