Based on Matthew chapter 26 verse 69 to chapter 27 verse 26
Peter’s failure and Pilate’s Trial
While Jesus was being tried by the leaders of Israel, Peter sat outside in the cold courtyard. He was thinking about how Jesus had encouraged them to pray with Him on the Mount of Olives and how they’d let Him down by falling asleep. But there was something else Jesus had said that’d hurt his pride – ‘What was it?’ he thought as he waited to hear what would happen to Jesus.
As he sat there, thinking about all that’d happened, how Judas had betrayed Jesus and how Jesus had been arrested, a young servant girl walked up to him staring closely at his face in the firelight. ‘I thought so,’ she said out loud, ‘you were one of those with Jesus.’
A surge of fear rushed through Peter’s body and he felt his cheeks flush, ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.’ And he stood up and walked over to the gate.
But a little later, while he was standing at the gate, another servant girl came up and also looked at him closely. ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth,’ she told the people standing around.
Again Peter felt the surge of fear, the flushing of his cheeks and, looking nervously at the people around him who were paying him much closer attention now, he swore an oath! ‘Look, I promise, I don’t even know the man – leave me alone.’
As Peter moved away again to another part of the courtyard, some other people started murmuring to each other nearby. After talking to each other for a few moments, they came over to Peter. ‘You must have been one of His followers,’ they said, ‘we can tell from your accent.’
‘Leave me alone,’ Peter shouted, ‘I swear by God Himself that I do NOT know this man!’ (P) No sooner had the words come out of his mouth than the cockerel crowed. And Peter remembered the thing that had bothered him earlier, the thing that had hurt his pride. It was Jesus’ words to him, ‘Before the cockerel crows you will have said three times that you don’t know me.’ And so Peter went away, crying bitterly. (PAUSE)
Early the next morning all the leaders of Israel met once again to work out how they were going to persuade the Romans to sentence Jesus to death. Then they bound Jesus up tightly and took Him to Pilate, the Roman governor.
Judas had been paid thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. But early the next day, when he realised that Jesus had been sentenced to death – he was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt! Going back to the temple with the money, he went to see the chief Priests. ‘I’ve sinned,’ he told them, ‘by betraying an innocent man.’
‘So what,’ they replied, ‘what do we care? That’s your problem.’ So Judas took the thirty pieces of silver, threw them onto the floor of the temple and went out and hung himself. (PAUSE)
By this time Jesus was standing before the Roman governor Pilate. Pilate wasn’t too happy about being made to work so early in the morning. And to make matters worse, the Jews refused to go into his palace to see him because it would make them ceremonially unclean and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the Passover feast. (P) Anyway, at their insistence, Pilate went to see them. ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ he asked, looking Jesus up and down.
‘Yes, that’s right,’ replied Jesus.
Then the chief priests and the other leaders made all their accusations against Jesus as Pilate patiently listened. But all the time these lies were being told about Him, Jesus said nothing. ‘Can’t You hear what they’re saying against You?’ Pilate demanded. But to Pilate’s great surprise Jesus remained silent.
Now it didn’t take a genius to work out that the Jewish leaders had arrested Jesus out of jealousy, so Pilate decided he’d take the opportunity to use a custom that he’d set in place over the last few years. It had become his custom, once a year at the Passover celebrations, to release one prisoner to the crowds, anyone they wanted. This last year a particularly evil man named Barabbas had been caught, arrested and sentenced to death for leading a rebellion and for murder. As the crowds started to gather before Pilate’s palace he called out to them, ‘Which of these two do you want me to release to you? Barabbas or Jesus, who is called the Messiah?’
At that moment, as Pilate sat on his seat of judgement before the people, an urgent message came through to him from his wife. ‘Your wife says that you must leave that innocent man alone,’ the messenger reported, ‘because she says that she had a terrible nightmare about Him last night.’ But it was too late to back down now; Pilate had to see the thing through.
Meanwhile, while Pilate received the message from his wife, the chief priests and the other leaders urged the crowds to ask for Barabbas to be set free and for Jesus to be put to death! So when Pilate asked again, ‘Which of these two do you want me to release?’ The crowds screamed ‘Barabbas,’ and not ‘Jesus’!
‘But if I release Barabbas to you,’ Pilate called back, ‘then what should I do with the one called Jesus, the Messiah?’
And then, the same crowd who a week earlier had waved palm branches welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem as the long-awaited Messiah shouted, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’
Pilate couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The Jews hated crucifixion! It was a Roman punishment to put to death the lowest kinds of criminals! And so he called back to the crowd, ‘Why should I crucify Him? What crime has He committed?’
But the crowd’s mood started to change, and more angrily and louder than before they shouted back, ‘Crucify Him!’
Quickly Pilate realised that the situation was in danger of becoming a riot! So, with the crowd watching he called for a bowl of water, and washing his hands in front of them he said, ‘I declare before you all that I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!’
At this, the people yelled back, ‘Let the responsibility fall on us and our children!’
So Pilate released Barabbas to the crowd and ordered that Jesus be flogged with a whip that had pieces of lead and bone in its strands so that it stuck in His back and pulled the skin off. Then he turned Jesus over to the soldiers so that they could crucify Him. (PAUSE)
And so a guilty man, a man who’d murdered others – walked free, while in His place an innocent man, a man who would do no wrong – was sent to crucifixion! But that was the whole point of what was to follow, the innocent dying for the guilty.