Daily Devotions – April 2-8

Sunday, April 2, 2017

But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Luke 23:5-7

THE TEXT: And when he (Pilate) learned that He (Jesus) belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time (Luke 23:7).

The judge pronounced his verdict, yet permits the prosecution to challenge that verdict and continue raising objections. Clearly, Pilate is intimidated.

The Jewish high priest is urgent. He has brought along the full high court and a large company of guards and servants. But not even their sheer number is enough to convince Pilate of the seriousness of this matter. Perhaps Pilate thinks Jesus only has a local following that his Roman squads can easily put down. So they report the wide scope of Jesus’ ministry to convince the governor that Jesus is a greater danger. They claim Jesus has been stirring up people all over Judea, from Galilee, even here to Jerusalem.

Suddenly, Pilate sees an opening, an opportunity to get rid of this whole sorry affair. If Jesus is a Galilean, the trial can be switched to Herod, the Roman governor over Galilee. Fortunately, he is staying in Jerusalem for the feast. Let Herod deal with the Jewish high priest and Jesus.

Pilate watches the procession head over to Herod’s palace. As the footsteps die away in the distance and silence descends over his courts, Pilate may well breathe a sigh of relief. But by taking this action he has completely undercut his own verdict. He declared Jesus not guilty, so why is He still on trial? Why is His life still in jeopardy?

And one more thing Pilate fails to consider: if somehow Jesus is returned to him, it will be clear to the Jewish leaders that all they have to do is keep pressing, and Pilate will eventually give in.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You suffered such injustice to fulfill God’s righteous plan and set free sinners like me. Give me a grateful heart, and genuine love for the people around me that need to hear of Your love. Amen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. Luke 23:8-9

THE TEXT: When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see Him. (Luke 23:8a).

Herod Antipas has no interest in religion. His sole ambition is to reacquire the former kingdom of his deceased father, Herod the Great. At this time he is ruling a quarter of it: Galilee and Samaria. His sights are set south on Jerusalem and Judea. To add that territory to his rule he needs to ingratiate himself to the Jewish leadership, which is why we find him in Jerusalem at this feast.

But Herod has a special interest in Jesus. When the stories about Jesus’ miracles first came to his ear, he thought his executed criminal John the Baptist had been raised from the dead (see Matthew 14:2). Since then reports have kept spreading, Herod is anxious to see Jesus for himself (see Luke 9:9).

The ruler questions Jesus at length, but Jesus remains silent. When Herod had gone to speak with John in prison, John spoke at length about sin and righteousness, and God’s kingdom (see Mark 6:20). But Herod has no interest in discussing these issues with Jesus. He wants to be wowed. It was this same love of entertainment that led him to behead John the Baptist (see Matthew 14:1-12). Now it leads him to squander his one chance to talk face to face with the Son of God.

Not a single question is judicial. He isn’t interested in making a fair ruling. He only sees Jesus’ value as an entertainer who could impress other dignitaries and help Herod achieve his political goals. Not a single question was spiritual, about how to be right with God.

How sad that Herod squandered this great opportunity to listen and learn from his Lord, his God, and his Savior.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, forgive me for the times I ignore Your precious Word for me. Open my ears that I may hear and believe. Amen.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. Luke 23:10-11

THE TEXT: The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing Him. And Herod with his soldiers treated Him with contempt and mocked Him. Then, arraying Him in splendid clothing, he sent Him back to Pilate (Luke 23:10-11).

The Jewish leaders are not happy with Herod. They want him to condemn Jesus, but he’s not interested in a trial. He’s holding an audition for a court magician. The scribes are vehement, trying to force his attention back to the trial at hand, but he totally ignores them.

Jesus’ silence speaks volumes. He won’t even dignify Herod’s childish fascination with an answer. But the governor is deaf to Jesus’ silent message. He doesn’t take a moment to think about his behavior, his guilt in having John the Baptist beheaded. He doesn’t think of what he owes this Man who stands trial before him-or what he owes the God to whom he will one day have to answer.

Finally, Herod gives up on Jesus. Since Jesus is giving him the silent treatment, he will return the favor. He begins mocking Him and treating Him with contempt, and his soldiers quickly join in. Since Jesus claims to be King of the Jews, He needs royal robes. So Herod dresses Him in splendid clothing.

Why didn’t Herod reach a verdict? He could certainly have scored points with the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem if he condemned Jesus. But he’d been down that road before. Back when he had John the Baptist executed, he took a huge hit with his subjects up in Galilee who held John to be a prophet (see Matthew 14:5). There was no way he was going to order Jesus’ execution too. Instead, Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You didn’t come for my entertainment, but for my eternal salvation. When I enter Your house for worship, give me a heart that seeks Your grace, not my own selfish enjoyment. Amen.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies. Luke 23:12

THE TEXT: And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other (Luke 23:12).

Jesus came to be the great Reconciler. In His death He restores the relationship between God and sinner. But His sacrifice also works to bring human enemies together. We see this in the case of Pilate and Herod, whose enmity toward each other ended with Jesus’ trials.

Before this time they hated each another. For Herod it was probably nothing personal. He wanted the territory that Pilate ruled, seeking to add that jurisdiction to his own. But an incident Luke relates in 13:1 might have had some bearing on it. The verse references something that took place at an earlier event. “There were some present at that very time who told Him (Jesus) about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” Some Galileans evidently started an insurrection that Pilate had efficiently put down with force and bloodshed. Since these were Herod’s subjects, he could have seen it as a grievous offense.

On Pilate’s side, his hatred for Herod may well have stemmed from Herod’s plotting and scheming to drive him out and take his jurisdiction. But in Jesus the two rulers find common ground. Herod buries the hatchet with Pilate because Pilate grants his wish to see Jesus.

And Pilate is reconciled because Herod did him the honor of returning the case to Pilate’s court. It was no small thing for a ruler to entrust the fate of one of his subjects into someone else’s hands.

Pilate was probably not happy to see the return of Jesus and His accusers, but at least Herod would no longer be a nuisance and a threat.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, in Your suffering and death You reunited us with Your Heavenly Father. Unite us to one another through forgiveness, peace and love. Amen.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” Luke 23:13-16

THE TEXT: (Pilate said) “… Look, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. I will therefore punish and release Him” (Luke 23:15-16).

In the first trial Pilate declared Jesus not guilty but failed to enforce his ruling. Now he has a second chance. Pilate reports that he examined Jesus in open court proceedings, not in secret, and found that Jesus was not guilty of any of the charges against Him. Moreover, Herod had tried Jesus and did not condemn Him.

Herod had a better understanding of the Jewish religion than the Roman Pilate. Yet even on religious grounds Herod had not found Jesus guilty, and he certainly would have punished Him if he had. Besides that, most of Jesus’ preaching and miracles had been done in Herod’s jurisdiction, yet not once over all those months had Herod found a reason to arrest and try Jesus.

Two courts had reached the same verdict. He concludes, “Look, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.” Again at this point, Pilate should use his full authority as Roman ruler to protect the innocent. But instead of freeing Jesus, Pilate offers a compromise: he orders Jesus scourged-a savage, crippling whipping. Surely, the Jewish leaders will be satisfied that Jesus is no longer a threat, and accept it in place of Jesus’ death.

What a strange punishment when you have declared a man innocent of all the charges leveled against Him. It is also odd that Pilate shrinks from killing a Man he knows is innocent, but can justify crippling Him. Jesus yields Himself to such suffering and injustice to pay for your sins and mine. But He knows God will not be satisfied with mere earthly punishment and suffering, the Son of God will have to die to save us from our sins.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I marvel at Your loving sacrifice. Fill me with such love and gratitude to You that I will sacrifice myself for others. Amen.

Friday, April 7, 2017

But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. Luke 23:18-23

THE TEXT: A third time he (Pilate) 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.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that He should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. (Luke 23:22-23).

Pilate offers his compromise. Instead of condemning Jesus to death, he will have Him scourged. But Jesus’ bloody, battered body isn’t enough for the Jewish leaders. They demand His death.

So Pilate tries another tactic, he offers the Jewish people the choice of one of two prisoners he will release in honor of the Passover: Jesus or Barabbas-the worst criminal he has in custody. Matthew, Mark and John record that Barabbas was a notorious prisoner who was guilty of murder in an insurrection. To Pilate’s astonishment the Jewish leaders convince the crowds to call for Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ execution. Ironically, Barabbas’ crime was insurrection and leading the people in revolt against Rome-the very charge these Jewish leaders had falsely leveled against Jesus. But now they demand the release of the true insurrectionist, and the execution of the Innocent One.

Desperately, Pilate addresses the crowd two more times, demanding they give a valid reason Jesus should die. They ignore him and keep shouting for Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent and had said it over and over again. Still, he let the crowds drown it out. Luke ends today’s reading with the chilling words, “And their voices prevailed.”

And what was Jesus doing this whole time? He was standing by silently, accepting His Father’s will that He be crucified so that by His death He could give us life, pardon and forgiveness.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You willingly suffered such injustice and hate from the creatures You came to save. Thank You for bearing the punishment for my disobedience. Amen.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. Luke 23:24-25

THE TEXT: So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 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 23:24-25).

Pilate weighs out his options. He could defy the Jewish leaders and the crowd, which grows more and more agitated every moment. He could bring in his Roman troops to quell the rising protest, but what would that mean for his career? Then he looks at Jesus, standing silently by his side. No one steps forward to defend Him and Jesus doesn’t do anything to defend Himself. If Pilate wants to save his career, he has to sacrifice Jesus.

Luke tells us that Pilate “delivered Jesus over,” using the exact words he used of Judas’ action. Both betrayed Jesus to those Jewish authorities who sought His life. According to Matthew 27:24, Pilate takes water, and in the sight of all the court washes his hands and says, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves.”

But Pilate can’t simply hand over his responsibility and shift the blame for this miscarriage of justice. He will go down in history as the one under whose authority God’s innocent Son was crucified.

But Jesus was no helpless victim in this whole process. He didn’t need Pilate’s troops to protect Him. If He wanted, He could have called upon His Father and He would have had vast angel armies at His disposal (see Matthew 26:53). But He permitted this to happen-even taking Pilate’s guilt upon Himself and suffering God’s wrath in His place-as well as yours and mine.

THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, like Pilate I often try to shift the blame for my sins to someone else, or find excuses for what I’ve done. Through Your sacrifice I can stop and confess my guilt-knowing You already paid the full price in my place. Receive my heartfelt thanks. Amen.