THE ACCUSATION AND THE CHOICE TEXT: John 18:28-40
INTRO: Earlier this year we went through the passages in John concerning the crucifixion and resurrection, but we still need to look at the context surrounding those events. This evening we are going to focus on the interaction between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. We will do so with a brief exposition of Chapter 18:28-40. Please let me PRAY with you and then we will go forward.
I. THE ACCUSATION
A. VS. 28: Commentary: Jesus was taken to the meeting place at the governor’s official residence. It was early (see vs.27). The Jews wanted this taken care of quickly, before the Passover Sabbath. They were farid of they waited they could not appear to accuse Jesus or having to put Him in jail, would have caused the immediate fervor to lose its appeal. Waiting would have damaged their proposal that it was a dangerous claim Jesus was making.
Vs. 29: Pilate, though not a fan of the pharisaical leadership, still wanted to avoid any religious outbreak during the time the city was filled with Jewish pilgrims. He simply wanted to know why they had brought Jesus to him. Apparently, he gave them the idea that they were simply working out their frustrations about a religious matter, to which he had no interest.They presented the accusation: Vs. 20: They would not
have brought the man to Pilate if He were nto guilty of some crime. LK. 23:2 supplies the explanation they gave Pilate. Lk. 23:2 [Jesus was] misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Messiah, a King.” Clearly, the Pharisees were trying to put a pure political twist to things , because they knew Pilate would dismiss a religious problem. In LK 20:25, Jesus had, infact, told the people to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”And, because of their belief in the coming of the Messiah, they were truthful, but still misleading, in the claim of Jesus to be “A King.”
Vs.31, Pilate knew the deceptive practices of these men and discerned that the matter was really a religious matter and told them to take care of it themselves. Why wouldn’t they? Because they knew that they might cause an uprising among the Jews who had applauded Jesus’ entry into the city. PLus, they were not allowed by the Romans to put anyone to death – and they wanted Jesus dead! Plus, if it appeared to the crowd that Jesus was going to cause Rome to bring trouble on the heads of the Jews at the festival, it would make the public cry out against the Man. The Jews admitted they were seeking the death of Jesus and not some simple warning or expulsion. Vs. 32 tells us that this occurred so the prophesy of Jesus that He would die by crucifixion would be seen to be true (Matt. 26, Mk. 10, Lk. 18, and 3 times in John). It was a further verification that Jesus was who he claimed to be.
II. CHRIST’S DEFENSE.
A. NOW WE TURN TO JESUS’ RESPONSE TO PILATE’S QUICK INQUIRY. Vs. 33:
Pilate simply asked if the accusation that He was a kin was true. He was trying to discern if Jesus was indeed a political threat or just a man caught up in a dispute with others who disliked Him. Vs.34: Jesus responds with a question of His own. Jesus knew the Jews were making false accusations against Him, so He really was aking Pilate if he believed He was a king? In other words, was this a real seeking of the truth, or just a formality to satisfy the Jews? VS. 35, Pilate disavows that he understands the Jewsih claim about His “Messiahship.” It was the Jews, Jesus’ own people, who turned Jesus in and accused Him. Was the accusation accurate? Was was Jesus’ defense? Vs. 36: Jesus answers very clearly, He is a king, but not a king claiming a kingdom of the world. He is not trying to overthrow either the Jewish government or the Roman. His interest is not in earthy thrones – if it were, if He hadbeen recruiting people to fight against oppressors, they would have been fighting for Him already (surely Pilate would understand that fact). But the Lord’s kingdom is not of this world. (NOTE: It still is not. If or when we try to establish a political kingdom in the name of Jesus, we are immediately disobeying His intentions. To try to carry out our mission through political or military means is to spread an illegitimate message about the gospel. Christians are not about overthrowing governments or traditions – at least, not by force. We are about seeing hearts change and allegiances moved from selfish motives to righteousness.)
A point of agreement: Vs. 37: So, Pilate, understands that, in one way, the accusation had some validity. Jesus was claiming to be a “king.” But Jesus reiterates His explanation that His kingdom is not about military conquest. Rather He has come to offer truth, the truth about the purpose of life and GOd’s work in every nation. He has come to lift up, not to knock down any people, even oppressive governments. VS. 38: Pilate asks the question that every person who has long struggled with the variety of options of understanding the ways of the world :”What is truth?” In a way, Pilate is dismissing Jesus’ claim because , as far as the governor knew, truth was what those in charge said it was. He knew that most claims of truth were for personal gain rather than a factual explanation of life without ulterior motives.
Then Pilate, having become convinced that Jesus was no real threat to Rome and probably not to anyone, he went out and gave his real ruling on the matter: Jesus was not guilty of anything Rome would consider worthy of His death. But still wanting to avoid an altercation with the religious leaders at this tiem of religious fervor, he offered a way that he would release Jesus and at the same time, allow the Jews to gain favor by ridding the land of a true rebel.
VS. 39: The Jews had a custom, a “life for a life” trade. They would trade a innocent man for one who they felt was more worthy of punishment. Pilate “sarcastically asks, “do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” Surely, he probably thought, the Jews would not want to embarrass themselves by having the Romans kill a person who, at least some of the Jews, might think was important. Should he kill punish a man who cared about the Jewish nation or just a regular “detestable, ‘ a man who noone really trusted and who was certainly guilty of crime.
VS. 40, That man was Barabbas, a robber. By the way, Bar = son and Abbas God. So this thief was representative of one loved by God, for whom Jesus had come. Not just a thief, but thief who was willing ot murder others ot get what he wanted. Barabbas was not a man who cared about the Jewish people — he just cared about himself. No doubt, Pilate figured the Jews would have turned Jesus loose and left Barabbas to pay for his crimes. But the Jewish leaders were more afraid of the Giver of truth than of the thief. It has been so since time began. Eve preferred to obey the serpent rather than God to get what she wanted. People may claim to want the truth, but when it come close, they tend to move away.
This interchange between the three parties : Pharisees, Pilate, and Jesus, is very revealing. The Pharisees wanted to rid themselves of a competitor who threatened their power. Pilate wanted to maintain His power as well, by keeping the peace at any cost. He saw no guilt in Christ, but, if he had to kill Him to maintain his position, it was really no big problem. Jesus, in this moment of great courage and care, shines out again like a diamond among rocks Both Jew and Pilate believed the power was in their hands and Jesus was nothing more than a pawn. But, in truth, Jesus was the power and all the others were pawns in the hands of God to accomplish His purpose. It is an important lesson to us about how to interpret life as we see it. God’s way os often mistaken as powerless while the world seems to control everything. But, God is always in control and He will accomplish His will.