Next Sunday will be the first day of Advent, so naturally we are looking at the crucifixion.
This will make sense, so hang in there.
I want to go back to the beginning of the segment to see what happens before Pilate returns inside to talk with Jesus, which is the main point of today’s reading.
Remember that John’s Gospel has Jesus arrested after sundown on our Wednesday, a day earlier than the Synoptics where Jesus ate the Passover meal with his Twelve on Thursday evening and was crucified on Friday (using our modern day-names). John presents the perfect Passover Lamb being killed at the same time the Passover lambs were being killed in the Temple.
John knew what he was writing. The Synoptics had widely circulated for three decades and in his approach to the account, he had other priorities. He did not intend to suggest that the others were wrong.
I am an historian [I know, an before h is old school] with a degree to prove it. I know that we who write history are bound to stick to the facts; don’t fudge or create. In ancient times, historians believed it was more important to present the story in either the best possible light or the worst, depending on who was being discussed. John knew that Christians knew the facts, so decided to give us the theology.
28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas’ presence into the palace. It was now early morning and the Jews themselves did not go into the palace, for fear that they would be contaminated and would not be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate walked out to them and said, “What is the charge that you are bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not an evil-doer, we should not have handed him over to you,” they replied. 31 To which Pilate retorted, “Then take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” “We are not allowed to put a man to death,” replied the Jews 32 (thus fulfilling Christ’s prophecy of the method of his own death). Phillips
“The Jews” refers to the leaders who had been after Jesus for three years. Even if it had not been Passover, few Jews would have entered a Roman building anytime for any reason.
33 So Pilate went back into the Palace and called Jesus to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked. 34 “Are you asking this of your own accord,” replied Jesus, “or have other people spoken to you about me?” Phillips
The question of Kinship is the key to this lesson. In the Christmas season it is easy to celebrate the birth of a baby and lose sight of the birth of a King; God’s own Son—King of the world.
Note that Jesus does not answer the question but asks one of his own. Jesus knows he will die before sundown, so why not do what he has always done, get at the truth of God?
Here’s a question: how did John know what was said inside the palace? As a modern historian, I cannot give an answer, only a supposition. Servants were always lingering around the high and mighty. Likely one was within hearing who was sympathetic to Jesus and told followers what he had heard.
35 “Do you think I am a Jew?” replied Pilate. “It’s your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done, anyway?” 36 “My kingdom is not founded in this world—if it were, my servants would have fought to prevent my being handed over to the Jews. But in fact my kingdom is not founded on all this!” Phillips
I have the felling that Pilate was both frustrated and intrigued. There can be no doubt that he had read and heard regular reports on Jesus as he had on John the Baptist and anyone else who could have been considered a threat. Now, Jesus stood in front of him.
By the time of Jesus arrest, Pilate had been reprimanded from Rome for some excessive actions, so he knew he did not want to do anything that would lead to any other bad reports. He could not risk having the Jewish leaders mad at him, but he could not risk executing an innocent man.
Pilate went to what for him was the central point, ‘do you claim to be a king as I have heard?’ Jesus explains the truth, that he is a king but not of this world.
37 “So you are a king, are you?” returned Pilate. “Indeed I am a king,” Jesus replied; “the reason for my birth and the reason for my coming into the world is to witness to the truth. Every man who loves truth recognises my voice.” Phillips
This is the verse that John wants us to remember. Jesus claims to be the King of Truth. Truth comes from God. False hood—lies—come from those who oppose God.
38 To which Pilate retorted, “What is ‘truth’?” and went straight out again to the Jews and said: “I find nothing criminal about him at all. 39 But I have an arrangement with you to set one prisoner free at Passover time. Do you wish me then to set free for you the ‘king of the Jews’?” 40 At this, they shouted out again, “No, not this man, but Barabbas!” Barabbas was a bandit. Phillips
We often see those shouting for Barabbas as a hundred people of all walks of life, forgetting that the guards would not allow any but the leaders into the courtyard. It was the leaders who called for Barabbas. They preferred a dangerous criminal to the King of Truth.
Be righteous and do good.