Pilate, John 18:28-40

“Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” John 18:28.

These religious men would not enter a Gentile residence to avoid defilement, but they would murder an innocent Man and feel no guilt.

Any of God’s prophets who pointed out the hypocrisy of these religious leaders to the nation might have expected the same treatment, but Jesus is their Messiah, God incarnate, compounding the evil.

“For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; he blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. His ways are always prospering; Your judgments are far above, out of his sight; as for all his enemies, he sneers at them. He has said in his heart, ‘I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity.’ His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is trouble and iniquity. He sits in the lurking places of the villages; in the secret places he murders the innocent; his eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; he lies in wait to catch the poor; he catches the poor when he draws him into his net. So he crouches, he lies low, that the helpless may fall by his strength. He has said in his heart, ‘God has forgotten; He hides His face He will never see it.’ Arise, O Lord! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble. Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, ‘You will not require an account.’ But You have seen it, for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; seek out his wickedness until You find none.” Psalm 10:3-15.

Sad to say, men like this are not just mob bosses, they exist in every social strata, whether religious, political, professional, blue collar, every day worker, or common thug.

It would be wonderful to say that there is a little good in every man, but the truth is, many people have been able to rid themselves of that virtue. Sincerity is not a guarantee of truthfulness; con men are proof of that.

“Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” Ecclesiastes 7:29.

Beware of any sincere or supposedly righteous person who brings you a deal that is too good to be true; it probably is. Remember what these “godly” religious hypocrites did to the Lord Jesus.

“Pilate then went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’ They answered and said to him, ‘If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.’” John 18:29-30.

Pilate had to have known about the arrest of Jesus well in advance of this because a Roman cohort led by an officer described as a chiliarch, a commander of one thousand men, assisted the Jews in the arrest of Jesus.

It has been speculated that details of the arrest had been taken up with Pilate beforehand, making him part of the conspiracy. This would also avoid any misunderstandings when they brought Jesus before him.

The man, Pontius Pilate, is reputed to have been obstinate, inflexible, and brutal. To give him the benefit of the doubt, a soldier in some ways must have a certain amount of resolve to carry out their orders or to follow through on some of their decisions, such an attitude could certainly be construed as obstinacy.

For whatever reason, Pilate had on occasion in the past butted heads with the Jews; which put him on precarious footing in Rome should he have too many more problems with his jurisdiction.

Having been appointed governor of Judea by Tiberius Caesar, he immediately offended the Jews by moving the headquarters of his army from Caesarea to the holy city of Jerusalem at which time the soldiers carried their ensigns bearing the image of Caesar and planted them within sight of the temple, presumably at the Praetorium.

Though this was done quietly it was soon found out and the Jews demanded that they be removed. Pilate refused their demand for five days.

On the sixth day he had them come in before him at the judgment seat. When they entered the area his soldiers surrounded them and he demanded that they stop troubling him with this issue or he would have the soldiers kill every one of them right there.

When the Jews were given this choice they all lay down and bared their necks, preferring death to this supposed abomination. Pilate for some reason relented, and had the ensigns (which are a flag or banner) removed. Strike one.

At another time Pilate took money from the sacred temple treasury to build an aqueduct into the city. The misuse of this money caused a riot.

Pilate had a number of his soldiers dressed as civilians mingle with the mob, and at a signal the men started beating the rioters with staves until the mob broke up.

Another occasion saw him having some gilt shields installed in Herod’s palace. The shields bore nothing offensive, just the names of the donors who gave them.

Again the Jews were offended and petitioned him to remove them, he refused. They then appealed to Tiberius, who ordered him to remove them; whereupon he moved them to Caesarea. Another strike, making him look bad in Caesar’s eyes.

By the time the Lord stood before Pilate he was in a precarious position and though he shows a true respect for justice here, his options are, giving in to the Jews, or offending them once again and risking trouble from Rome.

The honorable thing to do is obvious, but Pilate had a greater fear of losing his place than he had respect for justice.

Pilate said to the Jews.

“Pilate then went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’” John 18:29.

Having absolutely nothing against Roman law their lame reply was the following.

“They answered and said to him, ‘If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.’” John 18:30.

In reality their only charge against the Lord was that of blasphemy, a false charge, since He really is God; something that would not concern the Roman government.

“Then Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and judge Him according to your law.’ Therefore the Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,’ that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.” John 18:31-32.

As indicated by Pilate here, Rome had given the various conquered lands in the Empire some freedom to pursue their own legal systems; one of the exceptions being that they turn the prosecution of capital crimes over to the Roman governor.

That this was so is shown by the Jews reply, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” Their determination to murder the Son if God legally by Roman hands confirmed yet again the accuracy of the Lord’s words to His disciples.

“Then Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.’” Matthew 20:17-19.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on a cross], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:14-15.

See Numbers 21:4-9 for the account of Moses and the serpent.

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” John 12:32-33.

“Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself on this, or did others tell you this about Me?’” John 18:33-34.

There is nothing in this account that says that Pilate was told that Jesus was King of the Jews; this is related in another gospel.

“Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’ So Pilate asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ And He answered him and said, ‘It is as you say.’” Luke 23:1-3.

Seeing that their charge, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you” was not going to fly they panicked, and threw everything they could think of at Him; this time they were political charges.

Pilate was smart enough to see through this flurry of charges and did not buy into them, saying later, “I find no fault in Him at all.” John 18:38 end sentence.

Here in John we find the question of Pilate, “Are You the King of the Jews?” countered by the Lord with a puzzling question, “Are you speaking for yourself on this, or did others tell you this about Me?”

This two part question breaks down this way; “Are you speaking about this from your own political standpoint?” meaning are you asking if I want to overthrow Roman rule and establish Myself as King?

The second half of Jesus’ question may be interpreted in this manner; “Or are you asking this from a religious standpoint from what the Jews have told you?”

Pilate’s answer indicates that he did not consider Jesus as a political agitator or a threat.

“Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’” John 18:35-36.

When you have a chance, read this account and see if you do not agree that this is a dialogue that would go on between two peers, not between a judge and a defendant who is about to be crucified.

Pilate had undoubtedly sentenced many men to be crucified and watched them cry and shake violently while pleading for mercy; this Man was like none of them.

Calm and gentle, He answers questions honestly and in the same manner He poses them, all while showing no fear whatsoever.

Jesus’ answer, “My kingdom is not of this world.” is plain enough for us to understand, but I wonder how Pilate understood it? Certainly enough to ask the Lord, “Are You a king then?”

“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’ and when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all.’” John 18:37-38.

As Pilate stood there listening to these gracious words, he must have wondered if this Man were not quite right in the head, yet His bearing and His mannerisms clearly showed that this was no lunatic.

When he heard the words, “…I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth”, what thoughts would have come into his mind?

Being a pagan there were many gods and many concepts of reality around him; what was a fairyland and what was reality?

What was the truth? Perhaps this is why he did not ask Jesus the hard questions, what is the truth? The Lord would have been gracious enough to answer his questions if they were asked in sincerity.

It is possible that Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” was a rhetorical one because Scripture tells us that.

“…when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all.’” Seemingly this man had wrestled with spiritual questions before.

Tradition has it that his wife was a Jewish proselyte at the time of the Lord’s death and later became a Christian; which means that he would have heard many spiritual questions within his household.

This ungodly man went out onto the pavement and said to the Jewish mob, “I find no fault in Him at all.” That is quite a statement, indicting all who were demanding Christ’s blood; the blood of an innocent Man.

It is interesting to note that the Passover lamb was to be one without spot or blemish, and in the three and a half years of the Lord’s ministry no one could convict the Lamb of God of sin, and His enemies are His best witnesses because they would have moved heaven and earth to find anything.

Then finally, the Gentile, Pilate came forward more than once and said, “I find no fault in Him at all.”

Finally Pilate came up with a stroke of genius; he will offer the people a choice between a godly Man and a murderer as per a Passover tradition, thinking that the people would have Jesus released.

“For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.” Mark 15:10.

Perhaps the people would want to rescue Him from their hands.

“But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them.” Mark 15:11.

“And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow insurrectionists; they had committed murder in the insurrection.” Mark 15:7.

“But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” Then they all cried again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” John 18:39-40.

The sinless One is about to take the place of a murderer and a rebel, between two robbers, who may even have been Barabbas’ comrades in insurrection.

“Therefore I will divide Him [Jesus] a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12.

Pilate, John 18:28-40 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 6-11-13, updated on 4-2-18.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

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