The chief priests in Jerusalem brought Jesus to Pilate. They told Pilate that he needed to kill Jesus, accusing him of being an insurrectionist, accusing him of telling the people to not pay taxes to Rome, and accusing him of being the king that would overthrow the Roman government.
Of course, Jesus didn’t say that he would do any of these things. Instead, the Jews twisted his words to make him sound as if he were saying things that he didn’t say.
To his credit, Pilate examines Jesus and even goes through the “proper channels” of sending Jesus to be interrogated by Herod, the governor over the region of Galilee, but in the end, he finds no guilt in Jesus.
Twice, Pilate goes back to the chief priests and says that he is not guilty. In fact, he says that he doesn’t even find a basis for a charge against Jesus:
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.Luke 23:13-14
In the case, Pilate declares that not only is Jesus not guilty, he says that he doesn’t even find a reason to charge Jesus with a crime. He is innocent!
The difference of innocence
Of course, from a spiritual perspective, the judgment of Pilate makes little difference. The judgment of man is frequently wrong and off-base. In fact, in Luke chapter 23, we see that Pilate later decides to pacify the people and kill Jesus anyway, despite his pronouncement of innocence of Jesus. Clearly this is a wrong judgment. Innocent people shouldn’t die.
Beyond this, the Jewish leaders also used wrong judgment. In their zealousness and jealousy, they created charges against Jesus out of their lies and twisting of the truth.
So, we shouldn’t solely make spiritual decisions based on the actions and judgments of men, just as we see that we shouldn’t based on the judgments of the men in this story. However, it is instructive that Pilate doesn’t find a reason to charge Jesus with a crime because it lends to the credibility of Jesus’s claim of being a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus’s death despite his innocence makes all of the difference.
If Jesus wasn’t innocent, if he wasn’t without sin, his death would be just like any of the rest of us. He would die because he was guilty. But he wasn’t guilty. He didn’t sin. Instead, he was innocent. And because he was innocent, his death could be one sacrifice for all.
Innocent blood is being sacrificed. One sacrifice that would suffice for all who would put their faith and trust in that sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins. Jesus as the Innocent One, takes the wrath and punishment from God for the sins that each of us have committed upon himself. As the Innocent One, Jesus becomes the sacrifice that is substituted for our crimes, our sins, so that we can live.