28 March 2013

Luke 23:1-25

“[Pilate] sent [Jesus] off to Herod ... and [Herod[ sent him back to Pilate.” (vv. 7, 11)


This passage begins in the early hours of Good Friday. On the night before Jesus had eaten his last meal with his disciples (Luke 22:7-38). And after supper they went out to pray on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39-53); it was here that even his closest friends let him down. The disciples slept while he prayed, Judas betrayed him and later Peter denied ever knowing him (Luke 22:54-62).

Now the action moves to the extraordinary trials conducted by Pilate and Herod.

Jesus was brought in to see Pilate alone and unprotected, following a sleepless night and a beating by the guards. Pilate's question, "Are you the king of the Jews?" (verse 3) is full of sarcasm, who could imagine anyone less like a king than this exhausted, battered and bruised man? Jesus did not deny it. Pilate was now inclined to believe that this man was deluded but harmless. So Pilate passed Jesus on to Herod.

Herod wanted Jesus to entertain him, to perform miracles and impress him (verses 8-10). He treated Jesus as if he was an act in a circus side show. Herod came to the conclusion that Jesus was mad but harmless. So Herod sent him back to Pilate.

Pilate called together the crowd and told them he could not find any cause to execute Jesus so he would give him a flogging and send him home (verses 13-16).

But the crowd was not having this. They were baying for blood. The crowd had picked up how dangerous Jesus was and they screamed for his execution, but even they had no idea why or how Jesus was dangerous!

The scene that this passage describes is a farce. Pilate and Herod are behaving like a slapstick double act. Surprisingly, in spite of Herod and Pilate's incompetence, God's purpose was still moving forward.

To Ponder

  • What do you think Pilate and Herod told their wives about what happened that morning?
  • It is difficult sometimes for powerful people to decide between what is 'right' and what will be 'popular'. If you look at the actions politicians today through the eyes of Jesus, what do you see?
  • In what ways can you bring beauty into the life of a person who is suffering?

Bible notes author

The Revd Diane Clutterbuck

Diane is an ordained presbyter in the Methodist Church. She works as as a coach, supervisor and trainer mainly in the public and voluntary sectors with people and organisations who are committed to growth and development.