HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.” So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” 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.
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 some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 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. That day Herod and Pilate became friends–before this, they had been enemies.
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.”
With one voice they cried out, “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. 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.
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
After the Jewish leaders had sent Jesus to Pilate for the official sentencing to death, Judas realised that his friend Jesus was about to be killed and he became full of shame and sorrow for betraying Jesus. He went to the Jewish leaders in the temple courtyard to try and take back his accusations about Jesus and to ask for forgiveness from them.
But the priests and leaders treated him as a common grass, saying it was all his own fault (as it was!). To prove he felt ashamed, Judas threw the 30 silver coins that the Jewish leaders had given him for betraying Jesus back into the temple. He then went and committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree outside the walls of Jerusalem.
(There were a few other legends about how Judas died in the early church, all very gruesome! Some people said that when he hanged himself, his body broke the branch of the tree and that a cart on the road next to the tree ran over his head: and some people said that his body inflated like a balloon until his heart exploded!)
The money that he threw back into the temple gave the priests a real problem. They called it blood money, not because it had been paid to an informant which lead to a prisoners death, but because it was special temple money used to purchase the sacrifices with and was thought to be holy. (This was the money that Jesus got so upset about on the afternoon on Palm Sunday.) It could not be used again within the temple. So they decided to by a field outside the city walls that they could bury strangers who died in Jerusalem and this was where Judas was buried.
It was called the Potter’s field because it would have been mostly clay (plants couldn’t be grown in it), so it would not have been worth very much. The buying of this field completed another old testament prophecy.
Whilst this was happening, the Jewish Authorities took Jesus to the Roman Governor, Pilate, as he was the only one that could pass the death sentence on Jesus. It would have been about 6.30am when Jesus and the Jewish leaders arrived and Pilate’s house. Under Jewish law, Jews were not allowed to go into the house (or even courtyard or garden) of a gentile (a non-Jew) during festivals, especially Passover. Doing so would make them ‘unclean’ and meant that they could not take part in any more of the Passover festivals. On Friday evening, the last Passover meal was to be held and the Jewish leaders would have needed to attend this meal. Because of this law, Pilate came out to meet with the Jewish leaders at his front gates!
Pilate probably didn’t want anything to do with the trial of Jesus (as you will see more of later!), but because of the busy time in the city, he wanted to keep the Jews happy!
The Jewish leaders started by accusing Jesus of being a possible riot starter, by saying that he had told people to not pay taxes. However, in fact, the opposite was the case! At an earlier time in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus was asked if it was right to pay taxes to the Romans. As the coins used to pay taxes had Caesar’s head on it. Jesus replied ‘Give unto Caesar, what is Caesar’s.’
Because of this, the only possible crime for which Jesus could have been arrested under the Roman law was claiming to be a ‘King’ and so saying that he was higher than Caesar. The Jewish leaders knew this and so must have prompted Pilate with the question. This was the same type of law that the Jews had ‘convicted’ Jesus on. But the Jews also had a ‘King’ called Herod, so they really had some very large double standards!
Herod did not usually stay in Jerusalem, but because of the Passover festival, he was staying in the old Jewish Palace during the festival. Herod was really a token King who had no real power (the Romans had all the power!) and was allowed to remain by the Romans as it kept the Jews happy! (Most Jews hated Herod and saw him as a ‘conspirator’ with the Romans.) As Herod was in Jerusalem, Pilate saw a way out of holding a trial for Jesus – by sending him to Herod and letting him deal with Jesus! So Jesus was sent off to Herod.
Herod was very pleased that Pilate had sent Jesus to him. It made Herod look important to the Jewish leaders (they thought Herod was weak for letting the Romans tell him what to do!). Herod had heard a lot about Jesus but hadn’t seen him before. Herod wanted and hoped that, if Jesus really was an important or magical prophet, he would make a good prophecy about Herod or would do some magic for Herod. But Jesus simply stood in front of Herod and said nothing. Again the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of telling the people to rebel and accused him of being a King, but Jesus still said nothing. Herod became angry and mocked Jesus, by getting his own soldiers to put one of Herod’s old royal robes on Jesus and pretending to bow to him. Still, Jesus said nothing, so Herod could not find Jesus guilty of anything. So he had Jesus beaten up (again illegal under Jewish Law!) and sent him back to Pilate. So Pilate still had to decide what to do with Jesus. Pilate then tried another way out…
As a friendly gesture, it was traditional on the Friday morning during the Passover festival, for the Romans to release a prisoner, who had been given a death sentence. When Jesus came back to Pilate, he hoped that he could get rid of and free Jesus using this tradition. It would have now have been between 7.30am and 8.00am. Because of the release of the prisoner, a small crowd had gathered to watch the release. The criminal who had been scheduled for release was a murderer and riot leader called Bar-Abbas. Pilate would have been sitting on the official ‘judgment seat’ which could be seen from the gates by all the crowd. Pilate offered to release Jesus instead of Bar-Abbas. He pleaded with the crowd to let him release Jesus (after he had been whipped again), but the Jewish leaders had put people in the quickly growing crowd to stir them up and call for Bar-Abbas to be released and Jesus to be killed.
Again Pilate appealed to the crowd to let him release Jesus, as he hadn’t done anything wrong. But again, led by the Jewish leaders, the crowd called for Jesus’ death.
Pilate then did something that would have been very surprising to the Jews, perhaps even shocking, he washed his hands in front of them. This was a Jewish tradition that normally only Jewish judges did after they had found nothing wrong with a prisoner, but he had still been condemned to death. It basically meant “Whatever you do to him, it’s nothing to do with me!” and is where we get the expression, ‘washing our hands of something’. This is the only recorded time that a Roman judge did this and it would have been very symbolic that Pilate thought Jesus was a good man and completely innocent. This was still not the official final verdict although Bar-Abbas would have been released at this point.
Jesus was then taken by the Roman guards and again beaten. This would have taken place in the courtyard between the judgment seat and the gates, so everyone would have seen it. Jesus was stripped naked, his hands were rebound and he was tied to a wooden stake. The whip used was made of thin strands of leather with animal knuckle bones tied along the strands. It was designed to cause the most pain and suffering possible and was known as scourging. When it had finished, the soldiers put his upper clothes back on him and lead him back in front of Pilate. At this point the soldiers again stripped Jesus naked and put a purple or scarlet robe on him (purple and scarlet were the colours worn by a King), rammed a ‘crown’ wreath made of sharply spiked thorns on his head and gave him a reed staff in his hand (like a King’s sceptre) and mocked Jesus, calling him the King of the Jews.
Pilate again hoped that this severe beating and mocking would be enough for the crowd and that Jesus could be freed, but again the crowd shouted that Jesus should be killed and crucified (the Roman way of an executing prisoner by hanging them on a cross). Pilate saw that to avoid a riot, he no choice but to send Jesus for execution. When he gave this final decision the crowd (led by the Jewish leaders) cried “We have no King but Caesar!”. This was completely blasphemous against God and was a Jewish crime, the same one Jesus had been convicted of!
Jesus was then led away to be crucified. This would have been about 8.15am.