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Bible Gem 1252 - Pilate's Attempt to be Lenient (Luke 23:1-5)

August 20, 2019


We learnt from the verses before these that Herod and his soldiers put a royal robe on Him and sent Him back to Pilate. As I have stated before, only Luke tells us there was a trial hearing before Herod. If not for Luke we would not have known about this. The other three gospels writers juxtapose the offer to grant the Sanhedrin and the crowd the release of one prison with what went before it.  There are however some subtleties included in Luke's version of events. Luke tells us Pilate reassembled the gallery for the court as it were. Jesus had just been brought back to him again, so Pilate calls the court together. Effectively they are summonsed back to the court. Court is now in session again. But notice who are called back to court. Pilate called the High Priests and the [archon] or other religious leaders as well as the people. There are two possibilities in interpreting who this means. It could simply mean the High Priests and the other religious leaders who belong to Sanhedrin. Or it could mean other religious leaders who were not part of the Sanhedrin. Pilate knew already the degree to which the Sanhedrin were pressing for Jesus to be given the death penalty so it is almost as if he does everything in his power to ensure there are people of another persuasion in the court room at the time. Does he therefore call other Jewish leaders who were not part of the Sanhedrin to court? That difficulty aside, note that Pilate also calls the people to witness what will transpire. Perhaps he feels the crowd will be more favorably disposed to asking for clemency when they hear there are no legal grounds to the charges against Jesus.


What follows is Pilate's verdict in the case of the Christ. Pilate makes the final statement on the case as the one who had the final say. Here is what Pilate had to say:

"You brought this man to me, accusing Him of leading a revolt. I have examined Him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find Him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent Him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. So I will have Him flogged, and then I will release Him."

Pilate in his judge's summary on the case of the three-fold charge we saw in Gem 1248 reduces it to one simple statement. Pilate recognized the charge was fictitious and so reduces it to its essence. You accused this man of leading a revolt. He omits the issue relating to forbidding the Jews to give tribute and the matters relating to Jesus being a rival king to Caesar. Pilate sees through the nonsense and focuses simply on the matter of sedition. Pilate states he has examined Jesus thoroughly before them and found Him innocent. Note the inclusion of "before you". This has all happened before your eyes. No hidden, closed court scene has taken place. The evidence is clear and you have seen it all. Pilate then states with interpretation that Herod Antipas has also examined Him and found Him innocent. BEHOLD, I DID NOT FIND THIS MAN GUILTY OF ANY OF THE CHARGES AGAINST HIM. This is the first BEHOLD in this segment. Take note of the other one in the break between Gems.


Now Pilate proposes a solution. While Jesus has done nothing to deserve the death penalty Pilate suggests punishing Him almost in the sense of appeasing the cry for blood the Sanhedrin are asking for. "You want blood, well let me proposes this solution: a scourging will give you blood but not the death penalty. What about that solution?" Notice too how Pilate cajoles those in attendance and draws them into this proposed solution. Herod has sent Him back to US. Us who? This is not like God's "Let US create man in our image." It is not a royal we of deity or Trinity or anything of that nature. It is a ploy to involve those before him in a way to work this all out in a fair manner. The "us" is an inclusive me [Pilate], you the Sanhedrin, you the other Jewish leaders and you who represent the people at large. Let's find a suitable solution to this case.      


There is debate as to whether the flogging that Pilate suggested was a full Roman scourging or a suggestion to something lighter than that. If as most commentators suggest the scourging was a full Roman scourging, many died from the scourging alone. However some suggest the flogging was a mild flogging and not a full Roman scourging. "You want a little blood, well let's do that. We will whip Him a little and then release Him." The word used is [paideuo] and not [phragelloo] as Mark uses in 15:15. There is a difference between these words in the severity of the flogging. There seems to be a hint of leniency here. The whipping is a participle and the releasing is the full finite verb. So effectively, having whipped Him we will release Him – emphasis on the releasing, not the whipping.


Luke has effectively divided this final trial into three parts. 

  1. The conclusion of the examination by Herod

  2. The call again for the death penalty by those present

  3. The delivery of the sentence    

We will investigate all of this in the Gems to come and contrast Luke's account with that of the Matthew, Mark and John.

There is lots of good stuff to come. Take the time to look at the differences between Luke's account and the other writers and put it all together to gain the fullest understanding of what happened during these trials.



What torments of grief you endured, from evils that never arrived.  Ralph Waldo Emmerson


There's one problem with the comfort zone. Miracles don't happen there! Rick Godwin


It’s not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.  Henry David Thoreau


Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds.  Albert Einstein


Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.  Alan Greenspan



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