John Chapters 18-20, Part 3
by Karl Kemp

We continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 18-20 here in Part 3, starting with John 18:30.

(30) They answered and said to him, 'If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.' [[Pilate's question apparently surprised the Jewish leaders. They were apparently hoping that Pilate would rubber-stamp their judgment that Jesus must die and get on with the crucifixion. ((I had a footnote: I'll quote part of what Donald A. Carson says under verse 29 ("Gospel According to John," page 590). "The fact that Roman troops were used at the arrest (vv. 3, 12) proves that the Jewish authorities had communicated something of this case to Pilate in advance; the sparring that follows in the wake of his question confirms the point. They had expected Pilate to confirm their judgment and order the death sentence by crucifixion; instead, he orders a fresh hearing in his presence.")) Their answer to Pilate suggests some displeasure. It seems that Pilate was quite displeased with them too. It seems that, for one thing, Pilate was able to discern that the Jewish leaders were giving him something of a snow job and that their charges against Jesus were mostly of a Jewish religious nature (or of a personal nature [cf. Matt. 27:18; Mark 15:10]) and that Jesus wasn't a wild-eyed fanatic planning to start attacking people, including the Romans. ((I had a footnote: The relationship between the Jewish leaders and Pilate was not on friendly terms to begin with, and Pilate may have had some extra displeasure because he had been urged to hold this "trial" somewhat earlier than what would have been normal, and now he could see that their charges were not valid. It became obvious they were pressuring Pilate (and the Romans were proud of their "fair" judicial systems) to condemn Jesus on charges that were not valid according to Roman law. Pilate made it quite clear before this "trial" was over that Jesus was innocent. He, nevertheless, went ahead and turned Jesus over to Roman soldiers to be crucified. For one thing, it is clear that Pilate knew that there could be a riot, which could get him in trouble with the Roman emperor, and that the Jewish leaders probably could stir up trouble for him with the emperor (cf. Matt. 27:23-25; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:23; and John 19:12, 13) - he took the easy (but wrong, very wrong) way out. Pilate may also have been perturbed that the Jewish leaders would not enter the Praetorium (and especially if he learned at the last minute that they would not enter the Praetorium), which tended to force him to go out to them.)) " is possible that when Pilate first saw Jesus he suspected that the Jews had misled him" (J. N. Sanders and B.A, Mastin, "Gospel According to John" [Hendrickson, 1988 reprint], page 395).]] (31) So Pilate said to them, 'Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.' The Jews said to him, 'We are not permitted to put anyone to death [[The Jewish religious leaders had already formally judged Jesus to be a blasphemer worthy of death (according to their law) and determined that He must be put to death. But the Romans hadn't given them the authority to put people to death. This didn't mean that they never put anyone to death on their own (cf., e.g., Acts 7:54-8:1; they would have killed Jesus before now if God had permitted [cf., e.g., John 5:18; 7:1, 19; 8:37, 40; 10:31-39; 11:50-53 [cf. Luke 4:28-30]). God did not allow the Jews to kill Jesus, because, for one thing, if they would have killed Him they would have done it by stoning (or mob violence, or throwing Him off a cliff, etc.), but (as verse 32 shows) it had already been predetermined that He would die by crucifixion. It had also been predetermined that He would die on Passover, that very Passover. God is in control!]],' (32) to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die. [See under verse 31, and see Matt. 20:19; 26:2; Mark 10:33, 34; Luke 18:32, 33; John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32, 33; Psalm 22:16; and Zech. 12:10.] (33) Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium ["Pilate then went back inside the palace" NIV], and summoned Jesus and said to Him [[Jesus had already been taken into the Praetorium, but the Jews who had brought Him to Pilate did not enter the Praetorium so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the Passover (verse 28). Pilate had gone out to them (verse 29); now he came back into the Praetorium, summoned Jesus and said the following words to Him:]], 'Are You the King of the Jews?' [[The Jewish leaders had informed Pilate that Jesus claimed to be Christ, a (the) King (see Luke 23:2, 14, 15; John 19:12, 21; cf. Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 12:15; 19:12, 14, 19, 21). Luke 23:2, 14, 15 and John 19:12 show that Jesus' accusers were putting the emphasis on His being King in a political sense, claiming that He was a threat to the authority of the Roman empire. Pilate wasn't concerned with their Jewish religious charges against Jesus, but he had to seriously consider their charge that He was a rebel against Caesar and Rome.

Jesus went on in verses 36, 37 to acknowledge to Pilate that He was a (the) King, but that His kingdom was not of this world. His kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom that originates in heaven (cf., e.g., Luke 17:21; John 6:15), but the time will come (at the time of His second coming) when He will become King of this world in every sense, and He will reign on the earth, which includes His works of saving and judging (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 15:23-25; Rev. 11:15-18).

I'll quote part of what Andreas J. Kostenberger says regarding Pilate's question to Jesus regarding whether He was "King of the Jews" ("John" [Baker, 2004], page 527). "The title is also applied to Herod the Great (Josephus, Ant. 16.10.2...). Pilate's question seeks to determine whether or not Jesus constituted a political threat to Roman imperial power (Bammel 1984: 417-19). His gubernatorial tenure was punctuated by outbursts of ethnic nationalism that rendered him ever more alert to potential sources of trouble, especially since Judea was 'infested with brigands' (Ant. 20.9.5...) and 'anyone might make himself king as head of a band of rebels' (Ant. 17.10.8...(Jensen 1941: esp. 261-62).")] (34) Jesus answered, 'Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?' [See under verse 33.] (35) Pilate answered, 'I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?' (36) Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.' [See under verse 33.] (37) Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. [Compare Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; and Luke 23:3.] For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world [The Son of God came into the world from heaven (cf., e.g., John 1:1-18; 3:11-21).], to testify to the truth. [[Compare John 1:14; 3:32; 4:24; 8:14; and 14:6. Jesus was speaking here of foundational truths, like the existence of God, the God of creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Bible, the God who sent His Son to be Savior, Lord, and Judge. God's truth includes His righteousness and holiness (see Eph. 4:24). For Pilate (or anyone else) to be open to truth necessarily includes a willingness to repent and to submit to God and His truth, righteousness, and holiness and to come into divine order (by God's saving grace in Christ), doing things His way from the heart. People will be judged based on their response to God and His truth.]] Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice [cf. John 8:43-47; 10:26, 27; and 1 John 4:6].' (38) Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?' [[If Pilate didn't go any further than giving that trite answer to what Jesus said, he showed that he was not "of the truth," that he was not seeking the truth, and that he would not, therefore, find the truth. God's people must make it top priority to find the truth of God, the balanced truth, and to live the truth of God. There was a time when most of us were not pursuing the truth of God, but the time came, when (after we were confronted with the truth of God) we repented and submitted to Him and His truth.]] And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews [Verse 29 shows that Pilate had gone out to the Jews earlier and had then gone back into the Praetorium to interrogate Jesus.] and said to them, 'I find no guilt in Him. [[Compare Matt. 27:18, 23, 24; Mark 15:14; Luke 23:4, 14, 22; and 19:4, 6. I'll quote Luke 23:13, 14, "Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, 'You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him' " and Matt. 27:18, "For he [Pilate] knew that because of envy they had handed Him over."]] (39) But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?' [[Compare Matt. 27:15-21; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:17-25; and Acts 3:13-15. It is clear that Pilate hoped that many in the crowd of Jews would choose to release Jesus, but Mark 15:11 shows that "the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him [Pilate] to release Barabbas for them instead." ((I had a footnote: The record shows that Pilate knew that Jesus was not guilty of the charges brought against Him, but he knew that the Jews (especially the Jewish rulers) might be able to stir up trouble for him with Caesar (cf. John 19:12); those things happened on occasion, and a few years later (in AD 36) Pilate was recalled to Rome to answer for the use of excessive force against some Samaritans. Matthew 27:24 mentions that "a riot was starting" (cf. Luke 23:23).))]] (40) So they cried out again ["They shouted back" NIV], saying, 'Not this Man, but Barabbas.' [Compare Matt. 27:20, 21, 26; Mark 15:11, 15; and Luke 23:18, 24, 25.] Now Barabbas was a robber." ["Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion" NIV]. [Compare Matt. 27:16; Mark 15:7; and Luke 23:19, 25. I'll quote a few sentences from what F. F. Bruce says here ("Gospel of John" [Eerdmans, 1983], page 356). "...when John says that 'Barabbas was a bandit' (Greek "lestes," 'brigand'), he uses the term almost certainly to denote (as Josephus habitually does) a Zealot insurgent. In Mark 15:27 (cf. Matt. 27:38) the same word is used of the two men who were crucified along with Jesus. Our interpretation of the word as used by John here is confirmed by the more circumstantial statement in Mark 15:7, that Barabbas was 'among the rebels in prison, those who had committed murder in the insurrection.' (We have no further account of this particular 'insurrection,' but the reference is probably to some recent outbreak of militant resistance against the Roman occupation.) ...."


"Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him ["had Him scourged" (margin of NASB); "had him flogged" NIV. See Matt. 27:26; Mark 15:15; cf. Luke 23:16.]. (2) And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him [See Matt. 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20.]; (3) and they began to come up to Him and say, 'Hail, King of the Jews!' [See Matt. 27:29; Mark 15:18.] and to give Him slaps in the face ["And they struck him in the face" NIV. Compare Matt. 27:30; Mark 15:19; and John 18:22.]. (4) Pilate came out again [Pilate came out of the Praetorium again to speak with the Jews (cf. John 18:29, 33, 38).] and said to them, 'Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.' [Compare Matt. 27:18, 19, 23-25; Mark 15:10, 14; Luke 23:4, 14, 15, 20, 22; and John 18:38; 19:6.] (5) Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe [cf. John 19:2]. Pilate said to them, 'Behold, the Man!' [[Pilate undoubtedly hoped that that awesome, terribly ugly scene (after Jesus had been scourged, beaten, mocked, and wearing a crown of thorns and the purple robe would cause the crowd to take pity on Jesus and say enough! The purple robe would have hidden most of the bloody wounds caused by the scourging, but it would be obvious that Jesus had suffered greatly. Verse 6 shows that when the chief priests and officers saw Jesus they cried out for Him to be crucified.

I'll quote what Alfred Plummer says regarding the words "Behold the Man!" ("Gospel According to St. John" [Baker, 1981 reprint], page 323). "In pity rather than contempt. Pilate appeals to their humanity: surely the most bitter among them will now be satisfied, or at least the more compassionate will control the rest. No one can think that this Man is dangerous, or needs further punishment. When this appeal fails, Pilate's pity turns to bitterness (v. 14 [cf. v. 6])."

I'll quote part of what Donald A. Carson says under verses 4, 5 ("Gospel According to John" [Eerdmans, 1991], page 598). "... He delivers his verdict (cf. 18:38), and then dramatically presents Jesus - a sorry sight, swollen, bruised, bleeding from those cruel and ridiculous thorns. ... In his dramatic utterance Here is the man! (in Latin, Ecce homo!), Pilate is speaking with dripping irony: here is the man you find so dangerous and threatening: can you not see that he is harmless and somewhat ridiculous? If the governor is mocking Jesus [The whole situation was loudly mocking Jesus, the rejected, severely beaten, King of the Jews, with His crown and robe. But God was in control (as He always is), and everything worked together for good.], he is ridiculing the Jewish authorities with no less venom. But the Evangelist records the event with still deeper irony: here indeed is the Man, the Word made flesh (1:14). ...."

I'll quote part of what George R. Beasley-Murray says under verses 4, 5 ("John" [Word, Incorporated, 1987], page 337). "His statement on bringing out Jesus, 'that you may know that I find no ground of complaint against him,' and his cry, 'Look the Man!' must be to demonstrate the harmlessness of Jesus. Dressed in his wretched clothes that made him look more like a clown than a king, bleeding profusely, in pain and with bruised face through the additional beatings, Jesus must have looked a shocking sight, enough to horrify any who knew him. Yet, as with his description of the mockery of the soldiers, the evangelist will have wished his readers to recognize that the pathetic figure on whom the Jews are bidden to gaze is the Man sent from God, who, in that state of humiliation and woe, was in the process of bringing the kingdom of heaven for all humankind [for all who would repent and receive God's saving grace in Christ], including those thirsting for his blood and those who were shedding it."]] (6) So when the chief priests [On the "chief priests," see under John 11:47, including the footnote, in my paper on John chapters 10-12.] and the officers [Compare John 7:32, 45, 46; 18:3, 12, 18; and Matt. 26:58. The officers were temple police (Levites).] saw Him, they cried out saying, 'Crucify, crucify!' Pilate said to them, 'Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him [cf. John 18:38; 19:4].' (7) The Jews answered him, 'We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.' [See Matt. 26:63-66; cf. John 5:18; 10:30-36. It is true, of course, that Jesus did make Himself out to be the Son of God - He was the Son of God!] (8) Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid [[Pilate had some reason to fear a riot started by those who wanted to crucify Jesus, and he had much reason to fear that the Jewish leaders would stir up serious trouble for him with Caesar (see below). Pilate also had some reason to fear a riot started by the followers of Jesus and/or that His followers might stir up trouble for him with Caesar for condemning Jesus, who (according to the verdict of Pilate) should not be crucified based on Roman law. But here in verse 8 John was referring to Pilate's fear that Jesus might be divine (in a pagan sense) and that he might get in big trouble with the gods. For one thing, he had already greatly mistreated Jesus by having Him scourged, etc. ((I had a lengthy footnote, going on for four paragraphs: I'll quote part of what F. Godet says here ("Gospel of John," Vol. 2 [Zondervan, 1969 reprint], page 375). "The words of the Jews produced on Pilate an effect which they did not expect. They confirmed a dreadful presentiment which was more and more forming itself within him. He had heard of the miracles of Jesus, of His elevated and mysterious character, of His teachings and His conduct; he had just received from his wife a strange message [Matt. 27:19]; Jesus Himself was producing an impression on him such as he had never received from any man; he asks himself if all this is not explained by this title Son of God! What if this extraordinary man were really a divine being who had appeared on the earth? The truth presents itself to his mind naturally under the form of heathen superstitions and mythological recollections. We know, indeed, how sudden is the passing from skepticism to the most superstitious fears. ...[this idea] becomes the subject of his new conversation with Jesus [in verses 9-11]. ...."

I'll quote what William Hendricksen says under verses 8, 9 ("Gospel of John," pages 417, 418). "Pilate was more afraid than ever. This new fear was caused not so much by the dogged determination of the Jews to have things their own way as by the new item of information which he had received just now. What! This mysterious prisoner a son of the gods? Was that, perhaps, the reason why Pilate's wife had endured such agonies when she dreamed about him? See Matt. 27:19.

So, shaken to the bottom of his soul by these superstitious uncertainties, the judge, with Jesus, re-enters the residence. 'Where are you from?' he asks anxiously. He received no answer, and he deserved none. Surely, a man who was so utterly corrupt that he had ordered Jesus to be scourged almost to death, even though he knew (and declared again and again) that this prisoner was innocent, was not worthy of a reply. Besides, if Pilate had paid more attention to the words of Jesus spoken previously (18:36, 37), he could have discovered the answer to his question!"

I'll quote part of what Leon Morris says under verses 8, 9 ("Gospel According to John," page 795). "Pilate was evidently superstitious. He can scarcely be called a religious man, but the news that his prisoner had made divine claims scared the governor. He had possibly been affected by a message from his wife about a dream she had had (Matt. 26:19). And every Roman of that day knew of stories of the gods or their offspring appearing in human guise. He had plainly been impressed by Jesus as he talked with Him. Now that he hears of the possibility of the supernatural he is profoundly affected. ...."]]; (9) and he entered into the Praetorium again [cf. John 18:33] and said to Jesus, "Where are You from?" [Pilate already knew that Jesus was from Galilee (cf. Luke 23 5-7). Here, as we discussed under verse 8, Pilate was asking about Jesus' origin, was He something more than just a human being (cf. Acts 14:11-18; 28:6)?] But Jesus gave him no answer. [[Compare Isa. 53:7; Matt. 26:63 (before Caiaphas and the rulers of the Jews); 27:12, 14 (before Pilate and the rulers of the Jews); Mark 14:60, 61 (before Caiaphas and the rulers of the Jews); 15:5 (before Pilate and the rulers of the Jews); Luke 23:9 (before Herod); John 19:9, 10 (before Pilate). In a very real sense Jesus had already told Pilate where He was from. He had told him that He had a kingdom, but not a kingdom of this world (John 18:36), and that He was a King, and for that purpose He had been born and had come into the world (John 18:37). He had come into the world from heaven. Pilate wasn't interested in pursuing those details, but (as John 18:38 shows), Pilate knew that Jesus wasn't guilty of the charges that He was plotting to overthrow the Roman kingdom, including Judea, which was part of the Roman empire. Jesus wasn't interested in discussing Roman/pagan religious superstitions with Pilate. John 18:36-38 demonstrate that Pilate was not really seeking the truth.]] (10) So Pilate said to Him, 'You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?' [We must remember, of course, that Jesus knew that it was the Father's will for Him to be crucified.] (11) Jesus answered, 'You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above [This statement is true regarding all authority that men or Satan and his hosts exercise (cf., e.g., Job 1:8-12; 2:3-6; Dan. 2:21; 4:17; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Cor. 10:13); God is God, and He limits what the devil, evil angels, demons, and evil men are permitted to do.]; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.' [[The Jewish leaders took the initiative in arresting Jesus and delivering Him to Pilate. The same Greek verb for deliver ("paradidomi") was used in John 18:30, 35, but there the verb was plural. Here in John 19:11 the participle that was formed from this Greek verb is singular. Apparently Jesus singled out Caiaphas, who was the high priest at that time, but there was plenty of guilt on the part of other Jewish leaders, including Annas (cf. John 18:13-24). Caiaphas took a leading role in delivering Jesus to be crucified (cf. John 11:47-53; 18:24, 28; Matt. 26:57-68; and Mark 14:53-65). Caiaphas (and the Jewish leaders) had the greater guilt, but Pilate (as this verse confirms) was guilty too.

The ultimate reason that Jesus was crucified was that it was the plan of God the Father and Jesus voluntarily submitted to that plan (cf. e.g., John 3:13-21; 10:11-18; 12:23-33; Acts 2:22, 23; 3:13-20), but that fact didn't take away the sin of those who delivered Jesus to Pilate, demanding that He be crucified. Compare Matt. 26:24; Mark 14:21; and Luke 22:22, verses that speak of Judas' betrayal of Jesus.

It is interesting to note that Jesus was the real Judge here. He was judging the Jewish leaders and Pilate.]] (12) As a result of this Pilate made efforts ["Lit. was seeking] to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, 'If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.' [See under John 18:33; 19:8. This verse shows that Pilate made further efforts to release Jesus, but that the Jews were unwilling to back down from their vehement demand that Jesus be crucified. The Jews forced the issue with Pilate, making it clear that they were fully ready to accuse him to Caesar (the Roman emperor, Tiberius) if he refused to deal with this enemy of the Roman empire who "makes Himself out to be a king [thereby opposing] Caesar." Pilate knew that the Jewish leaders would probably be able to convince Caesar that he was unfaithful to Rome for not crucifying Jesus and that it could easily result in his own execution. ((I had a lengthy footnote, going on for three paragraphs, I'll quote part of what F. Godet says here ("Gospel of John," page 377, 378). "[The Jewish leaders] had prepared a weapon which they had resolved not to use except in the last extremity; so ignoble was it in their view both for him who was its object and for those who employed it. It was that of personal intimidation. The reigning emperor, Tiberius, was the most suspicious of despots. The accusation of high treason was always well received by this tyrant. ... The most unpardonable offence was that of having suffered his [Tiberius's] authority to be imperiled. Such is the danger which the Jews call up before the dismayed view of Pilate. This equivocal term King of the Jews, with the political coloring which it could not fail to have in the eyes of Tiberius, would infallibly make Pilate appear as an unfaithful administrator, who had attempted to screen from punishment an enemy of the imperial authority; and his trial would be a short matter; this Pilate knew well. ...." I'll also quote a sentence from Godet that deals with verse 15, "They [the Jews] who cherished only one thought - the overthrow of the throne of the Caesars by the Messiah - suffer themselves to be carried away by hatred of Jesus so far as to cry out before the representative of the emperor: 'We have no king but Caesar.' "

I'll quote part of what Donald A. Carson says under verse 12 ("Gospel According to John," pages 602, 603). "Pilate had ample reason to fear the implicit threat. Tiberius Caesar was known to be quick to entertain suspicions against his subordinates, and swift to exact ruthless punishment.... On earlier occasions the Jewish authorities had communicated their displeasure with Pilate to the Emperor; Pilate had no reason to think they would refrain from doing so in this case. What defense could he possibly give to a somewhat paranoid ruler, against the charge that he had failed to convict and execute a man arraigned on well-substantiated charges of sedition - brought up on charges put forward by the Sanhedrin, no less, the highest [Jewish] court in the land and known to be less than enthusiastic about the Emperor's rule? ... The verse is saturated with irony. In order to execute Jesus, the Jewish authorities make themselves out to be more loyal subjects of Caesar than the hated Roman official Pilate is. ...."

I'll quote part of what R. C. H. Lenski says under verse 12 ("St. John's Gospel" [Augsburg, 1943], page 1269). "Pilate is crushed. The very thought that Caesar may get to hear what these Jews now shout into his ears completely unmans him. He sees ruin opening at his feet like a gulf - his position, his liberty, his very life are at stake. He faces the alternative: either he sacrifices Jesus or he sacrifices himself. ....")) Verse 15 shows that the Jews were so stirred up against Jesus that they even made the amazing statement that they had no king but Caesar.]]

This verse-by-verse study of John chapters 18-20 continues in Part 4, starting with John 19:13.

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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