In John Chapter 18 we are continuing with the conversation between Pilate and Jesus. The Bible says in John 18:37, "Pilate therefore said unto him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice." Pilate was not trying to find the truth. He was trying to see if there was a justifiable reason for him to have Jesus executed. Earlier he had asked Jesus if Jesus were the king of the Jews. Jesus responded that His kingdom was not of this world. So this time, instead of asking Jesus if He is the King of the Jews, Pilate asks Him if He is a king of any kind; but Jesus does not answer. Pilate was speaking of the things of this world and of this life, and so Jesus replied by telling Pilate why Jesus was in this world. There are many people who do not know why they are in the world. But Jesus knew. He was in the world to bear witness of the truth. There is nothing more important or more valuable than the truth, and if you know the truth, part of your purpose in life should be the same as that of Jesus: to bear witness of the truth because there are many people in the world who do not yet know it. Pilate did not know the truth, and so the Bible says in the first part of John 18:38, "Pilate said unto him, What is truth?"
After Pilate finished this interrogation of Jesus, Pilate still did not know the truth, but He did know that Jesus was innocent of any wrong-doing, and so Pilate stopped talking to Jesus, and he returned to the crowd of Jews who were outside of the judgment hall. The Bible says in the last part of John 18:38, "And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and said unto them, I find in him no fault at all." Jesus is the only one who was ever born into the world of whom it could be said, "I find in him no fault at all." If you or I or anyone else who has ever been born into the world were judged, it could not be said that there is no fault at all: much the contrary. We are all sinners, and our hope of forgiveness and heaven is due totally to the grace of God that is in Christ Jesus. Pilate examined Jesus and said, "I find in Him no fault at all." But Jesus went to the death of the cross anyway, so that we could be forgiven of our sins. "He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
Pilate made one more attempt to free Jesus. The Bible says in John 18:39-40, "But you have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will you therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barrabbas ws a robber." Notice the contrast between Jesus and Barrabbas. Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, and the Jews could make no meaningful accusation against Him; but there was no doubt concerning the character of Barabbas: he was a thief and a robber. Sometimes there is nothing worse than a thief. When someone steals from you they often take more than your possessions. Thay can also take from you your faith in your fellow-man and your sense of peace and security. Thieves are a horrible blight on society, and Barabbas was a thief. Jesus was a giver. He gave the truth, and He gave forgiveness of sins, and He gave eternal life. What a contrast between Jesus and Barabbas, between the giver and the thief. Because of the contrast, Pilate thought surely that the people would chose Jesus and reject Barabbas. But we know that did not happen. The crowd cried out that they wanted Barabbas to be freed, but not Jesus. The judgment of Jesus was much more like a lynching and a miscarriage of justice than anything else. The majority of people in that crowd did not want to really know the truth, and so they made the wrong choice. This shows one of the potential flaws in a democracy, and shows why any democracy has within itself the seeds of its own destruction. If a country is ruled by the majority and the majority does not want what is right, then a horrible destiny awaits them all because of the wrong decisions that they will make. And if the wrong choice is made in a crisis, there can be horrible consequences. The wrong decision was made at the judgment of Jesus.
At this point in the judgment of Jesus evidently it became more and more the purpose of Pontius Pilate to placate the people. Barabbas was set free, and Jesus was led back into the judgment hall to be tortured and humiliated. Pilate was probably hoping that this punishment would be enough to satisfy the Jews so that they would disband and peace would be assured, and a potential uprising would be averted. As a politician, Pontius Pilate was trying to make enough compromises to keep the people happy and to keep the peace. In John 19:1-5 the Bible says, "Then Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and said unto them, Behold I bring him forth to you, that you may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said unto them, Behold the man."
Three years previous to this incident John the Baptist had pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Pilate pointed to Jesus whom Pilate had tortured and beaten and said, "Behold the man." Jesus took away the sins of the world by becoming a man, and then by being delivered into the hands of men. Jesus knew what was in man: the potential for deceit and violence, but He allowed Himself to be delivered into the hands of men so that you and I could be forgiven of our horrible sins. Itís an understatement to say that we owe Jesus a lot. We owe Him everything.
Pilate knew that Jesus did not deserve to die as a criminal and so in John 19:4 Pilate said to the Jews after torturing Jesus, "I find no fault in him." Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent, and it was as though he were pleading with the Jewish leaders to let Jesus go free so that neither he nor they would have to live with the guilt of having killed an innocent man. The answer of the Jews to this plea is given in the first part of John 19:6. The Bible says, "When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him." But Pilate still had not yet given up trying to declare the innocence of Jesus, and the Bible says in the second part of John 19:6, "Pilate said unto them, Take him and crucify him: for I find no fault in him." Pilate had carefully examined Jesus, and three times Pilate declared to the Jews, "I find no fault in him." If you or I were examined much fault could be found. There would be many condemnations and many judgments that could be made against you or I; but not against Jesus. Perhaps one of the reasons that God is so willing to forgive people is because He knows how horrible it is to stand under the glare of condemnation. Judgment and condemnation are terrible things. Some people try to escape judgment by hiding their sins, but itís much better to face your sins, to confess them and forsake them; and thereby find the forgiveness from God. God wants to forgive you, not judge you.
Jesus is the only one who deserved no judgment, but when Pilate tried to set Him free the Bible says in John 19:7-8, "The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid." Earlier the Jewish leaders told Pilate that Jesus should be put to death because Jesus said He was a King and was therefore in rebellion against Caesar. But this time the Jews tell Pilate that Jesus should be put to death because Jesus said that He was the Son of God. Of course, Pilate must have recognized that there was something different about Jesus of Nazareth in the personal conversations that he had just had with him. At first Pilate was afraid that he was going to be a part of condemning an innocent man, but now he realizes that it may be even more serious than that.
The Jews said that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and so Pilate would go and ask Jesus for himself and see what Jesus had to say about being the Son of God. The Bible says in John 19:9, "And Pilate went again into the judgment hall, and said unto Jesus, Where did you come from? But Jesus gave him no answer." The world had gone mad, but it was not the purpose of Jesus to defend Himself. Jesus had come into the world to die for sinners. There is a time for all things, and this was the time for the death of Jesus of Nazareth, and therefore as a sheep before the sheerers is dumb and as a lamb at the slaughter, so He opened not His mouth. Even though railing accusations were brought against Him, He did not defend himself because He came to die for the sins of the world.
Jesus did not answer Pilate, so Pilate tried to use his own power to intimidate Jesus into answering. The Bible says in John 19:10-11, "Then said Pilate unto him, Do you not speak to me? Donít you know that I have power to crucify you, and have power to release you? Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against me, except it were given you from above: therefore he that delivered me unto you has the greater sin." Anyone who is in a place of power has been given their power from God. Some day they will answer to God for what they did with the power that was given. Many are the devices of man, but it is God who lifts up or who casts down. Those who are in a place of power have been put there in order to exercise their power with justice. Pilate boasted to Jesus that he had the power to crucify Jesus or to let Jesus go. If Pilate had used his power in the right way, he would have let Jesus go free because he knew that Jesus was innocent.
The ultimate reason that Pilate did not let Jesus go free is given in the next two verses. The Bible says in John 19:12-13, "And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If you let this man go, you are not Caesarís friend: whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha." Pilate was not going to make a decision that threatened his own political career. Thatís the way the world works. It worked that way in the time of Christ, and it still works that way. You can do the right thing and risk losing everything, or you can compromise and try to hang on. But in the end, those who compromise their principles are the real losers. Just like most politicians, Pilate tried compromising. There are often issues where compromise is a good thing, but not issues of right and wrong. This time the Jews made a threat to Pilateís career by stating that he could be accused of not remaining faithful to Caesar, if he allowed Jesus to go free.
We saw the contrast between Jesus and Barabbas. Now notice the contrast between Jesus and Pilate. Jesus did the right thing, no matter what was the risk nor how great was the loss. Pilate knew what the right thing was and he could have done it, but instead he condemned Jesus to be crucified. Jesus thought of others and died for them. Pilate thought of himself and allowed Jesus to die for the sake of his own career. Jesus was put to death, but he is remembered as the great Savior of the world, the one who gave Himself for others. Pilate kept his career going for a little while longer, but he is forever remembered as the cowardly governor who gave in to the demands of the Jewish leaders and condemned an innocent man to die, and not just any innocent man, but the Son of God. The long-term consequences of doing what is wrong will always take place. Do what is right until the stars fall. Donít let your own self-interest lead you to doing the wrong thing or you will surely suffer the consequences.
The Bible says in John 19:14-15, "And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he said unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate said unto them, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, we have no king but Caesar." John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." He spoke of the sacrificial death of Jesus. Earlier Pilate had pointed to Jesus who had been whipped and beaten and said, "Behold the man." Jesus became a man, identified Himself with mankind, and took upon Himself the sins of man. Finally, in mockery and disrespect, Pilate pointed to a beaten and tortured Jesus and Pilate said, "Behold your King." Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leaders and many of the other citizens of Jerusalem. They said that they had no king but Caesar. By so saying they did greatly violate the spirit of the revelation of God, because from the days of the Old Testament every true believer should regard God as their greatest and ultimate King, and these people who claimed to be servants of God and who knew the Old Testament said, "We have no king but Caesar."
True believers will honor and serve the king and whoever is in control of the country in which they live because believers know that all powers are established by God; but believers also know that over and above any human government is the government of God. Pilate called Jesus the King of the Jews, but Jesus is more than the King of the Jews, He is the King of the whole world, and one day Jesus will return to rule the world for whom He gave His life.
Copyright; 2000 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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