The gospel of Luke enumerates the false accusations made against the Lord Jesus for which he was wrongfully condemned. These accusations were based on outright lies on the one hand and the misconstruing of his words on the other. Jesus neither subverted the nation nor refused the payment of taxes to Caesar. He averred that what was Caesar’s was to be given to him. In every way as a citizen of Judea Jesus was unimpeachable.
His innocence was amply declared following the malicious allegations made against him. In verse four Pilate announced, “I find no basis for a charge against this man”. As the priests and people intensified their anger toward Jesus, Pilate, having handed him over to Herod for further questioning gave their united verdict.
“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. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death” (verses 13-15). This testimony is very telling. The Herods seemed to be a paranoid lot and would brook no hint of rivalry. Pilate, like- wise, would feel no compunction in putting down rebellion. If these expert noses could not sniff trouble from Jesus then the opposition came entirely from the religious leaders and their sympathizers. It was a matter of envy and prejudice.
After the cry for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus, the preference for the criminal rather than the blameless, Pilate re-iterated his finding that Jesus was indeed innocent. “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty” (verse 22). The felons either side of Jesus discussed their fate and one of them berated Jesus for not delivering them from death. “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” This blasphemy was answered by the other criminal, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence. We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (verses 39-42). Finally, the centurion standing by praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man” (verse 47). Had Jesus fame for goodness spread among the fellow officers of the centurion whose servant Jesus had healed? (Luke 7:1-10).
The testimony to Jesus’ innocence is overwhelming among those who observed him closely. He suffered in our stead for our guilt. This is the apostolic witness recorded in the word of God. Says Peter, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Paul declares, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). The Saviour died to avert divine wrath from us: “He is the atoning (propitiatory) sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). By trust in Christ’s substitutionary death we are justified and take on his innocence. Easter marks the great exchange. Jesus is lifted up on the cross to cancel our condemnation and beckon us to the gift of his righteousness wherein we shall be found acceptable to the Father. He is our refuge against the abandonment he endured in the place of criminal outcasts.