WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE PONTIUS PILATE IN THE PASSION OF CHRIST
Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18-19
When Pilate therefore heard this saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, away with him. Away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered. We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified.
44. When Pilate hears that the Jews want to press charges against him before Caesar, and that Caesar might become provoked for his no have loyally discharged his official duties, he gives orders to hand Jesus over to be crucified. In letting himself be importuned by the Jews, he had no chance of winning. So when he hears that the people are threatening to write the emperor and accuse him, he renounces the testimony he previously bore towards Jesus and incriminates himself with Jesus’ innocent blood.
45. But to cap it all, he, in the end, renders a judgment that shows his disagreement with the Jews, has water brought, as Matthew writes, washes his hand in front of the people, and says, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man; see to it yourselves.” In other words, If something comes of this, either before the emperor or otherwise, I want to bring this to an end and assign all the blame on you. And the Jews defiantly reply, “His blood be upon us and our children.”
46. Then Pilate pronounces the sentence, I, Pilate, on behalf of the Roman emperor, condemn this Jesus to death on the cross because he wanted to be king of the Jews. The Jews pressed this sentence from Pilate, the judge, through their incessant, insistent screaming.
47. This is the story of what happened before the governor, Pilate. First, the high priests and rulers of the people try to get Pilate, as judge, to pass sentence on the prisoner, Jesus, without an interrogation. Second, they accuse him of being an insurrectionist and murderer and yet cannot sustain the charge. Third, Jesus is sent to King Herod. Fourth, the insurrectionist Barabbas is set free, and the innocent Jesus is handed over to be crucified. Fifth, Jesus is scourged and horribly beaten, and still the malicious Jews are not satisfied. Sixth, he is accused of being a blasphemer but then the Jews drop the accusation and go back once more to their first attack, sharpening their case by using the emperor’s name and rank.
48. Accordingly, Jesus must die a heretic and blasphemer, a murderer and evildoer, in tune with what the people sing about him and he hangs on the cross, “If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God: let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” However, the main reason why Christ had to die is that he was pronounced guilty of being an insurrectionist and enemy of the emperor.
49. It is that way also today. When the pope, bishops, and the malicious papists come up with nothing against us, they say that we are insurrectionists. First, they reproach us with being heretics. When that does not stick, they say, We are disobeying the emperor; and the disobedient must be punished. Accordingly, we also must endure two the devil’s tactics-lies and murder-just as Christ, our Head, bore them. Thus it has been, and thus it will be to the end of time: the devil with his followers, seducers, liars, and murderers bears the title and reputation of being a faithful leader, faithful teacher, and source of life; but Christ, who is truthful and the true source of life, must with his disciples die a murderer, insurrectionist and heretic. Amen.
Luther’s House Postils
Preached Palm Sunday, March 29, 1534, at the parish church.