The Trial Of Our Kings
Introduction: The King’s Arrival.
Last weekend our current president traveled to Virginia Beach to encourage the people there after the mass shooting. Last Sunday a prominent church, who has a fairly popular American pastor, was informed our president was on his way to their last Sunday service and would like to be prayed over. The prayer quickly went viral. Some people were commenting how wonderful it was that this pastor chose to pray for our president, while others could not believe this pastor would do this for such a controversial president. Despite what your position is, I think our text today will demonstrate the whole scenario highlights a massive problem we have with our world leaders. This pastor was put in a no win situation. If he refuses to publicly pray for this president he is vilified by certain Christians in our country, but if he chooses to pray for him he is vilified by the other Christians. I think this highlights the problem with our world leaders. Humble leaders do not need to make an ordeal of their arrival at a church. Humble leaders do not need a church to publicly pray over them. And before you are tempted to pick on this current president I believe almost any president prior to him would have done the same thing. Whenever they arrive in town it becomes a spectacle. But in our text today Jesus once again demonstrates the arrival of His kingdom will not come in such an elaborate fashion. In fact in the story today I believe what we will see is…
Theme: In Jesus’ trial, He puts everyone in history on trial.
1. The Pre-Trial—John 18.24-32
So, let’s first look at this trial. Since John’s Gospel is the final one in the Bible he chooses not to include a lot of the details from Jesus’ trial with the Jewish leaders. But what we do see is a detailed description of Jesus trial with Pontius Pilate.
Jesus arrives at Pilate’s place early in the morning (John 18.28), because the Jewish leaders have already conducted their early morning trial. They are trying to get this done quickly because the Passover is coming. They do not want the trial and death of Jesus to disrupt the most important religious and national celebration. Pilate steps out to inquire what is going on (John 18.29). Pilate’s question is a LEGAL one—he is NOT concerned with the religious issues within the Roman Empire. There were many religions that were allowed in the Roman Empire, so the role of the Roman politicians was to maintain peace. Many of them knew if they took sides on religious issues it could cause civil unrest, and they would lose their post. Therefore, the Jewish leaders frame their answer these motives—READ John 18.30-31. Pilate and many other Roman politicians would allow mob violence like we see in the book of Acts. The Jewish leaders knew Jesus was too powerful and popular for that. They wanted His reputation completely destroyed by making sure He was tried as a criminal and given the death penalty. While there are so many plotting here notice what our author says—READ John 18.32. All of these powerful people think they are in control, but Jesus is exactly where He wants to be and in the manner He wants to be there. Jesus has been predicting this moment the whole Gospel. Jesus knew when He would die and how He would die. This is not Jesus being put on trial, but it is Him putting the whole world on trial (especially its leaders).
2. Jesus’ Trial of Pilate—John 18.33-37.
In this next section we see Pilate enters the room, sees Jesus shackled, probably briefly evaluates Him with a mere glance. Pilate then asks Jesus if He is ‘The King of the Jews’ (John 18.33). All the commentaries agree that Pilate’s question was genuine. In the original language the question was empathic in its tense. It would seem that Pilate is genuinely intrigued in who Jesus is. Jesus answers Pilate question with a question—READ John 18.34. While Pilate thinks Jesus is on trial it is Jesus who is controlling the content of this trial. Jesus is interested in what Pilate thinks of Him and not what others are saying. Pilate’s defensive response reveals where his heart truly is—READ John 18.35.
This brief exchange between Jesus and Pilate (the earthly ruler in Jesus’ land) is the same exchange our world is still having today. Many of our leaders, citizens, and people of this world think they are the ones putting Jesus on trial, but Jesus is still asking all of us, “I know what the world is saying about me, what do you think?” Our leaders, our world, are still on trial concerning who Jesus really is. If you are leader in this world, you especially need to be aware of the influence you have. Pilate could have leveraged his influence to steer people in the right direction—he was given an opportunity, and he watched that opportunity pass him by. If you are parent, have workers under you, friends who come to you for counsel or advice, and many other circumstances are you using that position to leverage your influence to help people see Jesus for who He really is?
Jesus eventually tells Pilate who He really is—READ John 18.36-37. Jesus reveals He is a king, but not like the kings of this world. Jesus is saying He is a leader, a ruler, and any other title you can think of, but not like the ones of this world. Jesus is saying He is a spiritual leader in this passage, but I am fearful sometimes this has very negative effects on Jesus’ leadership. Some people who consider themselves scientific, focused on the material world, will be dismissive of Jesus’ leadership because they find it impractical. Others who have some sensitivity to spiritual things will compartmentalize Jesus’ leadership into some categories but ignore it in others. I think the way to best understand Jesus’ leadership is focus on this phrase—“…for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the TRUTH. Everyone who is of the TRUTH listens to my voice.” Many of us today believe “TRUTH” is relative or subjective. The acceptable proverb of our part of the world is “what is true is true for you, and that is fine.” What lies underneath this belief that if I let you have your truth you will let me have mine. This is a means of control and comfort. No one wants to be told they have based their whole being and life on a LIE. But what Jesus is saying He OWNS TRUTH. Jesus is leadership is about truth. If we want to understand our world, our selves, our neighbors, our friends, our family, only Jesus can reveal the truth. One commentator put it this way:
“…his kingdom is a kingdom of truth. Truth her has a meaning close to ‘reality.’ In a world subject to unreality and illusion, Jesus offers the reality of a personal relationship with ‘the only true God’ (17.3), a life in the truth which sets free.”—Milne, p. 267
Jesus is offering Pilate, and all of us, the opportunity to finally understand the meaning of it all. Jesus leadership is all about truth—it is about REALITY. Jesus’ leadership is not merely about “spiritual” things, but ALL things. By helping us understand the spiritual Jesus is helping us to understand everything else.
The trial ends the same way it does with us—with an opportunity of what we are going to do with this revelation. So, let’s look at the final verdict to see the verdict of Pilate and the rest of us who view Jesus the same way Pilate does.
3. The Verdict—John 18.38-40.
Jesus offered Pilate the truth, Pilate said, “What is truth?” and then walked away from the TRUTH of truth standing right there in front of Him (John 18.38). I think it is important in this moment to remember what Jesus said in John 3.17-20:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.—John 3.17-20
Jesus is offering Pilate and the world the truth—He is offering to turn the lights on, so they can truly see. Much like Pilate many say, “There is nothing wrong with Jesus, He seems like a good dude,” and they do not recognize Him for who He truly is—the Son of God. The Jewish leaders at least understand the gravity of what Jesus was claiming. Their verdict was Jesus is guilty because He is claiming to be GOD.
Pilate tries to deal with this controversy by remaining neutral. He offers them a known terrorist—a violent political activist. Pilate offers them the opposite of Jesus. Jesus clearly teaches He is not here to take the world by military force, but that is exactly what Barabbas was trying to do. Pilate does not understand the darkness of the moment. Daniel was a politician in the OT, and when God revealed to Him what was spiritually, or TRULY, happening during his day it made him physically sick to his stomach, depressed, and etc. I pray we all will see the gravity of what is at stake in our day, as we all continue to choose what we believe about Jesus and evaluate which leaders we want to follow.