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Lent reflection Cover Image

The king of truth, John 18:28-40

13th Apr 2019

28 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” 32 (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. 39 But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 40 They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit. (NRSV) 

Dawn breaks. After his night-time examination before the high priest, Jesus is taken to face the Roman governor, who at times of heightened tension such as Passover resides in the palace that Herod the Great built in Jerusalem.  John says bluntly: “The Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor” (verse 28; also verses 32, 36, 38).  But we must be careful not to give the impression that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus’ death.  Responsibility lay with the religious leaders, who chose the way of expediency to get the verdict they wanted.

Pilate asks what the charges against Jesus are.  They don’t give a straight answer. “Deal with him yourselves”, says Pilate.  “But we have no power to execute anyone”, they reply.  Jesus’ death is what they want, and only Pilate can deliver it.

Jesus is taken inside the palace.  Now it is just Pilate and Jesus, face to face.  “Are you the king of the Jews?, asks Pilate (verse 33).  Jesus replies: “My kingdom isn’t like the kind of kingdom you understand.  I came to point people to the truth“ (verses 36-37).

Then Pilate’s famous response: “What is truth”?  Does he ask it despairingly? Or longingly?  Or is he just frustrated with these issues that are way beyond his comfort zone?

He decides the debate has gone on long enough: “I find no basis for a charge against him”.  But then a move aimed at letting him off the hook.  He’s intrigued by Jesus but pushes the decision-making back to the Jewish authorities.  “You have this custom that a prisoner is released at Passover time.  Shall I release Jesus?”

And the Jewish leaders prefer a bandit to the Son of God.

Stephen travis

“Do you want me to release the king of the Jews?” (John 18:39)

For reflection

Are there times when I opt for expediency when I should be sticking firmly to a principle?

How honestly do I assess the truth about myself – my strengths, my weaknesses, the gifts God has given me?  Might such reflection lead me in a new direction?

A prayer

Lord Jesus, help me always to speak, act and live with integrity, so that I may bear witness to you and honour you, the only true King.

Stephen Travis, St John's Association Member and past tutor