Matthew 27:23
And the governor said, Why, what evil has he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) Why, what evil hath he done?—The question attested the judge’s conviction of the innocence of the accused, but it attested also the cowardice of the judge. He was startled at the passionate malignity of the cry of the multitude and the priests, but had not the courage to resist it. We find from Luke 23:22. that he had recourse to the desperate expedient of suggesting a milder punishment—“I will chastise,” i.e., scourge, “Him, and let Him go;” but the suggestion itself showed his weakness, and therefore did but stimulate the crowd to persist in their demand for death.

Matthew 27:23. The governor said, Why? what evil hath he done? — A proper question to be asked before we censure any in common discourse, much more for a judge to ask, before he pass a sentence of death. It is much for the honour of the Lord Jesus, that, though he suffered as an evil doer, yet neither his judge nor his prosecutors could find that he had done any evil. Had he done any evil against God? No: he always did those things that pleased him. Had he done any against the civil government? No: as he did himself, so he taught others to render to Cesar the things that were Cesar’s. Had he done any against the public peace? No: he did not strive or cry, nor was his kingdom of this world. Had he done any evil to particular persons? Whom had he defrauded, or otherwise injured? Not one: so far from it, that he continually went about doing good. But they cried the more, LET HIM BE CRUCIFIED. They do not go about to show any evil he had done, but, right or wrong, he must be crucified. Quitting all pretensions to the truth of the premises, they resolved to hold fast the conclusion, and what was wanting in evidence to make up in clamour.27:11-25 Having no malice against Jesus, Pilate urged him to clear himself, and laboured to get him discharged. The message from his wife was a warning. God has many ways of giving checks to sinners, in their sinful pursuits, and it is a great mercy to have such checks from Providence, from faithful friends, and from our own consciences. O do not this abominable thing which the Lord hates! is what we may hear said to us, when we are entering into temptation, if we will but regard it. Being overruled by the priests, the people made choice of Barabbas. Multitudes who choose the world, rather than God, for their ruler and portion, thus choose their own delusions. The Jews were so bent upon the death of Christ, that Pilate thought it would be dangerous to refuse. And this struggle shows the power of conscience even on the worst men. Yet all was so ordered to make it evident that Christ suffered for no fault of his own, but for the sins of his people. How vain for Pilate to expect to free himself from the guilt of the innocent blood of a righteous person, whom he was by his office bound to protect! The Jews' curse upon themselves has been awfully answered in the sufferings of their nation. None could bear the sin of others, except Him that had no sin of his own to answer for. And are we not all concerned? Is not Barabbas preferred to Jesus, when sinners reject salvation that they may retain their darling sins, which rob God of his glory, and murder their souls? The blood of Christ is now upon us for good, through mercy, by the Jews' rejection of it. O let us flee to it for refuge!And the governor said, Why? - Luke informs us that Pilate put this question to them "three times," so anxious was he to release him.

He affirmed that he had found no cause of death in him. He said, therefore, that he would chastise him and let him go. He expected, probably, by causing him to be publicly whipped, to excite their compassion, to satisfy "them," and thus to evade the demands of the priests, and to set him at liberty with the consent of the people. So weak and irresolute was this Roman governor! Satisfied of his innocence, he should at once have preferred "justice to popularity," and acted as became a magistrate in acquitting the innocent.

Let him be crucified - See the notes at Matthew 27:39. Luke says they were instant with loud voices demanding this. They urged it. They demanded it with a popular clamor.

Mt 27:11-26. Jesus Again before Pilate—He Seeks to Release Him but at Length Delivers Him to Be Crucified. ( = Mr 15:1-15; Lu 23:1-25; Joh 18:28-40).

For the exposition, see on [1372]Lu 23:1-25; [1373]Joh 18:28-40.

Ver. 21-23. Mark hath the same, Mark 15:12-14. So also Luke saith, Luke 23:20-23, Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.

John, John 19:1-12, hath yet more circumstances relating to the latter part of this trial, which follow: Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; and went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. I have not given the reader at one view what all the evangelists say, as thinking it scarce possible from them all to set down the order how things passed at this trial; but only, that I might take notice of what was remarkable in it, related from one or other of them. The reason of our reading so often of Pilate’s going out, and then again coming on to the judgment seat, seemeth to be because, as we heard before, the Jews would not come into Pilate’s house, but stood at the door; and, on the other side, I conceive that he could not proceed judicially but sitting upon the tribunal, or seat of judgment. So as, though he could proceed in judgment within the house, with the attendance of his own servants, soldiers, and officers; yet, when he had any thing to propound to the Jews, he went out. We cannot think that the evangelists report all the things the Jews objected against our Saviour, nor all the questions by Pontius Pilate propounded to him. For the evangelists tell us, summarily, that they accused him of many things, and Pilate saith, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? There was, it seems, but one thing that they most insisted upon, that was, his making himself a king, as to which we heard before how our Lord cleared himself. In the whole process of this trial these things are remarkable:

1. Our Saviour’s silence.

2. Pilate’s equity.

3. The rage and madness of the chief priests, scribes, and people.

Our Saviour’s silence confirms to us that piece of the law of nature, that no man is bound to accuse himself. Pilate’s equity appears in many things: He would not condemn him without a particular hearing of his cause himself, he would not force him to accuse himself; he accepts our Saviour’s vindication of himself, as to the great thing wherewith he was charged; he twice declares that he found no fault in him; he studies expedients to deliver an innocent person from their rage; he sends him to Herod, and obtains his concurrent suffrage to his innocency; he offereth to release him according to a custom they had at the passover to deliver one, whomsoever they desired; when this would not do, he caused him to be scourged, then brings him out to them again, hoping to have moved them to compassion by that lighter punishment of him.

The rage and madness of the Jews, principally of the chief priests and scribes, appeared in their urging to have had our Saviour condemned without hearing; their excessive clamours against him; their preferring one before him who was a robber, a murderer, one that had made a public insurrection; their insisting so much upon the kind of death that he should die, viz. by crucifying him, though in that they did both fulfil the counsel of God, who had determined that he should be made a curse for us, and it was written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree, Galatians 3:13, and what himself had prophesied, that he should be delivered to the Gentiles, and they should mock, and scourge, and crucify him, Matthew 20:19. But that which is most remarkable is, the providence of God, for the evidencing of our Saviour’s innocency. Pilate’s wife calls him a just man. Pilate twice tells them that he found no fault in him. They are able to say nothing when Pilate asks them, What evil hath he done? Herod objects nothing against him. He is merely condemned upon the brutish clamour and rage of the rabble, incensed and set on fire by the chief priests and Pharisees. The art of these his adversaries is also observable, because it is the same which the enemies of the gospel, deriving from this first pattern, have ever since observed in the execution of their malice against the preachers aud faithful professors of the gospel. They durst not insist upon the doctrine which our Saviour preached, which was the true cause of their malice against him, but bring him under a charge of treason and sedition, as if he had gone about to make himself a king in opposition to the Roman emperor; though there was not the least pretence for any such thing, and if there had, none who considereth that they were a conquered people, and how zealous they upon all occasions showed themselves for their civil liberties, can imagine they had any great kindness for Caesar. It is very observable, that malice against religion and godliness, and a desire of the extirpation of it, and the professors of it, is the predominant lust in the hearts of wicked men. To serve this, they not only deny their own reason, and principles of common justice, but deny themselves likewise in some other lusts. And herein they show themselves the true seed of the serpent, and the children of the devil, whose works they do; who, though he be the proudest spirit, yet, to destroy a soul, will abate his pride, truckle to a poor witch, and go upon her errands. And the governor said, why, what evil hath he done?.... What reason can be given, why he should be crucified? what sin has he committed, that deserves such a death? From whence it is clear, that of all the things they had accused him, they had not, in Pilate's account, given proof of one single action, that was criminal, nor had he done any: he came into the world without sin, he did none in it; he knew no sin, nor could any be found in him, by Satan, nor his accusers, nor his judge:

but they cried out the more, saying, let him be crucified: the more they saw Pilate inclined to favour him, and pleaded for him, and attested his innocence; the more clamorous, outrageous, and urgent they were to have him crucified.

And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 27:23 Τί γάρ] does not presuppose a “non faciam,” or some such phrase (Grotius, Maldonatus, Fritzsche), but γάρ denotes an inference from the existing state of matters, and throws the whole emphasis upon τί: quid ergo. See on John 9:30 and 1 Corinthians 11:22.

Chrysostom appropriately points out how ἀνάνδρως καὶ σφόδρα μαλακῶς Pilate behaved.Matthew 27:23. τί γὰρ κακὸν: elliptical, implying unwillingness to carry out the popular will. (Fritzsche, Grotius.) Some, Palairet, Raphel, etc., take γὰρ as redundant.—περισσῶς ἔκραζον, they kept crying out more loudly. Cf. Mk., where the force of περισσῶς comes out more distinctly.Verse 23. - Why, what evil hath he done? Τί γὰρ κακὸν ἐποίησεν; The particle γὰρ implies a certain reasoning in the question, the speaker for the nonce putting himself in the people's position, and demanding the ground of their decision. The authorized translation is adequate. Pilate thus showed his pusillanimity and irresolution, while exercising no control over the feelings of the excited mob. But they cried out the more (περισσῶς ἔκραζον, they kept shouting out exceedingly). The very sight of the governor's predilection, combined with his indecision, excited them to more vehement clamour; they saw that he would end by yielding to their violence. Jerome refers, in illustration, to Isaiah 5:7, "He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry."
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