Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
Hours of testimony before the convened body of the religious ruling elite had done little to move Jesus closer to the conviction they wanted. In the previous week, Jesus had turned over their tables, embarrassed their teachers of the law, and won the hearts of the people with his teaching about the Kingdom of God. But you can’t very well kill a man for that. So, deep in the night at the High Priests home, the final charge was blasphemy (speaking sacrilegiously about God), the verdict was guilty, and the sentence was death.
The privilege of capital punishment belonged to Rome alone, so the Jewish leaders dissipated the adversarial relationship between High Priest and Caesar in the interest of common cause. The Roman Governor Pontius Pilate would have little interest in blasphemy, but the charge of treason would force his hand, so Jesus stood before him accused of claiming to be King of the Jews.
Pilate did what politicians do, he squirmed, he dodged, he looked for a way out of making the difficult decision, and then he finally gave in to mob rule. The convicted criminal Barabbas walked free. The innocent Son of the Eternal God was condemned to die
By 9:00 on Friday morning, Jesus endured Judas’s betrayal, Peter’s denial, the false accusation of the Sanhedrin, the bureaucratic shuffling of the Roman government, and the people who welcomed him with palm branches 6 days earlier calling with one voice for his crucifixion.
Good Friday marks the darkest day in history. It is the day that lays bare the fundamental intention of ever human system and heart. On Good Friday we recognize how deepest relationships wither, how religion becomes a weapon in the hands of the intolerant, and how the mightiest state is ultimately subject to the passing winds of popular opinion. On Good Friday, we’re forced to deal with the fact that every power on Earth stood in judgment over the Righteous Son of God and came to a unanimous verdict – guilty.
On this Good Friday, let us consider the distinction between worshiping Jesus (Palm Sunday) and letting Him rule over us (turning Temple tables).
Let us consider how the desire for religious purity incited the Sanhedrin against Jesus, and how that same desire might affect us.
Let us consider how the desire for political peace turned Pilate into a pawn of an angry mob, and at what cost our pursuit of political influence may come.
Let us consider how convincing it might have been to hear three voices that typically spoke against each other – the crowd, Pilate, and the Sanhedrin – declare the guilt of Jesus in unison. Let us consider all the ways we let the voice of the mob influence how we think about Jesus, and how that always turns out.
On Good Friday, we are left with the uncomfortable reality that every power on Earth condemned Jesus to death. As Tim Keller says,
He is both the rest and the storm, both the victim and the wielder of the flaming sword, and you must accept him or reject him on the basis of both. Either you’ll have to kill him, or you’ll have to crown him. The one thing you can’t do is just say, ‘What an interesting guy.’
*Painting is Christ Before Pilate by Mihaly Munkacsy