Text: John 18:28-40 and John 19:1-16
Event(s): Jesus appears in Pilate’s court; The people choose Barabbas; The soldiers mock Jesus
John 18:28 “and it was early morning…” Though we can’t be sure exactly what time it was, it is now Friday morning. Jesus’ accusers bring Him to Pilate, yet don’t go in themselves to avoid becoming defiled. Ironic, as they are plotting murder.
John 18:29 “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” The Sanhedrin had condemned Jesus for blasphemy. (As we read yesterday, their conviction came at the hands of two false witnesses who willfully twisted what Jesus had said.) There was really not a chance they would get Pilate to agree issuing the death penalty based on these accusations. That was far too severe for the charges they were bringing against Him. So instead, the Jewish leaders decided that what they had to do was charge Jesus with sedition against Rome.
John 18:34 “Are you speaking for yourself…” Jesus asked Pilate His question to determine how He would answer him. If Pilate was asking because he was really interested in knowing who Jesus truly was, Jesus would have answered him as a sincere inquirer. If Pilate was merely trying to clarify the essence of the Sanhedrin’s charge, Jesus would need to answer differently. If Pilate meant, “Are You a political king conspiring against Caesar?” the answer would be, “No.” If he meant, “Are You the messianic King of Israel?” the answer would be, “Yes.” Pilate’s reply clarified that he had no personal interest in Jesus’ kingship.
John 18:37 “that I should bear witness to the truth” By this, Jesus meant that He came to reveal God to the world. Everyone who truly has a desire to discover the truth, and seeks after it, will find Jesus. Jesus’ words were an invitation for Pilate to listen to Him and to learn the truth. Wow. Jesus showed more interest in appealing to Pilate than in defending Himself. Sadly, in Pilate’s response, we can hear how cynical he had become. “What is truth?” essentially meant that he believed truth was unknowable.
John 18:39 “But you have a custom….” This is odd. Pilate had just stated that he found Jesus innocent of the charges. Why didn’t he just release Him? Why did he instead refer to this custom? I like what this one theologian, John Blum, had to say about this.
“Having displayed a lack of interest in truth, Pilate then revealed a lack of commitment to justice. He lacked the courage of his convictions. If Jesus was innocent of all charges, then Pilate should have set Him free. Instead, Pilate began a series of compromising moves to avoid dealing with an inconvenient truth in a difficult circumstance. First, when Pilate found out Jesus was from Galilee, he sent Him to Herod (Luke 23:6-7). Second, Pilate tried to appeal to the crowd (John 18:38), hoping to bypass the desire of the chief priests and elders.”
In reading through the parallel accounts of this event, we learn that it was about this same time that Pilate’s wife warned him to have nothing more to do with Jesus, because He was a “righteous man” (Matt. 27:19).
John 19:2 “the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns…and…a purple robe.” The crown of thorns was fashioned in a way that these “thorns” were more like spikes that drove into Jesus’ head. Along with the purple robe, these were an obvious attempt to mock His claim of being a king.
John 19:6 “I find no fault in Him.” This is the third time Pilate has declared Jesus innocent.
John 19:11 “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” Pilate thought he was in a position of supreme power, when in reality God was allowing him to exercise his level of authority to fulfill the purposes that had been ordained since the foundations of the world. God is always on the throne. Everything goes according to His plan.
Today’s Takeaway: I want to go back to the issue of truth. Many times, questions are asked without a real desire to pursue truth. But for anyone who genuinely wants to know the truth and wants to align their life with the truth, the truth will be found in the person of Jesus. Additionally, truth produces freedom (Then you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32) To pursue freedom, therefore, is to pursue truth. And so if there’s any area in our lives where we may not be experiencing the freedom that we know comes from living a life empowered by God, then we must ask ourselves, what truth do we need revealed to our hearts, our minds, our will and our emotions? Today, I just challenge you to explore this. Think about any area where you’re not experiencing freedom and have the courage to ask the questions and pursue truth.
Additional (optional) reading: The parallel accounts of these events may be found in Matthew 27:11-14 and Mark 15:2-5 as well as Luke 23:2-12