Humble Hero


Christ’s Trial Before the Roman Governor

This chapter is based on Matthew 27:2, 11-31; Mark 15:1-20; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:28-40; 19:1-16.

Christ stood bound as a prisoner in the judgment hall of Pilate, the Roman governor. Around Him was the guard of soldiers. The hall was quickly filling with spectators. Just outside were the judges of the Sanhedrin, priests, rulers, and the mob. HH 333.1

After condemning Jesus, the Sanhedrin had come to Pilate to have him confirm and execute the sentence. But these Jewish officials would not enter the Roman judgment hall. According to their ceremonial law, entering that place would defile them and prevent them from taking part in the Passover. They did not see that murderous hatred had defiled their hearts. They did not see that since they had rejected Christ, the real Passover Lamb, for them the great feast had lost its significance. HH 333.2

Pilate looked on the Savior with no friendly eyes. Called from his bedroom in haste, he determined to do his work as quickly as possible. Putting on his most severe expression, he turned to see what kind of Man he had to examine. HH 333.3

He gazed intently on Jesus. He had had to deal with all kinds of criminals, but never had a Man of such goodness and nobility been brought before him. On His face, he saw no sign of guilt, no fear, no boldness or defiance. He saw a man whose expression bore the signature of heaven. HH 333.4

Pilate’s better nature was stirred. His wife had told him something of the wonderful deeds the Galilean Prophet had performed, curing the sick and raising the dead. He recalled rumors that he had heard from several sources. He demanded that the Jews state their charges against the Prisoner. “Who is this Man, and why have you brought Him?” They answered that He was a deceiver called Jesus of Nazareth. HH 333.5

Again Pilate asked, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” The priests did not answer his question. In irritation, they said, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.” When the Sanhedrin brings you a man it considers worthy of death, is there need to ask for an accusation against him? They hoped to lead Pilate to give in to their request without going through many preliminaries. HH 333.6

Before this, Pilate had hastily condemned to death men who did not deserve to die. In his opinion, whether a prisoner was innocent or guilty was of no special importance. The priests hoped that Pilate would inflict the death penalty this time on Jesus without giving Him a hearing. HH 334.1

But something about the Prisoner held Pilate back. He did not dare do it. He remembered how Jesus had raised Lazarus, a man who had been dead four days, and he made up his mind to know the charges against Him and whether they could be proved. HH 334.2

“If your judgment is sufficient,” he said, “why bring the Prisoner to me?” “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” The priests said they had already passed sentence on Him, but they must have Pilate’s sentence to make their condemnation valid. “What is your sentence?” Pilate asked. “Death,” they answered. They asked Pilate to enforce their sentence; they would take the responsibility of the result. Weak though he was in moral power, Pilate refused to condemn Jesus until they had brought a charge against Him. HH 334.3

The priests were in a dilemma. They must not allow it to appear that they had arrested Christ on religious grounds, because this would have no weight with Pilate. They must make it appear that Jesus was a political offender. The Romans were constantly on the watch to repress everything that could lead to an outbreak. HH 334.4

In their desperation, the priests called false witnesses. “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.’ “ Three charges, each without foundation. The priests knew this but were willing to commit perjury. HH 334.5