089 John 18v28-38 Jesus Before Pilate

Presentation 89
Presentation 89
Millions of children have been captivated by the cartoon series “Scooby Doo”.
It consists of a group of teenagers and a couple of dogs who on a regular basis
solve mind-blowing mysteries. Their ability to do so
resonates with children and adults alike.
I wonder if you are the sort of person who
likes uncovering mysteries, collecting clues
and reaching conclusions? If you are then
you will be interested to discover that
there are a number of mysteries
associated with Jesus’ trial
before Pilate.
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Will The Real Pilate Please Stand
First, there is the contrast between what we know of Pilate's character from
secular history and his conduct during Jesus’ trial.
The historical picture we have is of a man who married for position and power.
His took as his wife Claudia, daughter of Julia who was the disgraced and
morality depraved wife of Emperor Augustus.
When appointed procurator of Judea in AD 26
he showed himself politically inept and
insensitive and he refused to learn from the
mistakes that previous procurators had
made when dealing with the Jewish
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Will The Real Pilate Please Stand
On his arrival in Judea his soldiers defiled Jerusalem by carrying into the city
images of Emperor Tiberius. It was known that the Jews would view this
action as sacrilege. When the people demanded their removal
he refused and threatened them with death if they didn’t
disperse. To his surprise they threw themselves to the
ground, bared their necks, saying they would rather
die than see their holy city contaminated. Pilate
backed off to avoid wholesale slaughter.
Later he built an aqueduct that would bring water into
Jerusalem BUT he paid for it by plundering the temple
treasury another act of sacrilege to the Jews. The list
goes on! Again and again he showed himself to
be cruel, insensitive and reckless.
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Will The Real Pilate Please Stand
Now the big mystery is the different portrait of Pilate that we find in the Gospels,
where he seems to be sensitive to the cause of justice - he appears to use a
variety of stratagems to have Jesus acquitted. First he reopens the case when all
that was expected of him by the Jewish leaders was a signature on a death
warrant. Three times he declares Jesus innocent. He offers to set Jesus free as an
annual token of mercy but the crowd choose Barabbas. By ordering Jesus to be
scourged he hoped this would appease the crowd and allow him to set Jesus
free. What made Pilate behave so uncharacteristically? How do we resolve the
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A Warning Disregarded
Matthew tells us that on the morning of Jesus’ trial
Pilate received an urgent warning from his wife
saying, ‘have nothing to do with that righteous man;
for I have suffered many things this day in a dream
because of him’ Matt.27v19.
Now, to the C21st materialistic westerner, dreams are
quickly dismissed. But the Romans, including Pilate,
took dreams seriously. As a result he tried to
extricate himself from any earlier agreement to
consent to Jesus' death. This introduces an even
deeper mystery. If Pilate took his wife’s warning
seriously, believing it to be a communication from
heaven and since he knew Jesus to be innocent why
did he condemn him to death?
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A Warning Disregarded
A further element of mystery is expressed in the
behaviour of the Jewish rulers of whom we read,
"to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did
not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to
eat the Passover’ v28.
These men were happily engaged in the judicial
murder of Jesus yet were concerned about being
ceremonially defiled by entering the home of a
Gentile. They rode roughshod so easily over the
many illegalities surrounding Jesus’ Jewish trial,
turning a blind eye to the pride, hatred and
jealousy that had precipitated it, but now they
were concerned about their ritual purification!
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A Warning Disregarded
Can you believe that they could behave in
such a way? Perhaps not without grasping
what God’s Word teaches about the capacity
of human nature to promote an outward
commitment to religion, while inwardly
undermining it – the deceitful heart.
There are contemporary applications. It is
possible to be committed to externals like
church attendance, baptism, taking the
Lord's Supper, but inwardly to have no love
for God or, longing after him. We must ask,
“Is the worship we offer from the heart? Is it
real or, is it outward formality?”
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Formal Indictment and Examination
The greatest mystery of all asks, how is it possible to find someone guilty and
condemn them to death. The Roman trial is made up of four essential parts:
the indictment, the examination, the defence, and the verdict. The official
nature of the proceedings is indicated by Pilate's opening words: "What
charges are you bringing against this man?" v29. The Jewish leaders are taken
by surprise. They attempt to evade this question by answering: “If he were not
a criminal, we would not have handed
him over to you.” v30.
They are saying, "You should accept our
judgment. He deserves death because
we say so." The Jews expected a rubber
stamp on the verdict they had already
arrived at.
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Formal Indictment and Examination
Not to be outdone by the stubbornness of Pilate
they produce a spur of the moment accusation.
"We have found this man subverting our nation.
He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and
claims to be Christ, a king." Lk. 23v2
But that’s a different charge from the one facing
Jesus the night before. To meet their emergency,
a political and not religious charge is presented
by the religious leaders. The charge that Jesus
claimed to be a king was not only true but from
a Roman perspective it was serious.
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Formal Indictment and Examination
When Pilate heard this charge he retired to his
chambers with Jesus to proceed with the
examination - the second part of a Roman trial.
Pilate wanted to explore the claim that Jesus was
a king, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ v33. If true,
it would brand Jesus as Caesar's enemy.
Jesus’ reply in v34 is another way of saying, ‘What
is the nature of the charge?’ Jesus wanted it made
clear that he was not a king from Rome's
perspective but he was the promised Jewish
messianic king. Pilate is not interested in matters
of religion and in exasperation asks, ‘Am I a Jew?’
His only concern is, “Has Jesus done anything to
affect the sovereignty of Caesar?"
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The Defence
Jesus is clearly no threat to the legitimate claims
of Caesar, which becomes apparent as he
explains the nature of his kingdom, “My kingdom
is not of this world...my kingdom is from another
Pilate’s response suggests he did not understand,
for he says, “You are a king then.” In reply Jesus
patiently teases out what he means by ‘his
kingdom’. It is “not of this world.” That is why his
disciples did not fight to prevent his arrest.
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The Defence
The second mark of his kingdom is that it is one "of truth." It is a kingdom
that rules over people's minds, aspirations and behaviour. Truth marks not
only the identity, the mission but also the instruction of the King. This is all a
bit much for Pilate who again in exasperation asks, “What is truth?” He had
heard enough to lead him to an important conclusion. Despite Jesus' peculiar
ideas, he was no threat to Rome’s administration and perfectly innocent of
any capital offense.
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The Verdict
And this is the verdict he announces when he returns to a packed courtroom,
‘I find no basis for a charge against him’ v38. Pilate had tried and acquitted
Jesus. Why did he not release him or, put him in protective custody? Pilate up to
this point had conducted the trial with precision, wisdom, and dispatch. He had
reached the right verdict. But now, he failed to do the right thing by
immediately setting Christ free. Why? The mood of the crowd influenced him
and there began a series of irregular and illegal proceedings which eventually
ended in the prisoner's execution. Pilate was a coward. This is the only proper
analysis of his character and the ultimate explanation of why he failed.
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The Verdict
In one sense Jesus has been on trial but in another it is Pilate who is tried and
found guilty. As are we all! We all fall short of God’s standard of perfection.
We all stand condemned. But remarkably, it was for condemned men and
women that Christ died. He died to bear the punishment for our sin and free
us from God's righteous judgment. Are you aware he has done that for you?
Have you responded to him in believing faith?
This response entails the belief that
Jesus is who he says he is - the
Son of God - and did what he said
he would do - die for your sin,
coupled with a personal
commitment to follow him as
your Saviour and Lord.
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We cannot be neutral or sit on the fence. Pilate tried to sustain a neutral
relationship with Jesus. He wanted to be innocent of Christ's condemnation
but was not prepared to stand up for him either. He wanted to sit on the
fence, abstain and wash his hands of responsibility.
But neutrality is impossible. We must either be for Jesus
or against him. If we stand with him, he will strengthen
us and enable us to live for him even in the midst of
great trials. If we refuse him support, then no
matter how humane, noble, or understanding
we may consider ourselves to be we are
against him.
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