A Collision of Worldviews: Part I
Jesus on Trial before the Sanhedrin and Pilate
Victory as The Judge was Being Judged
In God’s providence there was a collision of worldviews at Jesus’s trials. He stood before the Sanhedrin, a religious giant of and in Israel, and He stood before Pilate, the highest secular court of the day. The whole world was represented by Israel and Rome so that the whole world brought charges against and executed Jesus (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). The two groups represented the best of the religious-spiritual and secular-physical worlds.
Christians usually say that the charges against Jesus brought by the Sanhedrin were false. Jesus’ claim of being God was one reason for the Sanhedrin’s disdain and hatred of Jesus. Yet, Jesus spoke the truth because He is Truth (John 14:6). Jesus was and is God! The Sanhedrin had it correct regarding Jesus’ claim of deity. He was claiming to be God because He was God. His proclamation was not for His sake but for the world’s sake. Jesus’ coming brought a collision of worldviews which was played out throughout Jesus’ ministry. .
The Sanhedrin rejected His claim because they functioned like Pharaoh. Pharaoh considered himself to be god; he would not tolerate any competition (Exodus 5:1-2). He did not know the God of the world who happened to be the God of the Israelites. Jesus brought the new order and realm of existence at His coming. He ushered the new age and the creation. His coming was radical and supernatural. Israel and the spiritual leaders would have none it (John 1:1-5, 6-11). Jesus turned their world upside and shifted them away from self and toward God. All the spiritual leaders would have none of it. They believed that they would lose their position in the community. They functioned as did Pharaoh. The spiritual leaders and Pilate were in the dark and loved it but they denied that fact (John 3:17-21). There was a collision of worldviews and sparks flew!
Rome brought no charges against Jesus. Although under Roman domination, Israel sought to use Rome to kill Jesus. The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead. They wanted Him removed from their premises. Rome was to be their tool. Using people, including God, had been Israel’s modus operandi for centuries.
There is an interesting similarity and contrast between Jesus before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate (Matthew 26:57-68; 27:11-14; John 19:8-12). In both scenarios Jesus was in control which He demonstrated in a variety of ways. For instance, His silence was quite deafening. He was silent before the Sanhedrin to the chagrin of the high priest (Matthew 26:62). Jesus remained silent until He was asked specifically under oath if He was the Christ (Matthew 26:63). Jesus’ answer was simple – Yes, it is as you say.. (26:64). He then added a note of majesty. Jesus answered the question because He had a concern for truth and truth-telling and He respected authority (Matthew 5:33-37, 38-42). There was a collision of worldviews. There always is truth and falsehood face off. Jesus spoke the truth but the high priest considered truth-telling blasphemy (26:65)! Sadly, and ironically truth-telling by the Truth was considered to be worthy of death (26:66).
Jesus spoke the truth which was in sharp contrast to lies of the Pharisees and their followers. Jesus spoke the truth because He is truth. The rejection of Christ as “prophesied” in John 1:4-5, 9-11 had reached its fruition. The collision of worldviews was peaking! The high priest exclaimed that they had all the evidence that they needed to murder Jesus and it came from Jesus’ own mouth! Upon hearing Jesus’ testimony about Himself, the high priest tore his clothes as a show of disgust. Actually it was an act of brazen arrogance and ignorance. As He did throughout His life, Jesus continued to speak truth while those around Him rejected the truth. They loved the darkness and hated the light (John 3:17-21). Previously, they had presented falsehoods and misinterpretations of Jesus’ words in an effort to gain evidence to kill Him (Matthew 26:59-62). The religious leadership correctly understood Jesus and His claim. They rejected Him, His Father, the Holy Spirit, and the truth. The collision of worldviews is inevitable: what does light have to do with darkness (Ephesians 5:8-14)!
The interactions between Jesus and Pilate are much shorter. First, Jesus gave a short answer but mostly there was silence on Jesus’ part. In contrast to the Sanhedrin, Pilate was amazed (Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:2-5). In Matthew’s account, Pilate attempted to absolve himself of any involvement in Christ’s death (27:24). He was not concerned with truth or the Truth. Such it is with all men even believers at times. Concern for self and of one’s own ways breeds hatred of God and His ways. In contrast, love of God leads to fear of the Lord and love of His ways.
John’s gospel documents two Jesus-Pilate interchanges (18:33-38; 19:7-11). In John 18, Pilate asked Jesus directly if He was king of the Jews. Jesus engaged in a short apologetic session in which He pointed Pilate to a higher Power and to Truth neither of which were Pilate or Rome. Jesus drew a contrast between Jesus’ kingdom and worldly kingdoms. What separates them is Truth. Truth is what God’s kingdom is founded on and built on. Pilate displayed arrogance and ignorance: he wanted no part of Truth.
Jesus then claimed His kingship and His kingdom. Interestingly, Jesus’ words convinced Pilate to seek Jesus’ release. In John 19 (verses 8-9), John recorded Pilate’s reaction. He was fearful when he heard that Jesus claimed to be God. Jesus did not answer Pilate’s question regarding Jesus’ origin. In response, Pilate claimed authority of life and death and right and wrong including the right to set Jesus free. Jesus corrected him by pointing Pilate to the source of absolute authority (19:11). Absolutely, God is the only source of absolute authority. These words undercut Pilate’s view of himself and the source of any civil authority (Romans 13:1-7).
Pilate’s subsequent response was in contrast to that of the religious leaders as given in 19:12. He tried to set Jesus free. Ironically, Pilate considered Rome and himself as the foundation and dispenser of authority but he used his God-given, delegated authority to crucify the Giver of all good things including authority. In the final analysis, Pilate and the religious leaders were more interested in self than the true God’s glory. They defined glory their way – for them, to them, and by them.
1. Jesus chose when to speak and when to be silent. Speaking and silence are to be used as God’s gift for His glory and the believer’s good. How are you doing in both areas?
2. The Sanhedrin approached Jesus from a personal and religious concern. What did they know about themselves and about Jesus and how did that knowledge influence their actions?
3. Pilate approached Jesus from a personal and political reference. What did Pilate learn about Jesus and himself and how did that knowledge influence him?
A Collision of Worldviews: Part II
Jesus on Trial before the Sanhedrin and Pilate
Victory as The Judge was Being Judged
Jesus is the perfect God-pleasing second person of the Trinity. Yet as part of His humiliation, He stood before the Sanhedrin and Pilate on two separate occasions. Ignorantly and arrogantly the high priest assumed Jesus’ life was in his hands but only to a degree. He needed Rome’s help to carry out the removal of Christ. On the other hand, Pilate arrogantly assumed that all of life was in his hands especially the fate and destiny of Christ. The Sanhedrin was oblivious to its own heart. The spiritual leaders and the people witnessed Jesus’ miracles and heard His teaching. Most rejected Jesus and His teaching. John 11:45-53 documented the mindset of the spiritual leaders. On the heels of the resurrection of Lazarus, the spiritual leaders expressed serious concern over the miracle worker Jesus. They rejected the miracles of Christ and failed to use them as God intended (John 20:30-31).
John 11:48 recorded their concern: If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. They encapsulated the eternal counsel of the Triune God: redemption of His people (John 6:37-43). They were Satan’s minions but in fact were God’s agents in achieving His plan (Acts 2:23-24; 4:27-28). According to their logic, if no action was taken against Jesus, the Romans would assume that Jesus was a political messiah and would crush Israel in her rebellion. As a result, the spiritual leaders would lose their investment and control of the people. Their concern was for self, by self, to self through the nation of Israel. Blindness and deadness of heart was their problem. As a result there is a collision of worldviews/
Caiaphas the high priest at the time seized the initiative (John 11:49-52). He was not a “nice man.” He was for self, by self, and to self (see Matthew 26:3, 57; Luke 3:2; John 11:13-14, 24, 28). Unwittingly and sacrilegiously, he articulated the concept of one man-one death for the good of the many so they would not die (John 11:50). It was better for Jesus to die in order that many would live. There is so much truth mixed with their falsehood but they did not recognize it as truth. Israel did die as a city and a nation in 70 A.D. because they failed to humble themselves and repent. They followed the pattern of their forefathers who were unrepentant, rebellious idolaters.
Pilate knew the heart motivations of the Israelites – envy and jealously (Matthew 27:18-19; Mark 15:10). He knew Jesus was innocent of the charges brought against Him. However, he and most of Israel had no inkling of the nature of sin, true lawbreaking, and real guilt, He and the spiritual leaders and their followers disavowed and chose to ignore the consequences of their rebellion. They were blind to the condemnation that God measures out to rebels. They did not correctly reflect on history. They failed to honor God as the holy, righteous, and just Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25; Leviticus 19:15; Isaiah 11:3-5).
Pilate gave the people a choice which was a reflection of his choice. Neither Pilate nor Israel understood that they were God’s agents for implementing God’s redemptive plan through the cross set up in eternity past. Peter referred to this fact in Acts at Pentecost and the prayer of John and Peter after they stood before the Sanhedrin (2:22-24; 4:25-30). The choice before the people is a choice before every person daily: do you please self or do you please God (Proverbs 3:5-8)? Pilate asked who they wanted released and who they wanted crucified. The choice was mind boggling: a traitor against the state or Christ, the holy, harmless undefiled Son of God. Willingly and arrogantly they chose Barabbas to live; by choosing him, they chose Christ to go the hell on the cross (Matthew 27:21-23). Little did they know that they were fulfilling God’s eternal plan to save a people for Himself (John 6:37-43 and Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28). Their choice was God’s choice from eternity past.
John offers another insight into the mindset of those who live for self. One of the issues that Jesus’ pre-crucifixion trial focused was on kingship. Jesus did not look or act as a king. In fact, most considered Him a loser (Isaiah 53:3-6). Israel as a whole hated their physical slavery to Rome but denied that fact to Jesus (John 8:33).In that interchange Jesus was not speaking of the Israelites’ physical bondage but to their spiritual bondage to sin, Satan, and self.
They were proud of their presumed special relationship with Yahweh and prided themselves on laws and lawkeeping. To them, they simply needed a way out of their physical, political troubles. Their heart is displayed in answer to Pilate’s declaration in John 19:14: here is your king. Pilate statement was not intended as an encouragement or a reality. Unwittingly Pilate testified to God’s sovereignty and his own role in God’s redemptive plan. Israel’s response was from the heart: we have no king but Caesar (19:15). In fact, they hated Rome and Caesar and their dominion over them. Their only king was self. They only loved themselves.
Jesus is king of kings and Lord of lords who came to His own people to save a people for the Triune God but Israel hated Him. Ironically, both Pilate and Israel had the same king: themselves and displayed similar characteristics. Pilate and the Israelites were fearful people who used people. Israel’s motto was freedom and Rome’s was control. The more Israel defined and pursued freedom their way, the more they divorced themselves from Christ. As a result, the deeper they sunk into bondage to self, sin, and Satan. God did not justify Israel’s hardening but in His redemptive plan He used and is using the hardness of the heart of the Jewish people to bring in sheep (Gentiles) from other pastures into the fold and as well as true Israel (Romans 11:25). The two – Jew and Gentile – became one (Ephesians 2:11-15).
1. Who is your king and why?
a. Who and what motivated Pilate?
b. Who and what motivated Israel?
2. Choice: how do you exercise the God-given capacity to choose?
a. What are the choices?
b. What are the characteristics of the two kingdoms?
3. What is your view of Christ, yourself, and the cross? Humble yourself as you answer