The Crown of Thorns
Pontius Pilate Bible Story
Matthew xxvi: 57, to xxvii: 26; Mark xv: 1 to 15; Luke xxii: 66, to xxiii: 25;
John xviii: 19, to xix: 16.
From the house of Annas the enemies of Jesus led him away bound to the house of Caiaphas, whom the Romans had lately made high-priest. There all the rulers of the Jews were called together, and they tried to find men who would swear that they had heard Jesus say some wicked thing. This would give the rulers an excuse for putting Jesus to death. But they could find nothing. Some men swore one thing, and some swore another; but their words did not agree.
Finally the high-priest stood up, and said to Jesus, who stood bound in the middle of the hall, "Have you nothing to say? What is it that these men are speaking against you?"
But Jesus stood silent, answering nothing. Then the high-priest spoke again, "Are you the Christ, the Son of God?"
And Jesus said, "I am; and the time shall come when you will see the Son of man sitting on the throne of power and coming in the clouds of heaven!"
These words made the high-priest very angry. He said to the rulers, "Do you hear these dreadful words? He says that he is the Son of God. What do you think of words like these?"
They all said, with one voice, "He deserves to be put to death!"
Then the servants of the high-priest and the soldiers that held Jesus began to mock him. They spat on him, and they covered his face, and struck him with their hands, and said, "If you are a prophet, tell who it is that is striking you!"
The rulers of the Jews and the priests and the scribes passed a vote that Jesus should be put to death. But the land of the Jews was then ruled by the Romans, and no man could be put to death unless the Roman governor commanded it. The Roman governor at that time was a man named Pontius Pilate, and he was then in the city. So all the rulers and a great crowd of people came to Pilate's castle, bringing with them Jesus, who was still bound with cords.
Up to this time Judas Iscariot, although he had betrayed Jesus, did not believe that he would be put to death. Perhaps he thought that Jesus would save himself from death, as he had saved others, by some wonderful work. But when he saw Jesus bound and beaten, and doing nothing to protect himself, and when he heard the rulers vote that Jesus should be put to death, Judas knew how wicked was the deed that he had wrought. He brought back the thirty pieces of silver that had been given to him as the reward for betraying his Lord, and he said, "I have sinned in betraying one who has done no wrong!"
But they answered him, "What is that to us? You look after that!"
When Judas saw that they would not take back the money and let Jesus go free, he carried the thirty pieces to the Temple, and threw them down on the floor. Then he went away and hanged himself. And thus the traitor died.
After that the rulers scarcely knew what to do with the money. They said, "We cannot put it into the treasury of the Temple, because it is the price paid for a man's blood."
And when they had talked together, they used it in buying a piece of ground called "the potter's field." This they set apart as a place for burying strangers who died in the city and had no friends. But every one in Jerusalem spoke of that place as "The Field of Blood."
It was very early in the morning when the rulers of the Jews brought Jesus to Pilate. They would not go into Pilate's hall, because Pilate was not of their nation; and Pilate came out to them, and asked them, "What charge do you bring against this man?"
They answered, "If he were not an evil-doer, we would not have brought him to you."
Pilate did not wish to be troubled, and he said, "Take him away, and judge him by your own law!"
The Jews said to Pilate, "We are not allowed to put any man to death, and we have brought him to you. We have found this man teaching evil, and telling men not to pay taxes to the Emperor Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king."
Then Pilate went into his court-room, and sent for Jesus; and when he looked at Jesus, he said, "Are you the King of the Jews? Your own people have brought you to me. What have you done?"
Jesus said to him, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were of this world, then those who serve me would fight to save me from my enemies. But now my kingdom is not here."
Pilate said, "Are you a king, then?"
Jesus answered him, "You have spoken it. I am a king. For this was I born, and for this I came into the world, that I might speak the truth of God to men."
"Truth," said Pilate, "What is truth?"
Then, without waiting for an answer, Pilate went out to the rulers and the crowd, and said, "I find no evil in this man."
Pilate thought that Jesus was a harmless man, but perhaps one whose mind was weak, and he could see no reason why the rulers and the people should be so bitter against him. But they cried out all the more, saying, "He stirs up the people everywhere, from Galilee even to this place."
When Pilate heard the word "Galilee," he asked if this man had come from that land. They told him that he had; and then Pilate said, "Galilee and its people are under the rule of Herod. He has come up to Jerusalem, and I will send this man to him."
So, from Pilate's court-room, Jesus was sent, still bound, to Herod's palace. This was the Herod who had put John the Baptist in prison, and had given his head to a dancing-girl. Herod was very glad to see Jesus, for he had heard many things about him; and he hoped to see him do some wonderful thing. But Jesus would not work wonders as a show, to be looked at; and when Herod asked him many questions, Jesus would not speak a word. Herod would not judge Jesus, for he knew that Jesus had done nothing wrong; so he and his soldiers mocked Jesus, and dressed him in a gay robe, as though he were a make-believe king, and sent him back to Pilate.
So Pilate, much against his will, was compelled to decide either for Jesus or against him. And just as Jesus was standing bound before him a message came to Pilate from his wife, saying, "Do nothing against that good man; for in this night I have suffered many things in a dream on account of him."
Pilate said to the Jews, "You have brought this man to me as one who is leading the people to evil; and I have seen that there is no evil in him, nor has Herod; now I will order that he be beaten with rods, and then set free. For you know that it is the custom to set a prisoner free at the time of the feast."
They set some prisoner free, as a sign of the joy at the feast. And at that time there was in the prison a man named Barabbas, who was a robber and a murderer. Pilate said to the people, "Shall I set free Jesus, who is called the King of the Jews?"
But the rulers went among the people and urged them to ask for Barabbas to be set free.
And the crowd cried out, "Not this man, but Barabbas!"
Then Pilate said, "What, then, shall I do with Jesus?"
And they all cried out, "Crucify him! Let him die on the cross!"
Pilate wished greatly to spare the life of Jesus. To show how he felt, he sent for water, and he washed his hands before all the people, saying, "My hands are clean from the blood of this good man!"
And they cried out, "Let his blood be on us, and on our children after us! Crucify him! Send him to the cross!"
Then Pilate, to please the people, gave them what they asked. He set free Barabbas, the man of their choice, though he was a robber and a murderer; but before giving way to the cry that he should send Jesus to the cross, he tried once more to save his life. He caused Jesus to be beaten until the blood came upon him, hoping that this might satisfy the people. As Jesus was spoken of as a king, the soldiers who beat Jesus made a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, such as was worn by kings, and bowing down before him they called out to him, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
Then, hoping to awaken some pity for Jesus, Pilate brought him out to the people, with the crown of thorns and the purple robe upon him, and Pilate said, "Look on this man!"
But again the cry arose, "Crucify him! Send him to the cross!"
And at last Pilate yielded to the voice of the people. He sat down on the judgment-seat, and gave commands that Jesus, whom he knew to be a good man, one who had done nothing evil, should be put to death upon the cross.