Sermons Updates

The Trial of Christ (John 18:28 – 9:15) – Mark Ottaway

The Trial of Christ

John 18:28-19:15


Turn in your Bibles to John 18. This morning’s message is very simple as I plan to go through the trial of Jesus before Pilate, making some comments along the way, and close with some thoughts. Now there were a few stages to the trial of Jesus as He stood before various men that we learn about from all four gospels. In our passage, John mentions here (vs 24) that Annas (the former high priest) sent Jesus to Caiaphas (the current high priest). Now the Jewish Sanhedrin had already met and decided that Jesus would die (Matt 27). And this is where we land here in our passage where Jesus is coming from Caiaphas and now before Pilate. Of course, this death sentence was something that the Jewish leaders wanted all along, but this was impossible up until now as John has told us a few times that His time had not yet come. But now with the help of Judas, they were able to get this done, and they, as Jewish leaders, also agreed on the death sentence. But the problem is that the Jews were not allowed to put anyone to death.


Verse 28, “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium.” The Praetorium was the headquarters of the commanding officer Pilate. Pilate would have normally been in Caesarea at the palace, but he would make it a habit to be in Jerusalem during the feasts. And it was the Passover, so there would be much going on in Jerusalem. “And it was early.” Some have suggested that they carried this out hurriedly, before many knew what was going on, hence they were set to go early in the morning. Verse 28, “and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” Jewish law would not allow them to enter the dwelling place of Gentiles without becoming unclean. So, the understanding here is likely that this would mean seven days of cleansing, and therefore, they did not want to let this happen so that they could participate in the Passover. D. A. Carson wrote:

“The Jews take elaborate precautions to avoid ritual contamination in order to eat the Passover, at the same time they are manipulating the judicial system to secure the death of him who alone is the true Passover.”

  1. A. Carson


“Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered and said to him, ‘If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.’ So Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.’ The Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,’ in order that the word of Jesus which He spoke would be fulfilled, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.”

John 18:29-32 (LSB)


Now to get the picture here when it says (vs 29) that Pilate went out to them. This is because Jesus is in the Praetorium where the Jewish leaders would not go, but where Jesus was before Pilate. So, Pilate is going back and forth here from inside to outside. Outside biblical writings tell us of some of the brutality of Pilate, that he was used to slaughtering those whom he wanted. The Jewish leaders may have hoped that the death might be very quick here. John MacArthur wrote, “The last thing that the Jewish leaders wanted was a trial. They wanted a death sentence; they wanted Pilate to be an executioner, not a judge.” However, their concern with Jesus was that He claimed to be God, and they realized that this probably meant little to Pilate. And this statement by Pilate “Take Him yourselves,” is a time when Pilate stood his ground in not just trying to appease these guys. And the greater thing that was happening here is that Jesus was to be crucified, so, there is no middle ground here because Jesus had to be crucified, as Jesus had said this a number of times Himself (John 3:14; 8:28), that the Son of Man must be lifted up.

“‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.’ But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was about to die.’”

John 12:32-33 (LSB)


Now if the Jews were able to kill Jesus they likely would have discreetly stoned Him. Sometimes these types of killings were sort of “winked at” by the Roman authorities, not wanting to make a big deal about something if they did not have to, but crucifixion required Rome.

“Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are you saying this from yourself, or did others tell you about Me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what did You do?’ 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 delivered over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not from here.’ Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You yourself said I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’”

John 18:33-37 (LSB)


Notice it says here that Pilate went back into the Praetorium. The charges, not given here, but recorded for us by Luke are that He was found misleading our nation, forbidding people to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He was a King. Their hope here would be that Pilate would believe that Jesus was an insurrectionist, wanting to overthrow Rome. So, the accusations given in Luke compel Pilate to ask, “Are You the King of the Jews?” In other words, are You desiring to overthrow Rome? If this question was written directly from the Greek would read, as he looked at Jesus, “You [?], are You the King of the Jews?” You? Pilate must have wondered where were all of Jesus’ followers, or where was His army and He certainly didn’t look like a King. Pilate may have thought, “You do not appear to be a great threat to Rome.” Notice that Jesus says here, is this your question Pilate or did others say this about Me? Of course, Jesus already knew the answer, but if Pilate was worried about this, Jesus was going to make it clear that He had no interest in any kind of earthly kingdom at this point. Also, remember that there had been times before when the crowds wanted to make Jesus King, but He refused. And when He rode into Jerusalem when many honoured Him and saw Him as King, Jesus never took that opportunity. But Jesus was not going to deny that He was Israel’s true King. Now Pilate knew that the Jews had handed Jesus over to him out of envy (Matt 27:18), but he did not necessarily know why. And then Jesus’ statement, “My kingdom is not of this world (vs 36a).


Jesus indeed reigns in the hearts of people as their King today. It is also true that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven where all things are determined. But He is not viewed today on the earth as King any more than He was then, and Rome had no threat from Christ physically at this time in their history. What Rome did not know and what these Jewish leaders did not realize was that they were being used by God to fulfill what the Father had determined before the foundation of the world. Luke wrote in Acts 2 that “this Man, [Jesus was] delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, and you nailed [Him] to a cross by the hands of lawless men and put Him to death.” And here the Jews and the Romans were worried about their present situation. The Jews worried about being viewed as the spiritual leaders and the Romans worried about keeping power, and the One standing before them was the eternal King. And their plea someday when they are judged before Christ will likely be that they never knew. And that is probably true, but an unbelieving heart is a revelation of an evil heart, for they will be judged for not just their ignorance, but for their sinful ignorance. The same judgment for all who do not believe, for all are without excuse. Yet Jesus will reign on the earth in the future. We read in Revelation 11:

“Then the seventh angel sounded, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.’”

Rev 11:15 (LSB)


But this is all within God’s timing, God’s predetermined plan, and it will not be done through human effort. Just as God had an exact time of the death of Christ that man had no say in, though man was involved in; so too, God has an exact time of Christ’s reign in which man will have no say. And the events we see around us today that may or may not indicate that the return of Christ could be anytime have nothing to do with the agenda of man, for these events are all planned by God. Verse 38, “Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” Jesus has given something to the world, truth. And the world, at least much of the world, is aware of the truth of Jesus. Much of the teaching today of Jesus is known and sought after in society, many would be familiar with the Beatitudes, or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Now the world does not bow to these truths, as the world may think highly of some and not so highly of others. But these are all truths that Jesus has spoken, and everything that Jesus has said is true, and the one who hears the voice of Christ knows the truth. So, there is a line drawn there isn’t there? The ones who hear and the ones who do not hear. For when Jesus uses the word “hear” in this case, He does not mean just physical hearing, He means hearing which leads to believing, following, and obeying.


All truth is Jesus’ truth, and Jesus’ truth is all truth. And I thought this should give us some confidence, because the world is not changing the truth. No, the truth always remains the same. What God has declared and what Jesus had declared while He was here on this earth is the truth that cannot be changed. So, the world is not changing the truth, the world is just not accepting the truth. So, realize nothing is being changed. Therefore, there ought to be no intimidation just because most have decided to not believe the truth. And I understand that we bemoan how the world has disregarded truth, and I understand the frustration of that. But no one can change truth.


But let us consider Jesus who is the ultimate truth as He stands before Pilate neither afraid nor intimidated, because Pilate hasn’t changed anything. Pilate has just chosen not to believe what is true. I would suggest the main question here is, do you and I believe what is true? Because that is the important eternal question. That is the question that is going to matter a few years from now when one by one we stand before Christ, did I believe in what Jesus said, did I hear His voice? See, it was the Jewish leaders and the Roman government that were concerned about everything going on around them, but it was Jesus who calmly said, my kingdom is not of this world. Would we be able to say that? This is not our world. Folks I know we have many concerns, and they are real, and the times we may get anxious about certain things. But what we believe, what we hope in, and how we live, far outweigh the cares and concerns around us. What we believe is the voice of our Shepherd. What we hope in is the Kingdom of Christ. And how we live is in obedience to our Lord and Saviour. May we picture and be encouraged by the resolve shown by our Great Shepherd before Pilate, and determine as His people to have that same resolve before the world, of not being intimidated or fearful.

“And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, ‘I find no guilt in Him. 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?’ So they cried out again, saying, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas.’ Now Barabbas was a robber.”

John 18:38b-40


Truth is not changed, it is just rejected. Now Pilate had said some true things, I find no guilt in Him. That is a massive truth! And he called Jesus the King of the Jews, though it was likely said “tongue in cheek.” But they rejected the truth. And Pilate, though he had spoken truth, notice here, did not have the gumption to hold to the truth. His well-being, his own government position was more important to him than truth.

“Pilate then took Jesus and flogged Him. And when the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him; and they were coming to Him and saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and were giving Him slaps in the face. And Pilate came out again and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.’ Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold, the man!’ So when the chief priests and the officers 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.’ 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.’ Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he became more afraid.”

John 19:1-8 (LSB)


He likely believed that by bringing Jesus out in the open, after being flogged and having the Romans mocking Him and slapping Him, and having Him walk out with the robe and the crown, this might have satisfied the Jewish leaders. In other words, Pilate might have thought, I know you guys do not like Jesus; so, Rome has made a fool out of Him. But the Jews had made up their minds by this time, it was death or nothing, and their reaction caused Pilate to become “more afraid.”


A crossroads. On one side, truth and fear; and on the other side, a loophole, a way of escape, a twisting of the truth. Why? Well because if I do what is right, I am afraid of how this will turn out for me. Have you ever been there at work or in ministry or wherever you might find yourself at a crossroads? I can do what is right and true, but I am afraid, for it may cost me; or I can twist the truth and get out of this. Think of the many lies that have been spoken over the centuries by those who are trying to get out of something. How many times someone has said, I didn’t do it, but they did. Or I didn’t know anything about it, but they did know about it.

“… and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are You from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. 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?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.’”

John 19:9-11 (LSB)


Of course, the one with the greater sin is Judas who premeditated the whole thing, whereas Pilate is responding here to the situation he finds himself. And as an aside here, God the Father predetermined the whole thing. So, there is every reason to understand that all this happened because the Father determined it to happen, but the sin is blamed on Judas and not God. This is what the Bible tells us, that God cannot sin and He did not sin; and Judas can sin and he did. So, don’t try to rework the whole thing so that our little pea brains can understand or justify this whole thing in our minds, but just accept it as written. God predetermined the whole event and what each would do, and yet each of them acted and they are responsible for their own actions and sin. God is perfect and man is sinful. That is the truth of God’s Word and we submit to that truth. Again:

“Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.’”

John 19:11 (LSB)


Can God plan something and use those involved for good and evil, and at the same time each one who does the evil be responsible for their sin? Yes. Can God be blamed for that sin? No. We need to learn to not try to justify these questions or try to neatly package them up because we will not. Because if we try, one of these truths will be lessened. For it is God’s job to sovereignly work out His plan, and it is your job to serve and obey Him. Do you have a choice this morning to determine to serve Christ as your Saviour and Lord? Yes, you do. So, serve Him, because that is your responsibility.


Look at (vs 12), “as a result of this Pilate kept seeking to release Him.” What is bothering Pilate here? His conscience. Why? Because he preparing to kill someone whom he knew was innocent. And why would that bother him if he had butchered many in the past? It is true that his conscience had likely lost much of its sharpness, but maybe a glimpse of the reality of Jesus was apparent to Him. And (Matt 27) we read that his wife warned him of Jesus’ innocence from a dream. I believe this may have been the greatest stumbling block for him, as many people can plow ahead with their sinful ways until they are confronted with Christ. Remember last week when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, when Jesus responded, “I am,” John tells us that they drew back and fell to the ground. Remember when Jesus calmed the storm out on the sea, and Peter sat in awe of Christ and said, depart from me for I am a sinner. Times when even the religious leaders came after Jesus, and in His presence, they would back off. In this same story in Matthew 27:14, when Christ stood before Pilate, it says, “And [Jesus] did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so [Pilate] marveled greatly.”


It would seem that in our evangelism with unbelievers, in our discussions about their families and concerns that they may have. And what an opportunity we have to sincerely intersect with people, to at some point confront them with Christ, of what Jesus has done and what Jesus has claimed. When King Agrippa said that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian after the Apostle Paul was telling him about the sufferings of Christ, and the truth that He brought to all people (Acts 26:23).

“As a result of this Pilate kept 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 to be a king opposes Caesar.’ Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King!’ So they cried out, ‘Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’”

John 19:12-15 (LSB)


Sad story, as we see the crumbling of one, Pilate, who was supposed to uphold justice. We see Jewish leaders who have a spiritual influence over much of the culture and yet act with such hatred. We see Judas, who lived as a friend of Jesus, hand Him over to betrayal. And we see many of the followers of Christ flee, and one of His closest friends, Peter, deny Him. Next week, we will see Roman soldiers gambling away His garments, and we will see the Heavenly Father forsake His Son, and some who loved Him dearly watch Him die. Such a sad story. Sometimes we may have an experience in life where we look back and see the good. I am sure many of us can tell of a time when something happened that was such a struggle, but then afterward we saw how the struggle stretched us spiritually or grew us. We may even take a horrific event, that we would never want to happen again, but see a silver lining. This could even be a war where men and women gave their lives for the right and worthy cause, but ultimately people were freed from a tyrant. But in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul relates the story of the crucifixion, and listen to the words he chooses to describe it:

“Now I make known to you, brothers, the gospel which I proclaimed as good news to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I proclaimed to you as good news, unless you believed for nothing. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”

  • Cor 15:1-3 (LSB)


Sometimes we might go through a terrible event that somehow worked out, but we would never describe the actual event itself as “good.” We may never say a car accident was “good” or a war was “good.” But I believe we could say that the cross was “good.” It was necessary. It was needed to bring about redemption. It was how God the Father used to save His people. It was the only way. There are three reasons why I would suggest the “goodness” of the cross, and I know that there are a lot more, but three have come to mind.


The “Goodness of the Cross”


  1. It revealed the determined plan of God.


Luke wrote:

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”

Acts 4:27-28 (LSB)


See, nothing happened at the cross that was not part of the Father’s plan. And I want you to consider the ramifications of that statement, and know that all things work together for good for those who love God. And if God can orchestrate the cross with its hurts and sadness, He can orchestrate the events of your life and my life for good. The “goodness” of the cross:


  1. It revealed the deep sinfulness of man.


God’s law showed mankind that he was a sinner. God has stated what is right for us and we fall short of that. But the cross revealed some heart issues as well. In Pilate, it revealed the love of position and power. In the Jewish leaders, it revealed hatred, jealousy, and pride. In most of the followers, it revealed fear. And in the few who stayed and were faithful, it revealed a lack of faith in God’s plan. We may struggle with some of these ourselves, especially a fear at times and a lack of confidence in what God is doing and will do. The “goodness” of the cross:


  1. It revealed the deep love of Jesus.


If Jesus had been a victim Who was trying to run away from the cross, the cross would have been horrendous, because an innocent Man, a sinless Man died. I love what Charles Spurgeon said:

“You never hear Jesus say in Pilate’s judgement hall one word that would let you imagine that He was sorry that He had undertaken so costly a sacrifice for us. When His hands are pierced, when He is parched with fever, His tongue dried up like a shard of pottery, when His whole body is dissolved into the dust of death, you never hear a groan or a shriek that looks like Jesus is going back on His commitment.”


Yet the cross was “good,” for the Son submitted to the plan of the Father, as He willingly went to the cross. Even when we were sinners, Christ died for us. In fact, John tells us in 1 John that God showed His love for us through the sacrifice of His Son. Yes, the cross was good, the cross was so necessary, as it revealed the plan of God, it revealed our sin, and it revealed the love of Christ. Let’s pray. Lord, how can we ever express gratitude for such love? That You willingly lived Your life, stood before Pilate, and went to the cross, giving Your life for sinners. So, we praise You with the Apostle Paul, saying that we will glory in the cross. And might we live our days before everyone revealing Your greatness and glory. And all God’s people said, amen.