Turn to Luke 23:1-5. Remember that Jesus is before the Sanhedrin, the council of the elders. The Sanhedrin did not have the right of the death penalty. If the death penalty was going to be administered to Jesus, they would have to go to Pilate, the Roman authority. As you read there are three things that I want you to be on the lookout for.

First, I want you to note that in verse 2 you will find the charges of guilt by the Sanhedrin against Jesus to Pilate. What's so interesting is how the charge has changed from blasphemy, a religious charge, to treason, a political one. Then, in verse 4, I want you to be on the lookout for Pilate's pronouncement of Jesus’ innocence. This is very important to Luke. Jesus is not on the cross because He deserves to be on the cross. Third, if you’ll look in verse 3, there's the question of kingship. Pilate directly asks Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus answers in a very careful way. If you know the background from John 18, you’ll understand why, because this was a big area that both the Jews and the Romans misunderstood about Jesus, about His claims, and about what the Old Testament said about the Messiah. So I want us to look at the charges of guilt in verse 2, the pronouncement of innocence in verse 4, and the question of kingship in verse 3.

I. Jesus Falsely Charged ]

In verse 2, Luke summarizes more clearly than the other gospels the charges that are brought against Jesus. First of all, they said that He was misleading the nation. Look at verse 2. “We found this Man misleading our nation.” In about AD 6, a tax revolt had been led against the Romans by a Messianic Jew. Roman officials were very concerned about this type of activity, so it's clear that the charges that are being made are political in nature, that He is some sort of a rebel against Roman rule. Secondly, again in verse 2, they say, “He forbids to give tribute to Caesar.” Now this is an outright lie, but it fits into the political charges that they’re bringing against Him.

Then finally, “Saying that He Himself is Christ, a king.” There's a mixture of truth and error in that. He had indeed, when Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” said, “Peter, you’re right, and God's revealed that to you.” But He had been very careful of using either Messianic language or Kingly language because people misunderstood it. So the charge, “He claims to be the Messiah-King,” again has political overtones.  But what Luke wants us to see is that they’re all false. If you take care to listen to Jesus’ own ministry, He is exonerated of these charges.

II. Jesus is Publicly Cleared

The second thing that Luke wants you to see is that He is publicly cleared. Look at verse 4. After questioning Jesus, Pilate says, “I find no guilt in this Man.” Now this is interesting. He asks Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus responds in a way that is very similar to the way that He responded to the Sanhedrin back in verse 70, “You've said it yourself,” which is a reluctant affirmation. But Pilate's response is totally different from the Sanhedrin's response. John 18 explains this reaction, so turn there.

In John 18:36 Jesus begins His answer by saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.” At that point, Pilate is no longer interested in what kind of claims to kingship Jesus has, because the only kingdom that Pilate cares about is the kingdom of the Roman emperor. So he turns to the Jewish leaders and says, “You’re coming to me with these political charges, but I find this Man guiltless of your charges.” So Luke shows you not only Jesus falsely charged; he shows Him publicly cleared. This is important because, when Jesus is on the cross, He is on the cross as an innocent Man, and not only as an innocent Man, but as a Man who is declared innocent by the highest authority of Rome in Jerusalem at the time!

 III. Jesus is the Messiah King

But here's the thing I really want you to see. Look back at verse 3. When Pilate asks, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus’ answer is, “You have said so.” Normally, when we are being interrogated by somebody who wants to do us wrong, our reluctance to answer is because we don't want to incriminate ourselves. It's clear that that is not motivating Jesus at all. Jesus is not trying to avoid the cross by His answer. Why is Jesus answering the way He answers? Well first of all, He can't say, “No, I'm not the Messiah,” because He is! But if He gives an emphatic claim that He is the Messiah, it will be misunderstood. Jesus’ answers in each of these cases are given so carefully, not because He's trying to avoid getting in trouble, but because He wants to be clear on who He is.

By the way, this is one of the testimonies to me of the truthfulness of Scripture. All early Christians believed that Jesus was the Messiah. If you were making up an account of Jesus’ trial and He was asked, “Are You the King of the Jews?” what would you have Him say in response? It would be a very clear, emphatic response, but Luke records these reluctant affirmatives. Why does he do that? Because he's telling you what actually happened!

Why is Jesus being so careful though? Because He is not the kind of King that Pilate and the Sanhedrin think He is. He's not there to kick the Romans out of Judea but to forgive the world of sin. He is an exponentially greater King than the kind of King that the Sanhedrin and Pilate are quibbling about. He says, “You've said it yourself,” precisely so they will not misunderstand who He is and what He's come to do. He's not come for political reform in Palestine; He has come for the bearing of the sins of the world.

And that is why it's so important that Pilate says, “I find no guilt in this Man.” Now it's not that that is a declaration that He has never sinned. Of course that's the declaration that He's not guilty of the charges that have been brought against Him by the Jewish leaders, but Luke has been careful to let you know that this Man never sinned. This is a King with no sin and no guilt, and that is the kind of King that you and I need because we do have sin and guilt. We need a king who can liberate us from that sin and guilt, and the only kind of king who can do that is one who is Himself not in bondage to it. So Jesus is careful in these answers, affirming but correcting, because it's vital for us to understand that as the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of this world, He is the King that came to die for sin though He could never sin. But He died for sin in our place that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Luke wants us to understand that as we continue to make our way to the cross in this gospel.