John 18:33 to 19:11: February 2—The king holds court
Jan 26, 2014
By MARK A. RATHEL

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
Jesus experienced the farce of a trial before Jewish leaders and the Roman procurator Pilate. The Apostle John depicts the Jewish religious leaders and Pilate as the subjects of the trial rather than Jesus. The Jewish leadership did not want to enter the Gentile Pilate’s headquarters to avoid ritual uncleanness (v. 28), yet their plan to kill Jesus defiled their heart. Before Pilate, Jesus quietly, yet confidently presented His claims. Before Jesus, Pilate vacillated and capitulated to political expediency. 

The Jewish trial phase of Jesus focused on His claim of deity; the Roman trial phase focused on the issue of the nature of His kingship. What does the Roman trial of Jesus reveal about King Jesus?

First, as King, Jesus predicted the manner of His death (John 18:31-32). The Jewish leadership accused Jesus of blasphemy the penalty of which was stoning (Lev. 26:16). Jesus predicted His death by crucifixion (Matt. 20:19), that is, being lifted up (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-33). The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signaled that Jesus experienced a curse from God (Dt. 21:23; Gal. 3:13).

Second, the kingship of Jesus is unlike worldly kings (John 18:33-38a). First, the origin of Jesus is unlike earthly kings. Jesus came into this world from another realm (v. 37). The language of “come into the world” in the Fourth Gospel sets forth His preexistent deity (5:43; 6:38, 42; 12:46; 16:28). Second, worldly kings depend on physical force (v 36). The servants of an earthly king would fight to defend their king. Jesus’ reference to His servants fighting may refer to the disciples (Peter’s sword) or to angels. Third, worldly kings rule over a geo-political realm. In contrast, the Kingdom of Jesus is eternal and spiritual. The subjects of Jesus’ Kingdom enter His rule by birth from above rather than physical birth (John 3:3,5). Fourth, as King Jesus, the one who is the Truth (14:6) testifies to the truth (v. 37).

Third, King Jesus forces individuals to make a choice regarding His identity (John 18:38b-40). Pilate turned from Jesus to the crowds with a flippant rejection of the Truth (v. 38b). Like many earthly rulers, Pilate lacked commitment to either truth or justice. 

Pilate offered a double-edged choice to the crowds. The revolutionary Barabbas or Jesus, the one obedient to the law. Barabbas is a compound name. “Bar” means “son” in the Aramaic language spoken by Jews in Jesus’ day. The Aramaic term “abba” means, “father.” Do you want Barabbas (son of the father) or Jesus (truly son of the Father)? 

Neutrality is impossible regarding King Jesus.

Fourth, worldly people mock the kingship of Jesus (John 19:1-3). Despite repeatedly professing the innocence of Jesus the cowardly 

Pilate sentenced Jesus to the punishment of flogging. Each detachment of Roman soldiers had specialists in the nefarious art of flogging capable of exposing the entrails of the victim. The Jewish leadership complained to Pilate’s bosses about his harsh treatment of the Jews, yet the complainers approved of this harsh treatment. The soldiers mocked Jesus as King by means of the crown of thorns, purple robe, and greetings. Rather than the crown of thorns pressed down into the head of Jesus, the thorns may have pointed outward similar to the sun-like radiant crowns of monarchs claiming deity. The color purple was extremely expensive in the first century and affordable to the wealthy and royalty. Matthew describes the solders gave Jesus a reed as a royal scepter. Roman soldiers imitated the greeting given to a king, “Hail, Caesar!” with the same style of greeting of Jesus. Rather than bowing and kissing the king after the greeting, they hit Him. 

Fifth, King Jesus reigned at His trial (John 19:11). The Romans had no authority over Him!

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