Grace For The Journey
We are studying our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke. This is the best way to preach, teach, and learn the Word of God. One of the reasons verse-by-verse expository preaching and teaching through books of the Bible is the best way to preach and teach is that it allows God to determine the topic of each sermon. Rather than a preacher assuming he knows his congregation’s needs and then coming up with a topic and looking through the Bible for verses that go with it, we just turn to God’s Word and read through the Books He has given us and verse-by-verse God hits us where we need hitting.
Last time we were in Luke we were reading about, “Jesus on Trial.” Jesus Christ is on trial before the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Council of 71 leaders – for proclaiming to be God. In our passage today the Jewish leaders bring Jesus before the Roman leader Pontius Pilate and the ruler Herod Antipas. Both will find Jesus innocent of any wrong-doing. As we look at these verses today, we will note that while Jesus is found innocent He is nonetheless treated with contempt.
The last chapters of Luke show that God is on trial in the person of Christ. While Jesus is the one on trial, it is others who may be found guilty of treating Christ with contempt, ridicule, and scorn.
- The Sanhedrin were guilty,
- Pilate is guilty,
- Herod is guilty.
They are all guilty of treating Christ with contempt. But what about you? What about me? Are we ever guilty of treating Christ with contempt? Are we ever guilty of disregarding the words of Christ or showing some lack of respect for who He is? I do not want to answer those questions for you so much as I want to help . . .
You to always read
In such a way as
To see yourself,
To see your sin,
And to see your Savior.
It is too easy to read the Bible and note only how evil everyone else is. What about you and what about me? Are we, too, guilty of treating Christ with contempt?
Let’s think about that as we study the passage this morning, a passage I have divided in two halves, both of which stress the innocence of Jesus Christ. This seems to be Luke’s main purpose in the way he reports the events of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Luke is not as wordy here as other Gospel writers. His economy of words lays stress on the fact that this Lamb of God led away to slaughter is an innocent Lamb of God.
I. See Christ’s Innocence Before Pilate – Verses 1-5.
Verse 1 tells us, “Then the whole multitude of them [i.e., the Sanhedrin]arose and led Him to Pilate.” If you look back at the end of the previous chapter, you be reminded that the Sanhedrin had their own little trial of Jesus. They found Him guilty of blasphemy. Remember this from last time? Jesus proclaims to be of God and from God. He refers to Himself as “Christ,” “Son of Man,” and “Son of God.” All three titles underscore His deity, that He is of God and from God. The Jewish leaders believe Jesus is guilty of blasphemy and therefore worthy of death. They wanted to kill Him.
The problem is that they could not hand down a death sentence. Only Rome could impose the sentence of capital punishment (See John 18:31), and so the Sanhedrin now bring Jesus to Pilate. Pilate has the authority to impose the death sentence. Normally Pilate would be in Caesarea, that was his home office, but because of the Passover, Pilate is in town at a satellite office in Jerusalem. He is there because it seems half the world is in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
Pilate didn’t care much for the Jews. He had stolen a bunch of their money, taking it from their temple treasury and using it to build an aqueduct to bring water into the city of Jerusalem. An aqueduct is not a bad idea but stealing money from others to build it is another story. It would be like our mayor coming to First Baptist and taking money out of our church bank account and using it for whatever he wished. So, Pilate is a bad emperor and he does not care much for the Jews.
The Jewish leaders had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and they want to have Jesus killed, but here is the problem:
Pilate will not care.
He is not interested
In Jewish squabbles.
He is not into their religion.
So, the Jews spin the charges in a way that is less religious and more political. They have entered the “spin zone.” They know Pilate will not care about their religious squabbles so they drum up some political charges, believing Pilate will listen to them now. They present three political charges that are mentioned verse 2, “And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’” How does Pilate respond? Verse 3 tells us, “Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
Pilate ignores the first two political charges. Pilate is a shrewd politician. He knows how the spin works. These charges are baseless. You and I know that. Is Jesus really guilty of “perverting the nation,” trying to get people to rebel against Rome?
- Wasn’t it Jesus who preached, “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27-31)?
- Wasn’t it Jesus who preached, “Love your neighbor” (Luke 10:27)?
The second charge in verse 2 is that Jesus forbade people to pay taxes to Caesar. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 20:25, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s?” This charge is also baseless. But Pilate picks up on the last charge. He is interested in this one as verse 3 tells us, “Then Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’” Pilate is something of a king himself. He had a lot of authority and served directly under the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar. He is interested in this charge: “Are You the King of the Jews?” The word “You” is first in the original. It probably went something like this, “YOU, King of the Jews?!” Verse 3 goes on to tell us how Jesus responded, “… He answered him and said, “It is as you say.”
Jesus is not being evasive here.
Rather He is trying to avoid
He has forever
That His kingdom
Not be misunderstood.
Yes, He is king. Everyone knew Jesus had proclaimed to be king of the Jews. That is why that very title was written above His head in three different languages at His crucifixion (John 19:20). In Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the title read, “King of the Jews.”
Verse 4 says, “So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no fault in this Man.’” John 18 helps us understand why Pilate is not concerned. In John 18:36, John provides a little more detail. Jesus tells Pilate, “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 only cares about Jesus’ declaring Himself to be king if he is talking about it in a political sense. Pilate is checking to see if Jesus is a political rebel, whether He has designs for overthrowing the Roman Empire. So long as Jesus is not threatening to take over Pilate’s job or trying to overthrow Caesar, for all Pilate cares Jesus can call Himself “King of the Universe” if He likes; just as long as He does not try to take over their kingdom in Rome. So, Pilate says, “I find no fault in this Man.” He sees Jesus as not being a threat.
Verses 5 to 7 tell us of the third charge that they bring against Jesus, “But they were the more fierce, saying, ‘He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.’ When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.” This is a classic case of “passing the buck.” Pilate is thinking, “What am I going to do with this guy?” He hears the Jews angrily bringing another charge which he knows to be false, but when he hears the angry Jewish mob cry, “Galilee,” he is like, “Is this Jesus from Galilee? Well then send Him over to Herod” and he wipes his hands of the situation – at least, for now.
Luke tells us at the end of verse 7 that Herod “was also in Jerusalem at that time.” Remember, it is the Passover. So, Herod the tetrarch over Galilee is in Jerusalem and the Jews drag Jesus before Him. Luke has shown us Christ’s innocence before Pilate, now, secondly . . .
II. See Christ’s Innocence Before Herod – Verses 8-12.
Verse 8 says, “Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.” Remember Herod? This is Herod Antipas. Herod was, among many things, an adulterer. Herod was married and started messing around with another woman, a woman who was married to his half-brother. Herod eventually persuaded this woman to leave her husband and so Herod marries his sister-in-law. This is to say nothing of the fact that this woman he marries was also the daughter of one of Herod’s half-brothers, which would mean that Herod is also marrying his niece. I mean this is just made for reality TV, right? But, as if his dysfunctional family were not enough, Herod, of course, is also the one who had beheaded John the Baptist.
Luke writes in verse 8 that Herod “had desired for along time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him.” Someone said, “We should pity great men.” But is that true? Many men are like Herod: rich, having nice things, being fawned over by self-seeking flatters and “yes men.” Herod sees Jesus as someone who can entertain him someone who can do something for him. Men who seem to have everything, but men who are empty inside, lost men, men yearning for meaning and significance.
Verse 9 tells us, “Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing.” The early church later saw Christ’s silence as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” Had Jesus spoken, do we really believe Herod would have believed? He had heard the truth before from John the Baptist and eventually had him beheaded. Jesus is responding exactly as He should.
J. C. Ryle says . . .
“What Herod [lacked] was not more knowledge,
But a heart and a will to act upon what he knew.”
Verse 10 says, “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him.” Yet . . .
Jesus is innocent.
He would be crucified
As a lamb without
Spot or blemish.
It is important that
We understand that.
This seems to be Luke’s primary point in reporting the events the way he is reporting them. Jesus Christ is innocent of wrongdoing. Later, in verse 15, we read that Herod found Jesus innocent of wrongdoing, innocent of anything deserving death. Yet, in spite of His innocence, what does Herod do? Verses 11 and 12 tell us, “Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe [to make sport of His being a king], and sent Him back to Pilate. That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.” Isn’t that remarkable? Two wicked people can unite together against an enemy. In fact, may we be convicted at the irony: two wicked people can unite together against an enemy yet two Christians will divide over a friendship.
What may we learn from this passage? Let me give two action principles that surface from our study of this text. First . . .
1. Stay Strong When Suffering Trials.
We were introduced to this principle last time we were in Luke. Remember our reflection upon 1 Peter 2:21, “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” Luke tells us in this passage that Jesus is treated with contempt. If you are a follower of Christ, you will also at times be treated with contempt. If you are a follower of Christ, be prepared to be hated as Christ was hated. Jesus says in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Some of you were told that, if you followed Christ, it would be like heaven on earth, but you have found it to be otherwise. Some of you struggle with ridicule, hurt, and scorn for following Christ. Some of you have family who are not “on board” with your decision to follow Christ. Others of you face persecution for your faith. Because you are a Christian, someone no longer wants to hang out with you or talk to you. Some of you have people in your life who are doing their best to make you miserable.
Remember a couple things . . .
(1) Never Forget That We Live In A World That Is Not As It Should Be.
We live in a post-Genesis 3 world, a world in which sin reigns. Christ will return, and when He does, He will straighten out what needs straightening out and set everything right.
But also . . .
(2) Remember That When You Suffer You Are In Good Company.
The Bible tells us that “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” Listen again to J. C. Ryle, “The servant of Christ must never be surprised if he has to drink of the same cup with his Lord. When He who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, was foully slandered, who can expect to escape? “If they called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call them of his household?” (Matthew 10:25) . . . the most blameless character will not secure us against false tongues. We must bear the trial patiently. It is a part of the cross of Christ . . . We must sit still, lean back on God’s promises, and believe that in the long run truth will prevail.”
Can you do that? Are you surrender to Christ enough to trust in the Lord and believe that truth will prevail?
The Bible says in Psalm 37:5-7, “Trust [in the Lord] … He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday [i.e., you can bank on it]. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Can you do that? Are you surrendered enough to trust in the Lord? Stay strong when suffering trials.
Remember that it is from a Roman prison that Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Learn from Jesus and stay strong when suffering trials.
The second action principle from this passage is . . .
2. Stay Sensitive To Spiritual Truth.
What I mean is, “Keep your conscience tender.” Think about King Herod for just a moment. There was a time when Herod listened to the truth. There was a time in Herod’s life when He liked listening to preaching. There was a time Herod enjoyed listening to the preaching of John the Baptist. The Bible tells us in Mark 6:20, “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.”
Quite a different picture of Herod in the earlier days when he first listened to spiritual truth. He enjoyed hearing the preaching. Herod was in awe of John. He was convinced that John was a holy man, and he gave him special treatment. Whenever he listened to him, he was miserable with guilt – and yet he could not stay away. Something in John’s message kept pulling him back. Or put another way, Herod used to listen to him and be profoundly disturbed, and yet he enjoyed hearing him.
In other words . . .
Herod heard the truth
And was convicted,
Never followed through.
And because he
Never followed through,
He hardened his heart.
His heart became tough
Calloused, and insensitive
To spiritual truth.
You get a callous on your hand, using a hammer or a shovel every day and tough skin forms around your fingers. You can stick a pin into that callous and feel nothing.
The Bible tells us in Psalm 95:7-8, “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts.” That is what happened to Herod. He once had a soft heart, a sensitive heart to spiritual truth, but he allowed his heart to become calloused and eventually had John the Baptist beheaded. Herod grows to be a hardened man who makes sport of the very one for whom John the Baptist had been a forerunner.
Some of you listen to preaching and teaching of the Word of God every week. Do you follow through on what you hear? The key to the Christian life is that it should lead us to obedience to God’s Word. Herod enjoyed John’s preaching, but Herod was lost. Hear again what the Bible says in Psalm 95, “Today if you hear God’s voice: do not harden your heart.” Was your heart once soft to spiritual truth? Was your conscience once sensitive and tender to the Bible’s teachings (teachings about sexual purity, faithfulness in marriage, love for enemies, forgiveness to those who hurt you, teachings about trusting in the Lord with all of your heart, teachings about walking by faith and not by sight, teachings about not worrying, tithing, sharing your faith, reaching the nations).
Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. Stay sensitive to spiritual truth.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”