John 18:24-Jesus is taken for interrogation to Caiaphas. While John reports no details of this interrogation, Matthew does (cf. Matthew 26:57-68).
John 18:25-27-Peter is still standing near the fire, by the outside entrance to the courtyard. A second time, someone asks him is he was one of Jesus’ disciples and he denies it, “I am not” (:25). Then, a third time, a person related to the slave whose ear Peter had cut off says that he saw him in the garden. Peter denies it…and immediately a rooster crows (:27).
John 18:28-40 (cont’d through 19:16)-Jesus is interrogated by Pilate in the Praetorium (the Roman headquarters, the barracks). Since the Praetorium was a dwelling place for the gentiles it was ceremonially unclean for the Jews…so the Jewish authorities did not enter it, lest they be defiled for the Passover. Despite the fact that this probably irritated Pilate (the thought that these Jews saw his building, and by inference himself, as something unclean), he left the Praetorium and went to a different place to meet them. Pilate begins the proceedings by asking what the charges were that the Jewish leaders were making. Initially, they just say that He is an “evildoer” (:30-this is a general word meaning “troublesome, wicked, bad natured”)…perhaps hoping that Pilate would not be in the mood to waste his time with some unknown Jew and simply grant their request. He tells them that if that is all that they have against Him then they are wasting his time and they should handle the problem themselves according to their own law. But their response reveals their more sinister intention…they are actually trying to use Pilate to do for them what Roman law will not allow them to do for themselves…have Jesus killed. While the Sanhedrin (who administered the Jewish law) could condemn a man to death…the Roman government had to approve and execute the sentence and Pilate was its senior representative in Judea. It appears that at some point in this deliberation that Pilate had walked out of the room…because he now comes back (:33). For the first time, Pilate addresses Jesus directly and asks Him if He is a king. Jesus asks Pilate if he is sincerely asking him this question out of his own interest, or if he was asking it because it was an accusation being made by the Jews. It could be that when Pilate had left the room he had quickly gathered some details on what Jesus was being accused of and why the Jewish leaders were so opposed to Him…and Jesus’ question shows that He was aware of this. Pilate seems a little agitated (perhaps he is trying to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation in which it would appear that he actually was interested in Who Jesus was) and somewhat harshly says that he has no interest in it from a personal perspective because he is not a Jew. He’s just asking the question because it is his job. Jesus replies that He is a king…but His kingdom is not of this world. By this He means that His kingdom is not like that which is typical of this world…one that is identified by geographic boundaries and political alliances. His kingdom is one that transcends all human boundaries and is based on truth, not force. Jesus says that those who listen to Him (believe in Him) will understand this “truth” (:37). Pilate tries to avoid having to go further into the discussion by callously responding, “What is truth?” (:38). Pilate was a politician, not a theologian…and when Jesus mentioned “truth”, he came to the conclusion that what he was dealing with here was a difference of theological opinion between the Jews and Jesus over what was “truth”. In his opinion, this was just another example of the constant struggle that the Jews had among their various factions for power. It was a religious matter. Let them fight it out among themselves. This was not a civil case deserving of Roman intervention. So, he declares Jesus innocent of breaking Roman law and dismisses the case. But, forever being the politician, he didn’t want the general Jewish population to feel that he had ignored their religious leaders and not heard their request. If he did that, the Jewish leaders would be humiliated in front of their own people and it would be detrimental to his ability to control them. He was always trying to keep peace and repress any reason for them to rebel. So, in order to release Jesus, and at the same time, help the Jewish leaders save face, he offers to do so through an alternative manner. It was a custom of his to release someone from prison at Passover time…as a gesture of good will by the Roman authorities to their Jewish subjects. He offered to release Jesus. This would be a win-win scenario. Pilate could release Jesus…since He had actually not broken any Roman law. And, it would not cast a bad shadow on the Jewish leaders…since Pilate would not actually be releasing Jesus because they had been wrong in their accusations. It would appear that they had been correct, that Jesus had been arrested; but, as an act of good will Pilate had released Jesus. Everybody could go home happy. But the Jewish leaders saw through his attempt…so instead, they told him that if he was going to release someone, they wanted him to release Barabbas. John says that he was a “robber”…but, Luke (23:19) tells us that he had been accused of far worse crimes of murder and insurrection.
Prayer: Lord, it seems that as long as Peter could see that there was a possibility for success in the future of Jesus that he would stand to the death with Him. However, when it appears that there is no hope (humanly speaking), he began to waver. It’s as if he was willing to die, if Jesus would live…but he did not understand that he must be willing to live or die for Jesus…regardless. Please, Lord, give me the faith and obedience to be willing to live or die for You…whether I can see an answer, or understand what is going on, or know what the outcome is going to be, or not.