As we have begun to study the most humiliating time of Christ's life, as recorded in John 18, we have found that John manages to glorify Christ as God. The trial before Pilate begins at John 18:28 and extends through John 19:15. Now, in verses 28-38, John introduces us to phase one of the trial before Pilate. This trial had three phases, as did the prior religious trial. In this very humiliating trial, Jesus is brought like a common criminal before His would-be executioners. Yet even in this situation, the magnificence of Jesus Christ becomes very radiant. We see Him as God. And instead of seeing Jesus on trial before Pilate, we see Pilate on trial before Jesus.
The power of this particular portion of Scripture, as in all of the narrative of John's Gospel, lies in the interplay of the personalities involved. The main character is Jesus, and then Pilate and the Jewish leaders are His opposition.
A. The Identification of the Jews
Now when we use the term Jews as John does, we are not referring to the Jewish populace who, for example, shouted hosannas and acknowledged Jesus to be King (Jn. 12:13). But John uses the term Jews in reference to the angry, hostile, anti-Christ Jewish leaders, made up predominantly of the Pharisees and the chief priests. In John's mind, the term Jews is primarily reserved for the Hebrews who are hostile to Christ, whereas there were many Hebrews who were not hostile to Him. In order to understand the scene of the trial, we must understand the Jews -- the leaders.
1. Their Problem
During the Jewish period of history in which Jesus lived, all of the people of Israel were under the bondage of Rome. The Jewish leaders chafed under this bondage. Although Rome was wise, and the peace, called Pax Romana, which they set in the world was very wise in that it allowed a certain degree of self-government for the subjects, they still restricted the right of execution for Rome. So, although the people of Israel were autonomous in the sense that they could operate in their own courts, they could not execute in terms of capital punishment.
Now, the Old Testament had allowed for capital punishment. It had been designed by God as a punishment for sin and to be a deterrent to sin and crime. And now the Jews had the right of capital punishment taken away; consequently, they were at the mercy of Rome, in the legal sense, for the execution of Jesus.
2. Their Plot
The Jewish leaders had long ago plotted to kill Jesus. Caiaphas had made the statement that it was expedient that one man should die, and that man was Jesus (Jn. 11:50). The death of Jesus Christ was a plot -- the religious trial was purely a mockery to carry out the plot. There were no accusations. The indictment before Annas was no indictment. The trial in the middle of the night before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin was a joke. There had not been the slightest hint of justice connected with it.
a. The Hindrance to the Plot
Since they were unable to execute Jesus legally, they had to bring Jesus to the Romans because the right of the sword (the ius gladii) belonged only to them. So even though the Jews had carried out their mock trial and come to the conclusion that He had to die because He claimed to be equal with God, never considering that it was true, they now seek Pilate because they need him to have Jesus executed.
b. The Hysteria Behind the Plot
In tracing the hatred of these Jewish leaders to Jesus Christ, it is important to state that they were apostates. If they had been true Jews inwardly, they never would have responded to their own Messiah like they did (Rom. 2:28-29). First, Jesus was ignored by them, then He irritated them, and finally He became the object of their envy and jealousy. So they hated Him and then they plotted His murder. By the time of the events recorded in John 18, they hated Him with a passion that bordered on hysteria. They hated Him so much that they carried out His false trial in the middle of the night before the crowd could complicate their efforts in the morning. They wanted to deliver Him to the Romans as fast as they could before anyone could change the decision. And by the time Jesus Christ comes before Pilate in John 19, these Jews are found screaming at the top of their lungs in a shrieking kind of madness: "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" In the end they reached an insane kind of hatred that caused them to lose all reason, all mercy, and all humanity.
So, the Jews are prominent in this drama because they were the ones who brought Jesus to Pilate. Now, the death had already been planned -- Jesus had to die. They had to get rid of Jesus because He kept stepping on their ecclesiastical toes and confronting them with painful issues. They were not willing to accept His doctrine of sin and judgment.
B. The Innocence of Jesus
It is so confusing to see this picture of the Jews because Jesus, in total magnificence and total deity, presented Himself to people who should have known Him (if they had really known their own Scripture), and yet their judgment was the absolute, direct opposite of the truth. He was from God -- they concluded He was from Satan. The Friend of sinners was shackled by the hate of sinners. The Judge of all the earth was arraigned before a fallen son of Adam. The Lord of glory was treated like a vile criminal. The Holy One was condemned as a blasphemer. Liars gave false witness against the living Truth. And He who was the resurrection and the life was killed at the hands of men.
Now you say, "Well, why does John take such pains to point all this out? Isn't it kind of humiliating for Jesus? He was rejected by His own people and received much abuse and ridicule. Why would John portray that if his purpose was to portray His exaltation?" There is a very simple reason. From the beginning of the trial until the end of the trial before Pilate, the innocence of Jesus dominates the scene. Pilate begins by saying, "I don't know what the accusation is." He ends by saying, "There's no fault in this Man. What is this all about?" All the way through the trial Pilate keeps trying to get out of the situation because he knows Jesus is innocent and he doesn't want the blood of this just man on his hands. It is almost as if Jesus isn't the One on trial, but Pilate is. Will Pilate do what's right or not? Naturally, since John wants to exalt Jesus, he picks the aspects of the trial which reveal the innocence of Jesus. So, by the time you have studied through the entire trial, you will have seen the magnificence of Jesus Christ and the stupidity of Pilate. Jesus is in total control of the situation.C. The Introduction into Judgment
Now, in leading up to John 18:28, the religious trial has already occurred. The indictment before Annas turned out to be a fiasco as Jesus controlled Annas and left him speechless. It then moved to the middle-of-the-night operation before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, and they decided Jesus must die. Then, early in the morning they held another mock trial before the religious leaders to try to legalize what was illegal because they could not hold a legal trial at night. Having concluded, they are now ready to deliver their prisoner to Pilate because they want His execution to proceed as quickly and as early as possible.
1. The Haste of the Jews
Now, the Roman court opened at sunrise and closed at sunset. The Jews brought Him there as soon as they could. John 18:28 says, "Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment; and it was early...." This was the place where the Roman garrison was kept (likely Fort Antonius, which butts up against the Temple in Jerusalem). Now, the Holy Spirit indicates that "it was early" in order to remind us that this was a hurry-up operation. The Jews wanted to get Jesus into the hands of the Romans for execution before the people could find out what was going on because many of the people were enamored with Jesus Christ. So the whole mob arrives at the hall of judgment just as the dawn is breaking, and they are ready to hand Jesus over for a judgment on execution.
2. The Hypocrisy of the Jews
An interesting insight is in verse 28b: "...And they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover." The Jews were hypocrites. Here they were not willing to enter this Gentile hall so they would not be defiled, yet at the same time they were ready to execute the Messiah. They had their priorities a little backwards.
Beginning in verse 29, John introduces to us seven magnificent characteristics of Christ and weaves them through the narrative. We see Christ exalted in seven ways: The Perfect Man, The Prophetic God, The Preternatural King, The Preincarnate One, The Proclaimer of Truth, The Personal Savior, and The Proven Faultless. All of these things exalt Christ. And all the way through this would-be humiliating situation, Christ is constantly exalted. So, let's see the majestic Jesus in Pilate's judgment hall presented, first of all, as...
I. THE PERFECT MAN (vv. 29-30)
A. The Problem for Pilate (v. 29)
"Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this Man?"
Here we meet Pilate -- a very interesting character. He was convinced of the innocence of Christ -- completely and totally.
1. His Cowardice
The question immediately arises: If he was so convinced (And he must have been an intelligent person or he never would have held his lofty position in the Roman government. He had to have some abilities or he would never have been placed in such a hot spot as Israel to be the ruler for Rome.), why would he act like such a coward? There is a good answer to that question.
a. Blackmail in the Past
Pilate was being blackmailed by the Jews. Let me show you how this happened by giving you some historical background.
1) The Beginning of the Procurators
a) The Separation of Herod's Kingdom
In 4 B.C., Herod the Great was still king in Palestine. When he died, he left a will saying that the kingdom should be divided into three sections for his three sons: Antipas, Archelaus, and Philip the Tetrarch. Now Antipas received Galilee and Perea in the north. Philip received Batanea, Auranitis, and Trachonitis, the wild, uninhabited country east of Galilee. Archelaus, the third son, received Samaria, Judea, and also Idumea. At the time, Archelaus was only about eighteen years old. He turned out to be the worst of the three. Philip and Antipas ruled quietly and fairly. Archelaus was a tyrant and an extortioner. The people hated him. Finally, the Jews persuaded Rome to get rid of him. So, the Romans moved in and they moved Archelaus out.
b) The Substitution for Archelaus
In order to substitute for Archelaus, Rome decided to appoint a series of governors (or procurators, praetors, commanders). Since Palestine was a trouble spot, they decided they also needed Roman legions. Whoever ruled would then have to be a good soldier -- one who could lead the Roman legions. So they placed in Palestine a procurator (or governor). These governors began about A.D. 6.
History tells us that Pilate arrived on the scene in A.D. 26 and remained until A.D. 35, when he was sent home. He just didn't make it in Palestine, so Rome called him home. Some historians say he committed suicide on the way back, some say he was killed by the Romans, and others say he just faded away. But from A.D. 26 to A.D. 35, Pilate exercised the right of procurator over Palestine.
2) The Background of Pilate's Rule
Pilate was a very important person in the fact that he could govern the people, yet he could not, for example, raise taxes or accept bribes. He was not to be some kind of a demigod or some kind of a tyrant; he was to rule fairly and justly...and he was to rule for the Roman emperor. But right from the start, Pilate's term in Israel just didn't go right. Let me give you some incidents that we find in history:
a) The First Incident
In his first visit to Jerusalem, Pilate came to set up his office. Now, the Roman seat of rule in Palestine was not in Jerusalem, but in Caesarea, west to the sea. The main fortress and garrison and Pilate's house were in Caesarea. When he came to Jerusalem, he came with all of the soldiers and standards and flags. On all of the Roman standards there was a sculptured image of the emperor. The emperor was not only the ruler, but he was also god because the Romans believed in emperor worship. So, in actuality, their god was on their standards.
In all of the years before Pilate, the Roman rulers had not kept those images on their standards because they offended the Jews. The Jews were really strong on the idea that they should have no false idols...at least at this point in their history. But Pilate was hard-nosed about this and would not remove them. So he came storming into Jerusalem with these little images of the emperor on the standards. The Jews immediately went to Pilate and told him to remove them, and then begged him to, but he was adamant.
When he finished his business in Jerusalem, he left for Caesarea, and a whole mob of Jews followed him all the way to Caesarea incessantly bugging him for five days to remove the images from the standards. Pilate was so furious that he finally ordered them all to meet him in the amphitheater. He immediately had them surrounded with his soldiers. He then informed them all that if they didn't go back to Jerusalem and stop with the request, he would have them all killed on the spot. But they all just bared their necks and said, "Go ahead. Kill us all." Well, he was stuck. He had tried to scare them, but he was not the kind of a man who would begin his rule in the land by wiping out all of the citizens. He knew that wouldn't set real well with Rome. So he was stuck -- he couldn't massacre defenseless men. He was beaten. He gave in and removed the image from the standards. He started out his rule in Israel as a beaten man. They had him under their thumb from the very beginning.
b) The Second Incident
Now, to make things worse, on one occasion during the first years of his rule, Jerusalem needed more water and the supply was inadequate. Pilate was determined to build a new aqueduct, but he didn't have any money. So he robbed the Temple treasury, which didn't go over real big with the Jews. Evidently there were millions in the Temple treasury, so he found all that he needed. But the people rioted and surged through the streets. Pilate then infiltrated the people with plainclothed Roman soldiers, and at a given signal, the soldiers either clubbed or stabbed many people to death, and that broke up the riot.
c) The Third Incident
Later in Pilate's career, there was the same conflict over the idols. Pilate eventually made a temporary dwelling place in Herod's palace in Jerusalem. In the palace he hung shields on the walls with the name of Emperor Tiberius inscribed on them. The Jews complained and asked Pilate to remove them, but he refused.
Now, all over the world, Rome had built into the system the Pax Romana -- the right of any subject people to appeal their case to the emperor. When Pilate wouldn't go along with the Jews, they sent word to the emperor that Pilate wouldn't comply. As a result, Emperor Tiberius sent back word that Pilate was to take all of his shields down and comply with the Jews' request. Again, Pilate was a beaten man.
The Jews had Pilate right where they wanted him. At any time they could report him to Rome and he would lose his job. He was walking on thin ice.
b. Blackmail in the Present
Now, when the Jews came to Pilate and presented him with their desire to have Jesus executed, they were blackmailing him. They were saying, in effect, "You better go along with us, or we'll tell Caesar." In John 19:12 they said, "And from then on Pilate sought to release Him; but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend...." In other words, "Do you want to keep your job?" They blackmailed him. And that was Pilate's problem. He had to decide whether it was more important for him to be just or to hold his job. So he slew his soul to keep his physical prestige.
That is not new in history, and not old. He wanted to do the right thing, but he wanted to keep his job. He loved his job more so he just decided to kill Jesus. Pilate was some man -- he stands for all time as the prototype of cowards.
2. His Confrontation
In verse 29 Pilate says, "...What accusation bring ye against this man?" Now, that is the first fair statement made in the trial of Jesus. At least someone wants to know what He has been accused of. Pilate says to the Jews, "Now, what's the accusation? If we are going to have a court here, what are we trying Him for?" Well, this blew a hole in their plan because they didn't want a Roman trial, they wanted an execution. All they wanted Pilate to do was to say, "Execute Him." They wanted to put the pressure on Pilate to kill Jesus, not to try Him, because they knew they didn't have one single accusation that would ever stand up in a Roman court. So Pilate says, "What crime has He done?" This fouled up their strategy and they didn't know what to do. They wanted Pilate to be an executioner, not a judge. They didn't want justice for Jesus, they wanted an execution. Eventually they thought of a very subtle reply.
B. The Proof of Perfection (v. 30)
"They answered, and said unto him, If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up unto thee."
1. Skirting the Issue
The Jews were saying, "Why, you don't think we would bring you someone who wasn't a horrible criminal, do you?" They were skirting the issue. They didn't even answer the question. Why? There was no answer -- there was no accusation. So they say, "Pilate, are you impugning our righteousness?"
2. Scrutinizing Christ
a. The Absence of a Charge
Now you say, "What does this prove?" This proves that Jesus was the perfect Man. They had scrutinized His life and had examined everything He did to try to find something to accuse Him of, and they found nothing. They did not have one single accusation to bring against Jesus. And they worked hard at finding one. So, they are in a tough spot with no charge that will hold up in a Roman court. Their own charge was blasphemy -- He claimed to be God. But the Romans would not execute anyone for claiming to be God -- that's not an issue in a Roman court.
b. The Assumption of Their Character
As a result, the Jews took refuge in their own character and made a generality on the assumption that their character was enough to indicate that Jesus had to be a vile criminal. The word "malefactor" in verse 30 means "evildoer." So, the only accusation they had was His claim to be equal with God, but no civil court was going to deal with that issue. Only a religious court would handle that. They maintained, "We are the judges -- we are the highest court. Now we've made the decision, all we want you to do is kill Him."
Very subtly, John has woven into these two verses the perfect Christ. There were no accusations. They didn't have a thing to say. Jesus was the perfect Man. He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15b). Jesus never sinned. And when He died, He didn't die for His own sin, He died for ours. Second, He was not only the perfect Man, He was...
II. THE PROPHETIC GOD (vv. 31-32)
In these verses we see the deity of Christ. First, let's go back in time a little as a point of reference. Mark 10:32 says, "And they were on the way going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went before them; and they were amazed and, as they followed, they were afraid...." The disciples were thinking, "What's He going to Jerusalem for? He knows what's going to happen when He gets there. The Jews hate Him." Verse 32 continues: "...And He took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto Him, saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death..." (vv. 32b-33a). And that's exactly what has happened. He predicted it to the very letter. Verse 33 continues: "...and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles. And they shall mock Him, and shall scourge Him, and shall spit upon Him, and shall kill Him..." (vv. 33b-34a). And so it was that Jesus clearly predicted that He would be turned over to the Gentiles and executed.
A. Forsaking the Privilege (v. 31)
"Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law. The Jews, therefore, said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death"
According to this verse, I believe that Pilate had given the Jews a temporary right to execute Jesus. He says, "Take Him and do it yourselves." They said, "...It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." Pilate had given them the right to kill, but they said, "Oh no, that's against the law." And here is the hypocrisy: This is the same Jesus they tried to stone on several occasions, and now they are not willing to kill Him. You say, "They could have taken Him right then and stoned Him. Why didn't they do it?"B. Fulfilling The Prophecy (v. 32)
"That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which He spoke, signifying what death He should die."
1. The Passage of the Prophecy
What statement did Jesus make? John 12:32-33 says, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. This He said, signifying what death He should die." What kind of death would it have to be in order to lift Him up? A death on a cross. If He had been killed by the Jews, how would they have killed Him? By stoning Him. The Jews didn't execute Him because Jesus had prophesied that He would die lifted up.
2. The Purpose of the Prophecy
Those Jews were being moved around, victims of the prophetic word of Jesus. They had every reason to take Jesus and stone Him on the spot, and they could have gotten away with it legally. But why didn't they do it?
a. To Prove Jesus Was God
This was just one other way to show Jesus was God. He could never have predicted that He would be executed by Gentiles had He not known everything in the future. The only normal thing for these Jews to do would have been to take Him out and stone Him. And you say, "They tried to stone Him before, why didn't they do it here?" God wanted to reveal to us one more time that Jesus is God, and that what He says comes to pass like He says it. In addition, the Old Testament had predicted crucifixion, and that was how it was going to be. Little did the Jews know that, in their cleverness, wiliness, and hypocrisy, God was moving them to fulfill a revelation that His Son was no less than God Himself who could predict the future. So the Jews, not even knowing what they were doing, said, "Oh no, Pilate, you execute Him." Jesus had to die a Roman death -- He had to be lifted up.
b. To Impugn the World in His Death
He also impugned the whole world in His death. Many people say, "Well, the Jews crucified Jesus Christ." No! The Jews crucified Jesus Christ, the Romans crucified Jesus Christ, and every soul that rejects Christ crucifies Him afresh and puts Him to open shame (Heb. 6:6b). The whole world is involved.
Again we see the principle that God uses the wrath of men to praise Him (Ps. 76:10). Jesus wasn't going to die by having His holy head crushed and mutilated; He was going to die by being lifted up and thus draw men to Himself. So, Jesus is not only the perfect Man, but He is the prophetic God. He predicts the future and it comes to pass exactly as He says, even though it goes against the grain of the normal response. Third, He is...
III. THE PRETERNATURAL KING (vv. 33-37b)
Jesus is the preternatural King in the sense that He is supernatural. In these verses, John exalts Christ as supernatural King.
The False Accusations
What were the accusations? Pilate said, "What are you accusing Him of?" Well, the Jews finally came up with accusations. Luke 23:2 says, "And they began to accuse Him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar...." That was a lie because Jesus said, "...Render, therefore, unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's..." (Mt. 22:21b). Then the third accusation in Luke 23:2 was: "...saying that He Himself is Christ, a king."
The Jews were trying to make Jesus look like an earthly revolutionary who was going to lead a rebellion and crown Himself king. They wanted to make Him appear to be an insurrectionist trying to lead the Jews in an overthrow of Rome. So they accused Him of not allowing them to give tribute to Caesar, and that He was perverting the nation. Later, in John 19:15 they said, "...We have no king but Caesar," which was another lie. They hated Caesar. So now they say that Jesus is an insurrectionist trying to lead the people in rebellion against Rome. Pilate wasn't stupid. In the back of his mind he must have known what they were doing. That was the Jews' accusation: He claimed to be an earthly king. They figured Rome might be upset if someone came along and attempted a revolution.
A. The Inquiry (vv. 33-34)
1. By Pilate (v. 33)
"Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews?"
In the Greek, Pilate's question is, "You! Are You the king of the Jews?" The implication is, "Is this a joke? You mean they are accusing You of being a king?" And there stands Jesus -- meek, mild, silent, all alone, calm, with His hands bound. He didn't look much like a king (i.e., in terms of an earthly king). So Pilate says, "Ridiculous! You? A king? Are they kidding me? Where's Your army? Where are Your kingly clothes? You don't look like a king."
Now, how does Jesus respond? If He says, "Yes, I'm a king," then Pilate has a problem because in Pilate's mind a king is only an earthly king, and he is thinking of a king leading the Jews in an insurrection. Then Pilate would say, "A king leading an insurrection? Maybe we do have a case." If Jesus says, "No, I'm not a king," then He has denied His kingship. So Jesus can't just say yes and He can't just say no -- His answer cannot be that unqualified.
2. By Christ (v. 34)
"Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?"
In other words, "Let's just define the issue. Are you asking this as a Roman? Are you asking Me if I'm a political reactionary? Is this your own idea, or did somebody report to you that I claim to be a king?" Jesus brings Pilate into a discussion of the issues.
B. The Issues (vv. 35-37b)
1. The Religious Issue (v. 35)
"Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me. What hast Thou done?"
a. Pilate's Important Acknowledgment
Now, many critical analyses say, "The Romans killed Jesus for being a political reactionary." That is a bunch of baloney. The Romans never believed He was a political reactionary. Pilate says, "This isn't our accusation. Rome isn't accusing You of this." Later, in John 18:38, Pilate says, "...I find in Him no fault at all." He says, "Your own nation, chief priests, and people are the ones who brought You here. This is not a Roman issue. What have You done?" So, Pilate admits that Jesus is no reactionary, and that Rome has no indictment of Jesus -- no accusation. Jesus had never set up any kind of structure to cause a revolution. He had never done one single thing to stir up the anger of Rome.
It is important to keep this fact in mind because many say that Jesus was executed for being a political reactionary. It is not true. Rome never made an accusation against Jesus. He never led a rebellion; He never led a riot; He never did anything but deal with men's hearts. So, Pilate acknowledges that Jesus has not been accused of anything by Rome -- it was strictly a Jewish religious issue.
b. Pilate's Illegal Question
As Jesus stands there, Pilate says, "What have You done?" In the Jewish court and the Roman court, the judge had no right to ask that question. Under no circumstances was a man to be condemned at the word of his own testimony. It is similar to the Fifth Amendment. Jesus could not be incriminated by His own testimony. Pilate is asking an illegal question. And notice that Jesus does not answer it. Why? It was an illegal question. Jesus responded in the same way to Annas and to Caiaphas -- He will never capitulate to illegalities. Thus He indicts them all because of those illegalities. And with Pilate, rather than answer the question, He just explains what kind of a King He is since Pilate understands that He is no political king.
2. The Eternal Issue (vv. 36-37b)
a. The Kingdom (v. 36)
"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world; if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is My kingdom not from here."
Pilate doesn't understand this concept; he only knows earthly kings. He hasn't the slightest idea what Jesus is talking about.
1) Its Essence (v. 36a)
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world..."
In other words, "There are many earthly kings, but I'm not one of them." An earthly king is appointed by his subjects. But Jesus is a King who appoints His subjects. There is a difference. Jesus is a King in a class all by Himself. He says, "My kingdom," as opposed to all other kingdoms.
Now, what does He mean when He says, "My kingdom is not of this world..."? Some people say, "Well, that proves there will never be a Millennium. That proves there will never be a Kingdom. That proves that Jesus is never going to come back and give Israel a thousand-year Kingdom." That doesn't prove that at all. When Jesus says, "My kingdom is not of [Gk. ek = `out of'] this world...," He means that it didn't grow out of the world's system. Jesus wasn't a King because men elected Him King. In John 6:15 the people tried to make Him a King, and He went out of their midst. He didn't want to be made a King by men, He already was a King. But His Kingdom was spiritual. So when He says that His Kingdom was not out of this world, He doesn't mean that it won't come into the world. We believe there will be a literal Kingdom for Israel -- a literal millennial reign of Jesus on earth. He is not saying that isn't true; He is simply saying that His Kingdom does not have its origin in the human system.
Pilate was right when he saw nothing in Jesus that resembled an earthly king, but he was wrong when he concluded that Jesus wasn't a King. He was a King. Revelation 11:15 and 17:14 say that He shall reign and rule over every nation and He shall be King of kings and Lord of lords.
2) Its Example (v. 36b)
"...if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight..."
In other words, "If I wanted a kingdom in this world, I wouldn't be standing here with no recourse." In John 18:10, Peter started the fight. Perhaps he thought the earthly Kingdom was supposed to start right then. Peter whipped out his little dagger, which he shouldn't have been carrying in the first place, and started to fight. And the Lord said, "Put that away, Peter. Don't you realize that this is all a part of the design? The cup which My Father has given Me to drink, shall I not drink it?" (Jn. 18:11). Jesus never tried to react. At the most, Pilate only had three thousand troops at his disposal. Jesus could have gathered a multitude of Jews and knocked off the Romans if He had wanted to. Jesus says, "My Kingdom isn't out of this world. It doesn't come from here. If it did, My servants would be fighting -- instead, they're fleeing."
3) Its Enemies (v. 36c)
"...that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is My kingdom not from here."
The Jews said that He claimed to be their King, but Jesus says the Jews were His enemies. He couldn't be the King of the Jews if they were His enemies. You say, "What kind of a king is He? Pilate doesn't know." But Pilate does know one thing: He is no earthly king.
b. The King (v. 37a-b)
1) The Graphic Confusion (v. 37a)
"Pilate, therefore, said unto Him, Art Thou a king, then?..."
In other words, "If You are not an earthly king, are you a king at all? I only know about one kind of king. What kind of a king are You, or are You one at all?"
2) The Good Confession (v. 37b)
"...Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king...."
Before Pilate, Jesus claimed to be a King. You say, "If that was the accusation, why didn't Pilate panic?" Pilate knew well that the Kingdom Jesus was claiming was no threat to an earthly kingdom. In Romans 13:1 the Apostle Paul says, "...be subject unto...the powers that be are ordained of God." Peter said to honor the king and serve your governors (1 Pet. 2:13-14). The Kingdom of Christ is a spiritual Kingdom. So Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:13: "I command thee in the sight of God, who maketh all things alive, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession." What confession did Jesus make before Pontius Pilate? First Timothy 6:15 says, "Which in His times He shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords." That is the confession Jesus made before Pilate. He was indeed a King.
So, the supernatural King is not of this natural world. John very carefully, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, presents to us the eternal King Jesus. So, Christ is seen as The Perfect Man, The Prophetic God, and The Preternatural King. Fourth, He is...
IV. THE PREINCARNATE ONE (v. 37c)
"...To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world..."
A. His Preexistent Home
What does Jesus mean when He says, "...came I into the world"? If He came into the world, He had to come from somewhere. To be born is to be human, but to come into the world indicates preexistence. So Jesus is saying, "I was preexistent." You say, "Where was He?"
1. John 17:5 -- "And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was."
2. John 1:1a -- "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God...." God came into the world in human form.
Jesus is claiming to be incarnate God. John makes sure that we know that He said, "I came into the world." Before the world began, He was.
B. His Practical Humility
In Philippians 2:5-8, Paul said that Christ thought it not something to hold onto to be equal with God, but let go of it, and came into the world. He humbled Himself, and was found in fashion as a man. So, in a brief statement, Jesus claimed eternal preexistence.
Jesus is not only The Perfect Man, The Prophetic God, The Preternatural King, and The Preincarnate One, but fifth, He is...
V. THE PROCLAIMER OF TRUTH (vv. 37d, 38a)
Why did Jesus come into the world? Men needed to know the truth about God. Man has continually searched for truth.A. The Commitment Of Christ (v. 37d)
"...that I should bear witness unto the truth...."
If you want to know where truth is, just look at Jesus.
1. John 14:6a - "...I am the way, the truth, and the life...."
2. John 8:31b-32 -- "...If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Free from what? Free from the search for truth.
Jesus said, "I came into the world to bear witness to the truth." What truth? The truth about God, the truth about men, the truth about sin, the truth about judgment, the truth about love, the truth about holiness, the truth about life and death, the truth about everything. When you know Jesus, you know the truth because Jesus came to proclaim the truth. He is a King, and His scepter is truth. What an offer that is to the twentieth-century man who is looking for the truth!B. The Cynicism Of Pilate (v. 38a)
"Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth?..."
Notice the cynicism in this: "Truth, what is truth?" as if he were saying, "I've been looking for truth all my life. There is no truth." That is twentieth-century man -- there is no truth. The twentieth-century man lives in the absurd because truth is so nonexistent. So, Pilate responds in cynicism to the fact that Jesus came to bear the truth.
Sixth, Jesus is...
VI. THE PERSONAL SAVIOR (v. 37e)
"...Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice."
A. The Essence of Belief
Many people claim to know the truth. Many people claim to have all the answers. But everyone who really knows truth hears the voice of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to hear? The Greek word means "to listen intently and obey." There is no such thing as knowing the truth unless you obey Jesus, because He is the Truth. He is God revealed to men, and there is no truth outside of Him. He is the personal Savior and beautifully gives Pilate an invitation when He says, "...Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice." It's as if He is saying, "Pilate, you can know truth if you listen to and obey Me."
B. The Evidence of Belief
1. John 10:27 -- "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." That is the evidence of a true believer.
2. John 8:31b -- "...If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed."
The only way you will ever know truth is to know Jesus Christ. And all who know truth know it in Him, for outside of Him there is no truth.
Seventh, Jesus is...
VII. THE PROVEN FAULTLESS (v. 38b)
"And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in Him no fault at all."
There was no accusation against Jesus -- the proven faultless. There was no indictment at the beginning and no conviction at the end. The King of truth was maligned and hated, but remained perfect and proven faultless. Jesus was as pure at the end as He was at the beginning. There was nothing to hold against Him. He is The Perfect Man, The Prophetic God, The Preternatural King, The Preincarnate One, The Proclaimer of Truth, The Personal Savior, and The Proven Faultless. I hope that you see Him in this way, and I hope you respond to Him differently than Pilate did.
Focusing on the Facts
1. Who is John referring to when he uses the term "Jews"?
2. What is the Pax Romana? What was its significance for the nation of Israel?
3. Why did God allow for capital punishment in the Old Testament?
4. Why did the Jews bring Jesus to Pilate?
5. Why did the Jews hate Jesus so much?
6. What is the one thing that continually motivates Pilate to want to release Jesus?
7. Why does the Holy Spirit include the phrase "it was early" in John 18:28?
8. In what seven ways is Jesus Christ exalted in John 18:28-38?
9. Why did Pilate act like such a coward even though he was completely and totally convinced of the innocence of Christ?
10. How did Herod the Great divide his kingdom? What problem developed out of this division? How did Rome eventually respond to this problem?
11. What position did Pilate hold in Palestine from A.D. 26 to A.D. 35? What rights did he possess? What rights did he not possess?
12. What three incidents in Pilate's rule served to put Pilate under the thumb of the Jews? Explain the significant details of each incident.
13. In what way were the Jews blackmailing Pilate in their desire to have Jesus executed? Explain. What verse reveals their blackmail?
14. What was the decision that Pilate ultimately had to make? Which choice did he make?
15. What effect did Pilate's question in John 18:29 have on the Jews' plans? What did the Jews try to accomplish by their response?
16. What does the response of the Jews prove in regard to Jesus Christ? Explain.
17. What does Jesus Christ clearly predict in Mark 10:32-34?
18. What temporary right did Pilate give the Jews, according to John 18:31? Why didn't the Jews take advantage of this temporary right and kill Jesus?
19. What statement did Jesus make regarding the kind of death He would die? What kind of death did He need to die? If the Jews put Him to death, what kind of death would He die?
20. For what two reasons did God move the Jews to respond as they did?
21. What were the false accusations that the Jews brought against Jesus Christ? What were the Jews attempting to do through these false accusations?
22. What is implied from Pilate's question in John 18:33? What does Jesus accomplish by His response in John 18:34?
23. What does Pilate admit by His statement in John 18:35? Why is this an important statement even today?
24. What illegal question did Pilate ask Jesus? Why was it illegal?
25. What did Jesus mean by the phrase "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn. 18:36)?
26. What statement by Jesus proves that His Kingdom is not of the world?
27. Who were Jesus' real enemies (Jn. 18:36)?
28. What was the good confession that Jesus made before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim. 6:15)?
29. What is indicated by the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world?
30. Why did Jesus Christ come into the world?
31. What does it mean to hear the voice of Jesus Christ? What is the evidence that proves a person is a true believer?
Pondering the Principles
1. Pontius Pilate was totally convinced of the innocence of Jesus Christ, yet he crucified Him. Why? If you had been blackmailed as Pilate had, how do you think you would have responded? Be honest. How do you respond in situations in which you have an opportunity to stand for Christ in the face of an unbelieving world? Read Matthew 16:26. What did Pilate gain? What have you been motivated to give in exchange for your soul? Read Matthew 16:25. What will you do with your life?
2. Look up the following verses: John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:21-24. What facts do each of these verses present regarding the sinlessness of Jesus Christ? What does the sinlessness of Christ result in for believers? According to 1 Peter 2:23-24, how are we to live? As a result, in your own words, what does the sinlessness of Jesus Christ mean to you as a Christian?
3. Since the Kingdom of God is not of this world, then what requirement does this make on how Christians should live in the world? What aspects of your present life-style might lead someone to believe that you value this world more than you value God's Kingdom? List as many differences as you can think of between earthly kingdoms and God's Kingdom. Which kingdom do you want to belong to? Why? Take this moment for some self-examination. What changes in priorities do you need to make that would reveal that your true commitment is to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom?
4. Jesus Christ came into the world to bear witness of the truth. In order to better understand the result of knowing and following the truth, memorize John 8:31b-32: "...If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."