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Read verses 28-40


28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 

29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’

30 ‘If he were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we would not have handed him over to you.’

31 Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’

‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ they objected. 32 This took place to fulfil what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

34 ‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’

35 ‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’

36 Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’

37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.

Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’

38 ‘What is truth?’ retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews”?’

40 They shouted back, ‘No, not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.


John did not record the events at the Sanhedrin Meeting, but Mark (14:53-64) describes a mockery of a trial which totally reversed the legal sequence of events as it

began with the sentence of death,

followed by the verdict of guilty;

which then went on to look for evidence,

and finally sought grounds for the prosecution

and this was only developed as they were presenting their case to Pilate!
(Luke 23:1-4)


The right to execute law-breakers had been taken from the Jews – only the Romans could do that. So having decided Jesus’ fate, the whole assembly went to Pilate to press their case.

  

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 


Contrary to some who believe the Upper Room meal was the Passover feast, it was now still only the Day of Preparation (John 19:14,31,42).

Passover (the First day of Unleavened Bread) which had to be treated as an additional Sabbath, was tomorrow (Matthew 27:62, John 19:31) (See below: Passover).


The Temple soldiers would have handed Jesus over to the Roman guard who would have taken him to the cells.


The Jewish leaders were very religious. They had rules and they kept them, but sometimes they had to decide which conflicting rule took precedence. Killing an innocent man would not defile them, but entering an unclean house would.


29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’

30 ‘If he were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we would not have handed him over to you.’


The Romans were on high alert. There was always heightened tension when Jerusalem was overrun with zealous Jews who had come for one of their festivals, and uprisings could easily break out. The Jewish leaders also were under stress as they only maintained their position by agreeing to maintain law and order. At times like this it was hard to know whose side you were on.


Pilate’s temper would not have been helped by having to meet this deputation outside. Besides which, the crowd was not small – the Sanhedrin had between 23 and 71 members, the arresting party from the courtyard would also have joined the group, and those in Jerusalem with time on their hands waiting for the Festival to start would always follow a crowd.


Pilate’s position meant that he had to constantly be on the lookout for potential uprisings. His informers would have told him about Jesus and his many followers making their way towards Jerusalem. The stories would have been mainly factual too and may well have aroused an interest in Pilate’s mind.


Pilate asked the obvious: ‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’

The Jews had a problem; they had decided the sentence: death, they had arrived at a ‘guilty’ verdict, but evidence was lacking and they had not yet really decided what the charge was.


So they lamely said ‘he’s a criminal’


31 Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’

‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ they objected. 

So the Jews show their hand – they simply want him dead. But they were only part of what was happening.

Can God’s plan be worked out through the actions of men exercising their own individual free will?

It seems a contradiction, but yes it can – it has happened in the life of every Christian – we made the decision to follow Jesus, but that had been his plan for us since before the world began (Ephesians 1:4).


32 This took place to fulfil what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.


The charge of Blasphemy, which had originally been agreed (Mark 14:64) carried the punishment of death by stoning. Officially the Jews were not allowed to carry out the death sentence, but it seems a crowd might take it upon themselves: see John 8:59.


The Roman death sentence was by crucifixion and Jesus had predicted that this was how he would die (John 3:14, 12:32,33) but the crime of Blasphemy was not something the Romans were concerned with, so the Jews needed to think of some other charge.


Luke 23:1-2 says Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate.  And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.’


33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’

34 ‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?’


This was essentially a private conversation – the Jews chose to stay outside, and Jesus had earlier been taken inside, so he had not heard what had been said to Pilate.


In reply to Pilate’s question, Jesus seemed to say ‘But what about you? Who do you say I am?’ (Matthew 16:15).

Face-to-face with Jesus, Pilate could not have missed the power and authority of Jesus, even as he stood bound before him. Maybe he also sensed something of his holiness.


Pilate would not be drawn, but he was confused – surely a Jewish king would have been welcomed by the Jewish leaders, yet it is them who are accusing him of anti-Roman activities; and that did not match with the stories of a miracle-worker that his own informants had brought him.


He would certainly have been told of the thousands of people who led Jesus triumphantly into Jerusalem earlier that week. Maybe the cleansing of the Temple had been reported to him as well.


35 ‘Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied.

In his position as Roman Governor, reporting to Caesar, he couldn’t admit that Jesus could be a king, but that was certainly what the Jews had said that Jesus had claimed, and it could explain his popularity


‘Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’


What had Jesus done that suddenly needed Pilate to be woken, and brought outside in order to immediately pass sentence of death? The Jews’ accusations seemed very confused, what did Jesus have to say?


36 Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’


Jesus replied that his kingdom was not an earthly kingdom, with armies that would challenge the might of Rome. He had no desires for any earthly kingdom, in fact he had ‘no place to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20). He had not even come to force people to accept him as king; his rule would only be in the hearts of those who would gladly choose to accept him.


37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.


The problem with language is that the same word can mean something different to different people. When Jesus spoke of his kingdom, Pilate assumed only one thing: Jesus must be a king over a nation and the people in it. But Jesus was not interested in worldly power.


Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.


I struggled with the English translation here so I had a look at the Greek! There are actually two phrases that the NIV has rolled into one:


The RSV has both phrases, and it seems Jesus is saying

‘You say I am a king: for this reason I was born. But I came into the world to testify to the truth’.


Why should Jesus pick out this aspect particularly?


Look at John 8:42-47

42 Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.’


Satan, the prince of this world, is characterised by lies, and the kings and rulers of this world tend to follow his example.


Jesus is truth – he exposes the lies people have built their lives on and leads them into the truth that in the sight of a holy God they are sinners and need a saviour.


 Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’

38 ‘What is truth?’ retorted Pilate.


Perhaps Pilate’s world consisted of many half-truths and evasions. His dealings with the Pharisees would have also shown him that religion too could have different interpretations of truth. Maybe even Pilate longed for some solid bedrock of truth in his life.


With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release “the king of the Jews”?’

40 They shouted back, ‘No, not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.


Barabbas had been ‘caught in the act’ and had committed murder during the uprising against the Romans (Luke 23:19). He was currently awaiting trial (Probably when the worshippers had returned home and the population of Jerusalem had returned to normal).


Look again at the passage we read from Luke 23: ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.’  It would seem that Jesus was now being charged with very similar offences. Surely logic says he too should have been imprisoned in order that he could be tried when the festival was over.


Pilate was in trouble. There was no evidence that Jesus had been subversive, or had incited anyone to violence. His words were disturbing but that was not a punishable offence.


The crowd had rejected his idea of a free pardon for Jesus, which was what he really wanted, and on top of that ‘his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’’ (Matthew 27:19)


So he decided he would have him flogged, and then released.






Passover


A brief description – there is much more on the Internet!


Jews spend the days before Passover thoroughly cleaning their homes to remove every trace of yeast (leaven – Hebrew: chemetz )

On the night before Passover (at the start of 14th Nisan) a ritual search is made and a ceremonial burning of any remaining chemetz takes place the next morning. This is now ‘Preparation Day’ (Matthew 27:62, Luke 23:54).


The original Passover instructions in Exodus 12 required that everyone should slaughter their Passover lamb at twilight on Preparation Day i.e. late afternoon on 14th Nisan. But subsequent instructions make it clear that in future the lambs would be slaughtered at the Temple in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16). Over time this became a symbolic sacrifice conducted only by the priests on behalf of the people.


It is obvious that the death of Jesus as the Lamb of God took place roughly at the same time that the Passover Lamb was being slaughtered in the Temple.


Following the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, all temple sacrifices ceased. Today roast lamb has been dropped from the Passover meal, and unleavened bread has now become the main focus.


The Passover medal is eaten on the First Day of Unleavened Bread – 15th Nisan (commencing at dusk at the end of 14th Nisan). The festival of Unleavened Bread lasts for eight days, the first and last days are special Sabbaths (Holidays = Holy days) regardless of which day of the week they fall on; rather like Christmas day.


See also the study on Easter which explains days and dates of the first Easter week more fully.





John 18aJohn 19a








John 18:28-40  Jesus before Pilate

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