In today’s passage, the civic trial of Jesus before the Roman governor of Judea unfolds. Keep in mind that since his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus has already faced a three-part religious trial before the high priest Annas, the ruling high priest Caiaphas, and the governing body of the Jews. The Sanhedrin has found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, but to carry out a death sentence the Jewish authorities needed the Roman government’s approval. In the following discourse between Pilate and the Jewish leaders, there’s a question, an accusation, an instruction, and several revelations. There’s also guilt aplenty—though not a stitch of it resides in the man who has been condemned.
- In what ways do you maneuver situations to reach a desired outcome?
- Is there an area of your life where you struggle with having ulterior motives?
READ THE WORD: JOHN 18:28-40 (ESV)
28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
(Today’s questions focus on verses 28-32. Verses 33-40 will be covered in our next study.)
- Where had the Jewish leaders come from, and where were they taking Jesus (vs. 28)?
- Why did the men who accused Jesus not take him inside Pilate’s residence (vs. 28)? What did their actions communicate about their hearts?
- What, specifically, did Pilate want to know (vs. 29)? Did the Jewish authorities give a concrete answer to his question (vs. 30)?
- What advice did Pilate have for Jesus’ accusers (vs. 31)? Why was this a problematic solution for the Jews, and what did their response reveal about their motives?
- Earlier, in John 12:32-33, Jesus himself had predicted that he would die by crucifixion. While Jewish law called for blasphemers to be stoned to death, only the Roman government could enact crucifixion as a capital punishment. Knowing this, how was the Jews’ proclamation in verses 31-32 used to fulfill Jesus’ prophecy?
RESPOND TO GOD
By the time the Jewish authorities showed up at Pilate’s residence, the Passover meal had already come and gone. However, it was still a time of celebration for the Jewish nation, as the Feast of Unleavened Bread was ongoing. To enter a Gentile’s dwelling during this time would have rendered any Jew ceremonially unclean and, therefore, unable to participate in the festivities. Don’t miss the irony here: The Jewish leaders were more concerned about exclusion from a religious celebration than they were about orchestrating the death of a man. Pilate was right to call their bluff; and when he did, the true motives of Jesus’ accusers were revealed.
- Prayerfully ask God to call your bluff. Ask him to reveal any areas of your life where your motives are less than honest, or dishonoring to him.