John 18:33-37November 21, 2021
Metropolitan UMC, Indian Head, MD
New International Version
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
Here begins the extensive and important exchange between Jesus and Pilate (18:28–19:16). John concurs with the Synoptics that the Roman trial was an early morning affair and that Pilate was inclined in Jesus’ favor throughout. Aside from the later detail about the Pavement where a judge’s bench was situated (Lithostroton; in Hebrew Gabbatha—“hill”?—19:13), there is nothing in the Johannine account that could not have been derived from Mark—even though some students of the Gospel require a separate historical source like the one employed by Luke. Still, in distinguishing carefully between the meanings of kingship and authority as held by the followers of Jesus and by political power, John does a service which no other evangelist renders. His contribution is theological, not historical.
Pilate was of an uncompromising nature and a bully (cf. Josephus, War II, 169–177; Antiquities XVIII, 55–62; 85–89). The softer picture of him which John shares with the Synoptics may result from early Christian attempts to gain concessions from the empire. The proclaimers of Jesus as Lord could not avoid mentioning his crucifixion, a punishment normally inflicted only by the Romans, which would identify him as condemned under capital sentence.
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