What Is In Your Heart?
So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.
There was certainly no love lost between Pilate and these hypocritically pious Jews. Pilate was not the least bit duped by their false pretence–he saw right through their charade. Matthew’s gospel tells us Pilate was aware of the motives behind these Jewish leaders’ actions:
For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him. (Matthew 27:18)
Pilate was well aware of these leaders envy and fear over Jesus’ growing popularity and following. He had witnessed the love, acclaim, and wild enthusiasm the Jewish nation had for their King. Certainly he had heard about–if not been privy to see–the great throngs assembled together shouting “Hosanna”, and waving palm branches (symbols of victory) at Jesus’ triumphal entry, and ascribing Messianic titles to Him. John tells us earlier in his gospel:
The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” (John 12:12-13)
But it was the Jewish leaders in our verses for today causing this annoying raucous for Pilate, not the masses. These leaders wanted Jesus dead and if possible, they wanted the deed done by the hands of the Romans. They wanted to keep everything legal in the eyes of man, always desirous of justifying their external behavior. Never mind that their hearts were hardened and dead.
Yet the Jewish leader’s flawed actions were merely the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic words–another confirmation that our Lord was exactly who He said He was!
Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:17-19)
Take It to Heart
What the Jewish leaders failed to realize is that God values what is in the heart over the pretence of righteous actions. He always judges on the basis of why we do what we do.
All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
“Our Lord does not care so much for the importance of our works as for the love with which they are done.” (Teresa of Avila)