Luke 22:66-23:25 – The Trials of Jesus and the Wisdom of the Crowds

Luke 22:66-23:25 – The Trials of Jesus and the Wisdom of the Crowds

Please turn with me to Luke, chapter 22, verse 66. We are in the home stretch of our series now. Four weeks left through the book of Luke. Last week, this week, and next we are in the darkest part of the story, the arrest, trial, and crucifixion. For those of us who love, trust, and worship Jesus, this part is confusing and painful. 

It’s hard to sit through. To see our savior, blameless, innocent, righteous, powerful, wise, and good, falsely accused of crimes he did not commit, accused of things that he did the opposite of, in fact. 

To see the legal authorities declare him innocent, and still give him up to mob’s wishes. Rather than a just death penalty, it becomes murder. This is madness, and hard to understand. 

But if we’re able to listen closely, and reflect on the true state of our soul, it becomes humbling. He died for our sin.  Apart from his help, we’re just like the crowd’s shouting for his death. Every time we give in to sin, we prove the need for this death to have happened. It was our wrongdoing that he was being punished for.  What was untrue of him is true of us. What was unjust to do to him would have been just to do to us. 

But there he stood, accused, condemned, and punished, in our place.  Willingly. Gladly. He knew there was no other way of simultaneously rightly judging our sin, and also to be able to be in relationship with us for the rest of eternity. 

When we look at what Jesus did for us, we can stand in awe, and marvel at the true nature of his mission. Not simply as a wise teacher. Not simply as a good example. Not simply someone we should listen to in order to be a good person.  

He is all those things and the one who accomplished our release from the debt of sin. One who took the death penalty for us. So that we could live in fellowship with him and with one another forever.  Let’s read. 

The Trial before The Council

66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” 

Luke 22:66–71 (ESV)

There is a lot packed into this short paragraph. Jesus, in no uncertain terms, claims three titles before the highest council of all Jewish religion.   

Christ – Messiah, chosen rescuer of God’s people. In their minds, this would have been a human, a political rescuer, who would overthrow the Roman government. Jesus certainly did not seem to be this sort of person. 

They weren’t genuinely curious if he was the promised one, the promised deliverer, they were gathering evidence they could take to the Romans. “He claims to be the one who is going to overthrow you.” 

Son of Man, seated at the Right Hand of the power of God an allusion to a powerful divine title

13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV)

Son of God = God. And they understood the implications, and knew what he was claiming: the divine heir of the eternal Davidic throne of God’s kingdom.  We see God promising this to David in 2 Samuel

“…I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son…”

2 Samuel 7:12–14 (ESV)

“Are you the Son of God, then?” They were not genuinely curious, they were getting a confession, in their minds, of his insanity. Checking off a list of accusations, compiling their case. “This madman claims to be God.”

“You say that I am.” – This is a cryptic little response. But that’s just because we’re dealing with a greek figure of speech / idiom. The ESV translates directly from the greek into “you say that I am”, the NASB has it a little better as “Yes, I am” – the saying means means “yes” or “It is as you say” – and he means “Yes, but its more complicated than you even know.” 

Something like “you are using the right words, but you do not understand the fullness what you are saying.” “Yes, I am the Son of God, but it means so much more than you think it means. Your understanding is too small.” 

“We have heard it ourselves from his own lips” – He’s claiming to be God, which if untrue, is ultimate blasphemy, punishable by death.

So they take him to the highest Roman authority around. 

The Trial before Pilate

23:1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 

Luke 23:1-3 (ESV)

The first accusation, “forbidding us to give tribute to Ceasar,” is a lie. His disciples were hoping that Jesus would let them do this, but Jesus says “Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s” (Luke 20:25).  

The second accusation, is correct. Jesus does claim to the the Christ, the Messiah, but that word wouldn’t have meant much to Pilate, so they make it more clear “a King!” – This catches pilate’s attention. 

Pilate’s question: Each gospel has Pilate asking Jesus this question, in these same words. For all their different focuses and choices of details to record, they each record this question identically. Matthew and Mark also have Jesus’s identical answer, John records a much more detailed answer, but with the same effect.

“Are you their king? “ – Again that semi-cryptic response: It is as you say.  But there’s more to it than you or they can possibly imagine. Your understanding of the Messiah, of the King of the Jews, is too small. 

4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” 5 But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.” 6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 

Luke 23:4-7 (ESV)

Waiving away their continual false accusations, he hears an out: “This is Herod’s jurisdiction! Maybe he’ll figure out what to do with this case.” 

The trial before Herod

8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. 

Luke 23:8-12 (ESV)

Let’s be clear about Herod’s intent here. He was very glad that he finally got to see Jesus, because he thought it would be entertaining. “Do a trick for me!  Dance monkey, dance! Sit up, rollover, speak, good doggy!” Maybe we can have an interesting philosophical debate. 

Jesus didn’t dignify any of the requests or any of the questions with a response. So they set about abusing him and mocking him. “Bring out the fine robes for this so called king! Let’s play dress up!” 

I’ve always imagined Herod to be a super weirdo. A wretched, gluttonous, debauched, power-hungry fool. Everything we see about him in the gospel accounts seem to point that way. 

But for all the mockery, he still couldn’t find a legal case against him, and so sent him back to Pilate. This shared “problem” of Jesus became grounds for a friendship with Pilate. Fulfilling: 

“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed…”

Psalm 2:2 (ESV)

And of course, anointed, the word in greek, is Christ. 

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore punish and release him.” 

Luke 23:13-16 (ESV)

The most that the political and legal authorities could find fit to punish him for was disturbing the peace, so they flogged him, it says in John, still more than he deserved, but perhaps it would satisfy the mob more than simply doing the right thing, and releasing him without doing anything.

But of course, the mob would be satisfied with nothing less than his torturous death.

The wisdom of the crowd

18 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— 19 a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. 20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

Luke 23:18-25 (ESV)

This is a haunting scene to me. So far we have seen some rationality from the authorities. Sure, they entertained false accusations, but so far they have dismissed them and declared him innocent. 

But the mob was so lost in its bloodthirsty haze, they would rather have a murderer and insurrectionist walking around freely than Jesus. 

Most damning… 

15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

John 19:15 (ESV)

Fully disowning any fealty to their true King, Jesus. “We have no king!” The ultimate denial of their Lord. Give us the tyrannical rule of a human ruler, rather than a merciful, good, wise, God!

And Barabbas.  One of the most ironic names in the whole of scripture, given the situation. 

  • Bar- Abba – Name means “son of the father” – Or “dad’s son” – who is your dads son? Either you, or your brother. “I want myself. Not Jesus.” I want to declare myself innocent. I don’t want to face the judgement of God, and I don’t want the mercy he offers through Jesus. I want myself. Bar-Abbas.
  • Also ironically is the Barabbas was actually guilty of the very things they were falsely accusing Jesus of (insurrection)
  • Worse than that, a murderer.

“Give us this man, who looks like us. That we can relate to. A fellow sinner. Let us feel better about ourselves by letting us be the ones who pardons our own guilt. We want to be like God declaring what is good, and what is evil.”

Here at the trials, we have the original sin of the garden rearing its head. And the serpent, the Satan, is loving it.  They would rather pardon actual evil as good than acknowledge Jesus.  

They would murder an innocent Jesus, and declare an actual murderer innocent.

But the biggest twist. The biggest irony here, is this exact point.  The murder of innocent Jesus, makes it possible for the murderer to be innocent.

The Gospel in the Trial

Because sinless Jesus willingly gave himself up to punishment on the cross, we sinful people, when we trust his sacrifice for us, turning from our sinful life to follow him, our sinful soul is counted free. Counted innocent. Counted righteous.  Hallelujah.

So I’ll ask you, do you believe: 

Is Jesus the Son of God, King of the Jews, The Christ, The savior of the world?

“It is as you say.” – Take care, that you are merely using the right words, but not realizing what you are saying!

Don’t limit your thinking on who God is, on who Jesus is, by boxing him in to your expectations.  

Don’t say “I’m not sure I can fully trust him, he isn’t coming through on things I’m asking him for.” – He promises to give you everything you need, and vastly more than that, but he knows how to give you good gifts. The things you actually need maybe those things are not the things you are currently praying for. But realize that your perspective is limited. 

Jesus is King of Kings, Lord of Lords. The Christ, the Messiah. But the problem the religious leaders of Jesus’s day, and even his disciples had, was that that they had too small a view of what that Messiah was going to come to do. They expected him to overthrow the Roman government. 

And let me say that the overthrow of the most powerful political and military empire on the planet at the time was too small a prayer request for what Jesus actually came to do.

Jesus IS Rescuer from political Tyranny, but not just that single government at a single point in time, no matter how poweful, but rather, from every political tyrant. 

For those who trust Christ, and follow his ways, they find the only liberation possible in this short, earthly life: peace and contentment to bear up under any and every political or societal oppression. 

Just didn’t come to establish an earthly throne for one period of time, he came to free every human being from their captivity to sin, their own sin, but also the consequence of sinful political rulers. 

By showing us how to persevere in suffering in this life, all the way to the next, where finally all suffering will end.  He came to establish a throne over all the cosmos for all the rest of time.

So, saints, don’t limit your view on what you are asking God to do in your life and be disappointed by his failure to meet your expectations. 

Rather, understand what Jesus meant when he said “It is as you say.” – You are saying the right words, but not understanding what they mean.  

“I am the Messiah, and if could understand the significance of this: That the way the Messiah is going to free the captives, rescue his people: looks like patience in suffering, joy in the trials, willing sacrificial love and service for even your enemies, looks like defeat in the eyes of the world. Then you will understand the way to eternal life. True freedom. Lasting peace. 

Jesus says: I am The King. I am The Christ. I am The Son of God. That it doesn’t look like you think it should — that means you should change your mind. Change your expectations. Don’t disbelieve, don’t distrust because I’m not who you think I should be. 

Jesus says “Follow me. Trust me. You’ll see. I’m so much bigger, so much better than you think or can imagine.”