Luke 23:10
And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.
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(10) The chief priests and scribes.—The accusers seem to have accompanied the Accused. There was nothing strange in the presence of the Sadducean members of the higher priestly order, always courting the favour of the powerful, at the court of the Tetrarch. Among the scribes may have been some of the Herodian section (see Notes on Matthew 22:16), who were likely to gain a hearing there, and had probably come up with their prince from Galilee.



Luke 23:1 - Luke 23:12

Luke’s canvas is all but filled by the persecutors, and gives only glimpses of the silent Sufferer. But the silence of Jesus is eloquent, and the prominence of the accusers and judges heightens the impression of His passive endurance. We have in this passage the Jewish rulers with their murderous hate; Pilate contemptuously indifferent, but perplexed and wishing to shirk responsibility; and Herod with his frivolous curiosity. They present three types of unworthy relations to Jesus Christ.

I. We see first the haters of Jesus.

So fierce is their hatred that they swallow the bitter pill of going to Pilate for the execution of their sentence. John tells us that they began by trying to get Pilate to decree the crucifixion without knowing Jesus’ crime; but that was too flagrant injustice, and too blind confidence in them, for Pilate to grant. So they have to manufacture a capital charge on the spot, and they are equal to the occasion. By the help of two lies, and one truth so twisted as to be a lie, they get up an indictment, which they think will be grave enough to compel the procurator to do as they wish.

Their accusation, if it had been ever so true, would have been ludicrous on their lips; and we may be sure that, if it had been true, they would have been Jesus’ partisans, not His denouncers.’ The Gracchi complaining of sedition’ are nothing to the Sanhedrim accusing a Jew of rebellion against Rome. Every man in that crowd was a rebel at heart, and would have liked nothing better than to see the standard of revolt lifted in a strong hand. Pilate was not so simple as to be taken in by such an accusation from such accusers, and it fails. They return to the charge, and the ‘more urgent’ character of the second attempt is found in its statement of the widespread extent of Christ’s teaching, but chiefly in the cunning introduction of Galilee, notoriously a disaffected and troublesome district.

What a hideous and tragic picture we have here of the ferocity of the hatred, which turned the very fountains of justice and guardians of a nation into lying plotters against innocence, and sent these Jewish rulers cringing before Pilate, pretending loyalty and acknowledging his authority! They were ready for any falsehood and any humiliation, if only they could get Jesus crucified. And what had excited their hatred? Chiefly His teachings, which brushed aside the rubbish both of ceremonial observance and of Rabbinical casuistry, and placed religion in love to God and consequent love to man; then His attitude of opposition to them as an order; and finally His claim, which they never deigned to examine, to be the Son of God. That, they said, was blasphemy, as it was, unless it were true,-an alternative which they did not look at. So blinded may men be by prejudice, and so mastered by causeless hatred of Him who loves them all!

These Jewish rulers were men like ourselves. Instead of shuddering at their crime, as if it were something far outside of anything possible for us, we do better if we learn from it the terrible depths of hostility to Jesus, the tragic blindness to His character and love, and the degradation of submission to usurpers, which must accompany denial of His right to rule over us. ‘They hated Me without a cause,’ said Christ; but He pointed to that hatred as sure to be continued towards Him and His servants as long as ‘the world’ continues the world.

II. We have Pilate, indifferent and perplexed.

Luke’s very brief account should be supplemented by John’s, which shows us how important the conversation, so much abbreviated by Luke, was. Of course Pilate knew the priests and rulers too well to believe for a moment that the reason they gave for bringing Jesus to him was the real one, and his taking Jesus apart to speak with Him shows a wish to get at the bottom of the case. So far he was doing his duty, but then come the faults. These may easily be exaggerated, and we should remember that Pilate was the most ignorant, and therefore the least guilty, of all the persons mentioned in this passage. He had probably never heard the name of Jesus till that day, and saw nothing but an ordinary Jewish peasant, whom his countrymen, like the incomprehensible and troublesome people they were, wished, for some fantastic reason, to get killed.

But that dialogue with his Prisoner should have sunk deeper into his mind and heart. He was in long and close enough contact with Jesus to have seen glimpses of the light, which, if followed, would have led to clear recognition. His first sin was indifference, not unmingled with scorn, and it blinded him. Christ’s lofty and wonderful explanation of the nature of His kingdom and His mission to bear witness to the truth fell on entirely preoccupied ears, which were quick enough to catch the faintest whispers of treason, but dull towards ‘truth.’ When Jesus tried to reach his conscience by telling him that every lover of truth would listen to His voice, he only answered by the question, to which he waited not for an answer, ‘What is truth?’

That was not the question of a theoretical sceptic, but simply of a man who prided himself on being ‘practical,’ and left all talk about such abstractions to dreamers. The limitations of the Roman intellect and its characteristic over-estimate of deeds and contempt for pure thought, as well as the spirit of the governor, who would let men think what they chose, as long as they did not rebel, spoke in the question. Pilate is an instance of a man blinded to all lofty truth and to the beauty and solemn significance of Christ’s words, by his absorption in outward life. He thinks of Jesus as a harmless fanatic. Little did he know that the truth, which he thought moonshine, would shatter the Empire, which he thought the one solid reality. So called practical men commit the same mistake in every generation. ‘All flesh is as grass;. . . the word of the Lord endureth for ever.’

Further, Pilate sinned in prostituting his office by not setting free the prisoner when he was convinced of His innocence. ‘I find no fault in this man,’ should have been followed by immediate release. Every moment afterwards, in which He was kept captive, was the condemnation of the unjust judge. He was clearly anxious to keep his troublesome subjects in good humour, and thought that the judicial murder of one Jew was a small price to pay for popularity. Still he would have been glad to have escaped from what his official training had taught him to recoil from, and what some faint impression, made by his patient prisoner, gave him a strange dread of. So he grasps at the mention of Galilee, and tries to gain two good ends at once by handing Jesus over to Herod.

The relations between Antipas and him were necessarily delicate, like those between the English officials and the rajahs of native states in India; and there had been some friction, perhaps about ‘the Galileans, whose blood’ he ‘had mingled with their sacrifices.’ If there had been difficulties in connection with such a question of jurisdiction, the despatch of Jesus to Herod would be a graceful way of making the amende honorable, and would also shift an unpleasant decision on to Herod’s shoulders. Pilate would not be displeased to get rid of embarrassment, and to let Herod be the tool of the priests’ hate.

How awful the thought is of the contrast between Pilate’s conceptions of what he was doing and the reality! How blind to Christ’s beauty it is possible to be, when engrossed with selfish aims and outward things! How near a soul may be to the light, and yet turn away from it and plunge into darkness! How patient that silent prisoner, who lets Himself be bandied about from one tyrant to another, not because they had power, but because He loved the world, and would bear the sins of every one of us! How terrible the change when these unjust judges and He will change places, and Pilate and Herod stand at His judgment-seat!

III. We have the wretched, frivolous Herod.

This is the murderer of John Baptist-’that fox,’ a debauchee, a coward, and as cruel as sensuous. He had all the vices of his worthless race, and none of the energy of its founder. He is by far the most contemptible of the figures in this passage. Note his notion of, and his feeling to, Jesus. He thought of our Lord as of a magician or juggler, who might do some wonders to amuse the vacuous ennui of his sated nature. Time was when he had felt some twinge of conscience in listening to the Baptist, and had almost been lifted to nobleness by that strong arm. Time was, too, when he had trembled at hearing of Jesus, and taken Him for his victim risen from a bloody grave. But all that is past now. The sure way to stifle conscience is to neglect it. Do that long and resolutely enough, and it will cease to utter unheeded warnings. There will be a silence which may look like peace, but is really death. Herod’s gladness was more awful and really sad than Herod’s fear. Better to tremble at God’s word than to treat it as an occasion for mirth. He who hates a prophet because he knows him to be a prophet and himself to be a sinner, is not so hopeless as he who only expects to get sport out of the messenger of God.

Then note the Lord’s silence. Herod plies Jesus with a battery of questions, and gets no answer. If there had been a grain of earnestness in them all, Christ would have spoken. He never is silent to a true seeker after truth. But it is fitting that frivolous curiosity should be unanswered, and there is small likelihood of truth being found at the goal when there is nothing more noble than that temper at the starting-point. Christ’s silence is the penalty of previous neglect of Christ’s and His forerunner’s words. Jesus guides His conduct by His own precept, ‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs’; and He knows, as we never can, who come into that terrible list of men to whom it would only add condemnation to speak of even His love. The eager hatred of the priests followed Jesus to Herod’s palace, but no judicial action is recorded as taking place there. Their fierce earnestness of hate seems out of place in the frivolous atmosphere. The mockery, in which Herod is not too dignified to join his soldiers, is more in keeping. But how ghastly it sounds to us, knowing whom they ignorantly mocked! Cruelty, inane laughter, hideous pleasure in an innocent man’s pain, disregard of law and justice-all these they were guilty of; and Herod, at any rate, knew enough of Jesus to give a yet darker colouring to his share in the coarse jest.

But how the loud laugh would have fallen silent if some flash had told who Jesus was! Is there any of our mirth, perhaps at some of His servants, or at some phase of His gospel, which would in like manner stick in our throats if His judgment throne blazed above us? Ridicule is a dangerous weapon. It does more harm to those who use it than to those against whom it is directed. Herod thought it an exquisite jest to dress up his prisoner as a king; but Herod has found out, by this time, whether he or the Nazarene was the sham monarch, and who is the real one. Christ was as silent under mockery as to His questioner. He bears all, and He takes account of all. He bears it because He is the world’s Sacrifice and Saviour. He takes account of it, and will one day recompense it, because He is the world’s King, and will be its Judge. Where shall we stand then-among the silenced mockers, or among the happy trusters in His Passion and subjects of His dominion?

Luke 23:10-12. And the chief priests and scribes — Whose malice had brought them to attend him thither; stood — In the presence of the king; and vehemently accursed him — Doubtless as an enemy to Cesar, and guilty of seditious practices, crimes which they had laid to his charge before Pilate. Observe, reader, it is no new thing for good men and good ministers, who are real and useful friends to the civil government, to be falsely accused as factious and seditious, and enemies to the government. Herod, with his men of war — Namely, those of his soldiers who now attended him as his life-guard; set him at naught — Treated him in a very contemptuous manner, as a despicable person beneath their notice; and who no way answered the account they had heard of him, as he neither said nor did any thing to gratify their curiosity. And arrayed him in a gorgeous robe — Herod, finding himself disappointed in his expectation of seeing Jesus work miracles, ordered him to be clothed with a robe, in colour like those which kings used to wear, and permitted his attendants to insult him. Thus Herod, who had been acquainted with John the Baptist, and had more knowledge of Christ too, and of religion, than Pilate had, was more abusive to Christ than Pilate was: for knowledge without grace does but make men more ingeniously wicked. Our Lord’s being dressed in this manner by Herod’s order, shows, that here also the priests had accused him of having assumed the titles and honours belonging to the Messiah; for the affront put upon him was plainly in derision of that pretension. The other head of accusation, his having attempted to raise a sedition in Galilee, on account of the tribute, they durst not touch upon, because Herod could not fail to know the gross falsehood of it. Herod’s usage of our Lord was exceedingly insolent, but, perhaps, the remorse of conscience, which he had felt on account of the murder of John the Baptist, might render him cautious how he joined in any attempt on the life of Jesus, which we do not find that he ever did. The expression, εσθητα λαμπραν, which we render, a gorgeous robe, is translated in the Vulgate, veste alba, a white garment, and by Erasmus, Castalio, Beza, and in the Zurich translation, veste splendida, a shining garment. “Though the Greek word may be rendered either way,” says Dr. Campbell, “I prefer the latter, as denoting that quality of the garment which was the most remarkable; for this epithet was most properly given to those vestments, wherein both qualities, white and shining, were united. Such white and splendid robes were worn in the East by sovereigns.” And he sent him again to Pilate — Without further injury, thereby intimating, that he left him to do what he pleased with his prisoner, but that, for his own part, he apprehended his pretensions to royalty worthy of derision rather than serious resentment. And the same day Herod and Pilate were made friends together — Whatever Pilate’s real intentions were, in sending Jesus to Herod to be examined by him, his doing this was so well taken by the latter; and Herod’s sending him back to the Roman governor was, on the other hand, such a public instance of regard to him, that this mutual obligation, with the messages that passed between them on this occasion, brought them to a better understanding one of another, than there had been of late between them. For before they were at enmity between themselves — The cause of this enmity can only be conjectured: perhaps it might be the slaughter which Pilate had made of some of the Galileans, who had come up to offer sacrifices at Jerusalem, spoken of Luke 13:1; or, perhaps, Pilate had encroached upon Herod’s jurisdiction, by giving judgment in causes which concerned his subjects: and therefore Herod, looking upon the sending of Jesus to him to be judged, because he was a Galilean, as a reparation for former offences, was forthwith reconciled to Pilate. Observe, reader, how those who quarrelled with one another, could yet unite against Christ, as Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek, though divided among themselves, were confederate against the Israel of God, Psalm 83:7.

23:6-12 Herod had heard many things of Jesus in Galilee, and out of curiosity longed to see him. The poorest beggar that asked a miracle for the relief of his necessity, was never denied; but this proud prince, who asked for a miracle only to gratify his curiosity, is refused. He might have seen Christ and his wondrous works in Galilee, and would not, therefore it is justly said, Now he would see them, and shall not. Herod sent Christ again to Pilate: the friendships of wicked men are often formed by union in wickedness. They agree in little, except in enmity to God, and contempt of Christ.Vehemently accused him - Violently or unjustly accused him, endeavoring to make it appear that he had been guilty of sedition in Herod's province. 10. stood and vehemently accused him—no doubt both of treason before the king, and of blasphemy, for the king was a Jew. See Poole on "Luke 23:1"

And the chief priests and Scribes,.... The sanhedrim that followed him from Pilate's hall, to Herod's palace; fearing, lest Herod should be disposed to let him go, should he gratify him by working a miracle:

stood; before Herod; so witnesses, and accusers, used to do; See Gill on Mark 14:57.

and vehemently accused him; of the same things they had accused him before Pilate, with great bitterness and constancy, increasing, and aggravating the charges against him.

And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.
Luke 23:10-12. Εἱστήκεισαν] they stood there. They had brought Him to Herod.

εὐτόνως] with passionate energy. Comp. 2Ma 12:23; Acts 18:28, often in the Greek writers.

Luke 23:11. Prudently enough Herod does not enter into the charges,—frivolously enough he thinks that justice will be done to the obstinate enthusiast as to a fool, not by means of investigation and punishment, but by contempt and mockery.

σὺν τοῖς στρατεύμασιν αὐτοῦ] These troops are the body of satellites by whom He is surrounded.

ἐσθῆτα λαμπρ.] a gorgeous robe, which is not to be defined more strictly. A toga candida (Polyb. x. 4. 8, x. 5. 1), which Beza, Kuinoel, Lange, and others suppose, is less in accordance with the situation, in which Jesus was to be caricatured, not as a candidate, but as a king. As such He was to appear again before Pilate splendidly clothed (but whether actually in purple or not is not expressed in the word). Comp. Xen. Cyrop. ii. 4. 5. Bengel, moreover, aptly remarks: “Herodes videtur contemtim voluisse significare, se nil metuere ab hoc rege.”

Luke 23:12. ὄντες] along with ὑπάρχειν, for the, sake of making the situation more strongly prominent. See Dissen, ad Dem. de Cor. p. 258 f.

πρὸς ἑαυτούς] not ἀλλήλους this time, simply “ut varietur oratio,” Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. 2. 6. 20. The cause of the previous enmity is unknown; possibly, however, it had originated from disputes about jurisdiction, since that consideration of Herod’s jurisdiction (of the fori originis), even although Herod prudently made no further use of it, but sent back the accused, brought about the reconciliation. According to Justin, c. Tr. 103, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod to please him (χαριζόμενος).


The narrative of the sending to Herod (comp. Acts 4:27) has the stamp of originality, and might as an interlude, having no bearing on the further course of the history, easily disappear from the connection of the tradition, so that its preservation is only due to Luke’s investigation; and even John, in his narrative of the trial before Pilate, leaves it entirely out of consideration. He leaps over it after the words: ἐγὼ οὐδεμίαν αἰτίαν εὑρίσκω ἐν αὐτῷ, Luke 18:38 (not after Luke 23:40, Tholuck, Olshausen), and hence makes Pilate immediately connect the words of Luke 23:39, which in the narrative of Luke correspond to the words of Luke 23:16. But not as though John had not known the intervening incident (de Wette; a conclusion in itself wholly improbable, and going much too far; such, for example, as might be applied equally to the Lord’s Supper, to the agony in the garden, etc.); but, on the contrary, in accordance with the freedom of his peculiar composition, since all the evangelists did their work eclectically. Lightly Strauss, II. p. 500, satisfied himself with the conjecture that the “anecdote” arose from the endeavour to place Jesus before all possible judgment-seats in Jerusalem. Baur, however (Evang. p. 489), derives the narrative from the endeavour to have the innocence of Jesus attested as conspicuously as possible in the anti-Judaic interest, to lay the guilt on Judaism, and to relieve Pilate as much as possible from the burden (so also Schenkel, p. 405); comp. Eichthal’s frivolous judgment, ii. p. 308.

Luke 23:10. οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, etc., priests and scribes, there too, having followed Jesus, afraid that the case might take an unfavourable turn in their absence.—εὐτόνως, eagerly (Acts 18:28).

10. and vehemently accused him] They were now bent on securing their purpose, and perhaps feared that Herod’s well-known weakness and superstition might rob them of their prey;—especially as he was much less afraid of them than Pilate was, having strong influence in Rome.

Luke 23:10. Εὐτόνως [vehemently, Engl. Vers.], severely[253]) Acts 18:28. Priests often have zeal, though a false zeal; courtiers have none at all: owing to which fact the latter often assail the truth more lightly than do the former. Herod had it in his power at the time, and therefore ought to have let Jesus go free.

[253] ‘Rigide.’ Εὐτόνως from τείνω, straining every nerve. Wahl translates it ‘acriter,’ “cum contentione,” with bitter eagerness. It occurs only here and Acts 18:28, in the New Testament. In the latter place it is said of Apollos, “He mightily” or rather, “with stern earnestness, convinced the Jews.”—E. and T.

Luke 23:10Vehemently (εὐτόνως)

Only here and Acts 18:28, of the preaching of Apollos. Originally the word means well-strung; hence, in medical language, of a well-toned body.

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