The Charges Against Jesus

17 Jul
Brought Before Pilate

from Google Images

After finding Jesus guilty of blasphemy, a verdict requiring death under the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 24:16), the Sanhedrin, immediately, brought Jesus to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate (Luke 23:1; cf. 3:1), because, under Roman Law, the Jewish authorities had no right to execute anyone for a crime (John 18:31).

According to Luke 22:66-71 (cf. Matthew 26:65-66), the Jewish authorities understood Jesus had committed blasphemy by claiming to be the Son of God. Yet, the term Son of God is a Messianic title. Nevertheless, Jesus’ use of the title and the fact that he claimed he would come from the throne of God to execute judgment against Jerusalem and the Temple was considered not only a claim to be God but a threat to destroy the name of God. According to the scriptures, the name of God was upon the Temple in Jerusalem. It was the place where God had placed his name (cf. 1Kings 9:3). Therefore, if Jesus said he would come to destroy the Temple of God, in essence, it was considered a threat to destroy the name of God, which was considered blasphemy, a sin worthy of death (cf. Leviticus 24:16).

At first, the Jewish authorities wanted Pilate to execute Jesus on their claim that he was a criminal deserving such judgment (Luke 18:28-32), but having failed in this regard, they sought to accuse Jesus of a political crime. The fact is, however, the Sanhedrin had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, which was a religious verdict, and such a thing wasn’t recognized by Rome as an appropriate reason for execution (cf. Acts 25:13-27). In fact, it wasn’t even viewed by them as a crime at all (cf. Acts 26:30-32). Therefore, in order to get Pilate to even hear the case, the Jewish authorities needed to show Jesus was a political threat to Rome. So, when their initial request was denied, they began to accuse Jesus of 1) “perverting the nation” 2) “forbidding to pay tribute to Caesar” and 3) “making himself the Christ, a king (Luke 23:2). Any Jew would have understood the term Christ or Messiah without the words, a king, added. However, Pilate may not have known that the word “Christ” – meaning Anointed One – was a Jewish title for King of the Jews.

These charges, however, were either too vague and completely untrue (cf. Luke 20:21-26), or half-truths at best. For example, while it is true that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, it would be an error to conclude he meant the claim to be taken in the political sense (cf. John 6:15).

By saying Jesus was perverting (G1294) the nation, the Jewish authorities meant that Jesus sought to turn the people away from the legitimate authorities, and ultimately Rome. The Greek word (G1294) means “to distort or turn aside, i.e. to oppose” (Thayer’s Lexicon). It is used by Jesus in Luke 9:41 for the generation of Jews who had turned aside from God. It is used elsewhere by Luke in Acts 13:8 for Elymas seeking to turn the Roman official away from the faith, and in Acts 20:30 it is used by Paul to describe how false teachers would draw disciples away from Christ to follow them instead. In the Septuagint the word is used at Exodus 5:4 by Pharaoh, accusing Moses and Aaron of turning aside the people after them; and it is used by King Ahab, accusing Elijah of turning aside Israel to follow him, but Elijah denied the charge, saying it was King Ahab who turned aside Israel away from God (1Kings 18:17-18).

It is doubtful that the Jewish authorities meant to accuse Jesus of literally forbidding others to give tribute to Caesar, for, after all, there were many who could witness otherwise and deny the claim (cf. Luke 20:25). No doubt, their accusation was meant to be understood as the natural consequence of Jesus’ claim to be Messiah (Luke 22:69) in the context of their first charge of insurrection. In other words, if Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the King of the Jews, he would naturally command his subjects to pay their taxes to him rather than Caesar.


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Posted by on July 17, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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