Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” (Luke 23:1-2)
The Indictment Against Jesus
When the Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pilate, they needed to establish a cause as the first step in a criminal proceeding. The indictment or Nominis Delatio against Jesus was that He was perverting the nation with His teaching. He taught the people to refuse to pay tribute to Caesar, placing Himself as Christ, a king. Pilate ignored the first two parts of the indictment and touched on the matter of high treason, the charge against the prisoner. Jesus answered Pilate with respect to his authority to interrogate Him judicially but explained to the Roman ruler His kingship was a spiritual kingdom. The defense of Jesus was clear; the indictment against Him was false, and Pilate immediately saw the shallow ground of the charges brought by the Sanhedrin. Hearing the answer of Jesus, Pilate declares an acquittal.
In a bold and radical move by the Jewish authorities, the crowds became more fierce in their insistence on a guilty verdict against Jesus. Seeking to appease the masses and deflect the responsibility of his office, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. This act by Pilate was illegal as an acquittal had already been established. Sending Jesus to Herod was not such much a trial as an examination. When Jesus was returned to Pilate, what proceeded bears little resemblance to a lawful proceeding. A coward sat on the seat of law, and the blind fury of the mob drove the decision to kill Jesus. The result was judicial murder.
Jesus was accused of perverting the nation. The indictment charged the teaching of Jesus excited the people to incitement to rebellion and turmoil. In the early stages of the ministry of Jesus, multitudes in the thousands followed Him. On one occasion, He provided food for five thousand men, not counting the women and children. Many people came to Jesus to be healed of disease. On a few occasions, Jesus raised people from the dead. The Pharisees, scribes, and Chief Priests tried in vain to trap the man from Nazareth in His teaching and failed every time. When Jesus finished the sermon on the mount, the people were amazed He taught with such authority. Jesus never sought to pervert the nation but to convert the nation. The Jewish leadership was envious of Jesus from Nazareth. Pilate could see the charge of perversion was empty.
The second part of the indictment was Jesus leading the people in a tax revolt and refusing to pay taxes Himself. Some Pharisees and supporters of Herod had tried to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They knew Jesus was honest and impartial and refused to play favorites among the people. Jesus was asked directly if He thought it was right to pay taxes to Caesar or not. Seeing through their hypocrisy, Jesus took a Roman coin and asked them whose image was stamped on the coin. He then told them to give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar and give to God what belonged to God. Desperate to show Pilate the evil nature of Jesus, the Jews presented a false indictment against an innocent man. Charging Jesus with forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar was a blatant lie. Pilate ignored the charge.
Jesus was charged with a third crime, calling Himself a king. It was on this part of the indictment that Pilate would focus. It was ill-advised to call oneself a king in the Roman Empire. There were many who tried to revolt against the Romans but were crushed by the iron will of the Roman Army for insurrection. Pilate examined the charge against Jesus and could see that Jesus was only a man who had visions of some spiritual identity to be a king but was no threat to the Roman government. To the more serious parts of the indictment, Pilate found Jesus innocent. The trial should have ended at that moment as the accusation was proven invalid, and no proof was offered to substantiate the charges. Only later, when Pilate ignored Roman law and bent to the will of the mob, he delivered Jesus to be crucified.
The greatest travesty of human jurisprudence took place that day, but the result was the greatest example of divine jurisprudence in the history of man. An innocent man was charged with false accusations; yet the guilt of man was judged that day. Jesus died with sinless perfection before the mob demanding His death. Mercy was given on a day when no mercy was shown. Love poured out in a world filled with hatred. The sacrifice of one man brought salvation to all men. A lamb was sacrificed on the altar of grace so that the human heart could find the joy of peace in a man from Nazareth. The indictment against Jesus was false, and the indictment against man was validated. Jesus Christ is a king – the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.