Study Notes

John 18:28-19:16

We are in the middle of John 18. Jesus has been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, taken to trial before the high priests' father-in-law, then to the high priest himself.

18:28 Not Defiled?

Jesus is taken from the Jewish trials to stand before the Romans. They took Him into the Prahee-to'-ree-on, which was the palace that the Roman procurator stayed in when He was visiting from Caesarea.

But the Jews stayed outside of the palace to keep from being ceremonially defiled. It was not God's Law that specified entering into the house of a Gentile would defile a Jew. No, it was the rabbis adding their traditions to the law that made it so.

So they self-righteously stand outside while Jesus is sent inside before the procurator. This man-made religion was one of the very things that Jesus had condemned these hypocrites for.

Mark 7:6-9 And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." He was also saying to them, "You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.

First, man's doctrines are introduced alongside the Word of God. Then, the Word is neglected to hold to these traditions. Finally, the Word of God is completely set aside in favor of man's additions. When religion is introduced, it will eventually replace the Word of God.

And, interestingly enough that is what has happened here. Because in their going about this wicked business of the plotting, arresting, and trying of Jesus, on the evening of the 14th of Nisan, each of them who were involved had neglected to participate in the Passover at Sundown as they were commanded in God's law! God had commanded the Passover Lamb be killed at sundown, and the Seder be eaten that night. Jesus had eaten it with His disciples, but these hypocrites had put it off in favor of accomplishing their evil plan!

18:29-30 Pilate

Jesus is brought before the procurator Pilate. Pilate was a man with a history who was now in a political mess that was unstable on all sides. He had originally been a slave. Once freed, he was able to rise to the seat of procurator through marriage, political positioning, and using the influences of the Roman emperor's wife and mother.

The Judean province governor's residence was at Caesarea. But they were required to visit each of their province's major cities at least once a year. They always timed the visit to Jerusalem during the Passover festivals when they knew that the most people would be there. If civil unrest were to happen, Passover would be the time.

The first time Pilate had come to Jerusalem was a mess. As he and his soldiers paraded into the city, the Jews saw that golden busts of Caesar were on the top of each flag pole. Because Caesar was worshiped as a god, these busts were idols, defiling the holy city of God. This uproar was heard about in Rome, and Pilate was warned not to allow such a disturbance again.

A couple more incidents that got him caught between the Jews and the emperor added to his sticky situation. So at this point in his career, he feels that he needs to appease the Jews so it doesn't get back to Rome.

Accusation Of Evildoing

He asks the Sanhedrin, "What crime is this man charged with?" They don't have a good answer for this. Remember, they had found him guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God, which was hardly a crime in the Roman empire.

So they answer, "Well, if He wasn't an evildoer, we wouldn't have brought Him here."

18:31-32 Not Permitted

It was obvious that there was no crime to charge Him with in a Roman court of law. Pilate tries to wash his hands of it, saying, "you try Him, and judge Him by your own laws." But they said, "We're not permitted to put anyone to death." This was a sore point with the Jews. Up until recently, the Romans had allowed them to exercise the death penalty in their courts. But then the government issued a decree that took away their right to administer capital punishment. This had been devastating to them. Why? Because when Jacob pronounced blessings on each of his 12 sons, of Judah he said,

Gen. 49:10 "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him {shall be} the obedience of the peoples.

Shiloh, was the "one who brings peace," their Messiah. They knew that the Scriptures said He would come before the scepter departed from Judah. But the scepter was the symbol of dominion and authority, specifically tied to capital punishment (Esther 4:11). The Word of God said that the Jews' right to administer the death penalty couldn't be taken from them until Messiah had come. But when the edict was passed by the Roman empire outlawing the Jews' right to capital punishment, they thought the Word of God had been broken. The scepter had been taken away from Judah! "The high priest that year went through Jerusalem in sackcloth and ashes bewailing that the Word of God had been broken, that the scepter had departed from Judah, but Shiloh had not yet come." (Missler) But of course, Shiloh, their Messiah, had already come!

The Word Fulfilled

Why did God allow the right to capital punishment be taken away from the Jews? Why did He have Jesus killed by the Romans instead? The Word of God specifically dictated what kind of death the Messiah was going to die. Isaiah 53:5 and Zechariah 12:10 said that He had to be pierced through. Psalm 22:16 said that it was specifically His hands and feet that would be pierced. Messiah had to die by crucifixion. If the Jews had been allowed to kill Him, they would have stoned Him.

18:33-36 A King On Trial

Pilate questions Jesus, asking if He is the King of the Jews. This is an interesting title of Jesus Christ. Because of the 17 times that Jesus is referred to in the Bible as the King of the Jews, 16 are during His trial and crucifixion.

Only one time did anyone use this title with genuine reverence.

Matt. 2:1-3 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him." And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Herod had all the male babies in Bethlehem killed when he heard that the King of the Jews had been born. Never again did anyone call Jesus by this title until Pilate says, "Are you the King of the Jews?"

From then on, it becomes a point of derision, an excuse for the soldiers to mock Him.

But Pilate is concerned. All he needs right now is for some rebel who claims kingship to rally the people against the Romans. There would be great loss of life, and certainly the loss of Pilate's job. But Jesus explains that His kingdom is not in competition with Pilate's kingdom.

John 18:36 ..."My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."

"You're not going to have a revolt on your hands, Pilate. My kingdom isn't of this world."

18:37-38 The Truth

Pilate asks Him, "What is truth?" I honestly don't know how this was spoken. Was it a cynical question, from the philosophical idea that no one can know truth? Was it from a man in a hopeless quandary between doing the right thing and appeasing the crowds who would cause his unemployment if he did? Was it an honest question from a man seeking to know what truth is? I don't know about that last one, because he walks out without waiting for the answer to his question.

Today, there is a generation of adults who have been raised to believe that there is no absolute truth. They have been taught that what's true for me isn't necessarily true for them. They have been taught that there are many truths, and that you simply need to pick which one you believe is truth, and then it's true for you. That is such utter nonsense that I can't even begin to put into words how ignorant that philosophy sounds. And yet hundreds of thousands of people in high school and college honestly believe this is great intelligence.

Rom. 1:22 Professing to be wise, they became fools

The Bible never refers to "a truth," but always calls it "the truth." There is one truth, not many. You don't create your own truth, you discover what is the truth. And although the Bible often talks about truth and it's necessity, there are only two things that God has defined for all time as truth:

Ps. 119:142 ...Thy law is truth.

Ps. 119:151 ...All Thy commandments are truth.

Ps. 119:160 The sum of Thy word is truth...

John 17:17 ...Thy word is truth.

1John 5:7 And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth.

The Word of God is truth. The Spirit of God is truth.

Rom. 3:4 ...Let God be found true, though every man {be found} a liar...

If you're on a genuine quest for truth, the Word and the Spirit are the place to go.

18:39-40 Barabbas Instead Of Jesus

Pilate announces that this man is not guilty of breaking any Roman law. But they won't hear of it. So Pilate has a plan. At the Passover, when millions of Jews came into Jerusalem, there was always the chance of civil disorder. So the Romans had come up with a tradition that helped keep the peace. As the Passover, they would allow one Jewish prisoner who had been arrested by the Romans to go free, thereby appeasing any anger and hostility that the Jews might have had.

Pilate thinks that if we can call Jesus a criminal, and then allow Him to go free, everybody would be happy. But the Jews would have none of this. They cried out, "Release Barabbas to us instead!" The gospels tell us that Barabbas was a notorious prisoner (Mt 27:16), an insurrectionist (Mk 15:7; Lk 23:19), a murderer (Mk 15:7; Lk 23:19) and a robber (Jn 18:40).

As the Jews made their choice, there is an interesting parallel here. The name "Barabbas" means "son of the father." They had to choose between Barabbas - the son of the Father, and Jesus - the only begotten Son of the heavenly Father.

Barabbas was a prisoner. Jesus came to set the captives free. Barabbas was an insurrectionist, rebelling against authority. Jesus told His followers to submit to authority. Barabbas was a robber. Jesus came to give Himself. Barabbas was a murderer. Jesus came to allow Himself to be murdered that we would live. And the people chose Barabbas.

19:1-3 Jesus Scourged

Pilate had Jesus scourged. In a scourging, prisoners were bent over and their arms tied around a large post. The whip the Romans used was called a fluh-JEL-um. The flagellum was made of many leather thongs. To the thongs they tied lead balls for weight and sharp pieces of bone and metal to grab and tear the prisoner's flesh.

Typically, scourging was used as a technique to get confessions from prisoners. If the victim cried out a confession to a crime, his beating would be less severe. But Jesus had nothing to confess - He was sinless and guilty of nothing. This is why Isaiah prophesied,

Isa. 53:7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.

By the time the scourging was over with, Jesus' back was laid bare - no skin left, only torn muscle exposing bones and internal organs.

19:4-6 Satisfied Yet?

After being beaten mercilessly by the whip and the guards, Jesus is again brought out to the crowd. Pilate is sure that when they see how He's already been beaten to within an inch of His life, and disfigured for life, that they would allow Him to keep His life. But no. They wanted His crucified.

Pilate tries to pawn the responsibility off on them, saying again, "He's not guilty. Go crucify Him yourself."

19:7-11 Authority Is Given From Above

This is the first that Pilate has heard that He claimed to be the Son of God. Now he's really afraid. He goes in again and says, "Where are You from?" When Jesus doesn't answer, Pilate is frustrated, saying, "Don't you see that I have the authority to either release You or crucify You?" Jesus answered,

John 19:11 ..."You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above..."

All authority is from above. Paul wrote to Timothy,

1Tim. 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties {and} prayers, petitions {and} thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1Tim. 2:8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Rom. 12:21-13:2 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

We are to pray "lifting up holy hands." When you lift your hands in prayer, you're surrendering the situation to God, admitting that you're powerless.

Whether it's your boss, the police, or the president, we must lift our hands in holy surrender to God. Why? Because God tells us,

Rom. 12:21-13:2 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

All authority is from God. Pilate was not the exception. Your boss is not the exception. The president is not the exception. It doesn't matter how ungodly or harsh the authority is. (Gen. 16) We must learn the lesson. Lift your holy hands in surrender to God as you pray for that person in authority over you. Remember that Jesus said,

John 18:36 ..."If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting..."

Our battle is won in the spiritual realm of prayer, not in the worldly realm of swords, impeachments, and rebellion.

19:12-16 No King But Caesar

Pilate's fear of the Jews taking the situation to Caesar finally made him break and surrender to their will.

Prov. 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.

May we trust in God rather than fear man.

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