Luke 23:13
And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,
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(13-23) And Pilate, when he had called together . . .-See Notes on Matthew 27:15-23; Mark 15:6-14. The first summons to the members of the Council, and the reference to Herod’s examination of the Prisoner are, as the sequel of the previous incident, peculiar to St. Luke.



Luke 23:13 - Luke 23:26

Luke here marks out three stages of the struggle between Pilate and the Jews. Thrice did he try to release Jesus; thrice did they yell their hatred and their demand for His blood. Then came the shameful surrender by Pilate, in which, from motives of policy, he prostituted Roman justice. Knowingly he sacrificed one poor Jew to please his turbulent subjects; unknowingly he slew the Christ of God.

I. The first weak attempt to be just.

Pilate invested it with a certain formality by convoking a representative gathering of all classes, ‘chief priests and the rulers and the people.’ The nation was summoned to decide solemnly whether they would or would not put their Messiah to death, and a Roman governor was their summoner. Surely the irony of fate {or, rather, of Providence} could go no further than that. Pilate’s résumé of the proceedings up to the moment of his speaking is not without a touch of sarcasm, in the contrast between ‘ye’ and ‘I’ and ‘Herod.’ It is almost as if he had said, ‘Why, herein is a marvellous thing, that you should have a quicker scent for rebellion than I or Herod!’ He was evidently suspicious of the motives which induced the ‘rulers’ to take the new role of eager defenders of Roman authority, and ready to suspect something below such an extraordinary transformation. Jews delivering up a Jew because he was an insurgent against Caesar,-there must be something under that! He lays stress on their having heard his examination of the accused, as showing that he had gone into the matter thoroughly, that the charges had broken down to their knowledge. He represents his sending Jesus to Herod as done from the high motive of securing the completest possible investigation, instead of its being a despicable attempt to shirk responsibility and to pay an empty compliment to an enemy. He reiterates his conviction of Jesus’ innocence, and then, after all this flourish about his own carefulness to bring judicial impartiality to bear on the case, he makes the lame and impotent conclusion of offering to ‘chastise Him.’

What for? The only course for a judge convinced of a prisoner’s innocence is to set him free. But this was a bribe to the accusers, offered in hope that the smaller punishment would content them. Pilate knew that he was perpetrating flagrant injustice in such a suggestion, and he tried to hide it by using a gentle word. ‘Chastise’ sounds almost beneficent, but it would not make the scourging less cruel, nor its infliction less lawless. Compromises are always ticklish to engineer, but a compromise between justice and injustice is least likely of all to answer. This one signally failed. The fierce accusers of Jesus were quick to see the sign of weakness, both in the proposal itself and in their being asked if it would be acceptable to them. Not so should a Roman governor have spoken. If pressure had made the iron wall yield so far, a little more and it would fall flat, and let them at their victim.

Pilate was weak, vacillating, did not know what he wished. He wished to do right, but he wished more to conciliate, for he knew that he was detested, and feared to be accused to Rome. The other side knew what they wanted, and were resolute. Encouraged by the hesitation of Pilate, they ‘cried out all together.’ One hears the strident yells from a thousand throats shrieking out the self-revealing and self-destroying choice of Barabbas. He was a popular hero for the very reason that he was a rebel. He had done what his admirers had accused Jesus of doing, and for which they pretended that they had submitted Him to Pilate’s judgment. The choice of Barabbas convicts the charges against Jesus of falsehood and unreality. The choice of Barabbas reveals the national ideal. They did not want a Messiah like Jesus, and had no eyes for the beauty of His character, nor ears for the words of grace poured into His lips. They had no horror of ‘a murderer,’ and great admiration for a rebel. Barabbas was the man after their own heart. A nation that can reject Jesus and choose Barabbas is only fit for destruction. A nation judges itself by its choice of heroes. The national ideal is potent to shape the national character. We to-day are sinking into an abyss because of our admiration for the military type of hero; and there is not such an immense difference between the mob that rejected Jesus and applauded Barabbas and the mobs that shout round a successful soldier, and scoff at the law of Christ if applied to politics.

II. The second, weaker attempt.

Pilate repeated his proposal of release, but it was all but lost in the roar of hatred. Note the contrast between ‘Pilate spoke’ {Luke 23:20} and ‘they shouted.’ It suggests his feeble effort swept away by the rush of ferocity. And they have gathered boldness from his hesitation, and are now prescribing the mode of Christ’s punishment. Now first the terrible word ‘Crucify’ is heard. Both Matthew and Mark tell us that the priests and rulers had ‘stirred up’ the people to choose Barabbas, but apparently the mob, once roused, needed no further stimulant.

Crowds are always cruel, and they are as fickle as cruel. The very throats now hoarse with fiercely roaring ‘Crucify Him’ had been strained by shouting ‘Hosanna’ less than a week since. The branches strewed in His path had not had time to wither. ‘The voice of the people is the voice of God,’-sometimes. But sometimes it sounds very like the voice of the enemy of God, and one would have more confidence in it if it did not so often and so quickly speak, not only ‘in divers,’ but in diverse, ‘manners.’ To make it the arbiter of men’s merit, still more to trim one’s course so as to catch the breeze of the popular breath, is folly, or worse. Men admire what they resemble, or try to resemble, and Barabbas has more of his sort than has Jesus.

III. The final yielding.

It is to Pilate’s credit that he kept up his efforts so long. Luke wishes to impress us with his persistency, as well as with the fixed determination of the Jews, by his note of ‘the third time.’ Thrice was the choice offered to them, and thrice did they put away the possibility of averting their doom. But Pilate’s persistency had a weak place, for he was afraid of his subjects, and, while willing to save Jesus, was not willing to imperil himself in doing it. Self-interest takes the strength out of resolution to do right, like a crumbling stone in a sea wall, which lets in the wave that ruins the whole structure.

Pilate had come to the end of his shifts to escape pronouncing sentence. The rulers had refused to judge Jesus according to their law. Herod had sent Him back with thanks, but unsentenced. The Jews would not have Him, but Barabbas, released, nor would they accept scourging in lieu of crucifying. So he has to decide at last whether to be just and fear not, or basely to give way, and draw down on his head momentary applause at the price of everlasting horror. Luke notices in all three stages the loud cries of the Jews, and in this last one he gives special emphasis to them. ‘Their voices prevailed.’ What a condemnation for a judge! He ‘gave sentence that what they asked for should be done.’ Baseness in a judge could go no farther. The repetition of the characterisation of Barabbas brings up once more the hideousness of the people’s choice, and the tragic words ‘to their will’ sets in a ghastly light the flagrant injustice of the judge, and yet greater crime of the Jews. To deliver Jesus to their will was base; to entertain such a ‘will’ towards Jesus was more than base,-it was ‘the ruin of them, and of all Israel.’ Our whole lives here and hereafter turn on what is our ‘will’ to Him.Luke 23:13-16. And Pilate — Having received an account of what had passed before Herod; called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people — Namely, such of them as had appeared against Jesus as his accusers; and said, Ye have brought this man unto me as one that perverteth the people — As having taught doctrines injurious to your religion, and also to the civil peace and the Roman government; and behold I have examined him before you — And heard all that could be alleged against him; and have found no fault in this man Ουδεν αιτιον, no crime, or cause for accusation; touching the things whereof you accuse him — None of which you have proved against him. No, nor yet Herod — He has discovered no fault in him, though much better acquainted than I am with your customs and religion. Lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him Εστι πεπραγμενον αυτω, hath been done by him: for, instead of sending him back, like one who deserves a capital sentence, he has treated him like an idiot rather than a traitor, so as plainly to show that he thinks him to be merely an object of ridicule. I will therefore chastise him — Namely, by scourging; and release him — And am persuaded he will give us no further trouble: nor would he have interest enough to do it, if he were so inclined. Thus Pilate solemnly protests that he believes Christ has done nothing worthy of death or of bonds; and therefore, surely he ought immediately to have discharged him, and not only so, but to have protected him from the fury of the priests and rabble, and to have bound his persecutors to their good behaviour, for their insolent conduct. But, being himself a wicked man, he had of course no respect for Christ. Having made himself otherwise obnoxious, he was afraid of displeasing either the emperor or the people, and therefore, for want of integrity, he yields to a set of miscreants, whom he ought to have dispersed as a riotous and seditious assembly, and have forbid to come near him; for he plainly saw what spirit influenced them. He declares Christ to be innocent, and therefore has a mind to release him; yet, to please the people, 1st, He will release him under the character of a malefactor, because of necessity he must release one, Luke 23:17; so that, whereas he ought to have released him as an act of justice, he will release him by an act of grace, and be beholden to the people for it. 2d, He will chastise him, and release him: But if no fault be chargeable upon him, why should he be chastised? There is as much injustice in scourging as in crucifying an innocent man; nor could it be justified by pretending that this would satisfy the clamours of the people, and make him the object of their pity; for we must not do evil that good may come. 23:13-25 The fear of man brings many into this snare, that they will do an unjust thing, against their consciences, rather than get into trouble. Pilate declares Jesus innocent, and has a mind to release him; yet, to please the people, he would punish him as an evil-doer. If no fault be found in him, why chastise him? Pilate yielded at length; he had not courage to go against so strong a stream. He delivered Jesus to their will, to be crucified.Made friends together ... - What had been the cause of their quarrel is unknown. It is commonly supposed that it was Pilate's slaying the Galileans in Jerusalem, as related in Luke 13:1-2. The occasion of their reconciliation seems to have been the civility and respect which Pilate showed to Herod in this case. It was not because they were united in "hating" Jesus, as is often the case with wicked people, for Pilate was certainly desirous of releasing him, and "both" considered him merely as an object of ridicule and sport. It is true, however, that wicked people, at variance in other things, are often united in opposing and ridiculing Christ and his followers; and that enmities of long standing are sometimes made up, and the most opposite characters brought together, simply to oppose religion. Compare Psalm 83:5-7. Lu 23:13-38. Jesus Again before Pilate—Delivered Up—Led Away to Be Crucified.

(See on [1736]Mr 15:6-15; and [1737]Joh 19:2-17).

See Poole on "Luke 23:1" And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests,.... That is, after Herod had sent back Christ unto him, he then summoned the chief priests together, to consider what should be done to him: and with them also,

the rulers and the people; both the civil and ecclesiastical rulers, and the chief among the people, who had been forward in accusing Jesus, and seeking his death: the latter of these is not read in the Persic version; and both are joined together in the Syriac and Ethiopic versions, and read thus; by the former, "the princes, or chiefs of the people": and by the latter, "the judges of the people": in a word, he convened the whole sanhedrim, which consisted of the chief priests, Scribes, and elders of the people.

{4} And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the {d} rulers and the people,

(4) Christ is acquitted the second time, even by him of whom he is condemned, so that it might appear in what way he who is just, redeemed us who were unjust.

(d) Those whom the Jews called the sanhedrin.

Luke 23:13-16. Καὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντ.] and in general the members of the Sanhedrim. Comp. Luke 24:20.

Luke 23:14. ἐγώ] I, for my part, to which afterwards corresponds ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ Ἡρώδης.

ἐνώπιον ὑμῶν] having examined Him in your presence, according to Luke 23:3; but there is a variation in John 18:33 f.

οὐδὲναἴτιον ὦν κ.τ.λ.] I have found nothing in this man which could be charged upon him, of that which ye (οὐδὲν ὦν = οὐδὲν τούτων, ) complain of against him. On αἴτιον, guilty, punishable, comp. Luke 23:4; Luke 23:22; on κατηγορ. κατά τινος, very rare in the Greek writers, see Xen. Hell. i. 7. 6 : τῶν τε κατηγορούντων κατὰ τῶν στρατηγῶν. Wolf, ad Dem. Lept. p. 213.

Luke 23:15. ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ Ἡρώδης] scil. εὗρεν κ.τ.λ., nor has even Herod (who yet knows the Jewish circumstances so accurately), etc. Comp. C. F. A. Fritzsche, in Fritzschior. Opusc. p. 178.

καὶ ἰδοὺ κ.τ.λ.] Result of what was done in presence of Herod, which now appears; hence ἐστὶ πεπραγμένον, which does not mean: has been done by Him; but: is done by Him.

Luke 23:16. The chastisement (what kind of chastisement is left indefinite) is here merely thrown out as a satisfaction; hence there is no essential variation from John 18:39, and no confusion with John 19:1-4. Comp. also on Matthew 27:26. Bengel rightly says: “Hic coepit nimium concedere Pilatus;” and thereby he had placed the attainment of his purpose beyond his power. Μαλακὸς δέ τις ὁ Πιλάτος καὶ ἥκιστα ὑπὲρ ἀληθείας ἐνστατικός· ἐδεδοίκει γὰρ τὴν συκοφαντίαν, μήπως διαβληθῇ ὡς τὸν ἀντάρτην ἀπολύσας, Theophylact.Luke 23:13-16. Pilate proposes to release Jesus.13. called together the chief priests] This was a formal speech from a bema—perhaps the throne of Archelaus—set on the tessellated pavement called by the Jews Gabbatha (John 19:13). Now was the golden opportunity which Pilate should have seized in order to do what he knew to be right; and he was really anxious to do it because the meek Majesty of the Lord had made a deep impression upon him, and because even while seated on the bema, he was shaken by a presentiment of warning conveyed to him by the dream of his wife (Matthew 27:19). But men live under the coercion of their own past acts, and Pilate by his cruelty and greed had so bitterly offended the inhabitants of every province of Judaea that he dared not do anything more to provoke the accusation which he knew to be hanging over his head (comp. Jos. Antt. xviii. 3, § 2. B. J. ii. 9, § 4).Verses 13-25. - The Lord is tried again before Pilate, who wishes to release him, but, over-persuaded by the Jews, delivers him to be crucified. Verses 13-16. - And Pilate... said unto them.., behold I... have found no fault in this Man... No, nor yet Herod:... lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him; more accurately rendered, is done by him. This was the Roman's deliberate judgment publicly delivered. The decision then announced, that he would scourge him (ver. 16), was singularly unjust and cruel. Pilate positively subjected a Man whom he had pronounced innocent to the horrible punishment of scourging, just to satisfy the clamour of the Sanhedrists, because he dreaded what they might accuse him of at Rome, where he knew he had enemies! He thought, wrongly as it turned out, that the sight of Jesus after he had undergone this dreadful and disgraceful punishment would satisfy, perhaps melt to pity, the hearts of these restless enemies of his.
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