Yesterday I preached on John 18:38-19:16.
Jesus is before Pilate. The crowd is outside baying for blood, stirred up by the chief priests. Read the passage quickly and the intensity of the scene passes you by. Dwell on it and you cannot but be overwhelmed. The irrational intimidatory cries of the crowd – “Away with him! Crucify!”. The calculating arguments of the priests towards one end – Jesus death – and culminating in the blasphemous statement, “We have no king but Caesar”. The gross hypocrisy of keeping themselves outwardly ceremonially clean when their hearts are intent on state-sanctioned murder. Pilate – a weak, vacillating, yet brutal fool – resorting to irony, even sarcasm, as his best shot at freeing Jesus. He claimed to have authority to Jesus’ face, yet lacked the moral fibre to use it. All of these things illustrate the moral depravity of the scene.
And yet one must marvel at Jesus! There he is at the centre of the commotion – pure, upright. The king, of a kingdom not of this world, a kingdom of truth. There are no surprises here for him. He knows the hearts of men and women. There is nothing coming out of them that he does not know was inside them all along. But it shocks us because we do not know our hearts.
John, the writer, displays for us the outworking of the purposes of God. Though the term “King of the Jews”, or “your King” are used in a mocking tone, John reassures his readers that, yes, this indeed was the king. He had to be hung on a tree and be accursed of God (Dt. 21:23) to win his people. Scripture must be fulfilled. He goes there as the champion of his people to cast out the ruler of this world (Jn. 12:31) and and draw them to himself. His weakness is necessary, for it is his true strength.
He takes the place of Barabbas – robber, murderer, insurrectionist, terrorist – who that very day, amazingly, would walk the streets of Jerusalem. Imagine this injustice! Yet here is the lived-out parable – Jesus takes the place of undeserving criminals. “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood.”
It was a great passage to preach on, and to call all to come and bow before the King.