(C) The presiding judge continued.

(4) Pilate's contempt for and lack of understanding of the Jews led Pilate to use the wrong tactics.
Pilate was knowledgeable about political power. He knew about emperors and kings. So Pilate was in absolutely no doubt that Jesus wasn't a king in the conventional sense.

Pilate decided to demonstrate to the crowd that Jesus was a far from regal figure. He had him flogged and dragged out crowned with thorns and decked in purple to announce: "Here is the man." Jn19v5. This was a mistake! The crowd, who had gathered by this time, did not want a king that the Romans made fun of. They were fiercely nationalistic and longed for a king who would give the Romans a bloody nose. In particular they wanted a regal figure not an object of derision. If Pilate hoped to arouse pity, sympathy or compassion in the crowd he was sadly mistaken. What he produced by his ill-conceived ploy was disgust, revulsion and rejection.

As the sorry saga draws to an end Pilate further antagonised the onlookers by saying with bitter irony, "Here is your king. Shall I crucify your king?" Jn19vs14and15. His implication was: "You've got the king you deserve. A joke king for a joke people."

It is evident that Pilate was baiting the people from their reaction. They shouted: "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him." Jn19v15. He stirred them up so much they were on the point of rioting.

In our day and age it sometimes seems as if image is everything. Our political leaders mustn't look foolish or fallible. Presidential candidate Richard Nixon was said to have lost thousands of votes because he appeared in a televised debate with Kennedy with a twelve o clock shadow. President Ford lost support because he was accident prone and tripped and fell. President George Bush is ridiculed and disparaged because he occasionally mispronounces a word.

I rather feel that image assumes too much importance in the church. Congregations like their ministers to look the part. It helps if you are handsome, well dressed, with a good voice and a winning smile. Even pastor's wives are subject to close scrutiny. I know of one earnest, keen, prospective pastor who was turned down by one church after another because his wife was fat and blowsy. I wonder why Christians do not pay more attention to the verse in Isaiah: He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Is53v2.

(5) Pilate carried too much baggage - his past caught up with him.
Pilate had served as governor for a few years before the trial of Jesus. During that time, such was his dislike of the Jews, that he made a series of mistakes. William Barclay deals with them in his commentary on John.

He marched into Jerusalem with a detachment of soldiers. The standards they carried were topped with a small bust of the reigning emperor. To the Jews this was a graven image. Such was the ferocity of their protest that Pilate had to climb down. He then financed a new water supply project for Jerusalem by raiding the temple treasury. This was so resented that the Jews rioted. The governor sent soldiers into the mob in plain clothes who at a set signal clubbed many Jews to death. Pilate foolishly introduced into Jerusalem votive shields upon which the name of Tiberius was inscribed. The Jews saw these as pagan items of worship. They protested to Caesar who ordered Pilate to remove them.

Pilate therefore had a history of antagonising the Jews. Twice he climbed down; once on the orders of Tiberius. He couldn't afford to make any more mistakes otherwise the emperor might replace him.

There is no point offending people's susceptibilities without good reason. I have known several instances of a new pastor coming to a church and deciding to change everything. There is no intention of building upon what is there. The work of previous generations is discounted. All must be swept away and the church purged of reactionaries. Every aspect of the fellowship must bear the stamp of the new man. Needless to say a lot of folk will be upset. A time may come when the egotistical pastor needs the support of every member. It is unlikely to be forthcoming!

(6) Pilate was superstitious without being devout
It is likely that Pilate was perturbed by the message from his wife: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal in a dream because of him." Mt27v19. When the Jews finally blurted out: "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God." We read that Pilate was even more afraid. Jn19v7and8.

Pilate had no real religious convictions. He was a stranger to the truth about God. He had no insight into Jewish beliefs. But he probably had an uneasy feeling that there might be something in the old stories about the pagan gods. He did not wish to offend them! Was it possible that Jesus was a visitor from another place?

In 21st century Britain there remain several who attend church that possess no real understanding of Christianity. These people have a tenuous belief in a divine presence. They want to keep on the right side of God. They are anxious not to offend him. Sunday worship is their way of keeping in with God and avoiding punishment!

(7) He sacrificed justice to expediency.
Pilate's job was to administer justice and defend the innocent. This he failed to do. Instead: Pilate ..... took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" Mt27v24.

But Pilate was not innocent. He had the power to dismiss the case against Jesus and protect him from the Jews. Pilate did not use this power because it was not in his best interest. He stood to lose politically if he antagonised the chief priests over the matter of Jesus. So he gave in and a horrendous miscarriage of justice took place.

I wonder if we are good at standing up for those who are falsely accused, those who are misrepresented and those who are unfairly criticised. Nicodemus made a poor fist of defending Jesus in the Sanhedrin because he was fearful of losing his good name. Christians should never be unwillingly to espouse a minority cause for fear of damaging their reputation among the people whose opinion matters to them.

(D) The defendant

What does the trial of Jesus teach us about him?

(1) He was reasonable.
As we have seen, Jesus described the nature of his kingdom to Pilate. He told him that it's values were derived from God and that he had been sent to make these known to mankind. He came into the world as God's spokesman to proclaim the truth - the truth about: God, what God wants of men, the way to be accepted by God and reconciled to him. Jesus testified to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about God and man. If we are to come at last into the presence of our Father it will be through Christ and him alone.

(2) He challenged Pilate
(a) Pilate asked Jesus incredulously and almost facetiously, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus challenged Pilate to take the matter seriously when he replied, "Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me?" Jn18v34. Jesus urged the Roman governor to make up his own mind about him.

One of our tasks as Christians is to challenge men and women to investigate Jesus for them selves. Most people in Britain today have not done this. Their view of Jesus depends upon what others have said about him - parents, friends, teachers, journalists and experts on TV and radio. Very few have actually studied the gospel record thoroughly and thoughtfully.

(b) Jesus also said to Pilate: "Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." v37. Pilate was asked, "Are you interested in the truth?" Sadly he had no desire to learn about God and his relationship with him.

Is the truth of vital concern to you? Do you know the truth about yourself, about God and the way of salvation? Are you reconciled to God and living a life pleasing to him? Have you a sure and certain hope of life beyond the grave? These are crucial questions and only Jesus can give us the answers.

(3) He was not a victim of circumstances
Jesus stressed that he was not a helpless victim of the priest's hatred and Pilate's ineptitude. Pilate asked Jesus where he was from and on receiving no answer retorted: "Don't you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jn19v10.

Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

Jesus told Pilate he was only able to exercise power over him because God permitted it. The crucifixion of Jesus was in the will and purpose of God. This did not mean Pilate was not without responsibility for what transpired. He was guilty of sending Jesus to the cross but the guilt of Caiaphas and the other Jewish leaders was far greater.

This is another reminder that the death of Jesus was entirely voluntary. No man took his life from him. Jesus willingly offered up his life as a sacrifice, a sin offering, on behalf of us all. Jesus had the authority to call six legions of angels to deliver him from his enemies and to put down all opposition.

(4) He was silent.

This comes out strongly in the synoptic gospels. "When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?" But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge - to the great amazement of the governor. Mt27v12.

Pilate was staggered at Christ's silence because he knew the charges were false - so why didn't Jesus defend himself?

William Barclay writes in his commentary on John: It is a terrible day when Jesus is silent to a man. There can be nothing more terrible for a man's mind to be so shut by his pride and by his determination to take his own way, that there is nothing that Jesus can say to him that will make any difference.

One of the saddest features of Jesus' ministry is the reception he got in his hometown of Nazareth. The people there had no faith in Jesus. Their minds were closed to him. Jesus was able to do few miracles in Nazareth and soon moved on.

During the last 100 years there have been increasing numbers in Western Europe to whom Jesus has never spoken through his Spirit - those who are determined to have nothing to do with him.

(5) He suffered
Jesus suffering was threefold. He suffered:

    (a) Great physical pain. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. Jn19v1. A Roman flogging was conducted at three levels of severity. We do not know at what level Jesus was flogged. Needless to say the lowest level would have inflicted pain of an order never encountered in our country today.

    (b) Persistent abuse. "The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face. Jn19v2and3. What a sad indictment of human nature this is - they struck him again and again. For all the advances in knowledge since the time of Christ human nature remains the same. It is only recently that American soldiers, representatives of a largely Christian country, abused Iraqi prisoners of war.

    (c) Ridicule. Pilate brought Jesus out to present to the people. When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man." Increasing numbers of TV programs depend for their entertainment value on humiliating people. They are sick, like Pilate, who attempted to humiliate the Prince of Peace.

We have a horror of physical pain, abuse and ridicule - yet all were inflicted on the Dayspring from on High, the Lord of Glory, the Light of the World by cruel, callous men. The trial of Jesus highlights our wickedness:

            Ye who think of sin but lightly
            Nor suppose the evil great
            Here may view its nature rightly,
            Here its guilt may estimate.
            Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
            See Who bears the awful load;
            'Tis the Word, the Lord's Annointed,
            Son of man and Son of God.

Yet, if all the suffering of Jesus did was draw attention to my sin I would be of all men most miserable. Thank God, in the words of another hymn:

            Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
            In my place condemned he stood,
            Sealed my pardon with his blood:
            Hallelujah what a saviour.

(6) He was unsupported
Where was God when Jesus suffered unjust punishment? Why was his Father in heaven inactive? Why was he silent as one unfounded accusation after another was levelled at him? God was silent at Jesus' trial. God was silent at his crucifixion. But God was not an impassive bystander for long. He raised Jesus from the dead. God vindicated his beloved Son making him the first fruit of them that sleep.

When we suffer, and there are many kinds of suffering, it may help to meditate on the words of the writer to the Hebrews: Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Heb12v3.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Cor15v57.