John 18–19:16 Jesus’ Trial. His Witness to Pilate.

Key Notes: Pilate on trial. Running in and out. A pagan looks at the Kingdom. Give a Jew up to the Romans?

19:1–11 After finishing His briefing with the disciples (Jn.14–16) and praying that the Father would restore His Glory (Jn.17), Jesus moved into the Garden of Gethsemane with His eleven disciples. He again prayed passionately, this time for release (Matt.26:36–46), although John omits it from his narrative, He then went to meet His twelfth disciple coming from the opposite direction. Judas brought a show of force with him—Roman soldiers with swords and temple guards as well as priests and Pharisees. Both Jesus and Judas knew that they would meet. Jesus made a move. Who do you want? They said “Jesus of Nazareth”. Jesus said “I AM” and they fell backward in a heap.

When they collected themselves, Jesus repeated the question and they answered again.
Jesus asked that the disciples be excused. That fulfilled the word of His High Priestly prayer.
“I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Jn.17:12

He allowed the soldiers to proceed, but Peter intervened, and swung his sword at the High Priest’s servant, intending to kill him at a stroke. He missed the skull and nicked his ear. Jesus healed the ear (Lk.22:51) and rebuked Peter. He must drink the cup that the Father had given Him.

18:12–27 Jesus was tied up and taken to the house of Annas, father-in-law of the current High Priest, Caiaphas. Annas is called “high priest” 18:19 because he had been the high priest and was still the power behind Caiaphas. The high priest's position was changed frequently, perhaps yearly.

The story of Jesus’ trial and Peter’s trial and defection are woven together. Peter and presumably John (“another disciple”) did not run away with the rest of the disciples, but followed behind the guards. John was familiar with the high priest and got Peter into the courtyard adjacent to the trial room. The maid who brought Peter in to let him warm himself by the fire asked “Are you not also one of this man’s disciples?” (The question invites a “no” answer and Peter obliged.) The question was repeated twice by others standing around the fire,  each inviting a “no” and Peter stuck with his statement. I imagine Peter felt chagrined for his poor sword stroke, stung by Jesus’ rebuke, dismayed that everything was falling apart, groggy from lack of sleep, emotionally exhausted, even bitter. Then he was mortified when he realized that he had denied His Lord. Peter had hit rock bottom.

Annas invited Jesus to incriminate Himself, and Jesus refused. There were many witnesses to His public meetings who could testify. When the officer slapped Him, He rightly protested. The whole procedure was illegal and they knew it.

Annas then handed Jesus over to Caiaphas, who had already determined that Jesus must be executed. 18:14

18:28–32  From Caiaphas’ house, the leaders took Jesus to the Praetorium,  the center of Roman authority in Jerusalem. It was part of the guard-quarters and tower at the NW corner of the Temple pavilion. From it, troops could be rapidly deployed to deal with unruly crowds or riots in the Temple courts. The Temple Holy Place was of course off-limits to both Jews and Romans.

The Jews would not enter Roman buildings lest they become ceremonially unclean, so Pilate came out to hear them. First they said Jesus was an evil-doer worthy of execution. They did not have the right to kill Him (stoning), so crucifixion under Roman auspices was their demand. That fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy that He would be lifted up. Jn.12:32, 33

18:32–19:16 The trial before Pilate. As we read this account, it in not a prisoner before the Bar, fighting for his life. It is the Leader, the King, offering hope and truth to a Roman political hack, caught in a three-way bind between the Jewish hierarchy, Roman government, and this mystifying prisoner.

Pilate wanted no part of this highly irregular proceeding foisted on him by the Jewish elite. Three times he said he found “no crime” in Him. 18:38; 19:4, 6
            “what accusation... “? 18:29
            “take Him yourselves...” 18:31;’:6
            “release for you...” 18:39
            “sought to release...” 19:12
            “Shall I crucify your King?” 19:15

Pilate showed his confusion by his body language. He walked back and forth between his office and the balcony.

He went out to hear the Jews’ complaint. (18:29)
He came in to question Jesus. 18:33
He went out to announce his verdict. 18:38
He came in to order the scourging. 19:1
He went out to present Jesus, wounded, to the crowd. 19:4
He came in to question Jesus again. 19:9
He went out with Jesus to announce his final decision. 91:13

Plainly he was caught in a trap he did not understand, shuttling back and forth between opposing forces. But he was under no obligation to the Jews. Perhaps he was merely baiting these whom he detested. Did he dangle their prized prisoner over them, toying with them, goading them into a blind and disgusting rage? Or was he just a petty politician in over his head, baffled by the Jews? He was not compelled to act. He could have sent the crowd away to celebrate Passover and reconvene the proceedings at some other time.

This was the trial of Pilate by Jesus. Also, Jesus’ confrontation of Pilate is a study in pre-evangelism. Jesus works with Pilate as if there were some hope of his redemption.

Pilate. Are you the king of the Jews?
Jesus. To the first question, Jesus countered. "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about Me?" Do you really want to know who I am?
"That is a good question. We do not know where Pilate got the word "King". Does Pilate really want to know if Jesus is the king or is he just mouthing words? Jesus is pushing him in the direction of finding out whether He really is King. Pilate: “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have hand you over to me. What have you done?
What He has done is to alienate the Jewish establishment. If he were a king, why would He not be championed by the Jews, who would do anything they could to overthrow Roman rule?  The Jews would never in their right minds give up a Jew to the Romans to be crucified.
Jesus: ‘"My kingdom is not of this world; if My kingship were of this world, My servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but My kingship is not from the world".

Pilate: ”So you are a king? Pilate did not get it, any more than Nicodemus did. Jesus acknowledged the conflict with the Jews, but made it clear that He is in the position that He is supposed to be. He was not fighting a political battle. His “kingdom is not of this world”, means that it is the Kingdom of Heaven. That must make Him God. It is the only other option. So God’s kingdom is in conflict with Judaism and its King is giving in to the Jews. The  reason is not clear. It is a baffling puzzle for a pagan to analyze. What is there that is not of this world?

Jesus: "You say I am a King." [ I am The King}. For this I was 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. Do you hear me? Jesus is King. He was born into the world and therefore He is clearly a human being. His task is to tell the truth to anyone who will listen. He is inviting Pilate to listen.
Pilate: “What is truth?” He did not hear. Jesus did not answer his rhetorical question. Pilate was walking away.
Pilate deflects the invitation. He goes blindly on to try to get Jesus free by substituting Barabbas, a robber and a revolutionary. That only provokes the crowd. Failing at that, he has Jesus beaten, with the hope that the crowd will have mercy on one of their own people. He presents Jesus, beaten and bloodied to the crowd. Pilate: “Behold the Man!” That does not pacify the crowd, but stimulates it more “Take Himself yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no crime in Him.”
To the Jewish charge that Jesus made Himself the Son of God, Pilate came back with anxiety in his voice. He was a Roman who half-believed in the gods. “Where are you from?” He has just now heard the Jews say that Jesus called Himself the Son of God. So Jesus’ own words have been plainly articulated by the crowd. They know, and Pilate knows. Where is He from? From Heaven. His fear grows. He is dealing with  a spiritual problem in ignorance. “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release You, and power to crucify You? In his anxiety, he became defensive, talking in power terms.
Jesus: “You would have no power over Me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered Me (Judas) to you has the greater sin.”
Jesus has put Judas into the picture. {Here we see God’s sovereignty and human responsibility side by side.} The whole situation is in God’s hand. But Caiaphas and the Jewish establishment are guilty of sin. Pilate has lesser sin? Caiaphas has greater sin? Pilate then heard the Jews say that any friend of Caesar could not be tolerant of another king.
Shall I....Being a friend of Caesar is a matter of life or death. Pilate must save his life. He tries one more time. “Shall I crucify your King?” An outrage.

When Pilate heared that the Jews were more loyal to Caesar than he was, he caved in at last. He has been on trial himself and failed to grasp Jesus’ invitation to hear His voice.
He knew Jesus was innocent. He said so repeatedly.
He knew there was a spiritual battle going on between Jesus' kingdom and the Jewish establishment.
He failed to follow the light toward the truth.
At last, he decided to save his own political life and let Jesus die.
He was guilty of terrible sin.

We are likely to have done the same.