International Sunday School Lesson Study Notes
Lesson Text: John 18:28-37 Lesson Title: Testifying to the Truth
John 18 through John 20 covers the close of Jesus’ earthly life and is called the period of fulfillment because its content reveals the tension of belief and unbelief at its height. Unbelief reaches its height in these verses in the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. Belief reaches its highest in the action of the disciples at the time of the resurrection and afterwards. But perhaps the most defining statement of this section is Jesus’ words in John 17:4, “I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do,” which is followed by His greatest words in John 19:30, “It is finished.” This is clearly the period of fulfillment.
During the period of fulfillment in John 18 through John 20, several important events take place. The Betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot is recorded in John 18:1-11. Our Lord’s betrayal is both startling and amazing when you consider the fact that Jesus knew what was about to take place and yet submitted to it and even protected His disciples. Jesus’ trial before Annas, father-in-law to Caiaphas is recorded in John 18:12-27. Annas had been high priest and five of his sons had held the office. His son-in-law, Joseph Caiaphas was currently high priest.
John 18:28-19:16 records Jesus’ trial before Pilate and is given more space in John’s Gospel than either Matthew, Mark, or Luke. This section is the most humiliating time in Christ’s life. Jesus is brought before Pilate like an evil criminal in front of His would-be executioners. Yet, even in this situation, the magnificence of Jesus Christ shines forth. He is still God in the flesh!
The Accusations against Jesus (John 18:28-32)
“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.” “Then” refers to after the events earlier in the chapter. Before Peter’s denial, Jesus had been taken from the Garden of Gethsemane directly to Annas (John 18:13). Annas, former high priest, was one of the most powerful men in Jerusalem. He and his family had created a profitable business out of money exchange and selling of animals for sacrifice at the temple. That being the case, Jesus was obviously a threat to Annas because of His cleansing of the temple. Annas had Jesus bound and sent to the home of his son-in-law, Caiaphas, the official high priest (John 18:24). Caiaphas convened a meeting of the Sanhedrin, and Christ was put on trial in the middle of the night without being formally charged (John 18:19).
“They” is most likely speaking of “The Jews” (John 18:31). The term “Jews” as John uses it, does not refer to the general population, but to the angry, hostile, anti-Christ Jewish leaders, made up of Pharisees and chief Priests. It is the Hebrews who are hostile toward Jesus Christ. The Jewish leaders along with help from Caiaphas, had long ago plotted to kill Jesus (John 11:50).
The “hall of judgment” is the Jerusalem residence of the governor, probably the former palace of Herod the Great, who has been dead for more than 30 years. The term for “hall of judgment” is praetorium, a word used to refer to a military headquarters (Mark 15:16). This place has an inner hall where the governor can receive audiences. But John said, “…and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled.” The Jewish leaders accompanying Jesus dare not enter the judgment hall. To do so would put them in contact with Gentiles, resulting in ceremonial uncleanness. Such a defilement would make them unfit to continue participating in the Passover festival. The day of the week is Friday, and the next day is particularly important to the Jews. Interesting isn’t it? They are worried about religious purity while plotting to crucify the Son of God!
“Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?” History says “Pilate” arrived to rule Jerusalem in A.D. 26 and ruled until A.D. 35. He was sent to rule fairly and justly but started off on the wrong foot with the Jews when he carried in emblems of Caesar which the Jews opposed. It was God’s plan that Pilate be in the position he was in and had it not been for Pilate’s meeting with Jesus, Pilate would probably never have been known in history.
“What accusation bring ye against this man” was the legal routine in cases such as this but was also the first fair statement made in the trial of Jesus. Formal complaints had to be made before Pilate could proceed with the case.
“They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.” The word “malefactor” means “evil doer.” In other words their reply was, “If Jesus wasn’t an evil doer, we wouldn’t have brought him up here.” Their sarcastic reply indicates they didn’t bring Jesus to be examined; they brought him to be sentenced! Their answer is laced in contempt, as if they were telling Pilate that their judgment was sufficient, and that all they needed him to do was sanction it.
“Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” Pilate sarcastically gives the Jews the go ahead and permission to execute Jesus under Jewish law which would have been by stoning (Leviticus 20:17). He tells them to go ahead and finish what they have started. But they reply, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” The Jews would bow to Roman law when it suited their purpose. The right to exercise capital punishment was the most closely guarded of all a Roman governor's prerogatives. So, the Jews wanted to use that to get Pilate to do their dirty work.
“That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.” What they don’t realize is that there is someone else in charge of all of this instead of them. Jesus had already prophesied, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (John 12:32-33). The Jews can’t kill Jesus because they would have to exercise capital punishment by stoning and the Son of God is going to die by being “lifted up from the earth.” Christ could never have predicted that He would be executed by Gentiles had He not known everything in the future. God wanted the Jews, Pilate, and the world to know that His Son was God who controlled the future (Psalm 76:10).
The Consultation with Jesus (John 18:33-36)
“Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?” Pilate’s uneasiness in dealing with Jesus and this entire situation begins to reveal itself in his movements. “Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again…” is his second movement. The first is in verse 29, “Then Pilate went out unto them.” Pilate makes at least four trips between the outer court where he met the Jews in John 18:28 and the inner chamber or hall where he took Jesus for questioning (John 18:29, 33, 38; 19:1, 4, 9, 13). This movement on the part of an authoritative figure is uncommon to say the least. But then again, Pilate has never dealt with someone like Jesus.
Pilate’s question, “Art thou the King of the Jews” indicates he was ready to hear what Jesus had to say about himself. “Art thou the King of the Jews” is in response to the charges which the chief priests had presented to him. From the standpoint of the Jews it was the most damaging accusation possible. If Jesus were to declare himself King of the Jews it would be regarded by the Roman governor as the same as treason. Some have suggested that Pilate’s question could be translated, “So YOU are the King of the Jews, are you?” The words “Art thou” seems to indicate he did not expect this type of person to be standing before him. It is highly possible this was Pilate’s tone. He didn’t know whether to take all of this serious or not.
Question: What about you? How do you handle all of this truth about Jesus? Do you still respect it because your parents and grandparents do? Is all of this Bible believing stuff really true or is it just a part of your way of life or the way you were raised? You would be wise to be serious about Jesus!
“Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?” If Jesus had answered yes, Pilate could have believed the Jews. If Jesus had answered no, He would be lying. So, Jesus answers like a King by bringing Pilate into a discussion. Jesus’ answer must have taken Pilate by surprise. In his answer, Jesus did not declare his innocence and he was not defiant. He treated Pilate as an equal, not as a superior; and questioned him in turn. Jesus’ words, “Sayest thou this thing of thyself” was Jesus’ polite way of asking him whether he was asking on his own initiative, or whether the charge was secondhand. Jesus wants to know from Pilate who accused him of being a King. If Pilate was asking this question for himself, the question would have been, “Art thou a political king, conspiring against Caesar?”
“Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?” Pilate must have exploded with indignation when he said, “Am I a Jew?” His contempt for the Jews and his impatience with Jesus’ questioning his motives comes to the surface in his answer. “Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?” Pilate doesn’t want to be involved in this mess but Jesus’ “own nation and chief priests” had brought Jesus to him and all Pilate wants is a straightforward answer to the question, “What hast thou done?” What is it that they have against you?
“Jesus answered…” but he didn’t really answer. He never told Pilate what, if anything, he had done. Why? Because Pilate’s question in verse 35 was illegal. In both the Jewish and Roman judicial system, the judge had no right to ask, “What have you done?” Under no circumstances was a man to be condemned at the word of his own testimony. So, Jesus didn’t answer Pilate. Instead, he went into a discussion about His kingdom.
“My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” Three times in verse 36 Jesus calls the kingdom “My kingdom.” Jesus is admitting to Pilate that he has a kingdom but it is not a kingdom he could understand. Jesus says, “There are a lot of earthly kings; but I’m not one of them. And there are lots of earthly kingdoms in this world; but mine is different. If Jesus’ kingdom had been like the worlds kingdom then Jesus’ “servants” would have fought to establish it and defend it like other kings and kingdoms.
These words set Jesus apart from earthly kings and kingdom but they also let Pilate know that Jesus has not come to be a threat to Caesar or to Rome, since Jesus’ “…kingdom is not of this world.” If Pilate isn’t already completely puzzled, he is now. If Jesus has no desire for a political kingdom and he is not defending himself and trying to get released, then why are so many people angry with Him?
The Declaration from Jesus (John 18:37-38)
“Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then?” This would be considered today as a follow up question. But what previously was “Art thou the King of the Jews” (verse 34) has now become more personal. Pilate is looking at a man like he has never seen before. Although Pilate was well acquainted with royalty, he could not see and royalty in Jesus. Pilate was right when he saw nothing in Jesus that resembled an earthly king, but he was wrong when he concluded that Jesus wasn’t a king. Jesus was King and shall rule over every nation (Revelation 11:15; 17:14).
“Jesus answered, Thou sayest 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 heareth my voice.” Realizing that Pilate’s interest was growing, Jesus gave him a little bait to lead him into a discussion about “truth.” This was a subtle appeal from Jesus, for a judge was supposed to adhere to the “truth.” Simply put, if Pilate were devoted to truth, he would hear Jesus “voice; if not, he would identify himself as not belonging to the truth as indicated in the words, “…every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”
“For this cause came I into the world” speaks again of the deity of Jesus Christ. If Christ “came…into the world,” then He had to come from somewhere! Jesus Christ existed before His birth in Bethlehem. Pilate probably did not grasp the significance of these words. Many people today fail to grasp the significance and importance of the pre-existence of Jesus Christ. If the words “For this cause came I into the world” seem out of place, they aren’t. This balances beautifully with the truth of verse 36, “My kingdom is not of this world” and “my kingdom not from hence.”
Note: Christ came into the world because men needed to know the truth about God, man, sin, judgment, love, salvation, hell, heaven and everything else God wanted men to know. Pilate is so powerfully representative of the world in which we live, standing face to face with truth and spiritually blind.
“Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?” Truth, what is truth? Pilate seems to be saying, “I've been looking for truth all my life, there's no truth.” Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Men today live in the spiritual darkness because they think truth is non existent. And so, Pilate responds with the thought process that truth can’t be found. There is no way this Jew standing before him came to bear the truth.
Pilate was convinced of Jesus’ innocence of the charges against Him, and he sought to release Jesus when “…he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.” Pilate asked one of the most famous questions in the Bible and in history and yet he doesn’t wait for Jesus’ answer. Pilate has all the answers and he is tired of dealing with Jesus, so he brings this first phase of Jesus trial to a close.
Truth is such a rare commodity these days. Our culture teaches that truth is subjective and personal to each individual. In other words, what is truth for me may not be truth for you. The result is that tolerance is more value today than truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). It surely has become a day when “…every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). And if you as a Christian attempt to share truth (Jesus Christ) with the lost world, they will likely respond as did Pilate and shut down the conversation.
Pilate was really the one on trial in John 18:28-37. He attempted to solve his problem by avoiding truth. Pilate was facing an opportunity of a lifetime and he missed it. It's so sad to read this story because here was Jesus in His deity presenting Himself to people who should have known Him. The Jews if they had really known the Scripture, should have known Jesus. He was from God in the flesh and they concluded He was from Satan. He was a friend of sinners, yet they hated Him. He was the judge of all the earth standing before a sinful man to be judged. The Lord of glory was treated like a vile criminal. The Holy One was condemned as a blasphemer. Liars gave false witness against the living truth. And He who was the resurrection and the life was killed at the hands of men.
The truth is Jesus Christ! Do you know Him?
Illus. One of the most famous movie lines of all time comes from the movie “A Few Good Men.” The American drama film starred Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson and revolved around the court martial of two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine. In a dramatic courtroom scene, Tom Cruise, one of the lawyers, speaks to Jack Nicholson who is one the stand and says, “I want the truth.” Nicholson replies, “You can’t handle the truth.” Evidently, Pilate couldn't handle the Truth!
Contact Information Office: 828-758-2818Click to contact me.
Physical Location311 Abington Rd. N.W. Lenoir, N. C. 28645
Mailing Address311 Abington Rd. N.W. Lenoir, N. C. 28645
Designed by TTM Consulting