The Romans and The Son of God

August 18, 2019 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: John

Topic: English Passage: John 18:28-40

To begin our time today looking at God’s word, I’d like you to turn with me to a very important portion of John’s gospel. We’ve looked at this verses many, many times, but I like to take us back here once in a while so that we know where we are heading.

Look with me at John 20:31. John 20:31. This, again, is what we might call John’s purpose statement. This is why he wrote the gospel. John 20:31—But these [signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

By the time John wrote this gospel, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke had already been written and had already begun to be circulated. The story of Jesus was familiar to John’s audience. So why write another one?

Because what John wanted was not simply that people would be acquainted with Jesus’ life. His driving desire was that his readers would know Jesus for themselves. And not just know some facts about His life, but fully know and embrace who Jesus is. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the promised Redeemer of Israel and the world. He is the Son of God, God in human flesh.

That is who you have to receive Jesus as, because that’s who He is. Nobody gets saved from eternal judgment because they know some Bible stories about Jesus. Nobody enters into eternal joy and satisfaction just because they’ve heard something about Jesus, and liked it.

All of you here will only be saved if you recognize and receive Jesus for who He really is and what He came to do. And the only way you get that right is if you know what the Bible says. You’re not going to get the right answers anywhere else.

Mahatma Ghandi, for example, said one Christmas morning: “I may say that I have never been interested in a historical Jesus. I should not care if it was proved by someone that the man called Jesus never lived, and that what was narrated in the Gospels was a figment of the writer’s imagination. For the Sermon on the Mount would still be true for me.”

In other words, Jesus might as well have been a fairy tale character. It doesn’t matter if He existed, it’s just His teaching that matters.

According to Scientology, Jesus is just one of many good teachers, and He ranked just below the level of Operating Thetan. Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, is reported to have said that Jesus and the Christian faith are the result of an implant. Additionally, anyone who believes that Jesus is God needs to be fixed through a process Scientology refers to as “auditing.”

Scientology functions as a secret society, with advancing levels that gain you more insider knowledge. And there are disputed leaks at the highest level indicating that Hubbard said Jesus was a homosexual and a pedophile “given to uncontrollable bursts of temper and hatred.”

Islam and the Quran say that Jesus was born of a virgin, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and given revelations from Allah. But they also believe that He was created, just like Adam was. And He was not crucified. Though they recognize that Jesus did miracles, He was not, they say, the Son of God, and He never intended people to worship Him.

With Jesus, you’ve only got two options. You either have Him right, or you’ve got Him wrong. And if you have Him right, if you know who He really is, you’re either on His side or not. Satan and the demons, for example, know exactly who Jesus is, and they shudder. But they will never surrender to Him in loving worship.

But this is the aim of John’s gospel—that we would come to know who Jesus is and what He’s done. And even though we’re in a section without any miraculous acts of power, the purpose of the book hasn’t changed.

You need to know who Jesus is and what He’s done. For today, we’re going to be looking at chapter 18, verses 28-40.

The central theme of chapters 18 and 19 is Jesus’ death. Jesus is going to die, and we are seeing that unfold. That’s where this is all headed. Jesus is going to die.

Once He and His disciples leave Jerusalem, they cross the Kidron Valley and go up into a garden called Gethsemane, which is on the Mount of Olives. That’s the place where Judas shows up with an angry mob and a troop of soldiers to arrest Jesus.

From there, Jesus, fully aware of what’s happening, is taken to the former High Priest Annas, and then to the current High Priest Caiaphas.

Jesus goes before the High Priest, not for a formal trial, but for a mock trial. The Jewish authorities have no interest in the truth. Their only concern is putting Jesus to death. They hate Him. They are jealous of Him. He is an enemy to their legalistic institution. They maintain a position of authority over an enslaved population, but Jesus has repeatedly exposed the foolishness and wickedness of what they’re doing. So they want Him gone.

What these Jewish leaders want is to catch Jesus speaking some kind of heresy. Because then, they could put him to death. In the past, they tried to stone Him, but that was unsuccessful. Jesus always got away. But not this time. Now, they have Him in custody.

And once Jesus has been before the Jewish leaders, they turn Him over to the Romans. He goes from a religious hearing, to a civil hearing. That’s what we’re looking at this morning—Jesus’ trial before the Romans.

Jesus had predicted this would happen. In Matthew 20, Jesus said, “The Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”

So again, Jesus knows exactly where this is all heading. And now He’s headed to the Romans.

Let’s read John’s account in chapter 18, verses 28-40. John 18:28-40.

28Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

33So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

The opening verse, verse 28, sets the stage for us. And we don’t just get the location. John exposes, once again, the wicked hypocrisy of the Jewish rulers. Verse 28 says “they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters [or Praetorium].”

Remember, Israel doesn’t have sovereign independence. They’re under the control of the Roman Empire, though they are given a measure of freedom and self-governance. In the Roman chain of command, there is a governor over the region of Judea named Pontius Pilate [Poncio Pilato]. He’s also known as the prefect of Judea.

Pilate’s job is to make sure there’s peace and order in Jerusalem. His job includes making sure there are no uprisings against the Empire.

Pontius Pilate became governor in A.D. 26, which was only about 4 years before this time. In that time, he had come to be hated by the Jewish establishment.

To start, they hated all expressions of Roman authority. Because they were God’s special nation, hoping to be restored to the glory of David and Solomon. They can’t have that, though, with a Gentile nation ruling over them. So they resented Roman authority.

Secondly, Pilate had done some things that were particularly offensive for the Jews. Early in Pilate’s reign, he ordered the Roman army to bring in banners and flags which were symbolic of Rome’s power and military control of the area. And with those banners also came statues of Caesar. Well, to the Jews, that was blasphemous. That was an idol. That was a carved image, and they detested it. And some Jews were willing to die at the hands of soldiers in protest.

Pilate also built an aqueduct to bring more water into Jerusalem. That sounded like a good idea, but the problem was he financed it using money from the Temple treasury. So, again, Pilate’s relationship with the Jews is ugly. They do not like each other. But he’s the one in charge.

Ordinarily, Pilate lived in Caesarea, which was out by the Mediterranean Sea. But during the Jewish pilgrimage festivals, like Passover, he would come to Jerusalem.

And in addition to keeping the peace, Pilate and his court functioned as judges. You didn’t get a court date back then, like you might today, instead you got in line at the Praetorium, which is the governor’s palace.

And John tells us that now it’s early morning. The sun has just begun to rise, and these men want to make sure they get to see Pilate. They do not, however, enter into the palace. They wait outside. Why?

Verse 28 says it was “so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.”

You need to be able to see the hypocrisy here. These men are so stuck in their religious system and blinded by their self-righteous hate, that they can’t see the inconsistency John points out to us.

They won’t enter into the home of a Gentile, because they think that defiles them. They think that would make them unclean. By the way, there’s no biblical command for that; that was a tradition added on by their system.

But as they attempt to maintain ceremonial and religious purity, they have no problem bringing the spotless and innocent Son of God forward so that He can be put to death. These are the “holy” men of Israel!

And contrasting that approach to life and godliness, we have Jesus Christ, the spotless, sinless, God-ordained King of Israel and Lamb of God. This is the perfect Son of God, who is laying down His life for His flock.

Jesus is at the center of this story—not the Jews, not Peter, and not Pilate. Those are all backdrops for Jesus who is at the forefront. That’s where the Spirit of God wants our focus—Jesus Christ.

The two most significant questions you can ask (or discuss) about Jesus are the two questions Pilate is trying to figure out. “Who is Jesus?” and “What has He done?” Who is Jesus and what has He done?

Jesus is brought into Pilate’s palace, and the Jewish authorities are outside. So Pilate is going back and forth to try to figure all this out. Who is Jesus and what has He done?

The section we’re looking at has three scenes. First, we have Pilate outside, talking to the Jews. Second, there’s Pilate inside, talking to Jesus. And then in the third scene, he goes back outside to talk to the Jew again. And in each scene, God’s word reminds us who Jesus is and what He’s doing in all this.

Let’s start with the first scene. Pilate’s role in all this starts with a conversation with the Jews. Verse 29. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”

This is how any trial is supposed to start, right? What’s the charge? What’s the accusation Why is he here?

Verse 30—They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.”

Notice, that don’t have an answer for Pilate. Basically, they respond, “We wouldn’t have brought him if he wasn’t guilty. It doesn’t matter what the charge is, this man deserves to be put to death. He is a wicked man. He does evil things. Just do your job, Pilate, and kill this guy! We already know he’s guilty!”

You can feel the blind hatred. And that would have been clear to Pilate, too. Whoever this guy is, I think Pilate knows they don’t have a good case against Him. But he also knows that they despise Him. They want this man dead. And they want the Romans to do it.

Well, Pilate doesn’t like being made into a puppet. He doesn’t want to be forced into some action by this Jewish establishment. So, he throws it back at them. Verse 31—Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“I don’t need to do your dirty work for you. If this guy is as bad as you say He is, then take care of Him yourself.”

Well, the Jews aren’t going to do that. And maybe, from their own perspective, it’s because they don’t want to “defile” themselves by killing someone. Again, it’s the Passover week. The festival is a week long, and they want to maintain a ceremonial purity.

So that could be part of the reason they respond to Pilate the way they do at the end of verse 31—The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”

The Jews don’t really care about Roman law. That’s why they didn’t give Pilate the accusation. And that’s why they’re gonna eventually stone Stephen. But right now, they want Pilate to do the killing.

But whatever reason they have for passing Jesus’ death to the Romans, we know the ultimate reason, right? It all happened because this was part of God’s plan. Jesus wasn’t going to be stoned. As predicted, no bone of His would be broken. He would be handed over to the Romans, and He would be lifted up. He will be crucified.

And that testimony to the plan of God is what John points out to us in verse 32. Look at it—This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Again, we’re not dealing with some kind of helpless, clueless victim. This is the outworking of the sovereign and wise plan of God.

So, who is Jesus and what has He done? Here’s the answer we get from scene number 1: Jesus is the all-powerful Son of God who orchestrates  human history. He is the all-powerful Son of God who orchestrates human history.

That was true when Jesus died and it’s still true today. Jesus is in charge of every detail of every moment of human history—past, present, and future. And even in this brief interaction between Pilate and the Jews, John is showing us that. Everything is going to happen exactly as God has planned it.

About fifty days later, on the day of Pentecost, Peter stands up before a massive crowd in Jerusalem, and he preaches about Jesus Christ. And he makes sure the people realize that Jesus’ death wasn’t some kind of accident. Listen to what he says. This is from Acts 2:23—This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Peter affirms the sin of the Jews and the Romans, but greater than that, he affirms God’s sovereign in all of it.

Later in chapter 4, when Peter an John reunite with the church after being arrested, this is how the church prays. They start with “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them…

And then in verse 27, listen to what they say—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 plan had predestined to take place.”

They recognized the al-powerful sovereignty of God, even in times of persecution. And you need to do the same, if you understand who Jesus is. He is the sovereign, all-powerful Son of God who orchestrates every detail of human history.

Alright? That was scene number 1—Pilate and the Jews. Now, we switch to scene number 2—Pilate and Jesus. He steps inside the palace and he begins his own interrogation of Jesus. And again, the main questions he wants to answer are: who is Jesus? And what has He done?

Verse 33—So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we know that Pilate’s emphasis was on the word “you.” Are you the king? You?!

“The King of the Jews” was a term Herod the Great used for himself. Herod had a much larger kingdom than Pilate did. And the title would have been seen as an attack on Roman rule over the Jews, because Caesar was their king. Nobody else. Anybody else who claimed to be king was a threat.

But I don’t think Pilate feels threatened at all. I think he’s mocking Jesus. “You’re the King? Look at you? You’re a nobody. Where are all your disciples? Where’s you’re army? If you’re going to threaten Rome, you need to do better than this. Are you telling me that you are the king of the Jews?”

Well, in one sense, Jesus is the King of the Jews, right? He’s the Messiah. He’s the Promised Deliverer and Redeemer. He will come one day and overthrow every human government. But right now, that not the plan.

And rather than go into all the technicalities of Pilate’s question, Jesus, as He usually does, aims at his audience’s heart. And He answers Pilate’s question with a question of His own. Verse 34—Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”

Jesus is turning the tables on the interrogation, isn’t He? “Pilate, why are you asking me this? What do you really want to know? What’s your interest in all this?” It could also be that Jesus’ question implies, “Who do you think I am, Pilate?”

If Jesus is some kind of Jewish political liberation figure, then any kind of rebellion needs to be stopped. And Pilate will do all he can to stop it. But if this is just some kind of religious disagreement between the Jews, then there’s nothing to worry about. And Pilate wants no part in it. He hates the Jews.

And that’s why he answers in verse 35, “Am I a Jew?”

You can hear Pilate’s disdain for the Jews. “Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”

Again, we’re come back to the main questions: Jesus, who are You, and what have You done?

“Why are you here, Jesus? What did you do? Tell me! Spit it out.”

And now Jesus responds with some detail. Look at VERSE 36.

So Jesus admits He has a kingdom, but it’s not an earthly kingdom. “Pilate,” He’s saying, “You’ve got nothing to worry about… right now. I’m not here to overthrow your empire.”

And to make the point that He’s not some kind of revolutionary, Jesus points out that He doesn’t have an army. The disciples went out teaching and doing miracles to authenticate the message. They didn’t go out fighting against the leaders and the rulers. This  is not a violent group.

And if Jesus were some kind of political messiah figure, officially recognized by the Jews, the High Priests would have been cheering him on, not bringing Him to be put to death. So, again, Jesus repeats the statement: “My kingdom is not from the world.”

And I think this piques Pilate’s curiosity. He wants Jesus to keep talking. So you get his question at the beginning of verse 37—So you are a king?

And Jesus answers—VERSE 37b

And now the conversation has taken a turn outside of Pilate’s jurisdiction. Because Jesus isn’t talking politics and wars. He’s talking about truth. He’s talking about ultimate reality. And Jesus is drawing a line for Pilate. There is truth and there is error. There is light, and there is darkness.

That final line of Jesus’ response is the line He draws—Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.

“Pilate,” He’s asking, “what side are you on? Are you on the side of the truth? Or are you on the side of error and lies? Do you say that I’m a king?”

Pilate would have never heard a prisoner talk to him with such confidence, assurance, and boldness. One commentator says that Pilate is now “palpably uncomfortable.”

It’s hard to tell exactly what kind of attitude is behind his response in verse 38—Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?”

And English Philosopher named Francis Bacon has famously referred to this as “jesting Pilate.” It could be that Pilate is fed up with the conversation, and he’s mocking the implications Jesus is making. “Nobody has a monopoly on truth. Pfft, what is truth, anyway?”

Or maybe Pilate is genuinely struck by what Jesus said. He’s reflecting on it. He’s trying to piece together his own philosophy. “What is truth?”

Either way, it’s enough for Pilate to put and end to His attempted interrogation.

Well, what does this second scene tell us about who Jesus is and what Jesus has done? It reminds us that Jesus is the faithful King of creation who gives us eternal truth. He is the faithful King of creation gives us eternal truth.

You will never fully understand anything in this world, until you’ve understood and accepted Jesus. Even though He was born, He came to this world from the outside. He made this world. All things were made through Him. He is the true light, who gives light to every man.

If you ever find somebody who tells you they’re on some kind of journey to find truth, you don’t need to get into some kind of deep, philosophical discussion with them. Just point them to Jesus. Ask them, “Have you seriously looked at Jesus Christ. Have you read the New Testament. Have you heard His message?”

And if they say, “No,” tell them the gospel. Give them the story of Jesus. He created this world. He’s the King. Everything exists for Him. But instead of living for Him, we’ve all decided to live for ourselves. And that deserves God’s judgment. One pastor said that is cosmic treason. And that rebellion infects every part of who we are, body and soul.

But God wants to change that. He wants to redeem us and restore us to Himself in a new and gloriously remade world. So, about 2,000 years ago, God came to earth as a man. The Son of God was born as a human being.

And He lived a perfect life, and He did many, many miracles. But He was also put to death. He was crucified. He died a brutal death on a cross, and He faced the judgment of God the Father. And on the third day, He rose again. And then He ascended back to the Father.

He did that so that anyone who believes in Him, and entrusts their life to Him will be saved. That’s the only way to be saved. You can go on thinking you can work things out on your own, or you can admit that there’s no way to fix it yourself.

If you will call out to God for mercy, begging Him to save you on the basis of what Jesus has done, He will save you. He will wipe away the stain of your rebellion, and He will credit to you Jesus’ prefect life.”

And when Jesus come back to judge this world and remake it into a glorious, perfect, and eternal kingdom, you will be counted in. God will save you.

That’s the gospel, right? Call them to turn from their sin and trust in Jesus Christ. He’s the only one who gives us truth.

Sadly though, many people respond just like Pilate, don’t they. Maybe you did too, at one point in your life—mocking Jesus and mocking the idea of absolute truth. Or being jolted by the idea, but never seriously entrusting themselves to Jesus.

Well, that’s the end of scene number 2. And it brings us now, very briefly to scene number 3. Pilate goes outside again to talk with the Jewish authorities.

VERSE 38b – 39

Though Pilate won’t make a decision from a spiritual point-of-view, he makes his judgment. Jesus is innocent. He’s done nothing deserving death.

We’re going to see this again next week. Pilate repeats it two more times—I find no guilt in Him. And John uses those words to emphasize to us that Jesus is innocent. He’s innocent.

And wanting to release Jesus, Pilate offers the Jews a choice. The custom is that one prisoner would be freed during Passover, like a pardon. And if Jesus gets chosen, it seems like everybody wins. Pilate lets Him go free, and the Jews get a silent, albeit official, pronouncement that Jesus was guilty. But that’s not God’s plan.


Barabbas was an established criminal, probably a Jewish rebel and murderer. To the Romans, he would have been seen like a terrorist. And John drops that final line in like a massive twist in the story. Barabbas was a convicted criminal.

What does this say to us about who Jesus is and what He has done? It’s another reminder that Jesus is the innocent Lamb of God who takes the place of guilty sinners. Jesus is the innocent Lamb of God who takes the place of guilty sinners.

God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf. Jesus was our substitute for judgment. Jesus takes the place of sinners.

I’m not saying that that Barabbas was saved. WE don’t know that. I’m saying that what happened judicially between Jesus and Barabbas is a picture of exactly what happens between Jesus and all who believe in Him, and receive Him for who He is.

Jesus committed no sin, but He bore our sins in his body on the cross. By His wounds, we are healed.

And if you have never cried out to Jesus to forgive you of your sin, we as a church, in the name of Jesus Christ, call you to do it today. Don’t waste your life. Don’t ignore the loving call of God Himself. Make sure you respond correctly to who Jesus is and what He’s done.

If you’re an elder or an FLG Leader, and you don’t have a commitment that prevents you, I’d like you to come forward after our service. Right here to the front row.

And if you’re here and you want to talk to someone about what it means to follow Jesus, we’ll be here to talk to you.

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