Lesson 104

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

Today's Scripture

18:28 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. 18:29 Pilate therefore went out to them, and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?"

18:30 They answered him, "If this man weren't an evildoer, we wouldn't have delivered him up to you."

18:31 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," 18:32 that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spoke, signifying by what kind of death he should die.

 Today's Lesson 

In this section of scripture, Jesus is taken from the house of the high priest to the Praetorium, the official building where the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate ruled when he was in town. Pilate usually lived in Caesarea, a Roman city along the coast. However, during the feast of the Jews, the Romans brought in extra troops to Jerusalem to keep the peace.


On this occasion, the Jewish priests and guards escort Jesus to the Praetorium but they refuse to go into the building themselves. The reason that they would not go into the Praetorium is that they believed that in so doing, they would become ritually unclean. If that were to happen, they would not be allowed to eat the Passover meal the next day.


Such was their hypocrisy that they had no qualms about causing the death of Jesus but they believed it would be a terrible thing to enter the buildings of gentiles. Their belief system was so complex and strained, that religious ceremony was more important than human life. This is not the only example of unbalanced beliefs, either. They had already disputed with Jesus about whether it was proper to heal on the Sabbath day. To these men, Sabbath observance was more important than relieving human pain and suffering.


Pilate came out and asked the Jews, "What accusation do you bring against this man?"


They answered Pilate by calling Jesus an evildoer. If He were not guilty of evil, they would not have brought Him before Pilate. Their answer is more complex than it seems. They have a purpose and reason for being vague. If they were to accuse Jesus of religious wrong (for instance that of blaspheme or claiming to be God), they would be required to punish Jesus themselves. On the other hand, they really had no case to charge Jesus with civil crimes. Moreover, they did not want to be seen pressing for civil penalties. That would have been legitimizing the Romans in a way that they did not wish to do.


And so Pilate told them, "Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law." Pilate tells them that if there is no civil law violation, that they must try Him themselves. Pilate immediately recognized the situation for what it was. If he had stood on this point, he would not have been guilty. This was the right and just decision that he should have made.


Instead, the Jews prevail upon Pilate saying, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death." Such was their greed for the death of Jesus that they would collaborate with the Romans to achieve it. In the end, they would violate their own laws and standards to achieve His death.


Is there anything that means so much to you that you would violate your own standards to achieve it? Is there any good that you would be willing to do evil to accomplish?


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