Matthew 27:11-14 (Part 1) – More To It Than Just This Moment of Meeting…

Posted: April 19, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 27:11-14 (Part 1)

Jesus Stands Trial Before Pilate

Have you ever punished your child because of something insignificant it seemed on the surface but had far greater implications? When you are a parent, you can see the long-range implications of certain behaviors but the child cannot. We can see our children’s bad behaviors festering into something far worse. For example, if your child tells a lie to get something that he wants, then, you deal with the issue of lying more so than what was obtained. Things that when a kid is two years old seem innocuous in and of themselves if not checked by their parents can lead to poor behavior when they are older and it really matters. So much of our behavior patterns as children are set by the time we are two or three years old. So, seemingly insignificant things when they are toddlers can become permanent behaviors as children and as adults. Grandparents may get upset for punishing a child for sneaking a dessert out of the fridge before dinner but a parent can see a child who does such things as not listening to their boss when they are older and having a family to support and getting fired. We may little rules for them to follow now so that they will be able to follow major rules later. We can see the future of the child and we want to stop behaviors that are immoral and destructive so the child will grow up to be a good, upstanding person in society. The child may not see the big deal but we as parents do. That minor immediate issue has far greater implications.

 

It is that idea of something greater going on that has always intrigued me because of Jesus’ reactions before Pilate at this hastily arranged trial. There are so many things going here that are far greater than the moment. Let’s read Matthew 27:11-14 together:

 

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

 

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

 

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

 

There are multiple layers of things that this intersection of people that are interesting to look at and ponder. First there is the relationship between the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council that was allowed to run much of the daily life of Israel by the Romans, and Pilate. Pilate’s relationship with Rome. And then there’s Jesus. And then there’s Jesus.

 

At this intersection of people, let’s first consider the Jewish leaders. Based on the history of the region under Roman rule, there was no great love between the Jewish leaders and Pilate. The Jewish leaders saw Rome as an imposition to their way of life. They saw Rome as a bunch of infidels. They had great disdain for Rome. They succumbed to Rome only because of Rome’s might and power. That they were in the courtyard of Pilate’s place of governance was unusual. Their backstory here is that Jesus was a threat to their control over the power of daily life in Israel. Their desire to maintain power forced them to become almost allies with Rome and with Pilot in this instance. These leaders were like the worst Clinton-esque politicians of our day. They hated Rome, but yet recognized their power was subject to their Roman overlords. They wanted to bite the hand of power most days but licked it to get their way. It was an uneasy relationship. Their fear of Jesus was about losing control of the people. Their fear was that Jesus was going to create strife among the people to the point of rioting. If there was rioting and they could not control it, the Romans would have no use for the Sanhedrin as the tool they used to keep control in Israel. The Jewish leaders wanted to maintain the status quo even though it meant bowing down to Rome to keep their small hold on power in the region. That’s why Jesus had to be gotten out the way. He was too popular to the common man. He was a threat to the status quo. He was a threat to their power. This was more than just some surface thing we make it in our passion plays at church. There was real political concern here that was pretty massive to the Jewish leaders.

 

At this intersection of people, let’s look at Pilate. From other historical sources, we know that Pilate was not a big fan of being governor of a backwater province far from Rome. To him this post was just a stepping stone for an ambitious politician that wanted to walk his career back to Rome. He was brutal and ruthless in the region. He dealt with the Jews harshly. From what we know, because of his brutality in the region, the powers that be in Rome had him on a short leash. Rome knew that his brutality could lead to insurrection and then cause the need for many more troops in Palestine. Even then, committing troops to already conquered region was an expensive proposition. Maintaining order in a conquered land is more expensive and often more difficult than active conquest in battle. So, this Jesus thing represented a challenge to Pilate. He knew that his old enemies in the Sanhedrin would trying to create a situation where Pilate would have to do something. He knew their coming before Him was unusual. So, to him, the ultimate issue was not necessarily the guilt or innocence of a non-Roman but rather whether this situation would turn into turmoil in the region. So, his interrogation here of Jesus in Matthew, is bottom-lined. All Pilate cared about was maintaining his political trajectory toward Rome. So, we see him caring about only what Rome cared about. Maintaining order and keeping things calm and caring about what might lead to an insurrection. At this intersection of people, Pilate was trying to manage his career more than he really cared about Jesus’ guilt or innocence.

 

And then there’s Jesus. And we will talk about his place in this scene tomorrow and how this all ties together with the greater bigger plan of God while using this intersection of people. But for today, we see that on a human scale there is far greater stuff going on than most of us realize when we simply read the Bible but do not study it. There are far greater implications on a human scale. It helps you understand the politically charged moment that we are witnessing in these few moments. There are far reaching implications for Pilate and for the Sanhedrin from the outcome of this meeting in these few verses. It’s is a powder keg situation where everyone is playing their cards. If will determine the political futures of each the Jewish leaders and Pilate. There’s more than the moment at play here. That’s the intruiging stuff here from a human perspective. But it also lays the groundwork for the conclusion of this blog tomorrow where we talk about Jesus and the road to our own redemption that begins with this meeting in these few short verses in Matthew.

 

Amen and Amen.

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