John 18:1-40 “What is Truth?”

Click to read John 18

Jesus went out with His disciples, crossed back over the Brook Kidron, and reentered the Garden of Gethsemane which was kind of like their meet up spot! Dealing with someone who has betrayed you is one of the most difficult things to endure, yet Jesus loved Judas and withheld nothing of Himself or the ministry from him! That’s why Judas knew exactly where to come to find Jesus, but He didn’t come alone. He came with 600 soldiers armed with weapons and torches likely thinking they were coming to capture an insurrectionist who claimed to be some sort of king!

They didn’t have to go looking for Jesus in a cave or hiding behind some rocks. Jesus goes out and stops them! Jesus is protecting His disciples asking, “Whom are you seeking?” They answer, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus says two words that change the whole situation and attitude of His pursuers. Jesus answers, “I AM.” When Jesus says “I AM”, He is referring to Himself as God who WAS, IS, and ALWAYS will be (Exodus 3:13-15)! At the power of speaking His own name, the soldiers drew back and fell to the ground!  Jesus could have destroyed them with a thought, and at the very least could have treated them like fainting goats and easily escaped! He didn’t. Instead, He willingly gave Himself up so He could protect His disciples! This fulfills the prophesy concerning His disciples that He prayed earlier in chapter 17 (John 17:12).

Jesus was bound and taken to Annas, the old high priest. Annas asks Jesus about His disciples and doctrine, but Jesus responds that His teachings where always taught in the open, in the synagogues, and in the temple where the Jews met! So, if Annas wanted evidence against Jesus then He should follow the law and ask first of those witnesses who heard him teach about what He said. Jesus wasn’t being uncooperative. He was confronting Annas’s hypocrisy because this man claimed to represent justice, righteousness, the law, and God but wasn’t following any of it! Then Annas sent him to Caiaphas, the current high priest who then sent Him to Pilate.

Pilate goes out and asks, “What are you charging Him with?” They couldn’t answer; only saying, “Well, we wouldn’t have brought Him to you if it wasn’t bad!” Pilate says “Well, you take Him and judge Him according to your law and punish Him.” They respond, “But we can’t because His crime deserves death and we can’t execute Him.” Rome had taken away the Jews’ ability to execute criminals themselves, but they could ask the Romans to execute individuals if their crimes were severe enough! This served to fulfill the scriptures concerning the way Jesus would die. The Jews would have stoned Jesus, but it was the Romans who crucified people (Psalm 22:16)! And Jesus Himself said in John 3 (John 3:14) that He must be lifted up -on the cross that is!

As screwed up as Pilate is, he smells a rat and didn’t want the case, but the Jews wanted him to take it so they could “lawfully” have Jesus executed! Pilate asks, “Are YOU a king?” because obviously Jesus didn’t look the part of a king or even that of a revolutionary seeking to challenge Rome! Jesus responds, “Are you asking for yourself or did someone tell you I was?” Pilate responses, “What do I look like a Jew to you?” Pilate’s only concern was determining if Jesus was a threat to Rome or to himself, not with Jewish stuff! He concluded Jesus is no threat, but his own people turned Him asking for His execution so Pilate is curious. “What did you do to enrage your own so greatly?”

Jesus answers by pointing out the differences between the world’s kingdoms and His kingdom! The world’s kingdoms are established and maintained by force, pride, a desire for domination, self-preservation, and the love of power used for self-gratification! This is how Rome achieved power and how the Jews sought to overthrow Rome! Jesus’ kingdom though is not of the world because His kingdom is founded on peace, self-sacrifice, humility and love for one another!  That’s why His disciples didn’t put up a fight! To the Jews, this was a stumbling block because they believed Messiah would deliver them by might from Roman oppression, and to the Gentiles, it was foolishness because a kingdom is built by force and maintained by power; of which they thought Jesus had none (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)!

Pilate says, “Are you a king?” and Jesus says, “You bet I am, and I’ve come to tell people the truth about themselves and how to be changed for the better forever!” The world says society and culture must change in order to change people, but Jesus says His truth will change people and then society and culture will change for the better! As Christians, we can’t rely upon Rome (government, culture, policy, and power) to improve the world or change people. We must focus on teaching people the truth of Jesus! Pilate’s response like most in denial is indifference! Compromising instead of dealing with the truth, Pilate looks for an easy escape. Since Jesus was quite popular with the people he thinks of a clever solution! There was a custom that Pilate should pardon a criminal at the Passover. He asked the people if they wanted him to release Jesus, in whom he’d found no crime or the known criminal Barabbas.

Pilate should have released Jesus, but fearing revolt and Rome finding out he let things go on hoping he could weasel out of it, but the religious leaders weren’t giving up! They intimidated the people into shouting for Barabbas release. So, we end up with the sins of all the Jews and Gentiles sharing in the collective guilt of condemning Jesus to die on the Roman cross of crucifixion! Everyone there listened, but demanded what those controlled by the world instead of hearing the truth demand: allow our sin to roam free and crucify the Truth!

Lesson4Life: Believing the TRUTH is the only thing that can save you from your sin!