Pilate, a Blood Red Moon, & the Global Earthquake

Matthew 27:11-54 :

Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?” But he did not answer him one word, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had handed him over. While he was still seated on the bench, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.” The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus. The governor said to them in reply, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha — which means Place of the Skull —, they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall. But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink. After they had crucified him, they divided his garments by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And they placed over his head the written charge against him: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews. Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left. Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, if you are the Son of God, and come down from the cross!” Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” The revolutionaries who were crucified with him also kept abusing him in the same way. From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “This one is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, ‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.” But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”


A lot of folks say that they still feel bad for Pontius Pilate.  Like he didn’t get his fair place in His-story and what choice did he really have in determining the final fate of Jesus Christ?  This Roman Prefect (governor) of Judaea (26–36 A.D.) under the Roman Emperor Tiberius was a notorious ruler of the Roman-occupied region who was regularly squelching Jewish insurrection efforts including crucifying thousands of Jews (including the two on the right and left hand of Jesus Christ at Calvary).  It is estimated that there were roughly 10,000 crucifixions per year during Rome’s occupation of the Jewish Nation.  Pilate was eventually ordered back to Rome to stand trial for cruelty and oppression; particularly on the charge that he had executed men without proper trials (sound familiar?). According to Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical His-story, Pilate killed himself on orders from the Emperor Caligula.  But, what’s interesting about the Gospel of Matthew is how it highlights Pilate’s Wife telling him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man. I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”  But, His-story shows that Pilate went through with the crucifixion regardless.  In fact, His-story and science give us quite a bit of context for what happened that fateful day at the “place of skull” (no irony there, folks).  If you go back through the historical records, you’ll find that there was a blood red moon (as Isaiah had predicted over 700 years earlier in Isaiah 13:9-10 – “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.”).  Astronomers (using Thomas Kepler’s methods) know that things like blood red moons come around like clockwork; so, it’s easy to see this at any point in His-story.  Also, Thallus, a historian in 52 A.D., recorded an eclipse of the sun at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Tertullian, a Roman, said that it was a cosmic world event.  Phlegon, a Greek, wrote in 137 A.D. that it happened in the 4th year of the 202nd olympiad (33 A.D.); he said, “It became night on the 6th hour of the day (Noon) and there was a great earthquake in Bithynia and things were overturned in Nicea.”  The earthquake was also recorded in Rome, Greece, and the U.K.  Geologists have determined that there was a widespread earthquake in 31 B.C. and an early first century seismic event that happened sometime between 26 A.D. and 36 A.D.  So, the day and date of the crucifixion (Good Friday) are known with a fair degree of scientific precision.  Also, there are at least 39 ancient sources documenting the life of Jesus with 100+ facts – with 24 of those speaking to His Divinity.  But, does all of this really matter?  If we don’t truly want to Believe, then all of the evidence in the world might never be enough for us to turn to Jesus.  So, it all comes down to this as famously-quoted in the movie, “God’s Not Dead”, “Do you Believe?”  And, if so, ”Then, what are you going to do about it?”  It’s time to “do” something about it – right here and right now…

Published by Gregg McDonald

Gregg McDonald is a Founding Member of Men As Christ (MAC); an int'l Christian Faith Group that shares the Word of God with ~30,000 people around the world in 114 countries. He is all about Faith, Family, and Love and enjoys the opportunity to share God's love with everyone.

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