Trial Before Pilate

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Trial Before Pilate

Gospel text    15:1-15

In the morning there was a meeting of the whole Council about what to do with Jesus.  They took him to Pilate and told Pilate that Jesus had claimed to be the ‘King of the Jews’.  Pilate asked Jesus if this was the case and Jesus replied ‘so you say’.  There were many accusations being made about Jesus but he kept quiet.  Pilate was amazed.  Pilate then used an old custom of letting a prisoner go free.  The crowd was given a choice of releasing Jesus or Barabbas (who had committed murder in a riot).  The crowd was stirred up by the chief priests to vote for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified.  When Pilate asked the crowd what crime Jesus had committed they simply shouted back ‘crucify him!’  Pilate wanted to please the crowd and let Barabbas go free.

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Trial Before Pilate

Meaning and Significance of the Trial

  •  By the time Jesus was taken to Pilate the charge against him had changed from a religious one to a political one.  They know that Pilate would not be interested in their charges of blasphemy and breaking religious rules, so they “made their plans” (v1) and say that he has claimed to be King of the Jews, a direct challenge to the authority of the Emperor, and Pilate.
  • Pilate was aware of the Sanhedrin’s mischief and did not believe that Jesus was guilty.  As a result, Pilate was reluctant to condemn Jesus to death. He looks for a way to set him free, offering to release Barabbas  as part of the Passover Custom.
  • “But what crime has he committed?" Mark’s account portrays Pilate as weak and ineffectual because he was swayed by public opinion. It is clear that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent and the trial was a sham.


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Trial Before Pilate

  • The crowd that had previously welcomed Jesus when he entered Jerusalem at the beginning of the week had been manipulated by the Jewish authorities to shout for Jesus’ death and the release of murderer Barrabbas. Pilate seems to fear the crowd; he could not be sure that releasing Jesus might not cause a riot.
  • “Again Jesus refused to say a word”  This as a fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah “[he] is silent, so he did not open his mouth”. This emphasises Jesus’ identity as the Son of Man, and the Suffering Servant who will give his life for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus did not defend himself against the accusations of the Jewish authorities.
  • “Pilate wanted to please the crowd, so he set Barabbas free for them” There is also a certain irony; one who is a political rebel is released while the innocent one is condemned to death. This could be expanded to a spiritual meaning Jesus dies on the cross, while sinners are set free.
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