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John 18:28-19:16



In our text, Jesus stands before Pilate.


We see man at his very worst and God at His very best.  This is the blackest page of human darkly revealing the depravity of man, that if you only looked at these passages from a human perspective it would be very depressing.

        But we have the privilege of seeing this from a divine perspective.


We see man at his worst as he rejects and kills His own Creator ... the One Who loves him the most.  We see torture - and the taking of the life of the One Who IS life, and Who gives life.  Man at his worst.


But we also see God at His best ... paying for sins which He did not commit, suffering a hell He does not deserve, and laying down His life, not for lovable people, but for wicked, depraved sinners.




Jesus' trial had two phases:  Religious [Jews] and Civil [Rome]


The Jews wanted Jesus killed, but because they were taken over as a province of the Roman Empire, they had lost the authority to carry out the death penalty.


In our text, the religious trial has already taken place. 

v. 28        Caiaphas is the high priest, and his father, Annas, the former high priest, along with the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council, have trumped up false accusations and found Jesus guilty of blasphemy.  Under normal circumstances, at this point, Jesus would be stoned to death.  That was what Jewish law stated.  But mix Rome in to things and they need to go to the Roman court.

        Here we see the sovereignty of God, for if Jesus had come to earth and died just a few years earlier, before Israel became a Roman province [6 AD], Jesus would have been stoned to death, rather than going to the cross of Calvary just as the OT predicted 700 years earlier.

Psalm 22:16
16 they pierced my hands and my feet.

Problem:  The Romans don't care about blasphemy.  They aren't religious.  It means nothing to them.  So the Jews need to come up with another charge that will stick.  How about treason!  Just convince Rome that Jesus is trying to usurp the power of Caesar! 

        "He claims he is a king," they said.  [But there is no king but Caesar!]


vv. 33, 37        Are you a king?


Who is this Pontius Pilate?

He's the 6th man to be in power in Judea [Holy Land] since Rome took over.  History says he was a cold, cruel, calculating man, who would do anything to further his purpose.  It was his job to keep order among the Jews in this region.

        And this is the time of Passover, when 2-3 million Jews region wide will converge upon Jerusalem.  Tensions were high.  There is talk of an uprising.  Pilate wants the Jews subdued. 


At this juncture he becomes the consummate politician / compromiser / coward.  He doesn't seek justice...only to keep his job.  He doesn't look at the facts for himself.  He doesn't think for himself.  He goes into an automatic mode. [Auto-Pilate!]


Understand the background:  Pilate is already on thin ice with Caesar.  There have already been two uprisings of the Jews at this point.  Caesar has stated basically that '3 strikes and you're out!'  And Caesar was well known for executing ineffective governors.  On one occasion when the Jews rioted against Rome, they were brought into an amphitheatre and Pilate threatened to have them all beheaded.  They called his bluff and exposed their necks, daring him to follow through.  [He didn't have authority to kill them all, so he let them go.]  On another occasion he took money from the Temple treasury in order to build aqueducts in Jerusalem.  The Jews again rioted and Pilate subdued them by having many of them clubbed and stabbed to death.

Luke 13:1
... the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

Pilate knew that if he had one more blight on his record he was a goner.  Now it's time for Jesus' trial and Pilate cannot afford for things to get out of hand.  So he acts now based not on what is right, but on expediency, and what's best for him and his career. 


1.     His conversation with Jesus.

vv. 33-38         Basically, "Are you a rival king to Caesar?"

                Jesus' answer is ingenious:  "Thou sayest."  It's the same answer he gave the Jews when they asked Him "Are you the Son of God?"  It means, "You got it right!"  "You said it!"

        He's driving Pilate into a corner.  Pilate was hoping for a quick denial of the accusation, so he could dismiss the case promptly.  Instead, he's now in a very difficult spot.  Jesus won't defend Himself!

19:8-11    Pilate had stood in judgment over hundreds or thousands over time, who always defended themselves vehemently...but Jesus doesn't defend Himself.


ill.--In many years of making jail visits I made an amazing discovery.  Everyone is innocent!  Even if caught red handed, they still denied it! 


Jesus stood silent before His accusers.  Why?  The OT predicted it!

Isaiah 53:7
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

He will make no attempt to avoid the cross which awaits Him.


Rabbit trail...

18:28b     Here's an amazing point not to overlook.  If a Jew was going to partake of the Passover feast, he was not allowed to set foot into a Gentile structure for a certain period of time previous to Passover.  If he stepped even one foot inside the door, he was considered ceremonially unclean!  He couldn't partake then of Passover.

        So, here we have these religious leaders, willing to kill an innocent man that they are simply jealous of and afraid of and threatened by personally, but not willing to step foot into a Gentile establishment.  This is a clear example of their hypocrisy.  They were such phonies. 

        This reminds me of a lot of Christians today who are so concerned about their outward impression, their reputation and what they want others to think, but in their heart they are wicked!  And often, they have become so self-deceived that they no longer even perceive their own evil!

Matthew 23:24
Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.


1.     Pilate's conversation with Jesus...


2.     His confrontation with Jesus.

vv. 38-40         Pilate is in a pickle.  He's desperate to find a way squelch this thing before it blows up on him, and develops into a full blown riot.  He came up with what he thought was a truly brilliant plan ... His ace in the hole!

        Every year the governor would release a convicted felon as a demonstration of mercy.  It was an attempt to appease the Jews and show them that Romans have hearts too!  It was a goodwill gesture.


Barabbas was a 'notable' [notorious] criminal.  The mention of his name struck fear into the people like if we would say 'Osama', 'Charles Manson'.  "Barabbas!"

        Pilate says, "I can release either Jesus, the meek, or Barabbas, the wicked killer."  [a no brainer, right?]  To his amazement, the people choose Barabbas to be shown mercy! [by the way, WE are Barabbas, the guilty, going free, with innocent Jesus taking our place!]


Pilate gave the people a choice.  And today, 2,000 years later, people still must make the same choice.

Barabbas represents the world and sin.  And today people have to choose whether they are going to follow the world or Jesus.  There is no middle ground! 


Salvation is both the easiest thing and a very difficult thing.  It's easy because it is offered to us freely, by grace.  It's hard because we have to make a choice!  "Am I going to follow the world or follow the Lord?"


Have you made a real decision for Christ?

Get up or get down, get in or get out, get with it or get without it, but don't ride the fence!


Joshua 24:15
... choose you this day whom ye will serve;

Exodus 32:26
Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me.

1 Kings 18:21
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

Jesus or Barabbas?  The choice continues today!


You and I have 3 great enemies:  The world, the flesh, and the devil. [external, internal, infernal]

In chapter 18 we see 3 things:  The treachery of Judas, the tragedy of Peter, and the trial of Jesus under Pilate.

        Pilate caved in to the world, Peter caved in to the flesh, and Judas caved in to the devil!


True story:

A Christian businessman worked with a Jewish man.  They became very close friends.  Every day they would talk about religion.  The Christian would talk about Christ.  The Jewish man would politely listen but not comment.  This happened for years.  Then the Jewish man became ill, and actually was dying.  He was so sick that the doctors would not allow visitors in to see him. Every day the Christian man petitioned to enter the room and was denied.  In the very end the doctors said, OK, we'll allow a brief visit, you can't do any harm at this point.  He knelt at his dying friend's bedside.  The man seemed already dead.  His eyes were closed and his only movement was shallow breathing.  The Christian held his friend's hand.  No response.  He prayed a touching prayer, recounting all their discussions about Christ.  It seemed his friend couldn't hear him at all.  And then he ended his prayer, "In Jesus' name, amen."  When he did, the sick man's eyes opened, and he turned his head toward his dear friend.  He smiled.  His lips parted, and just before he drew his last breath and slipped into eternity he said these words:  "Not Barabbas, but this man."

        He reversed the sentence of his people in our text.  His friend knew exactly what he meant.  He believed!


Conversation / Confrontation...


3.     His collapse before the crowd.

Up 'til now, Jesus has been on trial.  But now Pilate is on trial, looking for a loophole.


He has two voices, one in each ear, urging him along.  Matthew tells us about Pilate's wife [co-Pilate!] interrupting to tell him about a dream she had.  She said, "Have nothing to do with that just [innocent] man."

        Other enemies declared His innocence, like Pilate, like Judas [I have betrayed innocent blood], and the Roman soldier at the foot of the cross...these are the words of His enemies!  We serve a sinless Savior!


In one ear is his wife, in the other ear is the crowd crying Crucify Him!


And Pilate goes with the crowd, as do most today.

Exodus 23:2
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil;

Some are so easily influenced by the crowd.  "Everybody's doing it." [bandwagon effect]

        If everybody is doing it then it probably isn't right, since the Bible says the broad way leads to destruction and the narrow way to heaven!


ill.--a man went to church in Mexico, though he didn't speak a word of Spanish.  The crowd stood up and so he stood up.  When they knelt, he knelt.  They said amen...he said amen.  It went well until the end of the service when only the man next to him stood up.  He didn't know what to do, so he stood up as well.  The congregation gasped.

        After the service the pastor came to him and said, "You don't speak Spanish, do you?"  "Was it that obvious?"  "Yes, especially at the end when I announced that the Gonzales family had a new baby and I asked the proud father to stand up."

        Let's decide to follow God, not the crowd, even if we stand alone!


One thing great Christians all have in common:  At some point in their life they had to choose to take a stand against the crowd.

  • Moses saw all Israel building a golden calf, including his own brother, Aaron, and had to take a stand against the crowd.
  • Joshua and Caleb were the minority report when the other 10 spies said, We can't win, these two stood alone against the crowd!
  • Elijah was alone against all the prophets of Baal. 
  • John the Baptist was the enemy of the state and it cost him his life.
  • Stephen stood against the Jewish council and was stoned.


Now, if you want to make your life count, get ready to take your stand!  Many pastors today no longer take principled stands.  They don't want to offend anyone.  As a result, they offend their best people, who want them to take a stand! 


Pilate is blown away that they chose to release Barabbas.  So, he asks, "What shall I do with Jesus?"  And this is the perennial question we each must answer!

        "Crucify Him!"

Keep in mind that this is the same crowd which a few days earlier on Palm Sunday was shouting, "Crown Him!"

        Don't put your confidence in the crowd.  You can go from hero to zero in nothing flat!


Don't base your success on how people think about you, for that can change very quickly.


Pilate completely collapses to the crowd.  He's not thinking for himself...he's on auto-Pilate.


*The neutrality Pilate attempts.

19:4-6      He's trying to be Switzerland!  He has the power to stop all of this, but he doesn't want to go against the crowd.  He washed his hands before the Jews, saying this is on YOUR hands.  But you cannot remain neutral about Jesus.

        If someone makes the bold claim that they are God, and the only way to heaven, you HAVE TO make a decision about that.  And to make no decision IS to decide!  [Lunatic, Liar, Legend, or Lord]


Many today say He was a good man.  But good men don't claim to be God.  Either He is God or He is a very bad man.  Good men don't allow people to worship them unless they are truly God.


He tried to be neutral, and pawn it off on the crowd, but as the oldest creed in Christendom states:  "Jesus Christ, crucified under Pontius Pilate." [Apostle's Creed]  He is forever historically identified directly with his decision.  You can't be neutral about Jesus.


*The brutality Pilate permits.

vv. 1-3     The full impact of this scourging cannot be realized from the 8 words in v. 1.  There's nothing more brutal and inhumane than a Roman scourging. [cat of 9 tails / crown of thorns / stripped nude / royal robe / blindfolded mocking / face beaten [Isaiah said his face was so marred he wasn't recognizable as a man]


Isaiah 53:5
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Our sins are not forgiven because God overlooked them, but because Jesus paid for every one of them.



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