“While serving as a missionary in Laos, I discovered an illustration of the kingdom of God. Before the colonialists imposed national boundaries, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese. The exact location of a person's home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited. So it is with us: we live in the world, but as part of God's kingdom, we are to live according to his kingdom's standards and values.”
John Hess-Yoder, Portland, Oregon. Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 3.
Calvinist or Arminian
When I first started working in ministry over 24 years ago, I was asked about my doctrinal beliefs
There are basically two main branches, Calvinism and Arminianism
I didn’t know how to answer, because I had never been taught what they were or their differences
So, I called my Dad, who had been my pastor for all of my life up to that point and asked him
He had never specifically taught us about those two doctrinal beliefs, but instead taught us about the Gospel of Jesus Christ
After spending time studying the two doctrinal beliefs, I can say with confidence that I am neither
I am simply what my Dad taught me growing up, a Christian!
I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, which is better than claiming either of the other two doctrinal belief systems
Here is why – Calvin and Arminius were both human beings, and as such, struggled as fallible sinners, just like me
Jesus is holy and perfect, without sin
That is why I am His disciple and adhere to His doctrine taught in His Word
When pressured to choose sides, I did, but it wasn’t in the way that the individuals thought I would
I chose truth, by choosing to obey and follow Jesus instead of man’s understanding
This statement is not original to me or the person who told it to me, but it’s powerful nonetheless – “I pray like a Calvinist, like it’s all up to God, and I work like an Arminianist like it’s all up to me.”
I think that covers it
When was a time when you were forced to choose sides?
Perhaps it was a choice between truth and falsehood
What was the outcome?
The Jews and Pilate both have a choice to make when it came to Jesus. Pilate would have to choose whether or not to side with truth or be swayed by the crowd. The Jews would have to choose between innocence and guilt. John wants us to wrestle with the same thing. Will we choose truth or not? Will we choose innocence or guilt? John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Obeying Jesus’ words shows we have chosen truth.
GOD (John 18:28-40)
Charges (vv. 28-32)
Movements of Jesus
Trial with Caiaphas (v. 28a)
We saw last week that Annas sent Jesus, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest (John 18:24)
John’s Gospel does not record the trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, but Matthew (26:57-68) and Mark (14:53-65) do
Many scholars believe that Peter’s first denial came while Jesus was being questioned by Annas and the final two denials came while Jesus was being questioned by Caiaphas
It’s probable that the same courtyard serviced both Annas and Caiaphas’ residences
So, Peter would have been warming himself around the same fire, while Jesus would have been shifted from one residence to the next
Trial with Pilate
After Jesus agrees that He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One (Mark 14:61b), the Jews condemn Him as worthy of death as a blasphemer (Mark 14:64)
They transition Jesus from Caiaphas’ residence to the Roman governor’s palace
The Roman governor normally resided in the praetorium at Caesarea Maritima with the Roman soldiers on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea
He would come to Jerusalem during the high feast times to ensure peace
There are two potential locations for the governor’s palace or praetorium [show map]
Herod’s Royal Palace with its three great towers that helped with defense on the Western Gate [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 237]
This location would have been closer to the traditional site of Caiaphas’s house
The other, less likely, location would have been the Fortress of Antonia on the northwest corner of the Temple
John gives us a timestamp and an interesting ironic situation with the Jews
Religion over relationship (v. 28b)
It was early morning
While the Greek word for early morning is ambiguous, it is probable that Jesus was taken to Pilate before 6:00 am
The last watch of the night was called “early morning” or “dawning” and included the hours of 3:00 am to 6:00 am [Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John, 588; Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 523-24]
This would not have been considered inappropriate or egregious to call on the Roman governor at this early hour, because many of the Roman officials would rise early and complete their work by 11:00 am or 12:00 pm
Pilate would probably have already been awake and perhaps working by this time
Choosing religion over relationship
The Jews were so concerned about the religious practice of remaining ceremonially clean, so they could eat the Passover, that they failed to see how condemning an innocent man to death would make them unclean before God
They were willing to use a Gentile governor to accomplish their goal, but would not set foot in his palace for fear of becoming unclean [Köstenberger, 524]
The irony should be striking to us – they were choosing religious practice over a relationship with Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ
I want to caution us not to be too harsh with the Jews, because God was using their rejection of Jesus, and focus on religion, to bring about salvation for all of humanity
This salvation would include Jews and Gentiles
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people choose relationship over religion.
We too can get caught up in choosing religion over relationship
It happens with our relationship with God and Jesus
We can focus so much on the disciplines associated with being a Christian that we neglect the relationship with God and Jesus
We can become legalistic about reading the Bible, praying, attending church, serving others, giving to the Lord, and so much more
“Receiving baptism (by whatever mode), taking communion (in whatever church), attending worship (with whatever regularity), offering prayers (of whatever length), giving money (of whatever amount), in themselves do not, have not, will not, and cannot save us from our sins and their inevitable judgment. ‘Religion’ cannot achieve redemption; ceremonies cannot save.” [Milne, The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of John, 264]
We can do these things with the wrong attitude and with the wrong intentions
We focus on the act instead of the reason for the act
Spiritual disciplines should be done not to be accepted by God, but because we love God and value our relationship with Him
Anytime we want to get to know someone, we spend time with them, we ask questions, we participate in things that they value and enjoy
The same should be true of our relationship with Jesus and God
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Practice spiritual disciplines out of love for God, instead of a desire to be accepted by God.
It can also happen with our relationships with other believers
We can become judgmental and critical of other believers who are not living out their faith like we are
In an attempt to “help” them we actually hurt the relationship, because we don’t confront in love
Confrontation is needed, but let me tell you, it’s hard to do, in love, with pure intentions
We are sinners, first and foremost, and those sinful desires, thoughts, feelings, and actions tend to surface before the godly, humble, and loving desires, thoughts, feelings, and actions
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Holy Spirit to help me, when I need to confront other believers, to do it with a godly, humble, and loving attitude, so they will know that I value the relationship over religion.
When we approach confrontation this way, we are obeying Jesus’ words and showing that we have chosen truth
While Pilate was not a Jew, he understood Jewish culture and their religious practices, so he came out to talk with the Jews
What charges? (vv. 29-32)
Pilate asked the Jews what charges they were bringing against Jesus
They could have listed at least seven [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 335]
He threatens to destroy the temple (Matt. 26:61)
He is an evildoer (Luke 23:2)
He perverts the nation (Luke 23:2)
He has forbidden the Jews to pay taxes (Luke 23:2)
He is a revolutionary agitator (Luke 23:2)
He makes himself king (Luke 23:2)
He claims to be the Son of God (John 19:7)
Instead they don’t list any of those charges
Their response says volumes
Notice that they don’t answer Pilate with any charges
They say they wouldn’t have handed Him over to him if weren’t a criminal
They’re hoping that Pilate will simply rubber-stamp the decision of the Sanhedrin, but he doesn’t
If you remember, the Sanhedrin had many false witnesses that came forward to testify against Jesus, but none of their testimonies matched
Even the two witnesses that testified that Jesus said He would destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it again in three days, did not agree
The high priest eventually asks Jesus, directly, if He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One
When Jesus answers affirmatively, they charge Him with blasphemy, which wasn’t a crime in a Roman court of law
Pilate sees through their smokescreen
He knows that Jesus has not broken any Roman law, so he challenges the Jews to judge Jesus by their own law
This wouldn’t work for two reasons
First, the Jews did not have the power to execute anyone
The right to execute someone was highly prized and protected by the Roman Empire in the 1st Century
It provided a level of power that no one else had
Certainly we see in the book of Acts that the Jews stoned Stephen
Jews certainly killed people in the 1st Century for breaking Jewish law, but most of the time it came as a result of a mob mentality and not something organized and planned
The Jews were given authority by Rome to kill anyone who violated the Temple area whether Jew or Gentile, whether a Roman citizen or not (there was no need for a trial, because justice was enacted immediately, probably by the Temple guards)
The form of execution that was available to the Jews was stoning and not crucifixion on a cross
The Old Testament outlined that stoning was the appropriate form of death for anyone who blasphemed
So, the Jews didn’t have the authority to execute Jesus, but there is a much greater reason why this wouldn’t work to judge Jesus by Jewish law
Second, the form of execution would not have fulfilled what Jesus had already said about how He would die
Jesus mentions multiple times throughout the Gospels about the fact that He would be lifted up
This was a reference to the fact that He would be crucified
Matthew 20:18-19, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
John 12:32-33, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
Both Jews and Gentiles were under Roman law, so when Jesus died the Roman death, crucifixion, He was dying for all of humanity and not just the Jews
Pilate knew the Jews intentions for bringing Jesus to him and he knew why they were being evasive when he asked them about the charges they were bringing against Jesus
In a far greater and more perfect way, God knows the intentions of our hearts
PRINCIPLE #2 – God knows the intentions of our hearts.
He knows when we are genuinely seeking a personal relationship with Him instead of doing spiritual disciplines for His approval
He knows our intentions when we confront other believers about their walk with the Lord – whether those intentions are selfish or selfless
He even knows our intentions for befriending someone, giving to an individual or organization, serving the poor, seeking riches, etc.
God is all-knowing, so nothing we think, say, or do is lost on Him
Perhaps we all can remember a situation where our intentions were not pure and genuine, but rather self-seeking
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Ask the Lord to reveal if I am thinking, saying, or doing anything with selfish intentions and then confess that to Him.
John transitions the scene by telling us that Pilate went back inside the palace to question Jesus
Truth (vv. 33-38a)
Pilate was doing his due diligence instead of just taking the Jews word for it – he wanted to know for himself if Jesus was guilty of any crime against the empire
Question 1 – “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Pilate and the Jews must have had an additional conversation about Jesus, for him to ask this question of Jesus
Where would Pilate get the idea of Jesus being king of the Jews”
Luke 23:2, And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.”
Pilate is trying to determine if Jesus is going to be a political threat to the Roman Empire [Köstenberger, 527]
“Are you a claimant-king challenging Rome?” [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 500]
That would change everything – it would be Pilate’s problem and not a Jewish law issue at that point
Jesus’ response to the question
Did you come up with that question on your own?
Have you talked with others about me?
Pilate seems to be saying, “It’s obvious that I’ve spoken with others about you. I’m not Jewish, so how would I know if You are king of the Jews?”
Pilate reminds Jesus that it was His people and His chief priests who handed Him over to Pilate
This is an interesting statement
Pilate is simply saying that it was the Jews and their leaders who are accusing Jesus
Pilate realized that Jesus was also Jewish
Pilate then asks his second question
Question 2 – “What is it you have done?”
Jesus doesn’t answer Pilate’s question directly
Instead He continues to answer Pilate’s first question about being a king and kingdom
Jesus reassures Pilate that He is not starting a rebellion against the Roman Empire
He is not a political revolutionary agitator
Jesus lets Pilate know that if His intentions were political in nature that His servants would fight to prevent His arrest by the Jews
Peter did attempt to fight for Jesus, but we learned that his power was misplaced
Jesus quickly took care of Peter’s misplaced power by telling him to put his sword away
That was not how Jesus was going to initiate and begin His kingdom
His spiritual kingdom was going to be established in a way that was completely opposite of how the world established their kingdoms
Jesus’ kingdom is from another place, it is not of this world (both positive and negative)
Pilate could rest easy that Jesus was not gunning for His position or the emperor’s position
Pilate then makes the statement about Jesus being a king
Jesus affirms Pilate’s statement – “You’re right!”
The reason that Jesus was born and came into the world was to establish His spiritual kingdom in the hearts of humanity
He does this by testifying to the truth
Jesus then tells Pilate that everyone on the side of truth listens to Him
Obeying Jesus’ words shows we have chosen truth.
This is key (the Jews have a choice, Pilate has a choice, we have a choice)
Are we going to choose truth as Jesus has testified about it?
We have His Words in Holy Scripture – we know what He said – we can and should listen to Him
Have you chosen truth today?
Have you chosen Jesus today?
Jesus came into the world, so that we could choose truth and restore a right relationship with God
The Jews were not choosing Jesus’ truth, but rather their own version of truth
What would Pilate choose?
We don’t have to guess what his choice was
Question 3 – “What is truth?”
Pilate probably asks this question as he is turning to go back outside to address the Jews
He doesn’t wait for Jesus’ answer to his question
Perhaps he thought that truth was relative and there was no solid answer for that question
It seems as though Pilate is cynical about truth
Pilate still has a choice to make at his point – will he do what he knows is right or will he compromise?
Choice (vv. 38b-40)
Pilate’s verdict, after questioning Jesus, is that He is innocent
Pilate can’t find any basis, in the Roman law, for a charge against Jesus
He isn’t going to try to judge Jesus based on Jewish law – that’s not his area of responsibility
He is trying to protect his position by avoiding any kind of riot or uprising from the Jews, so he offers what he believes is a compromise that will ensure Jesus’ release
Pilate is willing to honor the custom of releasing one prisoner at the time of Passover
He recommends releasing “the king of the Jews,” Jesus
The crowd shouted back that they didn’t want Jesus released, but rather Barabbas
Barabbas was actually guilty of insurrection/rebellion against Rome
They wanted a guilty man to be released instead of an innocent one
Pilate’s hope of releasing Jesus through the custom had backfired on him
PRINCIPLE #3 – Doing what’s right is better than compromising.
Pilate realized that too late – he couldn’t back out now
He valued his position more than doing what was right
We are just as guilty of doing the same thing
We may know what the right thing to do is, but out of fear of losing our position or status, we compromise and give in to the loudest voices
There are times when compromising actually backfires on us and we still can lose our position and status
We should always do what is right, even if it means sacrificing our position or status
#4 – My Next Step Today Is To: Choose to do what is right in every situation.
What’s the reason why you are practicing in spiritual disciplines?
Are you valuing relationships over religion?
Are there any selfish intentions that you need to confess to the Lord?
Will you choose to do what is right in every situation?
We need to choose truth
“When Secretary of State during the Reagan administration, George Shultz kept a large globe in his office. When newly appointed ambassadors had an interview with him and when ambassadors returning from their posts for their first visit with him were leaving his office, Shultz would test them. He would say, ‘You have to go over the globe and prove to me that you can identify your country.’ They would go over, spin the globe, and put their finger on the country to which sent--unerringly.
When Shultz's old friend and former Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield was appointed ambassador to Japan, even he was put to the test. This time, however, Ambassador Mansfield spun the globe and put his hand on the United States. He said: ‘That's my country.’
On June 27, 1993, Shultz related this to Brian Lamb on C-Span's ‘Booknotes.’ Said the secretary: ‘I've told that story, subsequently, to all the ambassadors going out. ‘Never forget you're over there in that country, but your country is the United States. You're there to represent us. Take care of our interests and never forget it, and you're representing the best country in the world.’’”
Dr. Wallace Alcorn. From the files of Leadership.