The glory of the Messiah, 13:1-20:31

1. The trial and passion of Jesus, 18:1-19:42

iii] Jesus before Pilate


The Jewish authorities, unable to execute Jesus for blasphemy, take him to Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, and seek to have him tried and executed on a trumped up charge.


John uses the trial of Jesus before Pilate to reveal the true nature of Jesus' kingship. Jesus is not a king as we know kings, his kingly rule is though a divine word, a word that gathers and shapes his people.


i] Context: See 18:1-11.


ii] Structure: This narrative, Jesus before Pilate, presents as follows:

The trial of Jesus, 18:28-19:16a:

A1. Outside: the Jews demand Jesus' death, 18:28-32;

B1. Inside: Pilate questions Jesus about his kingship, 18:33-38a;

C1. Outside: Pilate finds Jesus innocent. Barabbas is chosen, 18:38b-40;

D. Inside: the soldiers humiliate Jesus, 19:1-3;

C2. Outside: Pilate declares Jesus innocent, "Behold the man!" 19:4-8;

B2. Inside: Pilate talks with Jesus about authority, 19:9-11;

A2. Outside: The Jews secure the death sentence, 19:12-16a.


Stibbe follows Strachan's suggested two-stage repeated settings for the trial. Brown has also noted how this part of the narrative divides into seven evenly balanced scenes.


iii] Interpretation:

The Jewish authorities have found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, which, according to Mark, is confirmed in a second sitting of the Sanhedrin. Jesus is now moved to the palace of the Roman governor to have the charge confirmed under Roman law. This palace was the first of the two built by Herod the Great in Jerusalem and was situated in the Western Wall. The religious authorities could have executed Jesus themselves if they were able prove an act of desecration against the temple, but on that subject the witnesses at Jesus' trial were divided. So, the authorities were forced to rely on the Romans to have Jesus executed. This would not be easy because the Roman authorities tended to shy away from religious disputes. The religious authorities solved this problem by quietly setting aside the charge of blasphemy and replacing it with the spurious charge of sedition. Pilate sarcastically identifies Jesus as "the King of the Jews", but seeing no basis to the charge, tries to find an excuse to release him. In the end, for Pilate, there is no king but Caesar; to release Jesus, the so called "King of the Jews", can only demonstrate disloyalty to Caesar.

John's account of Jesus' trial is the most detailed of the gospels. Of most interest is Jesus' willingness to engage with Pilate - he doesn't remain silent.

As noted above in "Structure", there is an oscillating inside / outside balanced structure which serves to "exhibit the paradoxical outcome of the whole process - how they (both the Jewish and Roman authorities) found each other in a single unprincipled alliance against Jesus", Ridderbos. John emphasizes the fact that the Son of Man moves forward to the moment of his humiliation / glorification an innocent man.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 18:28

The trial of Jesus before Pilate the Roman governor, 18:28 -19:16: After being interrogated by Annas, Jesus is sent back to Caiaphas and then on to the palace of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor: i] From the outside of the palace proper the Jewish authorities demand Jesus' death due to his "criminal" activities, v28-32. The Jewish authorities had obviously expected a stamped approval of their charge against Jesus, but Pilate sets about to retry him; They are not amused. Pilate is aware of Israel's legal impotence and tends to rub it in. In v32 John identifies the divine hand behind the inability of the Jews to execute Jesus. Under Roman law, Jesus would be "lifted up", while under Jewish law he would be stoned.

oun "then" - therefore. Inferential; "consequently, then, accordingly", as NIV.

agousin (agw) pes. "led" - bring, lead. "Early in the morning Jesus was taken from Caiaphas", TEV.

apo + gen. "from[ Caiaphas]" - Source; "out of, from." From the high priest's palace, the place where the Sanhedrin had met to try Jesus. "Jesus was taken from the high priest's palace."

prwi adv. "early morning" - the early hour. Temporal adverb. Technically, the word refers to the last division of the night, 3-6am. Roman administrators would often begin their office work at dawn. Yet, it is unlikely that the Sanhedrin would meet and pass judgment at night (in fact, it was unlawful) so, a general sense is to be preferred; not "daybreak", NAB, but "morning", JB.

autoi pl. "the Jews" - they. Who are the "they"? Jews covers most possibilities, but it might have been the chief priests along with the temple police, cf. 19:6.

to praitwrion "the palace" - Praetorium. Transliteration of the Latin. The official Jerusalem residence of the Roman governor, his permanent residence being at Caesarea.

iJna mh + subj. "to avoid [ceremonial uncleanness]" - in order not [to be defiled]. Forming a negated purpose clause; "lest they be / so that would not be ..." It is unclear what defilement they were attempting to avoid. In later years, any contact with a Gentile caused defilement, but at this stage a Gentile was not automatically a source of defilement. John certainly doesn't hide their hypocrisy, given that they have just skirted the law to condemn to death an innocent man. "They did not want to risk being ceremonially defiled", Barclay.

alla "because they wanted [to be able to eat]" - but [that they might eat]. Adversative. The subjunctive verb fagwsin, "they might eat", assumes iJna, so forming a purpose clause; "they did not enter the governor's headquarters ........ in order that they might eat the Passover." The conflict with the synoptic gospels over the timing of the passover meal is problematic, but it is possible that the ongoing feast of unleavened bread is intended here rather than specifically the passover meal.


exhlqen (ercomai) .... exw "came out" - came forth .... outside. Only John has a too and fro dealing with the Jews outside and Jesus inside. The synoptics imply that Jesus is tried outside, before the crowd.

tina pro. "what [charges are you bringing?]" - what [charges do you bring?] Here, the interrogative pronoun is also used as a modifier, giving the sense, "what sort of accusation do you bring?" Pilate seems set to bring Jesus to a new trial, rather than rubber stamp a judgment of the Jewish authorities.

kata "against" - Expressing opposition; "against".


ei mh ..... ouk a[n "if ....." - Introducing a conditional clause, 2nd class / contrary to fact, "if, as is not the case, he were not doing evil, then we would not ....."

hn ... poiwn (poiew) pres. part. "he were [not] a criminal" - his man was [not] one doing evil. Periphrastic imperfect construction formed by the imperfect of the verb "to be" with a present participle, modified by the adjective "evil", and governing the noun "this man." The Jewish authorities are not impressed that Pilate is ignoring their condemnation of Jesus. "'He's a criminal! That's why we brought him to you", CEV.

autw/ dat. pro. "[they replied]" - [they said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

paredwkamen (paradidwmi) aor. "handed him over" - betray. John used this word for Judas, and now for the Jews.


krinate (krinw) aor. imp. "judge" - It is likely Pilate is being sarcastic here, in response to the Jew's affront in v30. Pilate knows the Jews have already found Jesus guilty, and that they don't have the authority to put him to death. "Try him by your own law", Barclay.

kata + acc. "by [your own law]" - according to [the law of you]. Expressing a standard; "in accordance with."

apokteinai (apokteinw) aor. inf. "to execute" - to kill. The infinitive stands as the subject of the verb exestin, "it is not lawful; "to kill anyone is not lawful (hJmin dat. pro = dative of interest) for us." Interestingly, the Jewish authorities did have the right to execute someone who defiled the temple (eg. Stephen), and this is most likely why they tried to pin Jesus down on his prophecies concerning temple, but couldn't find the required agreement between the witnesses as to what Jesus had actually said. So, they were left with the charge of blasphemy for which they needed Roman authorization to carry out an execution.


"This happened / this took place" - Supplied for meaning. Many translations take v32 as a single sentence. Moffatt brackets the verse, making it a parenthesis; "we have no right to put anyone to death (that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled ......)."

iJna + subj. "so that .... [would be fulfilled] / to [fulfill]" - that [the words of Jesus might be fulfilled]. Better taken as a consecutive clause expressing result, "so the word of Jesus came true", Berkeley, but possibly final expressing purpose, "in order that." John identifies the divine hand behind the inability of the Jews to execute Jesus. At the hand of the Jews, Jesus would be stoned to death, but with the Romans he will be "lifted up", crucified. Beasley-Murray suggests that the Jews wanted Jesus crucified rather than stoned, so as to underline the truth that "anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse", but the text does not give this latitude. "And so what Jesus said about his death would soon come true", CEV, or purpose, "by saying this they made it certain that Jesus' statement foretelling how he would die would come true", Barclay.

o}n rel. pro. "what [Jesus had said]" - which [he said]. "Which he had spoken."

shmainwn (shmainw) pres. part. "indicating" - signifying. The participle is adjectival, attributive, forming a participial clause limiting oJ logoV, "the word [of Jesus]"; "that word which signifies by what kind ....."

poiw/ dat. pro "the kind of [death]" - by what kind of [death]. The dative is instrumental; "by what kind of death he was to die", Cassirer.

apoqnhskein (apoqnhskw) pres. inf. "[he was going] to die" - [he was about] to die. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb hmellen, "he was about."


ii] Jesus is taken into the palace and questioned by Pilate with regard his claim to kingship, v33-38a. John now reveals the substance of the politically slanted charge laid against Jesus. It is very easy to describe the long-awaited deliverer-king in the terms of a revolutionary terrorist, although Pilate obviously finds it hard to believe that this wondering rabbi is a terrorist claiming to be the king of the Jews. The "you" is probably emphatic; "am I supposed to believe that you are this king?" Jesus gives an offhanded reply, v34. He is really not interested in defending a trumped-up charge. The die is cast, so what's the point? "So did you work this out for yourself or are you just mouthing what the Jewish authorities have told you?" Pilate's reply in v35 is quite possibly a genuine expression of ignorance, along with a desire to hear Jesus' defense. In v36 Jesus complies by pointing out that his kingship is spiritual, not political. If it were political, his followers would have fought to resist his arrest. His kingly reign does not intersect with Roman authority. To this Pilate replies in v37, "So then, after all, you are a king." The NIV has Jesus responding in the affirmative, but his response is more likely ambivalent: "It is you who are calling me a king." Not that Jesus isn't a king, rather it's not a title he would choose. As the deliverer-king, Jesus enters the world to proclaim a truth that has the power to eternally gather a people into the presence of the living God. Those who seek the truth, find it in Jesus. This is all a bit much for Pilate who replies, "Truth, what is that?", v38a. The conversation has become far too spiritual for Pilate, so he ends the exchange with what is more likely a throwaway line than a philosophical muse.

oun "[Pilate] then [entered]" - Inferential; "consequently, then, accordingly."

palin adv. "again" - There are a number of textual variants here indicating that there is confusion as to where Jesus is and what Pilate's movements are.

efwnhsen (fwnew) aor. "summoned" - called.

autw/ dat. pro. "[asked] him" - [said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

twn Ioudaiwn gen. adj. "[are you the king] of the Jews?" - The adjective serves as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, expressing subordination; king over the Jews." It seems unlikely that the term "king of the Jews" would refer to the existing royal rule in Israel. It is possible that the "you" is emphatic and Pilate is employing sarcasm. It is likely that the term was used of the long-awaited deliverer of Israel, a national Jewish aspiration that the Roman authorities would be well aware of.


apo + gen. "[is that your own idea]" - from [yourself you say this]. Expressing source/origin. This answer to Pilate's question is the limit of Jesus' response in the synoptics, and interestingly, the NIV makes the answer direct, although it is certainly not direct. A "whatever you think" is probably a better way to capture the sense. If Pilate genuinely wants to know the truth about Jesus, then Jesus is willing to tell him, but if it's just a matter of legal games, then Jesus is really not interested to get into it. So, the response is probably sarcastic; "So did you work this out for yourself, or are you just mouthing what the Jewish authorities have told you?"

peri + gen. "about [me]" - Reference; "about, concerning."


mhti - Denoting that the question expects a negative answer.

egw IoudaioV eimi "Am I a Jew?" - Possibly an indigent, even contemptuous response, indicating that Pilate has no interest in such an absurd claim. Haenchen argues that Pilate's response is factual. Since he is not a religious Jew, he has no knowledge of Jesus' identification with a deliverer-king, other than what the Jewish authorities have told him. If this is the case, Pilate is genuinely asking Jesus to defend himself, but is this likely? "Are you my king?" Carson.

emoi dat. pro. "[handed you over] to me" - [delivered you] to me. Dative of indirect object.


Jesus does not defend himself by answering the question "what have you done?", rather he answers the question asked in v33. The fact that Jesus now answers the question, possibly indicates that he considers Pilate's enquiry genuine.

ek + gen. "[my kingdom is not] of [this world]" - [the kingdom of me is not] out of, from [this world]. Possibly serving instead of partitive genitive, "part of this world", or expressing source/origin, "out of, from this world. Jesus' answer is for Pilate, the Roman governor of Palestine. Jesus seeks to establish that his role, as deliverer-king, is spiritual and not political and is therefore, not a threat to Roman rule. Jesus supports this claim with evidence. If he was a political leader, his followers would have violently resisted his arrest; they did not do so. Given the context of the statement, it is dangerous to develop a complex theology on the extent of God's reign on earth. God's reign, his kingship, is spiritual, but that doesn't make it is any less real, nor does it imply it is not here and now and greatly affecting the world through the changed lives of those who recognize Christ's kingly rule. Beasley-Murray makes the point "that Jesus' statement should not be misconstrued as meaning that his kingdom is not active in this world, or has nothing to do with this world." Augustine argued that "his kingdom is here till the end of time .... but does not belong here because it is in the world as a pilgrim." Christ's reign in our hearts and lives, is in the world, but not of the world. "Mine is not a kingdom of this world", JB.

ei + imperf. an + imperf. "if ...." - Forming a 2nd. class conditional clause where the condition proposed in the protasis is untrue; "if, as is not the case, my kingdom was of this world, then my servants would have fought ...."; "if my kingdom were of this world, my attendants would have struggled to prevent my being delivered to the Jews", Berkeley.

oiJ uJphretai oiJ emoi "my servants" - the assistants of mine. John has already used the noun "servant" for the temple guards, indicating again that Jesus' words are particularly selected for Pilate's ears. Jesus' "guards" didn't take up arms to resist his arrest, and the one who did was told to sheathe his weapon. "Followers", CEV; "supporters", Barclay.

hgwnizonto (agwnizomai) imperf. "would fight" - would have fought, strived. The imperfect carries the sense "continue to fight". The disciples did initially fight, well! one or two of them, but didn't continue to fight.

iJna + subj. "to [prevent my arrest]" - in order [not to be handed over]. Expressing purpose, in the sense of "in order not to be handed over to the Jews." The Jews are the enemy, not the Romans. "To prevent my being handed over to the Jews", Phillips.

toiV IoudaioiV dat. adj. "by the Jewish leaders" - to the Jews. Dative of indirect object, the articular adjective serving as a noun. The Jewish authorities are intended, rather than the Jewish population.

nun de "but now" - yet now. Here the "now" is not temporal, but rather serves to reinforce the contrast of Christ's kingship, as it exists in reality ("now"), with that implied in Pilate's question in v33. The adversative sense needs to be emphasized, "but as it now stands." The NIV use of "now" is confusing in that it carries a temporal sense. Christ's reign does interact with this age, became incarnate in this age, although in the final analysis, the "kingdom does not belong here" (far better than the NIV "is from another place"). "The plain fact is that my kingdom does not belong to this realm of things", Barclay.

enteuqen adv. "from another place" - to be of, from here, another side. "Belong"


oukoun (oun) "[you are a king], then!" - so then. This particular form of the conjunction oun occurs only here in the New Testament. It is predominately inferential, but does sometimes carry a consecutive, emphatic or adversative sense. Moule, in his Idiom Book, looks in detail at this verse. He suggests a number of possibilities: resumptive, "well then, you are a king"; negative, "are you not a king, then?"; but probably best taken as inferential, "so then, after all, you are a king?" Westcott agrees.

oJti "[you are right in saying I am a king] / [you say] that [I am a king]" - that. Introducing a dependent statement expressing what Pilate is saying, namely, that Jesus is a king. It is likely that this is John's parallel with the synoptic "you say so." Dodd slams the suggestion that Jesus is answering Pilate in the affirmative. The phrase is far more likely an adversative "you say that I am a king", or a qualification, "it is you who say it, not I." The title "king" is not one Jesus would choose himself. He is the deliverer-king, but happily avoids the title because it is bound to confuse. Jesus came into the world to "testify to the truth", to reveal the living God in his person and by this means save a people to himself. In this sense he is the deliverer-king, a sense which makes his kingdom not of this world. Still, Jesus is speaking with a pagan Roman, not a Jew. Lagrange makes the point "to reveal the truth was a [God's!!] way of making subjects and of creating a kingdom", Lagrange. "It is you who are calling me a king", Barclay.

egw pro. "in fact" - I [to this was born]. Emphatic by position and use.

eiV + acc. "the reason" - to. Here expressing purpose / aim; "the reason why I was born", Barclay.

gegennhmai (gennaw) .... elhluqa (ercomai) perf. "I was born ..... came" - have been born .... have come. John employs parallelism in establishing that the purpose of Jesus' birth / coming is not for kingship (certainly in earthly terms), but for proclamation. "The reason why I was born, and the reason why I came into the world, is to declare the truth", Barclay.

iJna + subj. "[is] to [testify]" - that [I might testify]. Here forming a purpose clause; "in order that I might testify."

th/ alhqeia/ (a) dat. "to the truth" - The dative is adverbial, reference, "with respect to the truth", possibly even representation, "that I should beare witness on behalf of the truth", Cassirer.

oJ w]n pres. part. "everyone" - [all] the one's being. The participle serves as a substantive.

ek + gen. "on the side of [truth]" - of [the truth]. Here the sense of source/origin shifts toward denoting association with something; "belonging to the truth." "The witness of Jesus to the truth can only be grasped by those who are themselves related to the truth", Barrett. Brown takes the line that "those who belong to the truth are the sheep given to Jesus by the Father", but the verse doesn't really warrant such a doctrinaire interpretation. It is quite reasonable to argue that those who seek find; those who seek the truth find the truth, they find the truth in Christ. The parables are a mystery to the crowds, but to those who seek Jesus out, the mystery is revealed. "Everyone who loves truth recognizes my voice", Phillips.

akouei (akouw) pres. + gen. "listens" - hears [my voice]. It has been argued that when akouw is constructed with a genitive, it means listening with understanding and acceptance. "Knows my voice", CEV.


ti estin alhqeia "what is truth?" - Is this a genuine question? Pilate doesn't wait around for the answer, but nothing can be implied by his exit. It is usually argued that his statement is a throw away line designed to end a conversation that is taking him into the uncharted waters of spiritual confrontation. Pilate is not interested in eternal verities, so the discussion ends with a throwaway line; "truth, what is that?" Still, Pilate seems convinced of Jesus' innocence, viewing the dispute as theological. Maybe we have genuine musing here on the part of Pilate.


iii] Pilate meets again with the Jewish authorities and tells them that he finds Jesus innocent of any charges, v38b-40. Pilate has heard the evidence and declares Jesus "not guilty", but in a political move that backfires, he seeks to release Jesus by playing him off with Barabbas, "a bandit." Israel's religious leaders choose Barabbas over Jesus.

kai "-" - and. Connective - untranslated.

eipwn (legw) aor. part. "[with this]" - having said [this]. "This" = these words. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal; "after he had said this", ESV.

oudemian "[I find] no [basis for a charge]" - [I find] no, not any, nothing [ground for complaint / crime / fault / ground for accusation]. Strong negation; in simple terms, Pilate has investigated the charge against Jesus and so declares, "I find him not guilty." "There is nothing of which I can find this man guilty", Barclay.

en + dat. "against [him]" - in [him]. Possibly space/sphere, "nothing in him / in his life of which he is guilty", or expressing reference/respect, concerning, "I cannot find anything wrong about him", Moffatt.


de "but" - but, and. Here adversative.

uJmin dat. pro. "your" - [there is a custom] to you. Dative of interest, advantage; "for you", so "you have a custom", ESV.

sunhqeia (a) "custom" - Possibly an annual amnesty used by the Roman governors to gain favour from the general populous. "Since I usually set a prisoner free for you at Passover", CEV.

iJna + subj. "for [me to release to you one prisoner]" - that [I should release one to you]. Here introducing an object clause, epexegetic / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of the custom.

en + dat. "at the time of [the Passover]" - in [the Passover]. Here adverbial, temporal; "at Passover time."

apolusw (apoluw) subj. "do you want me to release" - will I release. Deliberative subjunctive seeking a real answer.

twn Ioudaiwn gen. adj. "[the king] of the Jews" - The adjective serves as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, of subordination; "king over the Jews." We can only surmise why Pilate persists with the title "king". Pilate has obviously determined that Jesus is innocent of any crime against the state, in that his role as deliverer-king is spiritual and not political, but even so, why is he determined to use a title that is so readily understood in political terms? Given that Pilate initially asks Jesus "are you the king of the Jews", we can surmise that this is the charge brought against Jesus by the Jewish authorities, namely that Jesus is a deliverer-king who seeks to overthrow the Roman government. Pilate probably continues to address Jesus in the terms of the charge. Whatever Pilate's motives, John happily underlines the phrase and so heightens Israel's crime.


ekraugasan (kraugazw) "they shouted [back]" - they called out, shouted [again]. In the synoptics the crowd does the shouting, but in John the context implies that it is the Jewish authorities and temple guards who do the shouting. None-the-less, the word is a strong one and would rightly apply to a mob.

palin "back" - again. Some have argued that they had shouted before ("again"), but that John has not recorded this earlier shout. "Back" is far more likely.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

alla "[no, not him]" - [not this one] but. Adversative.

BarabbaV "Barabbas" - bar-abba = son of the father. In the synoptics, Pilate suggests the release of Barabbas, but in John, the high priestly deputation makes the suggestion. Given the summarized nature of the accounts, it is unwise to make much of such conflicts.

lh/sthV (hV ou) "[now Barabbas had] taken part in a rebellion" - [now Barabbas was] a thief, revolutionary, bandit. The word most likely identifies Barabbas as a revolutionary bandit rather than just a thief. "Now Barabbas was a terrorist", CEV.


John Introduction.



[Pumpkin Cottage]