The Jews’ Misplaced Hope for a King

In the passage that we may call the foundation for church discipline, Jesus took care to tell his disciples that a person cannot be condemned without two or three witnesses (Matt. 18:16, 20).  Jesus accusers at his trial were not as careful, of course.  Indeed, the chief priests could not even find two witnesses whose testimonies agreed (Mark 14:56)!  Even when the false witnesses arose, Mark tells us their testimonies did not agree (14:58-59). Jesus’ whole trial was fishy on the part of the chief priests and Council.

The Jews could not condemn Jesus by their own law, so they took him to Pilate, the Roman prefect of Judea at the time.  Turning Jesus over to the “Roman phase” of his trial, the Jews used loaded vocabulary to deceive Pilate.  The Jews hated Jesus because he was claiming to be God (John 10:33).  During the Jewish phase of the trial before the Council, the chief priests and scribes were angry because in response to the question, “Are you the Christ?” (Luke 22:67), Jesus responded, “You say that I am” (Luke 22:71). Their true concern was religious and spiritual.

However, when they brought Jesus to Pilate, they twisted their accusation against him. They cleverly said, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king” (Luke 23:2, emphasis added).  This statement is loaded with political and nationalistic jargon!  When Pilate said, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (v. 3) he primarily had a political and military perspective in mind, not a cosmic, universal, spiritual perspective.  Pilate didn’t care about being saved from sin. He did not want Caesar, or himself, to be deposed. It is true that Jesus is a King–he is the King.  But the Jews did not want him killed because he was a king.  In fact, had Jesus come to overthrow Rome as a conquering national king, they would have been quite pleased with him.

They simply wanted a physical king like their ancestors did centuries before (1 Sam. 8). The thought of a God-Man who reigned as King over all creation and discerns and judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart was far to heavy to bear.

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