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JOHN - The Light Shines in the Darkness
A Bible Study Course on the Gospel of Christ according to John
PART 4 - Light Overcomes Darkness
A - Events From the Arrest to the Burial (John 18:1 - 19:42)
3. The civil trial before the Roman governor (John 18:28 – 19:16)

a) The charge against Christ's royal claims (John 18:28-38)

JOHN 18:28-32
28 They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium. It was early, and they themselves didn’t enter into the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. 29 Pilate therefore went out to them, and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man weren’t an evildoer, we wouldn’t have delivered him up to you.” 31 Pilate therefore said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” 32 that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spoke, signifying by what kind of death he should die.

Some Jews thought of killing Jesus as early as when he cured the paralytic at Bethesda (5:18), whereas the majority of the Jewish leaders secretly decided that he must die after the raising of Lazarus (11:46).

On Thursday night ,two important sittings of the Council were arranged, not mentioned by John (Matthew 26:57-67 and 27:1). These Jewish details were of little concern to Greek readers, but John did stress the unjust sentence on Jesus, passed by the representative of Roman justice, Pilate, in the military barracks overlooking the temple. He alone had the right to execute or aquit.

Those Jews, who had recognized their Lord, drew back for fear of pollution, should they enter a Gentile residence. They wished to preserve their ritual holiness, to participate in the Paschal Lamb with their kin. However they slew the true Lamb of God.

During this crucial period when Jesus was arrested, radical changes took place in Pilate’s life. One of his colleagues, a Roman general, was dismissed by Caesar for planning a rebellion. This general was anti-Jewish and the plot was uncovered by Jews. As a result, Pilate’s authority was weakened unlike his previous contempt and his harsh treatment of them.

After the Jews had brought Jesus to Pilate, the governor went out to them to enquire about their demands. He did not spend much time discussing, but understood the gist of their complaints. Pilate’s attitude to Jesus was expressed by a wry smile – a king without arms or troops, entering Jerusalem on an ass was no danger to Rome. But he agreed to the Jewish demands, giving way to their insistence. He had already placed an officer at their disposal with his company, to help in Jesus’ arrest. The operation worked: The prisoner was there at his mercy. Yet Pilate asked, "What is he guilty of doing?".

The Jewish elders implicitly declared: You know what we said about him earlier. This man is a political criminal with rebellious aims. We need not add more. We have not come for a visit officially representing the Jewish people. We have come to demand his death, so that the people may not be stirred up.

Pilate knew about Jewish whims and prejudices and knew the charge had to do with their law and their expectation of a powerful Messiah. Jesus had said and done nothing criminal in Roman law. So again, he delivered Jesus to them asking them to judge him according to their own law.

At that time, the Jews had no right to stone those who transgressed the Law. They aimed at humiliating Jesus by a public trial at the hands of the Romans who were regarded as unclean. So the harshest penalties inflicted on slaves and felons would fall on him – to be lifted onto the "cursed tree". This would imply that Jesus was not the Son of God, the Strong and Righteous One, but rather he was weak and a blasphemer. Caiaphas meant him to die on the cross at the hands of the Romans to prove he was no Messiah, but an usurper and deceiver.

JOHN 18:33-36
33 Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered him, “Do you say this by yourself, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I’m not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered you to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight, that I wouldn’t be delivered to the Jews. But now my Kingdom is not from here.”

The soldiers placed Jesus inside the barracks. When Pilate had heard the accusations of the Jews, he also wanted to hear Jesus’ defense directly from his mouth. Pilate did not trust the utterances of the Jews, but to proceed legally he asked Christ, "Are you the King of the Jews? I have seen other Messiahs armed to the teeth, with black beards and glaring eyes. You are not a fighter or a terrorist. You seem to be a miserable person, meek and humble, how can you aspire to Kingship? A king requires authority, power and ruthlessness."

Jesus felt that Pilate doubted his claim to kingship and asked, "Did your troops tell you that my disciples fought with them by night, or did your informers hear me making political speeches, or is your question based on Jewish lies alone? A governor should not listen to false charges."

Pilate replied angrily, "Am I a Jew?" As if to say, "I will not stoop to the level of those stubborn bigots, arguing about the points of religion night and day."

So Pilate admitted that it was not he who had arrested Jesus, but the Jewish people, their leaders and the nationalist. Then he asked briefly, "What did you do? I need an answer from you to confront those who accuse you. Speak, or you will be beaten; tell the whole truth."

At this, Jesus confessed the whole truth in a way that he rarely did with his disciples. He said, "God’s Kingdom is his alone, not built on tribute or weapons or jobs to exploit others." Christ’s kingdom shall not pass away as others. Jesus taught his followers not to strike with swords, or fire bullets or throw bombs. His Kingdom differs totally from all the Kingdoms on earth.

JOHN 18:37-38
37 Pilate therefore said to him, “Are you a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” When he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

Pilate did not grasp the sense of Jesus’ claim, but he realized that the accused confessed he was King without clarifying the import of that kingship. Jesus responded with, "You have perceived my secret and understood my words. A king is the owner and master of his kingdom; my kingdom is not of this world that is full of lies and deceits, because I am the King of Truth."

Then Jesus testified that his birth from Mary the Virgin was not the beginning of his existence, but that he came into our world from the Beyond. He was begotten of the Father before the ages. He knows divine truths. Jesus witnesses to the Truth of God, as the eternally begotten, he is the faithful witness. But Pilate laughed and asked, "What is truth?" The Governor had seen so much hypocrisy and treachery that he lost his faith in truth. But Jesus the faithful witness to heavenly truths stood firm and reveals to us his Father’s name.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you are my King; I belong to you. Make me a slave of your gentleness; hold me firm in your truth.


  1. How and in what sense is Jesus a King?


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