Cled E. Wallace
The chief priests and the rulers delivered Jesus to Pilate for one reason only. They had no love for Pilate, but they hated Jesus even more than they hated Rome. Their one reason for delivering Jesus to Pilate was that He might be crucified. There was neither honor nor fairness in their purpose or their methods. In their own council they condemned Jesus to die on the charge of blasphemy. This charge carried no weight before a Roman tribunal. Therefore, when they brought him to Pilate they hypocritically changed the charge to treason. And in their hearts they were all traitors and haters of Rome.
Pilate was no fool, nor as big a coward as some have made him out to be. Their chief priests and rulers had a powerful political weapon in their hands, and Pilate was playing for bigger stakes than merely seeing that a penniless Galilean prophet got justice. But even at that, he did what he thought he could afford to do on the side of justice: “And Pilate said unto the chief priests and multitudes, I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4 ASV). “…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 hath been done by him” (Luke 23:13-15 ASV).
The apostle Peter commented later on this dramatic scene when he stood before these same rulers: “…Whom ye delivered up, and denied before the face of Pilate, when he had determined to release him. But ye denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of life…” (Acts 3:13-14 ASV).
Behold, then the crime that grew out of envy. And this envy had a doctrinal basis. It is often said that the Jews knew their prophets. They could quote them and knew the number of pages in their manuscript and the numbers of letters on every page. Their thoroughness overlooked not a jot or a tittle. In reality, they understood their prophets no better than they did their Messiah. One of the weirdest and most absurd theories of modern times is that Jesus and the Jews understood the prophets alike on kingdom matters, and that Jesus offered the Jews the very kingdom they were looking for, but they rejected His offer and enviously had Him crucified on a charge of treason. Although the time was fulfilled, the prophecies were not, but were postponed out of deference to Jewish perfidy to a future age. This unmitigated foolishness of future kingdom advocates has as little support in the Scriptures as the Jewish attitude toward Jesus had endorsement in the prophets, and that is exactly none.
Jewish theories regarding the kingdom, which they identified with the teaching of the prophets, were materialistic. The teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the parables was a clear repudiation of them. The power of Jesus deeply impressed the rulers. Their interest in Him was measured by their desire to use Him to further their own plans. They measured everything and everybody by their theories. Had He fit into their schemes, they would have used Him as avidly as they did Judas; and had He been as mean as Iago, it would not have disqualified Him. When they perceived that the divine program of a kingdom “not of this world” (John 18:36) would cancel out their ambitions for earthly rule, even though Jesus was the sinless Son of God, they decreed that He should “die for the nation.” Blinded by false doctrine and hate, they could feature no good for the nation outside their own prophetic program
They employed means consonant with their resources to destroy Jesus. They resorted to ridicule that reflected on his family, his father and mother, brothers and sisters. This was ineffective. They boldly put forward chosen and astute men to confuse Him with captious questions. They hoped that in the heat of controversy He would make some unfortunate statements they could use against Him. He so completely routed them that they did not dare ask Him any more questions. He confused and discredited them before the multitudes.
With wounded pride, hearts poisoned by envy, and enraged over the prospects of a complete frustration of their schemes, they resorted to slander faultfinding, and conspiracy. They reached a state of desperation and said, “Let us kill him.” This led to the cross. Incidentally, they aroused the “lion” that was in Jesus; and although He submitted meekly to mockery and death, He called them “hypocrites,” “whited sepulchres,” “a generation of vipers,” and “sons of hell” (Matt. 23). Yet we are seriously told that Jesus offered the Jews the sort of Kingdom they were looking for, and this fatal conflict was the result! Anybody who can believe it must be as blind as the Jews were—and are.
It is significant that the Judaizers, after the establishment of the church, continued to employ the same methods to stop Paul that had been used against Jesus. They could not risk an honorable, upstanding meeting of the issue. Character assassination was a favorite weapon with them.
It cannot escape notice that some slanderous, whispering campaigns against prominent advocates of the truth of the Gospel have, within the last few years, been timed to offset some effective offensives against compromisers of the Gospel. Some of the Judaizers, at least, have changed little since Paul’s day. The sheep’s clothing of piety does not cover the fangs of the wolf.