Holy Week: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Jesus’ Killers
It’s Holy Week. That time of the year when we zoom in on Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and all the happenings surrounding the historical event that literally split time in two (hello BC + AD).
You should know that I’ve always been drawn to the behind-the-scenes of leaders, athletes, inventors, celebrities, authors, and people in general. And it’s no different with the lives of those recorded in Scripture. I like to soak in the facts but also envision what was going on behind closed doors and beneath the surface.
What’s the story behind the story?
We know quite a bit about the main characters in this epic narrative. We know that Jesus, after living a servant-hearted life and topping it off with a three-year wave of wise teaching and jaw-dropping miracles, surrendered His body as the final sacrifice and payment for humanity’s sin. But not without the excruciating tension of awaiting the death penalty, causing Him to sweat blood—a real condition called hematidrosis, which is caused by severe mental anguish.
We know that Jesus’ disciples scattered from the Garden of Gethsemane at the thought of their own lives being threatened, leaving Jesus to fend for Himself. We know that the religious leaders were hungry for power and control, willing to protect their superiority at the cost of their own integrity. We know that Barabbas was a murderer who was completely let off the hook in exchange for Jesus’ life. We know that many women, including Christ’s own mother and Mary Magdalene, stood at a distance as he was whipped and ripped to an unrecognizable point while dangling on a cross between two rebels.
Another character who’s always struck my curiosity is Pontius Pilate.
Pilate was the Roman prefect (basically a governor, military officer, and judge wrapped into one) over the province of Judea who sentenced Jesus to death. He’s not only mentioned in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), but also by secular writers of that time such as Tacitus, Philo, and Josephus. And just in case anyone still questioned his existence, in 1961 archeologists uncovered what’s now referred to as the Pilate Stone—a block of limestone containing an authentic first-century Roman inscription of Pontius Pilate.
No doubt Pilate was a thinking man. He was a leader, influencer, decision-maker, and ultimately charged under Emperor Tiberius’ rule with keeping the peace—no matter the cost.
Pride stirred within the religious leader’s hearts as they bound Jesus and brought Him before Pilate. After investigating, Pilate declared that Jesus was not guilty.
“You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent.” (Luke 23:14)
But the brazen leaders and frenzied crowd insisted, “Crucify Him!” Pilate’s wife pleaded the opposite. “Leave that innocent man alone,” she begged. “I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” (Matthew 27:19) The scales bounced back and forth until, finally, Pilate washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I’m innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” (Matthew 27:24) Though Pilate seemed to believe Jesus was innocent, he caved to the pressures of a hysterical crowd and ordered Him to the cross.
The last we hear of Pilate is when he granted Joseph of Arimathea permission to take the body away for burial and commanded guards to secure the tomb. But I wish we knew more. Like…
What was his response to the big news?
I picture Pilate and his wife at the breakfast table on Sunday morning—buttering toast, peeling oranges, and sipping fresh milk—when one of his highest-ranking officers bolted into the dining room. Frantically, he tells Pilate what they know: “The tomb is open, the guards aren’t exactly sure what happened, and Jesus’ body? IT’S GONE.” I imagine his wife’s eyes growing big and round as she covered her mouth in shock. I envision Pilate staring at the messenger for an extra long moment before wiping his mouth, taking a hard look at his wife, and briskly exiting the room.
Surely he was already on edge, right? I mean, during the crucifixion the sky went dark, the earth quaked, the temple curtain was torn in two. Even the centurion remarked, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) When Pilate pushed for more information, the soldiers reported an odd thing. While dying, Jesus had called out, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Surely a chill went down his spine when—days later—the rumors started spreading that Jesus was alive, had appeared to a group of women, his disciples, and 500 others—all who were giving eye-witness reports.
Could it be true? No—He was dead. My officers confirmed that blood and water came flowing out of His side when He was pierced. It’s impossible. Maybe His men stole the body. But why would they? And how would they get past our Roman guards? Could He be the Messiah the Jewish Scriptures speak of? Surely not. But what if He is? The prophecies and miracles, his wisdom and forgiveness, the darkness and earthquake, the reports of resurrection. Did I ask, “What is truth?” to the one who is Truth? Did I kill the King of kings?
In many ways, Pilate was faced with the same thoughts and questions we’re up against today.
However, I realize it’s conjecture to imagine how these scenarios played out when we don’t know the full story. I don’t know if Pilate’s heart stayed hard and stubborn, or if he got on his knees and cried out to God after witnessing such miraculous events. I don’t know if he persecuted Christians or became one. I don’t know what happened to his authority or his marriage after this major disruption in the normal flow of life. But chances are, he had to come face to face with himself in the mirror.
Like Pilate, we all have to ask ourselves: What will I do with the resurrection?
C.S. Lewis once said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” And Christianity hinges on one thing (and that one thing is not our preferred volume of worship music or the extent in which we do or do not “follow the rules”). Christianity hinges on the life, death, RESURRECTION, and redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. And without the resurrection, none of it counts or matters.
On that horrible, beautiful, terrible Good Friday, Jesus was led to the cross. Selfish men put Him there, all of OUR sins held Him there, but it was Jesus Himself—empowered by a scandalous, unstopping, redemptive kind of love—who had the courage and wisdom to stay there UNTIL IT WAS FINISHED.
Earlier that day, Pilate had spouted, “Don’t you realize I have the power to release you?” But Jesus responded, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:10-11)
Don’t you see? Jesus willingly faced the sting of death so that resurrection could follow. Not just for Himself, but for us too.
What will YOU do with the resurrection?