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John 18:29-30, NIV29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?" 30 "If he were not a criminal," they replied, "we would not have handed him over to you."
February 12, 2012Pilate was very accommodating. Didn't he take it as an insult that these men would not enter his palace? It's well into the night by now--didn't he mind having to do business with Jewish officials when everyone should have been asleep!
Couldn't it wait. No, it couldn't because the Jewish authorities wanted to get the job done before sundown when the Passover celebration would begin. The gospel writer would agree that was man's plan. He has also told us it was really God who determined the time Jesus would give his life. The symbolism of the Passover lamb was very important to him. John believed Jesus to be the lamb of God; John the Baptist had attested to that even before Jesus began his ministry.
Atoning theology explains it this way. Just as in the events surrounding the first Passover when lamb's blood on the door posts of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt saved them from the angel of death, so now the blood of Jesus would save whoever believed in him from sin and death. No one at the time thought of Jesus as a Passover lamb, only in hindsight would that interpretation of these events become widespread teaching.
Now I've gotten ahead of our story. Pilate demands to know what the charges against Jesus are? He gets a smart-alecky response. As though Pilate thinks they would go to all this trouble if they didn't have an open and shut case.
It's hard for most people who have read this gospel to think of Jesus as a criminal. A possible threat to established religion, but not dangerous beyond that. After all, how dangerous can religious beliefs be to society as a whole?
I guess we have learned the same thing that earlier generations also experienced--that religious beliefs can be very dangerous. The religious leaders who were accusing Jesus thought they were helping God. They were on God's side, doing the works of God. Still today, it's not all that unusual to hear and watch stories on the news about people using violence against others in the name of God. Then as now, the innocent suffer.
John 18:31-32, NIV31 Pilate said, "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." "But we have no right to execute anyone," the Jews objected. 32 This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.
February 13, 2012The reason the Jews at this time didn't have authority to execute anyone is because the Romans didn't grant them authority to do so. They lived under Roman occupation. So it was Pilate's fault that these men are knocking on his door at this time of night.
Men are judging Jesus, and they have determined he deserved to die for the words he has spoken. Words about being sent from God. Granting forgiveness when only God can forgive sins. Calling God his Father and claiming to do the works of God. They thought these words were blasphemous. Clearly, both Jesus and his opponents could not both be on God's side.
On the other hand, the gospel writer interpreted all that was happening as the fulfillment of God's great plan. Had Jesus not said, "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself." Jesus death was not an accident. It was not instigated by the will of unbelieving sinners. Instead it was God who determined when and why he would give his son--so that all who believed in him would have eternal life.
Throughout Jesus' trial before Pilate, Pilate tries to release Jesus from the sentence of death. In this passage when he said, "Judge him by your own law", Pilate knew the Jews could not legally put him to death. Which raises an interesting point, because in John 8, the religious community was about to stone a woman to death before Jesus stopped them by suggesting, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." If Jews couldn't enforce a death penalty upon Jesus, were they beyond the authority given to them by the Romans when they attempted to stone that woman, something which their own religious law permitted them to do?
John 18:33, NIV33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
February 13, 2012
Pilate cares nothing about the Lamb of God image. What he wants to know is if Jesus thinks of himself as the king of the Jews? Did Pilate himself have anything to fear from Jesus? In hindsight, we say of course not. But as events unfolded, there was still a slight possibility that Jesus could upset the peace and stability of Jerusalem. Which would have to be put down with force and force can cause unpredictable and unintended problems with the citizenry. Pilate didn't want to stir things up; he didn't want Jesus or anyone else to stir the pot either.
For those who think Jesus was an obscure figure in Middle Eastern history, John begs to differ. Pilate summoned Jesus into his palace, in the middle of the night. He wanted to hear directly from the mouth of Jesus what all the hoopla was all about. Why were the religious leaders so intend in executing this plain-looking man? How could someone from such a simple background speak with such wisdom and authority? Were the rumors about a Messiah-King something to be taken seriously?
John 18:34-35, NIV34 "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?" 35 "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
February 14, 2012Jesus knew Pilate did not seriously believe he was a king, of the Jews or anybody else. It's interesting that their exchange is one question after the other in quick succession. John always portrays Jesus as a commanding presence, even in death and when at the mercy of others. Or in this case, in a one to one with the Roman governor.
If the Jewish authorities wanted to be rid of Jesus, there must be some good reason. Does Jesus want to lord it over them? Jesus responded: Is that your thinking, or have you been listening to rumors about me?
Pilate: Hey, I'm not Jewish; it's your own people who want to be rid of you. Why is that? What have you done to arouse such ire?