The Bible and Culture

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Jesus was well and truly alone now, having been abandoned by all his Galilean male disciples. Eliezer, though he had not abandoned Jesus, and had indeed gained access to Caiaphas’ house had not been able to stem the tide against Jesus. When the meeting was over, near dawn the leaders of the whole assembly there arose and led Jesus off to Pilate. Knowing that Pilate would not respond to accusations of merely breaking Jewish Law or claiming to be yet another Jewish religious figure, they went to Pilate prepared to claim Jesus was seditious. They would suggest to Pilate “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be ‘the anointed one’, a king.”

By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jewish authorities did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate, exasperated because his docket was already full of cases to deal with, said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jewish authorities objected.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

Insulted Pilate replied, “Am I a Jew? It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But my kingdom is from another place.”

“Aha! You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“And what is truth?” Pilate asked sarcastically. With this he went out again to the Jewish authorities and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release the so-called king of the Jews’?”

They responded “No! He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem for the festival at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a 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 the 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 this they had been antagonists, not even polite towards each other.

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will flog him and then release him.”

With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” But Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder. Pilate had no desire to release Barabbas. Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But at this juncture one of the Jewish authorities said, “if you don’t execute this man, then you are no friend of Caesar’s for this man claims to be a King.” Now this word struck Pilate in his vulnerable spot, for if another Jewish embassy was sent to Tiberius, Pilate might well lose what he had worked so hard to gain–the favor of the Emperor, and the possibility of better appointments after serving in the province of Judea. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. He was far more concerned about preserving his status than in seeing justice was done in this matter.

When Pilate heard the words ‘Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar’, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover, early in the morning.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said mocking the Jewish authorities.

One Jewish authority responded “We have no king but Caesar!” And at this point in the charade, Pilate handed Jesus over to centurions to be taken to Golgotha, the place of execution outside the city walls.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver denarii to the chief priests and the elders.

“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Hakeldama, the Field of Blood, to this day.

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