I have been teaching through the Gospel of Mark in an online Bible study that meets once a week. Mark has been racing through the stories to get to the cross. In Mark 15, we take a look at the trial of Christ. In a couple of the previous lessons, we covered:
Now we have arrived at the long awaited trial. I say long awaited because God has been preparing this moment in human history for 4,000 years. He planned it in eternity past. It is now about to happen.
I. Jewish Leadership
The Jewish leadership had opposed Jesus for over 3 years, during His earthly ministry. They did not like Him because they were jealous of Him. Jesus wanted to extend the mercy and grace of God to them but, they would not receive it. Their hearts were very hard. Now they have their chance to end Jesus’ threat once and for all. In chapter 14, they continued to accuse Jesus but, when witnesses were brought to validate those accusations, they continued to contradict each other. There was no proof to back up their accusations.
Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. (Mark 15:1)
Since they could only accuse Him and could not prove any of their accusations, the Jewish leadership appealed to the Romans in order to rid themselves of Jesus.
In a moment, we will examine the trial before Pilot and before Herod. But, before we get into the details of the trials, I want to share a spoiler alert. The Jewish leadership convinces the Gentiles to act, bringing about the beating of Jesus and His eventual crucifixion. All the way through the trials, these Jewish leaders constantly accuse Jesus but without evidence. There is no proof. The Jewish leaders knowingly send an innocent man to His death. They think that they are in control but, they are actually working according to the will and eternal plan of God, as Peter would later testify in Acts 2.
II. Gentile Leadership
Pilate is a Roman leader. Romans were big on justice, and juris prudence. This trial will definitively prove if Jesus is innocent or guilty.
2 Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “It is as you say.”
3 The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly.
4 Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!”
5 But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed. (Mark 15)
Pilate is genuinely interested in finding out what is going on. Pilate asks Jesus questions and the Jewish leaders answer Pilate’s questions. All that they can do is accuse without actually offering evidence. There is no proof, just accusations. Dr. Luke gives us more insight into the conversation between Jesus, Pilate, and the Jewish leaders.
3 So Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him and said, “It is as you say.”
4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man. (Luke 23)
Pilate listens to the accusations and determines that Jesus is innocent. There is not enough evidence to convict Him of anything.
6 When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.
7 And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time. (Luke 23)
Pilate decides to wash his hands of the situation and send Jesus to Herod.
8 Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.
9 And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing.
10 And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently.
11 And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate. (Luke 23)
Herod is not interested in justice. He just wants to be entertained. Herod does ask many questions but, again, the Jewish leaders answer the questions with more empty accusations. Finally, Herod mocks Jesus and sends Him back to Pilate.
14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him
15 “No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.
16 “Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” (Luke 23)
Plate confesses that he can find no guilt in Jesus. He also confesses that Herod could find no guilt in Jesus. According to the Jewish and Gentile leaders, Jesus is innocent. Yet, He is still beaten and sent to the cross as a common criminal.
III. God’s Leadership
This is all part of God’s just plan to punish the sin of the world. Jesus is innocent in the eyes of God. He is innocent in the eyes of the Jewish leaders, even though they will not admit it. Jesus is innocent in the eyes of the Gentile leaders. He is the perfect sacrificial lamb of God. He is able to die in the place of the guilty because He is innocent. This was God’s plan from eternity past. Jesus echos this in the Gospel of John as He discusses His case with Pilate.
10 So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”
11 Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19)
Jesus knew that Pilate had no authority over Him. Jesus knew that He was innocent. Jesus also knew that He had to give up His life willingly as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
This is a prime example of God using evil and turning it into good. The Jewish leaders meant the cross for evil. God turned it into the possibility of salvation for Jews and Gentiles. The Jewish leaders were familiar with this scenario from the life of Joseph.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. (Genesis 50:20)
The Apostle Peter echos this in Acts 2:
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know –
23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2)
Even though it seemed like God was not in control because an innocent man was being put to death, God proves through both the Old and New Testament that all of this was according to His plan.
Do you see why the Gospel means “good news”? It is very good news for all mankind. We deserve punishment for our sins, yet, an innocent man chose to take our place. He was proven innocent by God, the Jews, and the Gentiles, yet He willingly laid down His life. You and I have a choice now, we can choose to pay the price for our own sins by being eternally separated from God or, we can have that payment transferred to our account because of Jesus Christ. Which have you chosen, my dear friend?