Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 30 2013 - John 18:28-19:16 – The King of the Jews

The first thing that drew my attention from this passage was the perverse behaviour of the Jewish authorities. They are deeply concerned about maintaining their own ceremonial purity (John 18:28), while intent upon bringing false charges against Jesus. They are determined to celebrate the Passover while plotting to destroy the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Are we entirely free from such conflicts?

But I want to focus on Pilate. It’s difficult to know what to make of him, whether to despise him or to pity him. He is a pragmatic Roman Governor, trying to keep the peace in a difficult territory among these strange and excitable people, the Jews. He knows that festivals can be times of raised expectations and fervour: the Jews were hoping for a king who would liberate them from the power of Rome. Now Jesus is brought before him by the Jewish leaders. They say that he is claiming to be such a king but they want him put to death.

In response to Pilate’s question Jesus declares, "My kingdom is not of this world" (18:36). This common translation is unfortunate. It has led many to suppose that the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and the affairs of this world have nothing in common; we should long to be freed from this world and taken off to heaven.

That is not what Jesus is saying here, any more than it is his teaching elsewhere. Jesus is saying that his kingdom is not from this world, it is "from another place" (see the end of v. 36). Jesus' kingdom is heavenly in origin; it is the kingdom of God. But in Jesus, this kingdom is invading the world. God's purpose is to bring all things in heaven and earth under the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ, for his will to be done on earth even as it is done in heaven. Jesus came from heaven to earth that the kingdom of heaven might fill the earth. And Pilate has been dragged into this invasion plan.

Pilate’s first strategy is to humiliate Jesus. He has him flogged, crowned with thorns and dressed in royal robes. Bloodied and exhausted he is paraded before the Jewish leaders and the accompanying mob with the words, “Behold the man.” Pilate wants them to see that this broken man is a threat neither to Rome nor to the Jews.

But his plan did not work. The crowds continue to scream for his death, telling Pilate that if he were to let Jesus go he would be no friend of Caesar for he will be releasing one who claims to be a rival king. Reluctantly, Pilate agrees to Jesus’ crucifixion, but he has one last card to play. Having failed to solve his problem by humiliating Jesus he now humiliates the Jews who had forced his hand. The sign nailed above Jesus on the cross reads, “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.” In effect, Pilate is now saying “Behold your king.”

We are to long for the day when the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. And as we long for that day, we are to pray for that day and work for it with all our powers. "What is truth?" asked a world-weary Pilate. We are to show the world what is true and real by walking in the truth and speaking the truth to a world that wonders whether anything dependable, solid and good really exists.

Father in heaven, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Help me to live the life of your kingdom in every detail of my daily life. Help me to bring heaven to earth and to display the beauty and glory of your coming kingdom.

Peter Misselbrook