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OceanSide church of Christ

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Jesus’ Private Encounter with Pilate

Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5; Luke 23:2-5; John 18:28-38

Victor M. Eskew




A.    In our last lesson on “The Sayings of the Crucifixion,” we began by noting that Jesus was brought to Pilate after his trial before Caiaphas.


B.      However, before we could investigate this trial, we had to pause and study an event that was happening in the temple area.  Judas was convicted, returned the money to the chief priest and elders, and went out and hanged himself.


C.     We now return to Pilate’s hall of judgment.

1.      When we read Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it seems that the Jew marched straight into Pilate’s judgment had and began to make accusations against the Christ.

2.      John, however, reveals this was not the case (John 18:28).


Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment:  and it was early; and they themselves when not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the passover.


a.      The Passover was a yearly celebration of the Jews that commemorated the passing over of the Jews by the death angel when they were slaved in the land of Egypt.

b.      Since Pilate was a Gentile, his judgment hall was considered unclean to the Jews. 

1)      If they went in, they would be defiled.

2)      They would remain defiled until the evening and would not be able to eat the Passover (See Lev. 15:10, 11, 19, 20).

c.       We are again impressed with the hypocrisy of the Jews.

1)      They are deeply concerned about their remaining ceremonially clean.

2)      They are not concerned at all about the defilement of their heart that led them to ask for the death of an innocent man.

3)      Barnes:  “Probably there is not anywhere to be found among men another such instance of petty regard to the mere ceremonies of the law and attempting to keep from pollution, at the same time that their hearts were filled with malice, and they were meditating the most enormous of all crimes” (e-sword). 


D.    As we read the gospel accounts, we are intrigued by what is written or left unwritten by each of the gospel writers.

1.      Matthew, Mark, and Luke have Jesus briefly before Pilate, then he makes a decision about releasing a prisoner unto the Jews as his custom was.

2.      John is the only writer who tells us about Jesus’ trial before Herod which happened before the prison option was brought up.

3.      Too, Matthew is the only writer that tells us about the intercession of Pilate’s wife during this trail.  It is recorded in Matthew 27:19.

4.      NOTE:  We will do our best to try to keep the events in their proper order as we discuss “The Sayings of the Crucifixion.”


E.      In this lesson, we are going to find out something that is not stressed very much about Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate. 

1.      It was a private trial.

a.      Remember, the Jews would not go into Pilate’s judgment hall.

b.      Listen now to John 18:29


Pilate then went out unto them…


c.       Now listen to John 19:33


Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus…


2.      We have entitled this lesson:  “Jesus’ Private Encounter with Pilate.”

3.      The main gospel writer that we will be studying for this lesson is John.


F.      One more thing:  Background information on Pontius Pilate.

1.      Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea from A.D. 26 to A.D. 36 under the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar.

2.      We know very little about the early life of Pontius Pilate.  Even his birthplace is not really known:  Italy?  Scotland?  Spain?  Or, Germany?

3.      He was married.

a.      The Biblical text mentions his wife, but not her name (Matt. 27:19).

b.      Tradition tells us that her name was Procla.

4.      As the governor of Judea, his office involved three primary functions.

a.      Military presence of about 3,000 soldier of Rome.

b.      The collection of imperial taxes

c.       Interaction with the local government, namely, the High Priest and the Sanhedrin.

5.      Pilate was not a man who favored the Jews.  In fact, he often antagonized them.

a.      Initially in his reign, he allowed Roman soldiers to bring idols into Palestine.  He withdrew them amid protests.

b.      He placed gold Roman shields in the temple.  These, too, were ultimately removed.

c.       He spent money from the temple to build an aqueduct and had some Jews slain who rebelled against his action.

6.      He is mentioned by all four gospel writers.  His name is found 56 times in 54 verses.

7.      He is also included in the histories of Tacitus, Philo, Josephus, and Eusebius.

8.      His popularity rests with his association with the trials and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

9.      His death occurred in A.D. 39.  He was ordered to commit suicide by the Emperor Caligula according to Eusebius.


I.                   THE ACCUSATIONS (Luke 23:2-3; John 18:29-30)


A.    The Asking (John 18:29)

1.      Matthew and Mark begin with Pilate questioning Jesus (Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2).

2.      Before this transpired, however, Pilate first asked the Jews about their accusations (John 18:29).


Pilate went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?


a.      In order for a person to be prosecuted, accusations must first be made.

1)      They can be real.

2)      Sadly, they can also be false.

3)      In the case of the Jews, the accusations could not just concern their law.  They somehow had to accuse Jesus of violating Roman law in order to get Pilate to act against Jesus.

b.      Pilate had to deal with the situation.  That is why Rome put him there.  Problems like this were not to get out of hand.  Pilate, however, was not eager to take on such a case as we will see.


B.      The Assurance (John 18:30)


They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.


1.      The Jews try to assure the governor that they are not wasting his time.

2.      They want him to know that they have adequately reviewed the case and know that Jesus is a malefactor.

a.   Malefactor

      1)  Strong (2255):  a bad doer, a criminal

      2)  Thayer:  an evil doer

                                    3)  Vine:  one who works evil

b.   Remember, the only charge they had actually accused Jesus of up to this point is

blasphemy.  This would not be a crime that would concern the Roma authorities. 

3.      It is interesting that the Jews accused Jesus of being a malefactor when everything they have done and are doing involves evil works.

a.. Covenanting with Judas for 30 pieces of silver

b.. No real charges for which to arrest him  

c.  False witnesses against the Christ

d. A failure to consider the evidence that established His claims as the Son of God

                        4.   Just making a charge that Jesus was a malefactor does not make it so.  There had to

                              be actual crimes that He had committed.


C.     The Answer (John 18:31)


Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.  The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.


1.      Pilate did not know everything that had transpired the night before.

2.      He does not really desire this case.

3.      He exhorts the Jews to try Jesus according to their law.

a.  Was this done out of wisdom?

b.  Was this done out of cowardice?

4.      They note that they had done this, but admit that they do not have the power to put Jesus to death.  Pilate would have to authorize this.

5.      John also reveals one addition piece of information (John 18:32).


That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.


      a.     Jesus had told His disciples that He would be crucified (Matt. 20:19; 26:2).

      b.    The Jews did not practice crucifixion.  In order for Jesus to be crucified, He

              would have to be turned over to the Romans.

c.       This was being done at that very moment.  Jesus’ words were being fulfilled.


D.    The Allegations (Luke 23:2)


And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cesar, saying that he himself is Christ a kingk.

1.      Notice that there is not one word about blasphemy.  They knew this would not hold water in Pilate’s court.

2.      The allegations are threefold:

a.    Corrupting the nation:  they might point to the crowds drawn to Jesus.

b.      Curbing tribute to Cesar:  this was reasoned due to the third charge

c.   Claiming to be a king

d.   NOTE:  All of these things could be very troubling to Pilate and to Rome.

3.      These allegations were enough for Pilate to have to speak with Jesus. 

a.   Thus, we read in John 18:33:  “Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall

      again, and called Jesus…”

                               b.  This is when Pilate and Jesus have a private interaction one with another.





A.    The main thing that has Pilate disturbed is the accusation that Jesus claimed to be a king.  This will be his first question to the Christ.


B.      Jesus’ answer is interesting.  It will cause Pilate to declare Jesus to be innocent. 


C.     We will study the actual meeting between Jesus and Pilate in our next lesson.