Scene of Activity
Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane at 2 AM and for the next 6.5 hours his captors will transport Him all over Jerusalem where He’ll endure 6 different trials before He’s ultimately sentenced, scourged, crucified, and buried.
Though Mark summarizes the Jewish portions of the trials, we know from other accounts Jesus is taken from the Garden to the home of Annas the High Priest.
[Mark 14:66-68] “Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed.”
Like the other disciples, Peter initially ran for cover following the Garden scene; however, unlike the others, it would appear Peter circles back to check on Jesus.
As Jesus is being grilled by Annas the High Priest, Peter has used his ninja skills to get himself into the “courtyard” outside his home (between the front door and the street).
I’m sure Peter realizes the risk in his maneuvers, but he reasons the darkness of the Garden coupled with the hectic nature of what took place no one would recognize him.
As Peter is “warming himself” by a fire, “one of the servant girls of the high priest” approaches him with the accusation of being “with Jesus of Nazareth” presumably in the Garden. “Servant girl” indicates she was a “young female slave or maiden.”
Though it is unlikely she was with the mob that came to arrest Jesus, it’s not outside the realm of possibility she had seen Peter with Jesus earlier in the week.
Peter’s response to her accusation was passive as he deflects the question. Saying “I neither know nor understand what you are saying” was akin to playing dumb.
Mark then tells us Peter “went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed.”
You would imagine since Jesus has already told Peter (Mark 14:30) he’d deny him three times before the rooster crowed twice, the crowing of the rooster immediately following this first denial would have been a solid warning.
And yet, Peter is still so full of pride and self-confidence he ignores its warning.
Note: Hearing a rooster crow would have been an abnormal occurrence in Jerusalem. Not only were they outlawed from the city because they were un-kosher, but roosters were forbidden because they were messy.
We don’t know how much time elapses, but Jesus has been moved to the home of Caiaphas to appear before a mock trial. Peter follows.... [Mark 14:69-70] “But the same servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” But he denied it again (indicating a repetition of the action from before - deflection).”
Note the Subtle Difference: This servant girl is no longer aiming her accusation towards Peter, she is now directing her observations “to those who stood by.”
[Mark 14:70-71] “And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!”
The accusations began with a simple observation from a servant girl.... Then this same servant girl begins to point Peter out to the other bystanders.... As the trial moves to the Temple, the accusations begin to come from “those who stood by.”
At this point John provides an interesting detail. He tells us that [John 18:26] “One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?”
No longer would Peter be able to deflect....
First, an eyewitness has joined the fray!
Secondly, his Galilean accent sold him out.
According to the Jewish Talmud no Galilean was allowed to read from the Torah in the City of Jerusalem because their language was considered guttural.
With the pressure mounting, Peter become defensive and lashes out. Mark says “he began to curse (“to declare one’s self liable to the severest divine penalties”) and swear (“to affirm with an oath”).” Literally, “I’ll be damned to hell if I know this man!”
[Mark 14:72] “A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.”
Luke 22 indicates the second crow of the rooster occurred as “Peter was still speaking,” but it wasn’t this that caught his attention. Luke tells us at this very moment “the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord....”
Can you imagine what kind of guilt Peter must have experienced as midway into his third denial he hears the rooster crow and his eyes immediately connect with Jesus?
Just a few hours earlier Peter had been adamant in his loyalty to Jesus.... Peter was full of pride and cockiness, but Jesus had been clear that before the 2nd crowing of the rooster he would find himself humbled. “Pride indeed proceeds a fall!”
It’s important to keep in mind the entire situation has been set up by Jesus to teach Peter a very important lesson..... in order for Peter to be useful in the future, he would need to understand no amount of self or self-ability that can help a person follow Him.
Beginning in the Garden Peter has tried with all human vigor to follow Jesus in the strength of his own ability, through the standing of his own self-righteousness, motivated by the depths of his love and devotion for Jesus; and yet....
Over the last few hours Peter has just discovered the hard way that all of the things he took so much pride in (mainly himself) have proven to be sorely inadequate. His best would never be enough!
“And when he thought about it, he wept” - literally, Peter was completely overwhelmed with a “sorrow flowing from the deepest part of his being.”
Peter wept because he had fallen short of his own lofty expectations of himself!
His pride and ego have been completely crushed.
Peter wept because he had failed Jesus!
There is no doubt Peter believes he has just committed the unpardonable sin believing his relationship with Jesus has now been irreversibly broken!
In his book “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
Though we don’t know how the next few days unfold for Peter, it’s important to point out that Jesus is not done with him.... as a matter of fact, for the first time in Peter’s life his estimation of self was exactly where it needed to be!
Peter’s failure on this night would serve to prepare him to experience the radical power of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, as well as the essential indwelling of the Holy Spirit!
One legend of church history indicates that ever time Peter would hear the crowing of the rooster in the morning he would get on his knees and pray!
[Mark 15:1] “Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus (silly to think they could actually bound him), led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.”
Scene of Activity
“Immediately, in the morning....” Under the cover of darkness and in secret, Jesus has stood before Annas, a pretrial has occurred at the home of Caiaphas, before he was sent to officially appear before the full council at the Temple.
Their decision had been unanimous.... In affirming to “be the Christ the Son of the Blessed” Jesus was considered guilty of blasphemy - a crime fitting of death, the problem.... since 7 AD the Jewish people did not have the right to capital punishment.
Even though they wanted Jesus dead, they would need to provide Pilate (Roman Governor) a justifiable reason for His execution (this would be easier said than done).
1st Problem: History seems to indicate Pontius Pilate was an anti-semite.
During his reign the Jewish people had consistently proven to be a thorn in his side, not to mention, his relationship with the ruling class was less than amicable.
Since the religious rulers detested the fact they didn’t have the freedom to execute their own, you can imagine Pilate would have been extremely suspect of the Jews presenting to him a person to be executed.
2nd Problem: They would need a crime worthy of Roman execution.
“Claiming to be God” and “blasphemy against the Law” was enough to “be condemned to death” under Jewish statutes, but it would not fit the Roman criteria.
As we’ll see, the religious leaders decided to present a case that Jesus was a revolutionary who had come to Jerusalem to establish his own kingdom. “Claiming to be a King” would indeed be an act of treason against Caesar.
Historically, we know the religious leaders also had one trump card on Pilate.... As Roman Governor Pilate found himself in deep political trouble. Everyone knew things were tense between he and Tiberius Caesar.
As governor Pilate’s main job was to keep peace within the region; and yet, since coming to power in 26 AD, Pilate had instigated conflict with the Jews by directly offending the religious sensibilities of those under his control:
- First, Pilate had commission a picture of Caesar be placed in the Temple precincts. Viewing this as blasphemy of the highest order, the Jews rioted.
Then Pilate took money from the Temple treasury to build an aqueduct for the city. Once again the people, insulted by the gesture, rioted in protest.
Everyone knew because Pilate was on thin ice with Rome he would have to play nice with the Jewish people. He would not survive another out burst!
Though Pilate is mentioned in all four Gospels, by Jewish historians Philo of Alexandria and Josephus, as well as Roman historian Tacitus for years skeptics scoffed at the absence of archaeological evidence validating the historical accounts of Pontius Pilate and his governorship of Judea.
However, in the late 50‘s, something interesting happened.... As the Aswan Dam was nearing completion in Egypt one of the unintended consequences is that the dam dramatically slowed the flow of silt from the Nile into the Mediterranean causing the shoreline of Israel to expand. As the silt lessoned and the waters receded what was soon discovered between Tel Aviv and Haifa was the ancient city of Caesarea.
Caesarea was constructed by Herod between 25-13 BC and Josephus says the city was the official administrative capital of the region and home for the Roman Governor.
In June 1961, while excavating the amphitheater, Italian archaeologist Dr. Antonio Frova discovered a stone dating back to 26 AD that had been reused in the 4th century as part of the stairs. Upon this stone was discovered the broken inscription, “To the Divine Augustus Tiberiuem.... Pontius Pilate.... perfect of Judea.... has dedicated this....”
What is today known as the “Pilate Stone” is significant because it is not only universally accepted, but proves the historical veracity of the Gospel narrative.
[Mark 15:2-5] “Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered and said to him, “It is as you say.” And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing. Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!” But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.”
Once again Mark simplifies a narrative that was a bit more complicated that it initially appears. John 18:28 we’re told, “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” It’s a normal morning for Pilate when he receives a prisoner from the religious leaders. Though Jesus is standing before him, the religious leaders won’t enter his chambers “lest they be defiled.” “So Pilate then went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” They answered and said to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.” Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death....”
“Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
“Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.”
This is not Pilate’s first rodeo and it would appear two things impress him:
1. He realizes there is something fishy about the entire situation.
Before him is a man he’s determined to be clearly innocent, so....
Why would these religious leaders want him dead?
What would the political consequences be if he didn’t have Jesus executed?
Could he in good conscience sentence a man he knows is innocent?
2. He recognizes there is something radically different about Jesus.
Mark tells us “Pilate marveled” at the fact Jesus remained silent and didn’t put up a rebuttal to the accusations the religious leaders were throwing around.
He marveled because Pilate, as the sole arbitrator of the law, held Jesus’ fate in his hands; and yet, Jesus didn’t beg for mercy - he didn’t even put up a defense.
Though not included by Mark, between vs. 5-6 Pilate attempts a savvy political maneuver to try to get himself out of a quandary he wants no part of.... Realizing Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate sends Him to Herod (who had jurisdiction over this region)!
Imagine his disappointment when a hour or so later, Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate’s court for his ruling on the matter. Still unwilling to decide on the matter, Pilate has one more trick up his sleeve.....
[Mark 15:6-7] “Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. And there was one named Barabbas (“Bar-Abbas” literally means “Son of the Father”), who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion.”
In order to gain back some good will he had lost with the Jewish people, Pilate had developed a custom of releasing one prisoner during the feast. “Whomever they requested” regardless of the crime would be released from prison.
Knowing this was the case it would appear a crowd had already gathered to request the release of a man named “Barabbas” - a known revolutionary and insurrectionist.
Note: At this point no one knows that Jesus has even been arrested.
[Mark 15:8-10] “Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.”
Thinking he’s come up with the perfect solution, Pilate presents the mob with the option: Release a popular hero Jesus of Nazareth or a known barbarian Barabbas?
I honestly believe Pilate expected the crowd to seek the release of Jesus providing him an easy out of a potentially dicey situation.... How could the Jewish leaders deny the will of their own people? If the mob was behind his decision to release Jesus, it would undercut their ability to cause him future problems.
[Mark 15:11-14] “But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!” Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”
To Pilate’s dismay the cards were stacked against him!
The crowd had gathered for the release of Barabbas and the priests were “stirring up the crowd.” Pilate knew if he went against the will of the people a riot was likely.
And yet.... he knew Jesus was an innocent man. His conscience told him he couldn’t sentence this man to death. Not to mention.... according to Matthew 27:19, “His wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”
[Mark 15:15] “So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified....”
Barabbas was a guilty man. He deserved the death awaiting him.
Imagine the look on his face when he was released?
The innocent died in the place of the guilty. It’s true that Jesus died for him!
Though we’ll pick back up with verse 15 and focus our sole attention onto the experience of Jesus, I want to finish with some thoughts concerning Pilate.
Pilate “released barabbas” so that he could “gratify the crowd,” but then according to John 19 he tries one more thing to get out of sentencing Jesus to death.
Mark tells us Pilate “delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.” This indicates the scourging was initially an attempt by Pilate to appease the religious leaders without killing Jesus.
In the first century, a scouring was used to coerce a confession out of the prisoner. If you started talking.... the beating would be lightened; if you remained silent.... the beating would intensify.
We’ll discuss the scourging next week, but I can imagine the report that came back to Pilate.... Never before had a man endured such a beating without uttering a word!
This is why I believe that after the scouring Jesus is brought back to Pilate where he presents Jesus before the people..... we pick it up in John 19:5, “Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Behold the Man!” Therefore, when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, “CrucifyHim, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”
“Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
“From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!”Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”
Matthew 27:24, “When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.
Three things are abundantly clear about Pilate:
1. He knew Jesus was innocent and it would appear he had strong inclinations Jesus was actually who he said he was.
2. He tried everything in his power to avoid making a decision. Pilate wanted no part of this situation. He’d just as rather avoid this issue altogether.
3. To appease his conscience Pilate tried to wash his hands concerning the matter. And yet, the reality is that Pilate was the only who could decide Jesus’ fate.
Though he didn’t know it at the time for the rest of history Pilate would be known by the decision he made concerning Jesus. It was the most important decision he ever made.
The Apostles Creed.... “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried....”
Ironically, Pilate made his decision to “gratify the crowd” and yet just a few years later the Jews riot again and Pilate’s banished to Vienna (Austria) where he dies.
According to church tradition Pilate’s wife a woman named Claudia ended up becoming a follower of Jesus. In his final letter before being executed in Rome (2 Timothy) Paul writing very possibly from Europe, closes our his letter by saying, “Eudulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia send their greetings, and so all the other Christians.”