Lesson 105

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

Today's Scripture

<18:33 Pilate therefore entered again into the Praetorium, called Jesus, and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"

18:34 Jesus answered him, "Do you say this of yourself, or did others tell it to you concerning me?"

18:35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered you to me. What have you done?"

18:36 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."

18:37 Pilate therefore said to him, "Are you a king then?"

Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. To this end have I been born, and to this end I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."

18:38 Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"

 Today's Lesson 

In Today's scripture, Jesus comes before Pilate. This interview is critical to the death of Jesus because the Romans reserved the right to sentence a criminal to death. The Jews could have punished Jesus severely. But, they would not have been allowed to condemn Him to death.


Now the Romans had a completely different standard for judgment. Pilate could have cared less if this Jesus was condemned for blaspheme. And, Pilate would have heard of this Jesus. The Romans kept very good intelligence on native populations. That Jesus had upset the religious leaders would have been something that Pilate would probably have applauded. What the Romans were concerned about, however, was if Pilate thought that Jesus was capable of leading a rebellion. Rebels were not tolerated in the Roman Empire.


So Pilate asks Jesus the Roman question, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Now there are many ways that Jesus could have chosen to answer Pilate's question. And He surely understands the consequences of the answer. There is a short respite when He asks Pilate whether the question is his or if the Jews had told him to ask it. After that answer Jesus tells Pilate an answer that is fraught with difficulty, for both Him and Pilate. He tells Pilate that His kingdom is not from this world but from another.


The problem that Pilate has is that Jesus does not outrightly deny being a king. He probably understands the fine line that Jesus is drawing, but his duty demands that if this Jesus claims to be a king of any sort that it is treason. No one could claim to be a king in a Roman occupied territory unless they had the backing of Rome. At least, no one could do so without running afoul of the Roman military.


So this interview neither condemns Jesus nor gives Pilate any reason to release Him. It leaves the decision for life and death squarely with Pilate and there is Pilate's great failing. Pilate wanted others to make this decision. So he allowed himself to be swayed by the Jews. In order to please them, he orders Jesus to death even though he knows there is no rebellion to Rome in what Jesus has said.


And the way that this interview ends is fascinating as well. Jesus had said, "Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate replies, "What is truth?" Pilate's question is rhetorical. He leaves immediately after asking it. It was completely outside of his experience that there might be an objective answer to his question. The Greeks had wrestled with truth for generations. Standing before Pilate is one who could have given him the answer. Standing before him was one who was the embodiment of truth.


Would you know truth if He stood before you today? What is truth to you?


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