NEUTRALITY IS NOT AN OPTION WHEN IT COMES TO CHECKING OUT THE CLAIMS OF CHRIST AND PASSING JUDGMENT
Pilate wanted no part of this controversy. He was forced into a position of checking out the claims of Christ and the accusations of the Jews. His response shows a fatal pattern repeated by those who try to sit on the fence and assume a position of neutrality with respect to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Rejection comes at the end with a high price associated.
We see Pilate from 4 different Perspectives:
I. (18:28-32) RELUCTANT BUT OBLIGATED TO CONSIDER THE CASE
A. (:28) Change of Venue: Bringing the Case to Pilate —
Legalistic Hypocrisy on the Part of the Jewish Religious Leaders
“They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium in order that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.”
Talk about straining at a gnat but swallowing a camel!
Ryrie: The Roman headquarters, the barracks (also in v. 33). As a dwelling place of Gentiles it was unclean. Thus the Jewish authorities would not enter, lest they be defiled for the Passover. They were willing, however, to see the murder of Jesus committed without fearing defilement!
Stedman: John draws a clear contrast between their sanctimonious piousness over ceremonial defilement when they were totally unconcerned about the moral guilt of delivering an innocent man up to die.
B. (:29-30) No Legal Basis for Any Legitimate Case
should have been thrown out immediately without any further adjudication
1. (:29) No Formal Accusation
“Pilate therefore went out to them, and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’”
No formal warrant had been sworn out; more like a lynching mob than a legal proceeding. The Jews did not want a fair trial and consideration of the evidence; they simply wanted a rubber stamp on the execution papers.
2. (:30) Unsubstantiated Assumption of Guilt
“They answered and said to him, ‘If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.’”
Just take our word for it; Trust us on this one; No need for facts or evidence.
Everett F. Harrison: The Sanhedrin had not prepared a formal indictment against Jesus to submit to Pilate. They expected the governor to take their word for it that this man was a malefactor, i.e. a doer of evil. The answer was flippant. Pilate was disliked by the Jews.
C. (:31a) Gutless Attempt to Sidestep Responsibility
“Pilate therefore said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.’”
D. (:31b-32) Constrained by the Letter of the Law and the Prophetic Plan of a Sovereign God
“The Jews said to him, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death,’ that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.”
II. (18:33-40) INQUISITIVE BUT SKEPTICAL ABOUT THE KEY ISSUES
Pilate ends up asking the Key Questions … but he is not honest; not genuinely seeking the truth; but operating from a depraved heart of a confirmed skeptic
A. (:33-35a) “Are You the King of the Jews?” – Question of Lordship / Authority
1. Primary Question
“Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’
2. Rebuttal Question: What is Your Motivation in Asking?
“Jesus answered, ‘Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?’”
Deffinbaugh: In other words, is Pilate asking for himself, personally, or is he merely interrogating Him? Does Pilate really have an interest in Jesus’ identity? Does he care about such things? It would surely appear that Jesus was gently probing Pilate, testing for any spiritual interest on his part. Our Lord knew who His sheep were (John 10:14, 26-27; 13:18), but even so He sought to encourage Pilate to seek Him.
3. Base Assumption: You must be Guilty
“Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You up to me’”
B. (:35b-36) “What have You done?” – Question of Righteousness and Mission
1. Looking for Evidence of Political Rebellion
“What have you done?”
2. Confronted with the Uniqueness of the Spiritual Kingdom
“Jesus answered, ‘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.”
MacArthur: Now, what does He mean when He says, “My kingdom is not of this world…”? Some people say, “Well, that proves there will never be a Millennium. That proves there will never be a Kingdom. That proves that Jesus is never going to come back and give Israel a thousand-year Kingdom.” That doesn’t prove that at all. When Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of [Gk. ek = `out of’] this world…,” He means that it didn’t grow out of the world’s system. Jesus wasn’t a King because men elected Him King. In John 6:15 the people tried to make Him a King, and He went out of their midst. He didn’t want to be made a King by men, He already was a King. But His Kingdom was spiritual. So when He says that His Kingdom was not out of this world, He doesn’t mean that it won’t come into the world. We believe there will be a literal Kingdom for Israel — a literal millennial reign of Jesus on earth. He is not saying that isn’t true; He is simply saying that His Kingdom does not have its origin in the human system.
C. (:37) “So You are a king?” Question of Blindness and Confusion
Blinded Hearts and Minds always miss the spiritual point
1. Confused and Befuddled
“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’”
2. Understanding of the Truth Limited to the Elect
“Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
Interesting way to put things; implies His pre-existence as eternal God.
Also points to the humility of the kenosis, the emptying of Himself in His incarnation.
Piper: Jesus was not born to keep secret the truth of God. He was born and came into the world to bear witness to the truth, the unchanging absolute truth of God. Realize how much is at stake. Take up the gospel and read. And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
D. (:38a) “What is truth?” Question of a Frustrated, Defeated, Cynical Agnostic
Stedman: It is a cynical, weary answer, the response of someone who has been trying to find a way out of his troubles, but has lost all confidence in religion or any other guide.
E. (:38b-40) “Do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews” Question of Compromise and Worldly Options
1. (:38b) No Grounds for Finding Fault
“And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no guilt in Him.’”
MacArthur: There was no accusation against Jesus — the proven faultless. There was no indictment at the beginning and no conviction at the end. The King of truth was maligned and hated, but remained perfect and proven faultless. Jesus was as pure at the end as He was at the beginning. There was nothing to hold against Him. He is The Perfect Man, The Prophetic God, The Preternatural King, The Preincarnate One, The Proclaimer of Truth, The Personal Savior, and The Proven Faultless. I hope that you see Him in this way, and I hope you respond to Him differently than Pilate did.
2. (:39) Alternative Proposal as Humanistic Work Around
“But you have a custom, that I should release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?”
3. (:40) No Way Out – Depravity at its Worst
“Therefore they cried out again, saying, ‘Not this Man, but Barabbas.’ Now Barabbas was a robber.”
III. (19:1-9) PRESSURED BY POPULAR OPINION BUT VACILLATING AND WILLING TO COMPROMISE
A. (:1) Cruel But Restrained
“Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him.”
B. (:2-5) Mocking But Willing to Compromise
1. (:2a) Crown of Thorns
“And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head”
2. (:2b) Kingly Robe
“and arrayed Him in a purple robe”
3. (:3) Mocking Tribute
“and they began to come up to Him, and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’”
4. (:3b) Humiliating Suffering
“and to give Him blows in the face.”
5. (:4) Seeking Closure
“And Pilate came out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing
Him out to you, that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.
6. (:5) Mocking Summary
“Jesus therefore came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, ‘Behold, the Man!”
Tasker: Tone is contemptuous. Pilate is saying in effect “Here he is – the poor fellow. Can you really think that such a caricature of a king is really a danger either to Israel or Rome?”
C. (:6) Pressured And Desperate to Pass the Buck
“When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, ‘Crucify, crucify!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves, and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.’”
D. (:7-9) Fearful And Looking for A Way Out
1. (:7) Jewish Charge of Blasphemy
“The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.’”
2. (:8) Intensified Panic of Pilate
“When Pilate therefore heard this statement, he was the more afraid.”
3. (:9) Final Attempt at a Bail Out
“and he entered into the Praetorium again, and said to Jesus, ‘Where are You from?’ but Jesus gave him no answer.”
IV. (19:10-16) FINALLY WE SEE PILATE AS COWARDLY AND CAPITULATING IN DELIVERING CHRIST OVER TO BE CRUCIFIED
A. (:10-11) Caution: Divine Authority Supercedes Delegated Authority
1. (:10) Pilate Foolishly Claims Ultimate Authority
“Pilate therefore said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”
You don’t know whom you’re messing with here!
Deffinbaugh: Pilate is trying to frighten Jesus into speaking. “Don’t you know who I am, and the power I possess? Don’t you know what I can do to you if you don’t cooperate? Your fate is in my hands.” Our Lord’s answer might be paraphrased this way: “I understand that you have certain power and authority, but you should understand that yours is a God-given authority. If you are trying to instill fear in Me, it won’t work, because you do not have the power to harm Me unless it is the will of God for Me, as indeed it is.” Pilate is issuing a threat, and Jesus’ response informs Pilate that his threat is an empty one. Pilate cannot do anything to Jesus that he wants; he can only do to Jesus what God wants. Pilate is not free to harm our Lord unless this is God’s will. And since it is God’s will, Pilate is surely not sovereign, as he wishes to imply. He cannot do whatever he chooses to Jesus.
2. (:11) Jesus Rebukes By Pointing to the Ultimate Divine Authority
“Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin.”
(Or is Jesus mainly referring to the authority of Caiaphas here?? What is the connection between the first half of verse 11 and the second half?)
Tasker: Pilate’s sin in bringing about the crucifixion is therefore less, Jesus asserts, than that of the high priest, for Pilate, however wrongly he may be destined to use the power vested in him, is exercising a power legitimately entrusted to him, while the person who handed Jesus over to him is illegally using the secular power of Rome to obtain an unjust sentence against Jesus.
B. (:12) Conflict: Pilate Torn Between the Fear of God and the Fear of Man
“As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, ‘If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.’”
Strong political peer pressure brought to bear
C. (:13-16) Capitulation: The Reluctant Act of Judgment
1. (:13) Formal stage for judgment
“When Pilate therefore heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.”
2. (:14) Final Attempt at Sarcastic Resolution
“Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’”
3. (:15) Frenzied Voice of the Jewish Religious Leaders
“They therefore cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’”
4. (:16) Fatal Act of Cowardice
“So he then delivered Him to them to be crucified.”