JESUS BEFORE PILATE
John 18:33-38 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done? 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 hence. Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth? 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. (Also See Matt. 27:11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-32)
All four gospel writers record Jesus' first appearance before Pilate. However, since John's record is quite a bit more detailed, his account will be used as the major text, but the other writers that recorded this event will also be referred to when additional information adds to the completeness of this study. Looking at the preceding five verses (28-32), will help lead us into a better understanding of the lesson text.
Jesus was taken by authorities and brought before the Sanhedrin during the night. There, He was accused, and found guilty by them, of blasphemy, which under Jewish law was punishable by death. However, since this council meeting was held at night, it was not valid until it was confirmed by a meeting of the same body the following morning. Having the accusation against Jesus confirmed, His death was the punishment they sought. But a problem stood in their way. The Roman governing authorities had decreed that they could administer many other penalties against violators of the law, but they could not carry out the penalty of death. This must be decreed by the ruling Roman officials.
Therefore they took Jesus from the court of the Sanhedrin and led Him to the Roman hall of judgment. Because of the holy season taking place at that time, these Jewish leaders could not enter this Roman court, lest they should be defiled (Vs. 28). Therefore, Pilate went out to them and asked, What accusation bring ye against this Man (Vs. 29). Their reply was that, if He were not in violation of the law, they would not have brought Him into his presence (Vs. 30). At first Pilate refused to hear their petition, and told them to judge Him by their laws, to which they replied that they were restricted from carrying out the death penalty (Vs. 31). Then, according to Luke, they brought additional false accusations against Him saying, We found this Fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ a King. No doubt, these Jewish leaders desired to charge Jesus with crimes against the Roman authorities sufficient for them to find reason to have Him put to death.
However, it was not to be. Jesus sacrificial death must take place according to God's plan. This fact caused some confusion to many bible scholars, but verse 32 tells us the scriptural reason as to how Jesus' death was to take place. It was not something spoken by these Jewish accusers, nor was it something that Pilate had heard otherwise, but it is inserted here, almost as a parenthetical afterthought, fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus leading up to this event. If we look back at Matthew's gospel, we find Jesus warning His apostles that when they go into Jerusalem, He would be betrayed into the hands of Jewish leaders who would condemn Him to death. However they would not carry out the death penalty. Instead Jesus prophesied what death He should die. He would be delivered to Gentile authorities who would mock, scourge, and crucify Him (See Matt. 20:18-19).
With testimony of treason against the Roman government brought against Jesus by the Jewish leaders, Pilate desired to hear more, so he brought Jesus into his judgment hall, and immediately asked Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered by asking Pilate if this was his opinion or was this told to him by others. Pilate replied that he was not a Jew, but the leaders of the Jewish nation had testified against You and brought You before my court for judgment, therefore tell me, what hast Thou done, that caused You to be condemned by them? Because Pilate was a military leader who represented a powerful nation that was established and maintained with military power, the answer Jesus gave at this time would almost be impossible for him to understand. 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 hence. With this statement, Jesus admitting Himself to be a King, but says that His kingdom was in the world but it was not worldly as other kingdoms. His kingcom had no human origin. It was not maintained by military might, nor did it have soldiers that would defend Him with carnal weapons. His kingdom was to be established and governed by moral and spiritual values.
Again, Pilate asked Jesus: Art Thou a King then? This was a rhetorical question that assumed Jesus, by His answer, acknowledged being a King. Jesus affirmed His kingship with this answer: Thou sayest that I am a King, meaning, "I am what you say." Jesus continues His affirmation by admitting that to this end was I born. Indeed, the reason for Jesus coming to earth was to bear witness unto the truth - God's truth. His plan of eternal salvation was to be offered to all that hear and obey His will. Included in the truth of God was the need to redeem mankind from their sins through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus the Christ. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. It was to be the teaching of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and that through His Holy Spirit-inspired apostles, all mankind would be able to find complete redemption of sins through the blood Jesus was to shed on the cross of Calvary. It is the contact with His shed blood through water baptism by which sinful men and women of the world would be reconciled to God, and it will be through obedience to His will that His faithful followers we will be added to the kingdom of our Savior. This is the kingdom over which Jesus would rule; a kingdom, not of the world, but rather a heavenly-ordained, spiritual kingdom, and Jesus will be its ruling Monarch.
On this occasion, God's truth was presented to Pilate by Jesus, but Pilate did not understand it. Therefore, He answered Jesus: What is truth? Some bible scholars contend that his reply was scornful, and defied Jesus' claim to be a spiritual King. Others think the answer was one of curiosity, and possibly Pilate desired further instruction in order for him to know the truth Jesus claimed to be teaching. And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews. Although Jesus claimed to be King, Pilate did not consider His kingdom, as He described it, to be any threat to the Roman monarchy, nor to any protectorate under its rule. Without anything that would bring riot, anarchy, and treasonous disturbances, Pilate found no fault in Jesus' claim to be King. Therefore, he went out before Jesus' Jewish accusers, and told them, I find in Him no fault at all.