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November 7, 2023

John Part 52

In last week’s lesson we looked at the trial of Jesus by the Jews.




John 18:13-27

[results of my research to determine who is the disciple mentioned in John 18:15-16, referred to as “another disciple” who is “known to the high priest,” – was he the apostle John? Andrew, James or one of the other 12 disciples? Judas? Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, the unnamed “certain man carrying a jar of water” in whose house Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal (Luke 22 connects this man with Peter) – we don’t know!]

In last week’s lesson we looked at the trial of Jesus by the Jews. He stood face to face with the Jewish leaders who hated Jesus and who had wanted Him dead for some time. They determined as far back as John 5:18, that Jesus was a blasphemer. Why? Because He claimed equality with God. And according to their law, Lev 24:16, He must be put to death. So Jesus first appeared before Annas the high priest (revered by the Jews as the real high priest appointed for life). This is the portion of the trial John’s gospel focuses on (last week’s lesson). Jesus was interrogated, beaten, treated with contempt. There were no witnesses or charges presented, so they should have released Jesus. Instead they led Him to Caiaphas (the acting high priest, son-in-law of Annas). In an illegal trial (held in secret in the middle of the night) Jesus stood before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. They decided to put Jesus to death (Matthew 26). But it was an illegal trial. So, in order to legitimize their findings they reconvened at dawn in the council chambers of the Sanhedrin and formalized their charges against Jesus again determining that Jesus must die (Luke 22).

If you read all the gospel accounts of the various phases of the Jewish trial there are 7 charges that are levied against Jesus. In Matt 26 they said that Jesus threatened to destroy the Temple. In John 18:30 they called Him an evildoer (generic). In Luke 23 several charges. They said that He perverted the nation. They said that He forbid the payment of a tax tribute to Caesar. They said that He stirred up the people. And they said that He presented Himself as king. None of these was true. There was no evidence, no foundation for any of it. However their last charge against Jesus was that He made Himself out to be the Son of God. He claimed to be deity. And while that is true, the Jewish leaders jumped to the false conclusion that this was blasphemy and this is why they determined He must die.  

But the Jews have a problem. They don’t have the authority to put Jesus to death. Only the Romans can do that. So their next step is to bring Jesus to the Roman authority, to the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. And that’s what we will be looking at today, beginning in John 18:28.

Now at this point someone might ask the question – if the Jews don’t have the authority to execute someone then how is it that they stoned Stephen to death in Acts Ch 7? The answer to this is that what happens to Stephen later on will be an illegal act of mob violence. The Jews couldn’t do that with Jesus at this time. Jesus is very popular with the people. Just a few days prior to our text here the masses had hailed Jesus as their Messiah. So whatever the Jewish leadership does (as they attempt to get rid of Jesus) they have to do it secretly, away from the scrutiny of the masses. This has to be legitimately carried out by the Romans. So with this in mind let’s pick up the action in verse 28…

I 28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" 30 They answered him, "If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you." [notice they don’t mention any formal charges] 31 Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." The Jews said to him, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death." 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. [even though Pilate gives them permission to stone Jesus to death they don’t]  I 33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" 35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." I 37 Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." 38 Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, "I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?" 40 They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber.

Jesus is brought to Pontius Pilate’s headquarters aka the Roman Praetorium. This would be part of the Roman garrison at Antonia Fortress, located adjacent to the NW corner of the Temple [show picture].

This is where Pilate is staying and where he carries out his official business. Pilate’s official residence is at the port city of Caesarea (near modern day Tel-Aviv), so that residence typically served as his Praetorium. However, at this time Pilate is in Jerusalem, presumably to keep an eye on the rebellious Jews during one of their biggest feasts.

V 28 mentions that the Jews did not enter Pilate’s headquarters because they didn’t want to defile themselves. Association with Gentiles is NOT mentioned in the OT law as being one of the ways one could be defiled, or made unclean. This was a practice the Jews adopted later because of their extreme prejudice against Gentiles.

V 28 goes on to say that the Jews did not want to be defiled in order that they might eat the Passover. This is going to come up again in Ch 19, so let me briefly address it now. Matthew, Mark and Luke all mention that the Last Supper was the Passover meal. But here in v 28 and later in Ch 19 John mentions that later on this day was the Passover. So how could Jesus celebrate the Passover on Thursday night when John clearly states the Passover is on Friday? Harold Hoehner, DTS professor resolves this by how the Galileans (Jesus and His disciples) and Judeans (those in Jerusalem) define a day.

So Pilate goes out and tries to determine what the Jewish leader’s issue with Jesus is, v 29, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" And what charge do they bring against Jesus to Pilate? Nothing, nada, zilch. Their only response is sarcastic, “Do you think we would be wasting our time bringing this man to you if He were innocent?” So Pilate, a little put out at this point tells them, v 31, to go and deal with Jesus according to their own law. He doesn’t want anything to do with this situation. It’s a Jewish matter, not a Roman matter, handle it yourself. According to Jewish law this would mean taking Jesus outside the city walls and stoning Him to death. Pilate is basically giving them permission to do this. He’s simply trying to keep the peace. He doesn’t want any trouble. Now the Jews don’t do what Pilate suggests. Instead, v 31 they say, "it is not lawful for us to put anyone to death." John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit offers us a reason why the Jews don’t stone Jesus to death. They could have. They had Pilate’s OK. John says, v 32, “this was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” Back in John 12 Jesus, addressing a crowd of people in the Temple, said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” John tells us what Jesus meant by that in the next verse: “He said this to show by what kind of death He was going to die.” The Romans executed criminals by lifting them up on a cross as opposed to the way the Jews did it, by throwing the accused down on the ground and stoning them to death. So in our passage here in John 18 we see yet another example of how God’s sovereignty, fulfilling Jesus’ prediction, works in conjunction with the free will of man, in this case the Jewish leaders. The Jewish leaders opt against stoning Jesus and they insist that Pilate sentence Jesus to death. This puts Pilate in a difficult position. He wants to keep the peace with the Jews but he can’t in good conscience execute an innocent man.

So Pilate at this point realizes he can’t just pass Jesus off to the Jews to handle themselves, so he brings Jesus inside for formal questioning. And in v 33 and following we have this exchange between Jesus and Pilate. Why do you suppose Pilate asks Jesus, v 33, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Where did that come from? And that is exactly what Jesus is trying to ascertain by His response in v 34 – “Do you say this of your own accord” (in which case Pilate would mean a political king) or “did others say this about Me?” In other words is this something the Jews mentioned concerning Me (in which case it would be more of a Messianic reference). Pilate responds basically in v 35 that he could care less about Jewish matters, so the question is coming from himself and the rumors he has been hearing. In other words he is asking Jesus if He is a political king. So that’s why Jesus takes the time to clarify what kind of king He is in v 36-37. Jesus basically tells Pilate, “Yes, I am a king, but I’m not the kind of king that you think I am. I’m not a political king. “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus’ kingdom is not tied to the national identity of Israel nor is it a political threat to Rome. “I am NOT that kind of king.” Jesus’ kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. He says, “If My kingdom was of this world then I would have an army of people defending Me against the Jews who delivered Me over to you. But My kingdom is not from this world.”

Before I get to Pilate’s response to Jesus let me interject a comment. We know as Christians who have read our Bible that much to the chagrin of His followers when Jesus came the first time to this earth He did not come to establish an earthly kingdom. That will happen later when He returns again, yet future. How do we know this? From reading the Book of Revelation. Rev 11:15 tells us: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” So Jesus is going to return to earth and when He does He will set up His kingdom in the world and reign over it. That occurs in Revelation 19 when Jesus returns as King of kings and Lord of lords. So we know all of this from reading Revelation. But as Jesus stands before Pilate around 30 A.D. His kingdom is not of this world.

Pilate’s response is rather interesting, in the form of a question, almost a bit derisive, v 37, “So YOU are a king?” Jesus just got done telling Pilate that He has a kingdom, so in Pilate’s mind this must mean that Jesus is some sort of king. This puzzles Pilate. Jesus doesn’t look like any king he’s ever seen. And then Jesus being treated the way He’s being treated? It just doesn’t add up. Of course the problem is that Pilate doesn’t understand what Jesus is talking about. Let’s face it even Jesus own disciples didn’t fully grasp this. So can we expect that Pilate, a pagan Roman governor with a carnal and corrupt mind to understand this, to grasp spiritual truth. This is obvious throughout his conversation with Jesus.

Jesus answers Pilate, v 37, “You say that I am a king.” So Jesus is not denying that He is a king but He goes on to explain further what kind of king He is. He tells Pilate why He came – His purpose. “For this purpose I was born” (a reference to His humanity. At some specific point in time Jesus was born, He became flesh, He took on human form – a baby in a manger in Bethlehem)… “and for this purpose I have come into the world” (here He’s speaking of His deity. So before His birth Jesus existed as God the Son in spirit form in heaven and then later He “came into the world”). Here’s why I came: “--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Remember one of Jesus’ I AM statements: John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus came to revealed God’s truth to us. Throughout the Bible we see God revealing Himself, His character, His will in various ways. Jesus is God’s greatest revelation of Himself. In his introduction to his gospel John says this about Jesus: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us [speaking of Jesus], and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 17) So Jesus came to show God’s grace and reveal God’s truth to us.

Well, again Pilate has no concept of what Jesus is talking about, which should come as no surprise to us. Again in a rather derisive tone Pilate responds, v 38, “What is truth?” This is post modernism at its very essence, the whole idea that there is no absolute truth, that truth is relative. After this Pilate is done questioning Jesus and brings Him back outside to the Jews and he gives them his verdict, “Not Guilty!” He says, v 38, “I find no guilt in Him.” And Pilate is going to repeat this several times as the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion play out as we get into Ch 19.

Pilate knows Jesus is an innocent man. At some point during Pilate’s dealing with Jesus Pilate’s own wife sends word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man.” So Pilate is trying to figure out a way that he can get out of this situation, a way that maybe he can save face without killing Jesus. John doesn’t mention this but the other gospel accounts say that Pilate sends Jesus to King Herod (Luke 23). This is an attempt by Pilate to pass Jesus off to someone else to deal with Him. King Herod sees this as some kind of a joke. He mocks and ridicules Jesus and then sends Him right back to Pilate. That’s where John picks up the narrative in v 39. His previous efforts having failed, Pilate comes up with another idea, a good will gesture of sorts, a Jewish prisoner release. Apparently this is a custom Pilate had started years before and he remembers it, perhaps someone suggested it. So Pilate proposes the release of Jesus. But he misjudges the situation and it backfires on him. Mark 15:11 says that the chief priests stirred up the crowd to release Barabbas instead. John describes Barabbas as “a robber.” When you look at all the gospel accounts together you can see that Barabbas is no petty thief. He’s a really bad guy, a big-time criminal. He’s described in various places as a bandit, a notorious prisoner, a murderer and even an insurrectionist. He is a violent man. In modern terms we might refer to him as a terrorist. Not a good guy at all! And yet this is the kind of man the Jewish leaders want released instead of Jesus. Do you want to hear something interesting? Do you know what the name Barabbas means? It literally means “son of the father.” Jesus had previously referred to Himself as the Son sent by His Father. So the choice set before the people that day was Barabbas, the son of the father or Jesus the Son of the Father. Do you want a violent human thug or the divine Son of God? In Matthew 27:21-25 we read this: “The governor [Pilate] again said to them [to the crowd], ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ [the most important question of all is “what will you do with Jesus Christ?”] They all said, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ And [Pilate] said, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.’ And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’” That is a haunting statement given what we know about the history of the Jewish people ever since.

We’ll get into this more in next week’s lesson but I just wanted to make a point of application in closing: We can sit here in 2019 looking back at that terrible day in history when our Lord Jesus was crucified. And we can say the Romans killed Jesus. And we’d be right. Or we can say the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus. The Jewish leaders were culpable. And again we’d be right. Ultimately we’re all responsible for killing Jesus, aren’t we? After all it was our sin that put Jesus on the cross. But you just can’t ignore that this was all a part of the predetermined plan of God. Listen to Peter’s prayer in Acts 4:27-28: “For truly in this city [Jerusalem] there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.” It was God’s plan. God may have used human instruments to carry out the plan, but it was His plan.

We must all at some point in our life answer the question that Pilate posed to the people that day, “What will you do with Jesus Christ?” You have only two choices. You can either confess Him as Lord believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and be saved (Romans 10:9). Or you can reject Him. If you reject Him then Hebrews 6:6 says you are crucifying once again the Son of God and holding Him up to contempt. The result of doing that is God’s wrath and judgment upon you. You either take Jesus at His word that He’s the Son of God, that His word is truth OR you reject Him and perish. It is not sufficient just to say Jesus was a good man, or a good moral teacher or, like Pilate, to say that He was innocent. It is not enough to closely associate yourself with His people. No, you must confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Be bold in your witness for Him. Knowing this truth let others know what they have to do to be saved.  

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John 18:13-27

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