Matthew 27:11-26 “The King of the Jews”

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church Manhattan KS, 01 Dec 2013

Greyed-out text was edited out to keep the sermon delivery under 40 minutes.


27:11 Then Jesus stood before the governor,

and the governor spoke asking, “You? Are you the king of the Jews?”

And Jesus said to him, “You said it yourself.”

27:12 Yet, during the accusation of Him by the chief priests and the elders, He answered nothing.

27:13 It was then that Pilate said to Him,
“Don’t you hear what sort of [things] they are testifying against you?”

27:14 Yet He did not answer him – not even to one statement, such that the governor was especially amazed.

27:15 Now, during the feast,

the Governor had a custom to release to the crowd one prisoner which they wanted.

27:16 And they were incarcerating a notorious prisoner named Barabbas.

27:17 Therefore, after having gathered them together, Pilate said to them,

“Which do y’all want me to release to you: Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Anointed One?”

27:18 For he perceived that it was on account of envy [that] they betrayed Him.

27:19 Then, as he was seating himself upon the judgment-seat,

his wife sent [a messenger] to him saying, “Let there be nothing between you and this righteous man,

for I suffered many things last night in a night-vision on account of Him.”

27:20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

27:21 Then, in response, the governor said to them, “Which of the two do y’all want me to release to you?

And as for them, they said, “Barabbas!”

27:22 Pilate says to them, “What then shall I do to Jesus, who is called the Anointed One?”

All of them say, “Let Him be crucified!”

27:23 Now the governor was speaking frankly, “For what [reason]? Has he done [something] bad?” But, as for them, they were crying out too vehemently saying, “Let Him be crucified!”

27:24 So Pilate, having seen that he was he was gaining nothing, but rather a riot was developing, got some water and rinsed off his hands from in front of the crowd

saying, “I am innocent from the blood of this righteous man. Y’all will have to watch it yourselves.”

27:25 And, in reply, all the people said, “Let His blood be upon us and upon our children.”

27:26 Then he released Barabbas to them, but delivered Jesus to be crucified after having Him flogged.


·         On Thursday night, after the Last Supper, Jesus was captured in the Garden of Gethsemane and was interrogated and accused all night long at the high priest’s house, where the Jewish elders convened for the highest court in the nation, the Sanhedrin.

·         After an unjust ecclesiastical trial, the high priest accused Jesus of blasphemy when Jesus agreed to the title of the “Anointed One” and “Son of the Living God.”

·         Meanwhile, Peter was at the same house where they were trying to recruit false witnesses against Jesus, and he denied three times that he even knew Jesus.

·         Now it is early in the morning of Good Friday, and the Jewish priests and elders have dragged Jesus before the Roman governor, who is in Jerusalem for the Passover festivities, residing in the fortress of Antonia at the northwest corner of the temple.

·         The governor’s name is Pontius Pilate. We’ve already been introduced to him in v. 2.

o       Luke 3:1-2 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. (NASB, cf. Acts 4:27-28, 1 Timothy 6:13-14)

o       [Show picture of a building stone was found on an archaeological dig in Caesarea with an inscription on it that has the name of Pontius Pilate. It’s exciting to see this kind of corroboration with the Bible.]

o       Pilate was appointed governor of Judea by Emperor Tiberius only a couple of years earlier in 26AD,

o       and he was on a learning curve as to how to keep from offending the Jews. Throughout his governorship, he made several blunders that really made the Jews mad, starting with marching the Roman army from Caesarea into the streets of Jerusalem, and also when he hung golden shields with the names of Roman gods inscribed on them upon the walls of the temple.

o       Legend has it that Pilate was an illegitimate son of the king of Tyrus and got in trouble for murdering someone, but that he went on to subdue some barbarians in Pontus and thus won the attention of the emperor, who was looking for a ruler capable of keeping the unruly Jews under submission.

o       Pilate’s hegemony would end in about 7 years (a.d.36) when he would be tried before Caligula for his atrocities against the Samaritans and get kicked out of office.

o       Pilate appears to have written a book referenced by Justin Martyr, which spoke of Jesus favorably, and the Copts say he became a Christian, but other European traditions say he became further involved in political intrigues and committed suicide, ending up at the bottom of the Rhine or Lake Lucerne.[1]

·         This, then, was the emperor-appointed governor over the Jews, and he will be facing off against Jesus who is accepting the title “King of the Jews.” Jesus could pose a direct threat to Pilate’s hard-won position of authority.

·         Today we must consider the same things Pilate did as Jesus stood before him:

1) Is Jesus really the King of the Jews and

2) What does it mean to us if He is King?

·         The chief priest correctly linked Jesus’ claim to be “the Christ the Son of the Living God” with – not only divine sonship but also – political rulership over God’s people.

o       In John 1:49 Nathaniel calls Jesus “the Son of God, the King of Israel.”

o       It was understood that “The Son of God” implied that He was also “the King of Israel,” for the Anointed One – the “Christ” or “Messiah,” would not only be anointed to be the ultimate Prophet and Priest for God’s people, He would also be anointed the ultimate King to fulfill God’s covenant to David that a descendent of his would reign justly forever.

o       Since, therefore, Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah implied that He was the rightful heir of King David to reign over the Jews, the priests focused on those political ramifications in front of Pilate, in hopes that Pilate would view Jesus as a political troublemaker and kill Him.

·         The Gospel of John chapter 18:28ff gives us more detail on what was going on in this civil trial of Jesus. The priests are careful to stand in the northwest corner of the temple courtyard and not enter the Gentile Roman’s fortress so that they can remain ceremonially clean and not be disqualified from sacrificing their Passover lambs that evening. The governor acquiesces by “coming out to them” rather than making them come into his fortress full of supposedly-unclean gentiles.

·         Now the right to a trial before a magistrate was a key part of Roman culture. In Acts 25:16, Festus, a successor of Pilate wrote, “…it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over any man before the accused meets his accusers face to face and has an opportunity to make his defense against the charges.” (NASB)

·         The priest’s all-nighter the night before paid off in that they got to be first in line that morning to address the governor with a concern.

o       A.T. Robertson suggested in his commentary that this was a move to conduct the civil trial at a time when people from out of town (who might be more sympathetic to Jesus) had not yet made their way into the walled city of Jerusalem from their pavillions in the hills around the city.

o       Since there were at least two other criminals crucified that day, perhaps there were other plaintiffs lined up behind the priests to bring their cases to Pilate too.

·         Pilate observes that the priests are carrying a man with them who is bound and beat up, so he correctly surmises that they are delivering a suspected criminal to him. He asks them what the accusations are, and, in the words of the parallel account in Luke 23:2, “They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is the Anointed One, a king’” (ATR). They go on to say that they’ve tried Jesus and found Him worthy of death, and, since it’s illegal for the church to kill criminals, they’re bringing this criminal to Pilate to put Him to death.

·         Well, they’re right that the church has no business killing criminals, for that is a function of civil gov­ernment (according to Rom. 13), but these words from the priests sound mighty suspicious to Pilate.

o       What business did the church elders have in trying criminal suspects for him and then telling him what he should do to punish them? If I were Pilate, I’d be annoyed.

o       And they’re bringing Jesus up on charges of tax evasion. Since when were the Jews anxious to pay taxes to Caesar?

o       Not only that, but they’re claiming that Jesus should be killed because He claimed to be the Messiah. Now since when did religious Jews not want the Messiah to appear?

o       Furthermore, Pilate already knows that if he were to release a revolutionary for the occasion of the feast, it would make the Jews happy, so why were Jews acting all upset about this Jesus for being a revolutionary? It doesn’t add up.

o       And since when did a mob of indignant Jews ever want to wait for the Romans to legally execute their religious kooks? (They didn’t wait for permission to stone Stephen!)

o       So this all sounds fishy to Pilate. Verse18 reveals that he could tell that this was just a case of “envy,” so he takes the case. He invites Jesus into the fortress and asks Him what He did to get into this predicament.

·         Jesus answers unexpectedly in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight…” (ATR)

·         “Whoah, this kook really does think he’s some kind of king!” thought Pilate, “But, to His credit, He is trying not to step on my toes and claim kingship over what I’m in charge of. ‘Not of this world.’ Not part of the Roman Empire. That’s good.”

·         Now this is where Matthew takes up the proceedings:


27:11 Then Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor spoke asking, “You? Are you the king of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “You said it yourself.”

Ο δε Ιησους εστ[αθ[2]]η εμπροσθεν του ‘ηγεμονος και επηρωτησεν αυτον ‘ο ‘ηγεμων λεγων Συ ει ‘ο βασιλευς των Ιουδαιων; ‘Ο δε Ιησους εφη αυτω[3] Συ λεγεις

·         In John 18:37, Jesus adds that He is king over the realm of “truth,” and that everyone who is into truth is under His kingship.

·         Pilate’s reply is classic, “What is truth?” And he goes back out to the priests and elders (who are hanging out in the temple courtyard) without waiting for Jesus to answer. Pilate is not interested in submitting to Jesus’ authority over the truth, and he does not see any harm in letting kooky philosophers roam the streets claiming to be the king of truth, so he’s going to dismiss the case. He goes out and tells the priests, “I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4, ATR).

·         Well, this response from Pilate induces a frenzy of accusations from the priests and elders because they desperately don’t want Pilate to dismiss Jesus. So they begin raising more accusations.


27:12 Yet during the accusation of Him by the chief priests and the elders He answered nothing.

και εν τω κατηγορεισθαι[4] αυτον ‘υπο των αρχιερεων και των[5] πρεσβυτερων ουδεν απεκρινατο


27:13 It was then that Pilate said to Him, “Don’t you hear what sort of [things] they are testifying against you?”

Τοτε λεγει αυτω ‘ο Πιλατος Ουκ ακουεις[6] ποσα σου καταμαρτυρουσιν[7];


27:14 Yet He did not answer him – not even to one statement, such that the governor was especially amazed.

Και ουκ απεκριθη αυτω προς[8] ουδε ‘εν ‘ρημα ‘ωστε θαυμαζειν τον ‘ηγεμονα λιαν

·         Pilate has granted legal standing to the priests to present accusations against Jesus, and each charge the priests bring against Jesus represents a problem that Jesus should stand up to, and against which He should defend His innocence, but He doesn’t speak a word in His defense in front of any of these lies which might be used to bring punishment upon Him.

o       Truth is, He hadn’t told anybody to avoid paying taxes. In Matthew 22, Jesus had specifically supported paying taxes to Caesar.

o       And Jesus had never made a political move against the Roman government; He obeyed the laws.

·         Pilate could tell that something was going on under the surface. This poor philosopher who thinks he’s some kind of king is not trying to defend Himself against the barrage of accusations.

o       He’s totally unafraid of Pilate and of Pilate’s authority to put Him to death.

o       Pilate doesn’t know what to make of this. It’s almost like this guy wants to get convicted, but do you punish somebody who wants to die by killing them?[9]

·         The parallel accounts in John 18 and Luke 23 record these accusations,

o       “…We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God… If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 18:7&13, NASB).[10]

o       “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea and beginning from Galilee even unto this place” (Luke 23:5ff).

·         “Wait,” says Pilate, “Did you say Galilee? This man is from Galilee and has been causing trouble there? Well, I’m not governor over Galilee. That’s Herod’s bailiwick. Get out of my hair and let Herod try this case!”

o       So Pilate sends Jesus over to Herod Antipas, but Jesus won’t say a word to Herod, and Herod sends him back to Pilate.

o       I suppose that, as far as Herod is concerned, Jesus is obviously no longer in Galilee and is apparently causing trouble in Jerusalem, which is Pilate’s jurisdiction.

o       “Let Pilate deal with his own problems!” So off Jesus goes back to Pilate.

·         Now it’s a little later in the morning, and Pilate has had some time to think about this Jesus case, and he comes up with a creative idea:


27:15 Now, during the feast, the Governor had a custom to release to the crowd one prisoner which they wanted.

Κατα δε ‘εορτην ειωθει[11] ‘ο ‘ηγεμων απολυειν ‘ενα τω οχλω δεσμιον ‘ον ηθελον


27:16 And they[12] were incarcerating a notorious prisoner named Barabbas.

Ειχον δε τοτε δεσμιον επισημον λεγομενον [13] Βαραββαν


27:17 Therefore, after having gathered them together, Pilate said to them, “Which do y’all want me to release to you: Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Anointed One?”

Συνηγμενων ουν αυτων ειπεν αυτοις ‘o Πιλατος Τίνα θελετε απολυσω ‘υμιν12 Βαραββαν η Ιησουν τον λεγομενον χριστον;


27:18 For he perceived that it was on account of envy [that] they betrayed Him.

Ηδει γαρ ‘οτι δια φθονον παρεδωκαν αυτον

·         “Barabbas” would be like a last name to us. There are a few Greek manuscripts that say that his first name was Jesus, making his full name Jesus Barabbas12. I don’t know how much stock to put in those manuscripts, but to keep things from getting too confusing, I’ll stick with “Barabbas.”

·         The Greek word describing Barabbas in v.16 is epi-semon, translated “noted/ notorious,” and it literally paints the picture that when his name appeared in a list, his name was the one that got starred, stamped, and circled[14]. He was a “marked” man – one of the worst criminals.

o       Mark. 15:7 noted that Barabbas was part of a band of men who had murdered people and tried to overthrow the government – a John Wilkes Booth, so to speak,

o       but he was worse, because his band of thugs was also beating up and robbing people too, according to John 18:40.

·         But, as a gesture of goodwill to make the natives happy on their Passover holiday, the Roman governors of Judea had a custom of releasing a prisoner and letting the Jews choose which prisoner would be released.

·         Barabbas appears to be the only other prisoner incarcerated at the time, so the choices are extreme: either Barabbas the murderous robber, or Jesus, a.k.a. “the Christ.”

·         It is interesting to note the differences and similarities between these two men.

o       As I mentioned earlier, they may have both been named “Jesus,”

o       and both represented the Jewish Messiah.

o       Barabbas, however, had gone about the Messianic dream from a physical perspective of military force and overthrowing physical rulers.

o       Jesus, on the other hand was fulfilling the Messianic dream from a spiritual perspective, tangling with Satan and demons and overthrowing the reign and power of sin.

o       Which way of going about the salvation of God’s people would the Jews choose?

o       Which way of going about solving your problems do you choose?

·         So this was Pilate’s great idea: present a choice to the people who were gathering in the temple courtyard for Passover, and, of course, they would choose the innocuous – albeit quirky – man named Jesus. That way, Pilate gets what he wants; the Jews get what they want, and everybody’s happy for the holidays!

·         “So Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, ‘You brought unto me this man as one that perverts the people, and behold, I, having examined Him before you found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse Him: no, nor yet Herod: for he sent Him back unto us; and behold, nothing worthy of death has been done by Him” (Luke 23:13-15, ATR). “So, do y’all want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” (Mark. 15:9 / John 18:39) “Let me give Him a whipping and release Him” (Luke 23:16).


27:19 Then, as he was seating himself upon the judgment-seat, his wife sent [a messenger] to him saying, “Let there be nothing between you and this righteous man, for I suffered many things last night in a night-vision on account of Him.”

Καθημενου δε αυτου επι του βηματος απεστειλεν προς αυτον ‘η γυνη αυτου λεγουσα Μηδεν σοι και τω δικαιω εκεινω πολλα γαρ επαθον σημερον κατ’ οναρ δι’ αυτον

·         It appears that the informal negotiations are over and Pilate is sitting upon his official judgment seat to finalize the matter,

·         but then this message comes from his wife. Coptic tradition gives us a name for Pilate’s wife, Abrokla[15]. She brings a new angle to this crazy case: An “onar” – vision or dream –

o       like the one the magi had when God didn’t want them to reveal Jesus’ whereabouts to Herod,

o       and like the one Joseph had, prompting him to escape to Egypt with the baby Jesus (2:12-13).

·         Whether Pilate’s wife had heard Jesus preaching in the temple earlier that week or something,
or whether this dream was the first awareness she had of Jesus, the Bible doesn’t say.

o       How does she know that Jesus is a “righteous” man and not a criminal?

o       Exactly what did she suffer?

o       It’s a tantalizing piece of the story which was passed on to Matthew – and to none of the other gospel writers, perhaps through a believing servant in Pilate’s household?

o       A whole historical fiction novel could be written around this one little verse!

·         This appears to be a piece of advice directed by God Himself to give Pilate all the information he needs to rule justly.

o       If Romans 13 tells us that civil authorities are “ministers” established by God, then should we be surprised if God gives key information through supernatural means to enable them to do their job properly?

o       Let’s keep praying that God will do that today for those in authority over us!

o       Matthew Henry noted that this is cause for hope in the face of corrupt governments, “God will not leave himself without witnesses to the truth and equity of His cause, even when it seems to be most spitefully run down by its enemies, and most shamefully deserted by its friends.” God will not leave Himself without witnesses to the truth!

o       And Pilate’s wife provides a good example to us all to be witnesses to the truth: “It is an instance of true love to our friends and relations, to do what we can to keep them from sin; and the nearer any are to us, and the greater affection we have for them, the more solicitous we should be not to suffer sin to come or lie upon them.”

·         It’s interesting that God would do this, even though it was His will for Jesus to die as a criminal. God doesn’t reveal this information so compellingly that Pilate and the crowd can’t resist it.

o       It’s easy to imagine that the men present thought it terribly inappropriate for a woman to try to influence the outcome of a trial.

o       How seriously should they take it that the governor’s wife had had a bad night’s sleep the night before? Perhaps the worst that could come of it would be that Pilate might have to sleep on the couch the following night.

o       The message could be dismissed pretty easily. God speaks with a “still, small voice” that is just enough to let a spiritually sensitive person know that this man was innocent of any crime.

o       Are we taking seriously that still, small voice that tells us right from wrong?


27:20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

Οι δε αρχιερεις και οι πρεσβυτεροι επεισαν τους οχλους ινα αιτησωνται τον Βαραββαν τον δε Ιησουν απολεσωσιν

·         The crowds in the temple would naturally find the chief priests pretty persuasive; the priests were, after all, the ones that could excommunicate them or get their sins forgiven.

·         These priests obviously want Jesus destroyedKJV,ESV/put to deathNAS/executedNIV. “What will they do to me if I try to stick up for Jesus? The priests might make an example of me too!”

·         It would also be easy for the crowd to judge by appearances: Jesus is all beat up and tied up. He may have even been scourged by now (John 18:1). He sure looks like a criminal.

·         You know, He never did manage to muster an army to help Him resist the oppression of Pilate like Barabbas did. Jesus doesn’t even have any disciples or followers surrounding Him anymore – I don’t want to be the only one!

·         How many of these things are influential in your decision making?

o       Trying to be on the good side of the powerful people,

o       Fear of people being mean to you,

o       Judging by physical appearances rather than by spiritual realities,

o       Judging by popularity, and being afraid to be the first to take a stand.

o       If these are the main ways that you make decisions, you’ll crucify Christ again and again.


27:21 Then, in response, the governor said to them, “Which of the two do y’all want me to release to you? And as for them, they said, “Barabbas!”

Αποκριθεις δε ‘ο ‘ηγεμων ειπεν αυτοις Τίνα θελετε απο των δυο απολυσω ‘υμιν; Οι δε ειπον[16] Βαραββαν


27:22Pilate says to them, “What then shall I do to Jesus, who is called the Anointed One?
All of them say, “Let Him be crucified!”

Λεγει αυτοις ο Πιλατος Τί ουν ποιησω Ιησουν τον λεγομενον χριστον[17]; Λεγουσιν [18] παντες Σταυρωθητω[19]

·         Pilate’s use of the word “Christ/Anointed One” appears to be a put-down.

o       It shows his disdain for the Jews to call this physically weak, wretched, and friendless man Jesus the Greek word for “Messiah” – meaning the ultimate prophet, priest, and king of the Jews.

o       It was a way of rubbing it in that He, Pilate, was the real King of the Jews, the one whom the Jewish Sanhedrin themselves recognized as having the power to declare justice, for after all, hadn’t they brought Jesus up to trial before him?

o       Pilate was saying, in effect, “Hey Jesus, don’t be silly. Calling yourself King of the Jews is ridiculous. Quit stirring up trouble.”

·         In a sense, this was about three contenders for the title of Messiah, not just two. Barabbas and Jesus were put before the people as the two options, but, in a very real sense, Pilate was “king of the Jews” right now.

·         A little earlier (on Palm Sunday) the crowds had been hailing Jesus as the Messiah. But now, in the eyes of the crowd, to accept Pilate’s will to release Jesus was a vote to affirm Pilate as King of the Jews, something they didn’t want to do.

·         This wasn’t going the way Pilate wanted. He wasn’t meaning to kill Jesus – Maybe to teach Him a lesson to be a little more careful not to stir up trouble again, but not to kill Him. So Pilate pushes back a bit, and there’s some back and forth between Pilate and the priests – or maybe more accurately, since the next two Greek verbs are in the Imperfect tense, we should say they were yelling over the top of each other.


27:23 Now the governor was speaking frankly, “For what [reason]? Has he done [something] bad[20]?” But, as for them, they were crying out too vehemently saying, “Let Him be crucified!”

‘Ο δε ‘ηγεμων[21] εφη Τί γαρ κακον εποιησεν; ‘οι δε περισσως εκραζον λεγοντες Σταυρωθητω

·         There was no just reason to put Jesus to death; He had not committed any crime, so all that the crowd can do is just repeat what they want – or what they were told to say by the priests.

·         This, by the way, is how democracy works in a secular nation. Influential people can manipulate the majority of people to vote for just about anything. Justice becomes arbitrary, and logic be­comes irrelevant. Only a belief in a sovereign God – who will hold each of us accountable to His standards of justice on judgment day – can guard a nation from this kind of arbitrary injustice.

·         At any rate, the parties settle on opposite sides of the question. Pilate does not want to take responsibility for killing Jesus, and the crowd of Jews do want that responsibility:


27:24 So Pilate, having seen that he was he was gaining nothing, but rather a riot was developing, got some water and rinsed off his hands from in front of the crowd saying, “I am innocent from the blood of this righteous man. Y’all will have to watch it yourselves.”

Ιδων δε ‘ο Πιλατος ‘οτι ουδεν ωφελει[22] αλλα μαλλον θορυβος[23] γινεται λαβων ‘υδωρ απενιψατο[24] τας χειρας απεναντι του οχλου λεγων Αθωος ειμι απο του ‘αιματος του δικαιου[25] τουτου. ‘Υμεις οψεσθε


27:25 And, in reply, all the people said, “Let His blood be upon us and upon our children.”

Και αποκριθεις πας ‘ο λαος ειπεν Το ‘αιμα αυτου εφ’ ημας και επι τα τεκνα ‘ημων

·         It was Pilate’s job to maintain public order with the Jews of Judea. He was answerable directly to Caesar for how he governed Judea, and if it was reported to Caesar that a tumultuous uproar had broken out under his nose on Passover, Pilate would be back out on the streets looking for a job.

·         And Pilate could see that trying to reason with this crowd about Jesus’ righteousness was not accomplishingNASB his desired outcome; he would not prevailKJV in this argument.

·         Yet Pilate, the same as any magistrate, was responsible before God to uphold justice and never condemn the innocent.[26]

o       All but three of the thousands of Greek manuscripts quote Pilate as calling Jesus a “right­eous” man in v.24 (and they aren’t even three oldest Greek manuscripts), so I think it is irresponsible for the NASB, NIV, and ESV to leave the phrase out that Jesus is “righteous”.

o       But regardless, it was a sin for Pilate to abdicate his responsibility and allow Jesus to be crucified, because Jesus was not a criminal.

o       I call it a sin because Jesus said so Himself in John 18:11, “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” (NASB). A lesser sin than that of the priests, but still a sin.

·         To wash hands was symbolic, much like baptism is symbolic of having guilt removed from you. There was a convention for doing this in Deuteronomy 21, but Pagans did things like that too.[27]

·         Of course, the physical act of washing doesn’t actually change whether you’re guilty or not. The reality is a matter of what you did and didn’t do – and what Jesus did or didn’t do to pay for it.

·         But, much as Pilate didn’t want a riot, he also didn’t want to get crosswise with whatever deity might be behind this remarkable man Jesus.

·         The crowd, on the other hand, had no qualms with taking on the responsibility before God for the death of Jesus. How stupid to ask God to hold them accountable for murdering His Son! How reckless to commit their children to share their guilt.[28]

·         And what’s ironic is that the very blood of Jesus that they asked to “be upon them” would, for some of them, wash them clean from their sin instead of drawing the wrath of God upon them! (Again, this is symbolic language, for it was not the actual bleeding, but rather it was Jesus’ experiencing death in our place to pay for our sin.)

·         Pilate tried to say that he was not responsible for cruelly murdering the man whom he had proclaimed innocent, and yet by his deeds Pilate was responsible. Pilate was the one who caused Jesus to be crucified. It wouldn’t be the Jewish priests who crucified Jesus. It would be the Roman soldiers under the command of Pilate. Actions speak louder than words.[29]


27:26 Then he released Barabbas to them, but delivered Jesus to be crucified after having Him flogged.

Τοτε απελυσεν αυτοις τον Βαραββαν τον δε Ιησουν φραγελλωσας[30] παρεδωκεν [31] ‘ινα σταυρωθη

·         The only thing that Pilate may have done to really distance himself from the crucifixion of Jesus was not to go out and watch the crucifixion.

o       Some Roman rulers took satisfaction in watching their enemies suffer on a cross, but Pilate apparently stayed in the fortress while the crowd of Jews went out to Golgotha to watch Jesus be crucified[32].

o       I interpret his parting word to the Jews, “See to it yourselves,[33]” to mean, “You go watch His crucifixion; I’m not interested in watching this man suffer.”

o       The NIV interprets Pilate’s last words in v.24 more figuratively, but literally that’s what Pilate said, “You will watch it yourselves.”

·         William Hendricksen, in his commentary on Matthew, described flogging thus: “The Roman scourge consisted of a short wooden handle to which several thongs were attached, the ends equipped with pieces of lead or brass and with sharply pointed bits of bone. The stripes were laid especially on the victim’s back, bared and bent. Generally two men were employed to administer this punishment, one lashing the victim from one side, one from the other side, with the result that the flesh was at times lacerated to such an extent that deep-seated veins and arteries, sometimes even entrails and inner organs were exposed.”

·         So as the whip slashed across Jesus’ back time after time – to the count of 39, I imagine the prophecy from Isaiah 53:5-6 going through His head, “He was … beaten as a result of our iniquity. Chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes there is healing for us. All we like the flock have strayed, each has faced toward his own way. But Jehovah interposed in Him the iniquity of us all” (NAW).

·         The punishment of the innocent Jesus and release of the criminal Barabbas was a picture of what Jesus was doing. He was offering His sinless life to God to pay for the offenses of sinners whom He loved so that those sinners who believed in Him would be released from God’s judgment.

·         “the Son of God stood, as a criminal, before a mortal man, and there permitted himself to be accused and condemned, that we may stand boldly before God… For if we recollect how dread­ful is the judgment-seat of God, and that we could never have been acquitted there, unless Christ had been pronounced to be guilty on earth, we shall never be ashamed of glorying in His chains.” ~John Calvin


·         Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus is your king?

·         If so, will you tell others about Him, like Pilate’s wife did, and stand up for His truth when Christianity is unpopular?

·         Or will you be like Pilate and show by your actions that other people are really king in your life?

·         Jesus came to take our sin and guilt off of us and pay for it Himself, so we certainly can be forgiven when we fail, just like Peter was forgiven after he denied Christ.

·         But let us, like Peter, grow in courage to honor Jesus as King no matter what the opposition. One day when we see Him coming on the clouds of heaven in power and glory, our faith will be vindicated! Jesus really is King – King of the Jews, King of the Universe, King of me!

[1] From The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary on “Pilate.”

[2] Several ancient manuscripts (including א, B, C, L, Θ) include the bracketed passive ending, so it is the reading of the Critical editions of the GNT. However, the majority of Greek manuscripts (incl. A, W, 064, 0255, and f13) render the shorter form of the verb as active “stood,” and that is the reading of the Textus Receptus (T.R.) and Patristic editions, as well as of all the standard English versions, whether they follow the majority Greek text or the Critical. He was “bound” so He may not have been able to move freely enough to stand, but whether Jesus “stood” of His own accord or “was stood up” makes no difference to the storyline.

[3] For some reason, Critical editions (followed by the NIV and ESV) omit this word. Nestle-Aland cites only five Greek manuscripts in support, only one of which dates prior to the 9th Century (א), while the reading of the T.R. and Patristic editions is supported by no less than five Greek manuscripts dating prior to the 9th Century, as old or older than א, plus the vast majority of Greek manuscripts since that time. I think the NASB made a good choice to follow the majority text along with the KJV here. Nevertheless, it is not a significant variant, because the context makes clear that Jesus said this “to him” (Pilate), whether or not it is stated explicitly.

[4] Cf. 12:10 where these same religious leaders were seeking to “bring charges against” Jesus and similar situation with Paul on the hot seat in Acts 22:30.

[5] This definite article, which is found in the majority of Greek documents, is omitted in the Critical editions of the GNT. Neither the UBS nor the N-A critical edition gives any manuscript basis for this omission in its critical apparatus. Curiously, only the NIV preserves this extra “the” in its translation.

[6] The Greek grammar makes it obvious that Pilate knew Jesus could hear the witnesses and the spurious charges.

[7] The high priest had asked the same question in 26:62.

[8] This preposition seems to carry a similar meaning to that of the emprosthen in v.11 – “before the face of.”

[9] Cf. Matthew Henry, “He wondered at his silence; which was not interpreted so much into a contempt of the court, as a contempt of himself.”

[10] These arguments probably came into play later in the time sequence, but I’m putting them here for brevity.

[11] This word only occurs here and three other places: Numbers 24:1, where Balaam had a “custom” of consulting omens, and Mark 10:1, Luke 4:16, and Acts 17:2, where Jesus and Paul had a “custom” of attending synagogues on the Sabbath, reading the scriptures, and teaching – in Paul’s case for three weeks at a time when he itinerated.

[12] The subject is not specific, but logically it must be the Roman government which was “holding” the prisoner because it was the Roman governor who acted to release him.

[13] Critical editions (excepting Westcott’s early edition) add the name Ιησουν here and later on in v.17 where Barabbas’ name appears again, but there are only six Greek manuscripts with these additions (Θ, f1 and 700), and none of them are older than the 9th Century. The reading of the majority is well-attested with many manuscripts dating earlier than the 9th Century and thousands dating after. I think that the NASB, NIV, and ESV did well to avoid the Critical text here, whether or not Barabbas’ first name was Jesus.

[14] Episemon only appears 3 other times in the Greek Bible, each time to describe something that is “marked out” in a positive way: sheep (Genesis 30:42), a red-letter day (Esther 5:4), and “outstanding” people (Romans 16:7).

[15] Ludolph. Lex. Ethiop. p. 541 – according to John Gill’s commentary. William Hendriksen calls her “Claudia Procula,” a name which A.T. Robertson abbreviated as “Procla,” but neither of them give a source for this information.

[16] Critical editions of the GNT spell this word differently (eipan) but do not mention which manuscripts spell it that way, so I have kept the spelling of the majority of the Greek manuscripts. Also, before the word “Barabbas,” (which is already definite, so it doesn’t change the meaning), Critical editions insert a definite article not found in the Majority of Greek manuscripts, but N-A cites 11 Greek manuscripts which have it (including א, B, L, Θ, and f1), the oldest of which have been dated about 100 years before the earliest-known manuscripts without the definite article (A, D, W, 064).

[17] Cf. Mark 15:13 “King of the Jews”

[18] Although “to him” is found in the majority of Greek manuscripts here (and therefore in the T. R. and Patristic editions and the KJV), the oldest-known manuscripts with this word are dated at the 8th, 9th, and 10th century (L, 892, Γ), so this may not have been original to Matthew’s writing, so it is not in the Critical editions or the NASB, NIV, and ESV. The meaning is the same either way: the crowd is speaking to Pilate.

[19] This is a passive form of the verb, so the active rendering of the NAS and NIV (“Crucify Him”) is technically inaccurate. Furthermore, no one expected Pilate to actually be nailing the nails to the cross. The word is the same in v.23.

[20] I’m trying to distinguish between Greek uses of kakos and ponaros by translating them respectively “bad” and “evil” with consistency. I do not know yet, however, if the Bible actually upholds a distinction between social “bad” and moral “evil” that would justify the many English versions who translate both Greek words as “evil.”

[21] On the basis of three ancient manuscripts (א, B, Θ – plus f13), the Critical editions omit the word “governor,” (as do the NASB and ESV) but it’s supported by manuscripts of approximately the same antiquity (A, W, D, L, 064) as well as the vast majority of Greek manuscripts, so it is in the T.R. and Patristic editions, as well as in the KJV (and the NIV, in a way, which substitutes “Pilate” for “governor”). The context is clear enough without an explicit subject, that the subject is Pilate the governor, but, I agree with the NIV editors that it helps with clarity of understanding to keep the subject explicit here.

[22] There are five other places in the Greek Bible where this subject-object combination occurs: Jeremiah 15:10, John 6:63; 12:19, 1 Corinthians 13:3, and Galatians 5:2.

[23] This riot was the very thing the priests had said earlier in 26:5 that they wanted to avoid!

[24] This word is only used three other times in the Greek Bible. One thing it does not mean is “dip” because it was done to a chariot in one instance (1 Kings 22:38) and to someone’s mouth in another instance (Proverbs 30:20). Prov. 30:12 is the other instance, and it speaks of washing from sin.

[25] The Critical editions of the GNT omit the word “righteous” because three Greek manuscripts omit it (B, D, and Θ). All the other thousands of manuscripts include the words, including several just as old as the ones which omit it (א, A, W, K, L, 064, etc.), so it is in the T.R. and Patristic editions and in the KJV. The judgment of Jesus’ guiltlessness is implied in Pilate’s actions and other statements (“I find no fault…”), so this does not change the story to leave it out, but it does not seem reasonable to leave it out, as the NASB, NIV, and ESB do, with such scanty manuscript support for the omission.

[26] Ex. 23:7; Deut. 27:25

[27] John Gill cites Ovid. Fast. l. 2. Anticlidis Redit. l. 74. Triclinius in Ajac. Sophocl. 3. 1.

[28] This statement underscores the covenantal and generational way the Jews thought in contrast to the radical individual­ism of modern Americans. Understanding the cultural assumptions of the day has bearing on how we interpret the baptis­mal practices of the early church as well. This is the only time I can find in the scriptures that anybody hazarded both themselves and their children with this kind of culpability. William Hendriksen adds in his commentary, “By means of open rejecting the Messiah, the Jewish people cease to be in any special sense the people of God. See Heb. 10:29. This does not mean that God is through with the Jews… ‘a remnant shall be saved…’ See Rom. 11:22.”

[29] This whole scenario reminds me very much of Jeremiah 26, but with a different outcome. In Jeremiah 26, the priests and elders had gathered the Jewish people in the courtyard of the temple to try the prophet Jeremiah. They were offended by Jeremiah warning them that God was about to cause Jerusalem to be destroyed by the Babylonians. But at the end of that trial, the officials and all the people said…, “No death sentence for this man! For he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God” (Jeremiah 26:16, NASB). Of course, in that instance, Jeremiah made a defense for himself, but Jesus didn’t defend Himself because it was God’s plan that He die for us.

[30] This (and the parallel passage in Mark) is the only time in the Bible that this verb is used. It appears to be synonymous with the verb mastichw, seeing as mastichw is substituted in John 19:1 for fragell-, and mastichw is the verb which Jesus used in His prophetic statements about the flogging He would undergo before His crucifixion. The noun form for this kind of fragellion whip only shows up once in the Bible when Jesus used to clear out the temple in John 2:15.

[31] Several ancient Greek manuscripts (D, L, N, Θ, f1, 892 - cf. Vulgate) insert autois (“to them”) but this is not found in the T.R., Patristic, or Critical editions.

[32] Joseph of Arimithea had to “go in” to Pilate to request Jesus’ body, and Pilate had to confirm whether Jesus was dead Mark 15:44, indicating that Pilate was not at Golgotha.

[33] William Hendriksen noted that, “In God’s providence the very expression with which the leaders had reproached Judas (v.4) was now cast in their own teeth!”