Our lesson this week continues to follow Jesus as he faces the judgment of men.  By this point in our lesson, Jesus has stood before the high priest and the Sanhedrin, and has now been taken to stand before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea.  He was arrested and stood before both the high priest and the Sanhedrin firm in faith. Will Jesus continue to stand firm in His faith as He stands before Pilate in our lesson for this week? This week’s lesson is being taught from John 18:28-40.

Standing Before Pilate

So, our lesson opens with Jesus being led from Caiaphas to the Praetorium (v.28); this was Pilate’s palace – think of it like the ‘governor’s mansion’.  Now, we’re told in that same verse that the religious leaders, the ones that sought to put Jesus to death, did not want to defile themselves because they wanted to eat the Passover.  You might ask, what does this mean?

Religious leaders defilement

I don’t know if you will recall this but if you can, I want you to think back to a sermon I preached on Peter being sent to Cornelius, a roman centurion.  After showing Peter that what He cleansed, he ought not call common (Acts 10:15), God sent Peter to Cornelius, a gentile who wanted to learn more about the Lord and grow in his faith.  Upon arriving at Cornelius’ dwelling place, Peter commented, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28).”

Under the law, the Jews considered that they would defile themselves by entering into the place of a gentile.  They felt this way because the gentiles worshiped idols and prayed to idols, and so being in the presence of such idolatry would defile them, in their minds.  This was an interesting thought to have because throughout His ministry, Jesus on several occasions was in the presence of gentiles.

So, the religious leaders did not desire to enter into Pilate’s palace because they considered it to be unlawful and would defile them prior to the Passover feast.  Yet, I do want to point out that they had no problem with sending Jesus, a Jew, into the palace.  In other words, they didn’t mind if Jesus defiled Himself according to the law.  This goes even further to the point that the religious leaders did not seem to mind other Jews defiling themselves, as Jesus often taught.

Even more hypocritical is that these religious had it in their hearts to put to death an innocent man!  They did not consider putting Jesus to death a defilement of their heart even though it certainly was!  Honestly, they were being hypocritical in their own religion!  So, they not only defiled themselves in their own religion but they defiled themselves before the Lord.

Religious leaders excuses

We see this further confirmed to us in the following verses in what they stated to Pilate when he came to meet them.  The religious do not try to hide the fact that they are seeking the death penalty against Jesus.  They respond to Pilate who had asked why they brought Him to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you (vss.29-30).”  After Pilates tell them to judge Jesus according to their law (the Mosaic Law), they say, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death (v.31).”

Now, that last statement is also a very curious statement because according to the Mosaic Law, there were definitely penalties for breaking the law that led to death (Lev. 20).  For example, one of the first penalties dealt with the giving to and worshiping of false gods.  Those that gave their descendants to false gods were to be put to death.  Other penalties that included death included homosexuality, beastility, and other sexual pleasures. For example, the religious leaders brought to Jesus a woman they were willing to stone for being caught in the act of adultery (John 8:4-9).

So, for them to say that it was not lawful for them to put anyone to death according to the law was simply a lie.  It is even more of a lie when we consider that they tell Pilate that Jesus was an “evildoer”.  If Jesus truly was an evildoer, then they definitely would have been able to put Jesus to death according to the law and it would not have defiled them.  I truly believe that these religious leaders knew what they were doing was not right and they were trying to work around and cover up their wickedness.

Pilate questions Jesus

After they turn Jesus over to Pilate, Pilate enters into his palace and Jesus is brought forward.  Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews (v.33)?”  That’s a very interesting way to start off his questioning, isn’t it?  Jesus responds with a question of His own, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me (v.34)?”

In Luke’s gospel, we are told that when Jesus was brought before Pilate, the multitude chimed that Jesus had been found perverting the nation along with saying that He was the Christ, a King (Luke 23:2).  So, it is very likely that Pilate had heard from the crowd the accusations against Jesus.  I don’t believe Pilate had heard anything about Jesus prior to the religious leaders bringing Jesus before him.  The religious leaders were far more concerned than Pilate about Jesus, as they thought Jesus to be a threat against their ‘authority and power’.

We will see Pilate’s lack of concern and knowledge about who Jesus is in his reply.  Pilate responds, “Am I Jew?  Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me.  What have You done (v.35)?”  So, to equate this to something, Pilate’s understanding of who Jesus was is like my understanding of someone who might be well known in another country.  To be completely honest, I barely keep up with well known people here in America, nonetheless in other countries.

I do not believe Pilate was being disrespectful or even hostile to Jesus.  Unlike the other men that Jesus had stood before, Pilate was a man who had no knowledge of Jesus and essentially had no ill feelings towards Jesus.  Jesus was just the next person brought before him by the Jews as the governor of the land.  So, Pilate was simply seeking to hear Jesus’ side of the story.

Jesus testifies of the truth

We could say that Jesus was now standing before a stranger instead of His own people.  When I teach or preach about the crucifixion, I always point out that both the Jews and Gentiles came together in sacrificing Christ.  The Jews judged Jesus first through the judgment of the religious leaders and then the Gentiles judged Jesus second through Pilate.  In essence, the world – all nations of people – judged Jesus.

Before His own people, Jesus did not deny the truth but stood firm in the truth and testified of the truth.  To Pilate, Jesus states, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here (v.26).”

Pilate then asked, “Are You a king then (v. 37)?”  Jesus responds firmly in the truth, “You say rightly that I am a king.  For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice (v.37).”  After hearing this, Pilate responds with the question, “What is truth?”

As with the religious leaders, Jesus is essentially given a moment to where He could deny ever saying what He said.  Doing this could have potentially saved His life, but as we have seen Jesus state, He was there to fulfill the Lord’s will – not to escape.  So, again, before the judgment of another, Jesus does not shy away from the truth but stands firm in the truth!  Jesus testified of the truth to both Jew and Gentile. 

After standing firm in the truth, Pilate states to the Jews that he did not find fault in Jesus (v.38).  Again, Pilate could not have cared less about the Jews’ squabble over Jesus.  As far as He was concerned, Jesus was not a threat to him or to the emperor.  Now, Pilate was not necessarily an innocent man in all of this because he still rejected the truth with his questioning of the truth.  And, because he did not care, he put Jesus’ fate into the hands of the Jews (vss.39-40).

From all of this, we see another example of how we should not concern ourselves for what others will think of us as we stand in our faith.  There are going to be those that despise us because of our faith in the Lord; they will go out of their way in how they treat us in their despising.  Then there are others would could not care less about our faith, and at the same time, they will not stand up for us in our faith.  Yet, it does not matter if they do not stand up for us because we have Christ who stands up on our behalf – Christ is all we ever need.  So, stand strong and firm in your faith.


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