Text: John 18.28-40
Introduction: Turn to Jn 18; Let me bring you up to speed – especially if you’re not familiar with where we are in our study and what I’m doing that’s different than, say, a typical message at Calvary.
I have chosen to finish out the book of John. I preached some years ago through to Chapter 12. Then, I did a short series from 12-16. I wanted to finish out the book and outlined it this way.
- The Lord’s Prayer – 17
- The Lord’s Passion – 18-20 – Characters on the way to the Cross
- The Lord’s Purpose – “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (20.21)
Today, as we continue in our study of the Lord’s Passion – that is, His suffering, we’ll look briefly at Pilate; We’ll look at three areas of his life: The Storied Relationship, The Reason they needed him to Kill Jesus, The Reality of the whole situation. rd v 28a-b; his name isn’t listed yet, but the governor mentioned here is Pilate.
Review the 1st three mock trials beginning with the arrest in the garden; Now Jesus is brought before the governor, Pilate – note, that it’s still early. Their third mock trial had already been composed. They had worked through the night to ensure their story was straight and everything was being done by the book. Rd v 28c; Hypocrisy at it’s worst – These guys are willing to break their own laws to get what they want, but explain it away so that they can celebrate this evening with their families, stuffing their faces and drinking their wine. It makes me wonder about us: When we’re willing to bend what we know is right in God’s Word, just enough to get what we want, but still keep a strict regimen to our traditions, especially when it comes to stuffing our faces and filling our stomachs. Isn’t it so human to satisfy our physical appetites, often in the name of Christian Celebration, but we fail to satisfy the hungering of the soul? Rd v 29; Was he just sitting down to breakfast? Had he even eaten yet? He knows they won’t come in. He’s been here now for a few years, had some struggles with them and he knows he’ll have to take this outside because of their ‘traditions’.
Notice the verbal sparring that takes place; rd v 30-31a; They just want a stamp of approval. No need to inquire, we’ve done all the work. He’s guilty. We’ve got God’s work we need to be doing and we can’t get our hands dirty. I think John wants us to see the enmity between these two – Pilate and the Jews. There is a history here – some info we get from the Bible and some that we’re not privy to in the Bible. Often times we see Pilate as this wimpy man, kowtowing to the pressure of the Jews. But he wasn’t really that way toward them. No, he was a pretty tough ruler.
Here’s what we get from History and extra-biblical material: Pilate: The Relationship with his people.
1. Little to nothing is known about Pilate before 26 AD – that is his life before living in the holy land. He was appointed to this position as Perfect, Procurator, and Governor. Note these titles:
- Perfect, a title found describing Pilate on an inscription found in 1961. Before that time, there was no archeological evidence of Pilate, though he is mentioned in extra-biblical literature such as Tacitus, Josephus and Philo.
- Perfect & Procurator titles are used by Tacitus and Josephus and
- Governor is used in Scripture (Mt 27; Lk 3). It appears that this was the last title he held.
- Little to nothing is known about Pilate before 26 AD
- His rule was plagued by conflict with those he governed:
- Josephus identifies the problems with the Jews when Pilate tried to set up columns or standards bearing the image of the emperor in Jerusalem. The Jews raised up a public resistance, and in spite of death threats remained. They very publicly chose death over the display of what they deemed as idols. After a 6 day standoff, Pilate gave in and ordered the images back to Caesarea.
- Josephus and Eusebius record another struggle Pilate had with the Jews over Temple money Pilate wanted to use to build an aqueduct. That all sounds nice, but come to find out, the spring from which this water would come was some 40K away! That’s a lot of money. Tens of thousands of Jews demonstrated publicly when Pilate showed up for the Festival in Jerusalem. Pilate then ordered his soldiers to infiltrate the crowd in disguise by wearing plain clothes. These men killed many in the crowd as they would yell out opposition and protest.
- Some scholars believe this is the event recorded in Luke 13.1-2; Maybe this is a separate incident! That would only add to describing his character!
- It is believed that Pilate also, by such a careless act of random killing, killed some of Herod’s subjects – thus alienating him. Luke 23.12 records their reconciliation.
- Furthermore, Pilate minted small copper coins with images on them, a clear violation of the 2nd commandment as understood by the Jews. He only did this for three years (29-31 A.D.); This action caused Pilate a lot of heartache with the Jews. One such coin has been discovered through archaeological excavations. I have a picture here;
- Pilate had trouble with the Samaritans when a group of these folks descended upon Mt. Gerizim. It was rumored that Moses had hidden the ark on Mt. Gerizim (which would have been impossible, because Moses never entered the Holy Land) and someone had sparked this great crowd of people to come and search for it. Pilate surrounded them with his men and captured them, executing their leaders. The Samaritans issued a formal complaint to the Emperor and Pilate was summoned to Rome to defend his actions. The emperor died while Pilate was in route and nothing is ever heard of Pilate again.
These stories give us some insight into (1) struggles Pilate dealt with, (2) his hatred for the people he governed and (3) his ruthlessness toward them. The Jews don’t want to come to Pilate – they have to, in order to rid themselves of this man Jesus. When I say ‘have to’ listen carefully to what that means; Rd v 31-32;
Pilate: the reason he was needed.
Here now, we see some foreshadowing of the role Pilate will play in the life of Christ: his death. This is important: The Jews could have killed Jesus without Pilate’s permission. John 8.59; 10.31-33; This was obvious even to his disciples, who in 11.8 are shocked that Jesus wants to return to Judea again. 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” I don’t want you to just see that they wanted to kill him – but that they could have killed him. It was fully in their power and authority. I’ve been mistaken in the past when I’ve said they needed Pilate to kill him. But I think I was wrong. If you turn to Acts 7-8 you’ll read the story of a man named Stephen who as stoned by the Jews for his blasphemy. It wasn’t just in Jerusalem, but we read through out Acts that the Jews, according to their own Law and Practice could put someone to death by stoning.
No, Caiaphas didn’t want to just kill Jesus. Caiaphas wanted Jesus to be made a public spectacle, put him on display to demonstrate that Jesus was cursed. Deuteronomy 21.22-23: 22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. Multiple times in Acts, the disciples testify to this fact. And, Paul clarifies this for us in Gal. 3.13: 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”
Little did Caiaphas know, though he should have, that he was doing was exactly what Jesus had said would be done. That’s why John records these very important words: 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. Jn 12.32-33; Mt 20.19; 26.2; Mk 10.33; Lk 18.32; Jesus is in total control of this situation. Ladies and Gentlemen, Jesus is sovereign, even over his own death. They thought they were killing him, but really, he was giving his life. He was laying down his life for you and me.
These men, Pilate, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, hold power and authority. But as it seems to do to most everyone who has it, power and authority corrupt men who think they’ve come to such a position of their own strength and wit and cunning. John 19.9-10, but Jesus clarifies for him just where power and authority come from: rd 19.11. παραδίδωμι appears here, 35, 36 & 19.11;
Pilate: The Reality of his position and power
Application: Each of these leaders, both religious and secular, thought that they were in control. The Jews thought they were controlling Pilate – controlling Jesus. Pilate stood before the Jews and the people and thought he was in control as their ruler. But really, this is all being played out as had been determined by God.
Contemplation: Let me ask you today, how is your life any different? Do you think you’re in control of your life? Does God seem to be distant and not really involved in your day-to-day activity? Think again! I understand this tension between the sovereignty of God’s will and the free will of man. I do.
Ill.: this week I was summoned to the hospital. A young man was in a car accident and broke his neck. From what I understand, this man will never walk again. This man, at this stage, cannot use his hands or even feel anything below his neck. I wrestle with this tension when I talk to his parents, his girlfriend. I wrestle with this tension when I pray for his healing.
- Did God cause this?
- Are we at the mercy of total chaos when our vehicles hit ice? Is not God strong enough, powerful enough, in charge enough to have prevented this?
- Do accidents ‘just happen’?
I’m comfortable with God’s sovereignty. I like knowing God is fully in charge. I don’t like it when I suffer, because I feel like He’s picking on me. Mostly because, I think I don’t deserve whatever struggle I’m going through. I’m totally comfortable with God’s Sovereignty because I don’t like the idea of being subject to luck or the idea that I’m in control when the world is in such chaos.
Here’s what I know, according to Scripture: I’m not in control. Yes, I have freewill. Yes, I make decisions and I try to make good ones – most of the time. But, because I’m a sinner – living in a fallen state – I don’t always do that. I think about Pilate and his situation. He could have released Jesus and left it to the Jews. His wife warned him, telling him that she’d had a supernatural dream about this whole thing. But, in the end, Pilate, being Pilate, chose to put Jesus to death. He responded to this situation in keeping with his character. Taking it a step further, I believe Pilate acted totally within the will of God.
Chuck Swindoll, one of my all-time favorite preaches has said it so eloquently: Nothing touches me that doesn’t first pass through the hand of God. That’s a soft way of putting it. Isaiah was much more forceful: Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; Or Peter in Acts 2: 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
God, whose will it was to crush Christ for your sin and mine, also willed to raise Christ. Through it all and even before – centuries before, God had a plan for your redemption.