It is mid-morning on Thursday of Passion week and Jesus is now in His sixth and final trial in less than half a day. Just hours earlier He was condemned to death by the Jewish Sanhedrin, who immediately delivered Him to the Roman Procurator since they no longer had the ability under their Roman rulers to carry out capital punishment, for Shiloh had come and the scepter had departed from Judah; see Gen 49:10, Joh 18:31-32. Earlier that morning at Jesus’ first trial before him, Pilate immediately discerned that Jesus was innocent of the charges against Him and the Jewish leaders had delivered Him up out of envy. But wishing both to appease them on the day of their festival and smooth over a simmering controversy with Herod Antipas, from whose jurisdiction Jesus was from, he sent Jesus to Herod to relieve himself of the difficult position he was in. Now though, Herod had sent Him back, since he too found Jesus no threat to his worldly rule. In deference to the religious scruples of the Jewish leaders, hypocritical though they were while prosecuting to death an innocent man, Pilate had earlier gone outside the Praetorium to meet them lest they be defiled and unable to eat their Passover; Joh 18:28-29. What does John now relate that we surmise happened after His return from Herod? See Joh 18:33. In light of the Jewish leaders’ unwillingness to enter the Praetorium, what are we to understand about the significance of Pilate summoning Jesus into the Praetorium to question Him? Think: Would the Jewish leaders have been present to gainsay whatever Jesus said?
As Pilate had earlier “wondered greatly” at Jesus’ demeanor when falsely accused by the Jewish leaders so that he immediately understood there was more to Him than the common criminal they were making Him out to be, what are we to make of his words to Jesus in Joh 18:33? Are they spoken entirely in contempt as if there was no way in his mind that Jesus could be a king in any sense of the word? Note that while understood by us as a question, there were no question marks in the original Greek, and the actual word order is, “you are the king of the Jews”, which can be understood as either a question, or a statement, or even as a statement with somewhat of an inquiring question mark. See also Jesus’ question in Joh 18:34 that would seem to indicate that Pilate’s words were more of a statement than a question, since we find there λέγω for say and not ἐρωτάω for ask. See also Joh 19:19-22.
What is the central importance of Jesus’ question to Pilate in John 18:34 that has the same importance for every person when confronted with the claims of who Jesus is? Do we know who Jesus is in truth from our own interaction with Him, or do we only know about Him from what others have told us? Cf. Joh 1:43-49. What does Jesus’ question to Pilate indicate about who was actually now on trial in the greater court of heaven? How is that like each one of us as the truth of Jesus confronts us so that we understand He is more than just an ordinary man and we are forced to decide what to do with Him? In what way then is God even now judging the world in regard to righteousness through Jesus Christ? See Act 17:31 and think: is the day that God has appointed to judge the world necessarily the same for every person, that we should imagine it only as some eschatological future event? Cf. Rom 1:18,24,26,28. What does this remind us about the importance of our daily decisions in this life, especially those regarding the Lord, and the danger of putting off a decision about Jesus? Cf. Rom 2:4-5, Joh 12:48.
What was Pilate’s answer to Jesus? See Joh 18:35. What does his reply indicate about his perplexity and perhaps even a certain humility from his desire to understand in what sense Jesus might be a king of the Jews, but his inability as a Gentile to do so? For from His demeanor Jesus bore the marks of royalty, but at the same time, from His appearance and having been delivered up and so viciously accused by the Jews, He was unlike any royal he had ever known. In this light, why does Pilate’s question at the end of John 18:35 make sense, as well as Jesus’ reply in Joh 18:36? In what way would Jesus’ answer to Pilate have been easier for him to understand and accept because he wasn’t a Jew than it was by those who were Jews? Cf. Joh 4:25-26 and think: given their expectations under the Roman oppression, what was the only sort of king the Jews would understand and accept? What does this teach us about the importance of understanding things from God’s perspective, not necessarily our own? What explicit contrast does Jesus make between His kingdom and the kingdoms of the world in Joh 18:36? Note that servants there is actually the word usually translated as officers, as in Joh 18:3,12,18,22; cf. Act 26:16 (NAS minister) and 1Co 4:1 (NAS servants). Regardless of how religious and sincere some professing His name may appear, what conclusion can we draw from Jesus’ words in Joh 18:36 about those who fight for His kingdom in this world after the manner of the world? Are they really His servants or officers of His court? Cf. Joh 12:24-26.
What conclusion does Pilate draw from Jesus’ words about the nature of His kingdom? See Joh 18:37, and note that his conclusion is not quite as certain as our English versions have it, as his question is literally, “Are you not therefore a king?” Cf. the KJV, “Art thou a king then?” With what cryptic words does Jesus answer Pilate’s question, that He had earlier used also with Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, that communicated He was indeed a king, the Messiah, but not in the sense they were thinking? See Joh 18:37; cf. Mat 26:64, Luk 22:70, 23:3. Whereas Jesus could not share with the Jewish leaders the nature of His kingdom because they were blinded by their own mistaken expectations and wouldn’t hear it, how does Jesus further explain the nature of His kingship to Pilate in Joh 18:37? As opposed to the kingdoms of the world that are built upon force and coercion, what do Jesus’ words indicate is the nature of His kingdom and its foundation, and those who are its subjects? Cf. Joh 8:47, 10:27, 17:3, 2Pe 1:12, 1Jo 4:6, 5:20. What does this again remind us about the nature of true salvation, and the importance of a love for the truth in order to be saved? Cf. 2Th 2:9-12 and see again Joh 12:48. In what sense then is truth the winnowing fork of the Lord (Mat 3:12) that gathers the wholesome grain into God’s kingdom while at the same time separating out the chaff that is consumed by the fiery lies of the devil? Cf. Joh 8:40-47.
What was Pilate’s response to Jesus in Joh 18:38 about the nature of His kingdom being a kingdom of truth? In what way does his question to Jesus there describe the predicament that all mankind and the kingdoms of the world find themselves in because of the darkness and deception of sin? What does this once again remind us about the nature of the true salvation Christ came to bring? Cf. 1Ti 2:4, 2Ti 2:25-26. Although he couldn’t perceive it, what was the great irony of Pilate’s question? See Joh 14:6. Although Pilate, like so many today, had no conception of an absolute and objective truth that can be known through Jesus Christ and could not entirely understand the nature of Christ’s kingdom, what did he understand that His kingdom was not, and what did he therefore conclude in regard to Jesus’ case? See Joh 18:38. What does that verdict by the judge who heard His case again indicate about all those today and throughout history who have advocated for a Christian kingdom on earth after the manner of the kingdoms of the world, that he as the Roman judge would had to have been vigorously opposed?
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- What is the relationship between Jesus’ sacrifice and our redemption, forgiveness and receiving an inheritance per the terms of the covenant / will that was effected by His death?
- From what, and to what, are we saved? Is it Jesus’ death alone that saves us? What part does His resurrection have in our salvation?
- Does the justice of God demand the satisfaction of blood before He will forgive, similar to what pagans throughout history have believed?
- What was the purpose of the Old Testament sacrifices?
- Does blood alone atone for sin?
- How does Christ’s death render powerless the devil?
- To whom was Christ’s life given as a ransom? From what are we ransomed?
- Why did Jesus not only die, but suffer and die? If all that was necessary was His shed blood, why didn’t God sovereignly ordain a more merciful death for His own dear Son?
- What is the relationship between a will or testament, and a covenant? What was willed to Jesus as an inheritance from His Father, and what was willed to us through the new testament in His blood?