All four gospels record Jesus’ being brought before Pilate following His arrest and trial by the Jewish religious leaders, but only the Gospel According to John gives the detailed exchange between Jesus and Pilate. The things that John wrote were written so that men might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing men may have life through His name (Jn. 20:31).
“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment . . .” (v. 28a). Caiaphas, the high priest, presided over the Sanhedrin which found Jesus guilty of blasphemy. Caiaphas sent Jesus to the hall of judgment, the headquarters of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.
Jesus was brought before Pilate such that He would be put to death (v. 32). The penalty for blasphemy under the law of Moses is death by stoning. Had Judea and Jerusalem not been under the Roman authority, the Jews (Caiaphas and other religious leaders) would have executed Jesus by stoning. Because of excesses by the Sanhedrin more than twenty years earlier (6 A.D.), Rome initiated a policy that gave Roman governors, alone, the power to exercise capital punishment.
Just prior to departing from Perea for Jerusalem, Jesus told His disciples that He would be crucified and rise again on the third day (Matt. 20:19). Jesus knew that He would be executed under Roman law.
The crucifixion was prophesied by David more than 900 years earlier. David’s Psalm 22:16 reference, “they pierced my hands and my feet,” clearly refers to crucifixion. All scripture is authored by God, omniscient.
Normally, the events which are recorded in the verses before us would have been conducted behind closed doors. The religious leaders would not enter Pilate’s headquarters on this occasion because entering the house of a Gentile made one ceremonially impure and unable to partake of the passover feast. The righteous views that prevented them from entering into the house of a Gentile moved them to execute the Messiah. Pilate accommodated the leaders by moving proceedings to an open area outside of his quarters.
One found guilty of sedition under Roman law would be executed by crucifixion. The line of Herodian kings was established to rule Judea by Roman edict. It is apparent from his line questioning (v. 33) that Pilate was intent upon determining if Jesus were guilty of sedition by attempting to rule in Herod’s place.
Pilate in asking Jesus if He were king of the Jews was asking Jesus if He were seditious. Jesus, in asking Pilate if he asked this question of himself (v. 34), forced Pilate to rephrase the question. Pilate, as a qualified Roman governor, was schooled in Judaism. He knew that if a Jew asked Jesus if He were king of the Jews that the questioner was seeking to know if Jesus were the Messiah. Rome had no law forbiding the existence of the Jewish Messiah, only laws which forbid the Messiah or anyone else from opposing Rome rule.
Jesus then testified before Pilate and to all present that He did not claim a kingdom of this world, that “but now is my kingdom not from hence.” Pilate was not satisfied with this answer and asked, “Art thou a king then?”
Jesus answered that He was a king but that his kingdom was one of truth and composed of only those who heard the voice of truth. Pilate asked, “What is truth?” The question is not answered. The truth is the opposite of a lie. All who believe the lie (that which Satan said in Genesis 3:4) cannot answer because they do not believe God.
All present —Pilate, the Jewish leaders and their followers, and future followers of Jesus— heard the words which Jesus spoke, but only the future followers of Christ would hear the voice of truth. God’s word is put before all men, but not all men shall hear truth. Pilate could not answer his own question.
Pilate, having determined that Jesus was innocent of any crime against Rome, turned to those who had found Him guilty of blasphemy and asked if he should release “the King of the Jews” unto them. They chose Barabbus, a robber.
All who truly hear Jesus, look to the day when He shall reign as king from the throne of David in Jerusalem. The voice of truth that proclaimed His crucifixion more than 900 years prior to His coming in the flesh (Ps. 22) proclaims that He shall return. All who are of His kingdom look to that day.
God has given us His word that His truth may be made known to all who shall hear. Let us not hide the light which He has entrusted to us.