A study in the Gospel of John by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
To The Gentiles, Foolishness
Full Audio Message
Jesus’ kingdom seems upside down. He told of how the least shall be the greatest. Greatest belongs not to the one who is most famous but rather to the aged, infirm saint who only has the strength to pray, but pray she does. It belongs to the person who thinks they have little gifts but whose faithfulness uplifts many. It belongs not to those who accomplish great things for God but to those who do what things they can for their great God.
That is how Jesus’ kingdom works. Shortly before Jesus’ arrest, His disciples discussed which of them was the greatest. And now, the One who truly is great is treated as if He is nothing. What a shock to their system. But their system needed to be reset so that they will see that His suffering, death and the dawn of Resurrection morning hold the key to understanding His kingdom.
As we go through this lesson this morning, let us see by His suffering how these things are true. As Jesus sinks lower and lower in the minds of both Jews and Gentiles, let us learn to see Him exalted higher and higher. My prayer today is that the dawn will shine in our hearts so that we see in the depth of Jesus’ humiliation, the height of His majesty! John shows us that the character of heaven’s King is not to prance around in arrogant pride but to suffer for those He loves.
John displays for us three evidences of how the unbelieving world thinks about Jesus. Without faith, you and I cannot do any better. But if you have trusted in Christ, I encourage you to see His true and majestic character in these examples of His humiliation.
Last week we saw how Jesus is the one in whom we must trust. Today, we must remember that the account is not about Pilate. It is about displaying the majesty of Jesus Christ. We will see Him still in control. And we will see a greater display of what I’ve called “right-side-up thinking” that looks “upside-down”. Jesus will be presented by the Romans as a pathetic, comical king. Yet, if we have eyes to see, we will see His glory, beauty and majesty. He is contrasted with Pilate, a ruler who struts himself about and torments his enemies. Jesus remains humble in order to save His enemies.
The Jewish leaders did not have authority under Roman rule to execute anyone so they had to take their case before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Normally Pilate lived at Caesarea but was staying in Jerusalem in case a riot broke out. Passover brought heightened emotions among the masses as they remembered their great deliverance from bondage to Egypt. We will see them reject the One who now offered them freedom from their bondage to sin.
I. Jesus the Messiah is despised by unbelieving Jews (John 18:28-32).
The Jewish leaders wouldn’t enter a Gentile house, so Pilate had to come out to them, probably in the courtyard of the palace or fortress where he was staying. It is ironic that the Jews were so concerned about ritual purity while they were plotting murder!
There was certainly no love lost between Pilate and the Jewish leaders. They despised one another. Pilate was harsh and they hated being ruled by a Gentile. He used Jesus to toy with them. At this point, they are angry with Pilate for opening up a new trial. They complain that they have already found Jesus guilty. So Pilate responds, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law”. He wanted them to play by his rules or leave.
But both sides were being used by God to accomplish a greater purpose. John points out that one of the reasons why Jesus had to be delivered to the Romans was for crucifixion and this fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy about how He would die (John 12:32).
- Jesus had to be lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness which was a type of Jesus. We must look to Him by faith to be saved (Deutt 21:23; Gal 3:13).
- The Jews normally executed by stoning which would break bones. But as the ultimate Passover lamb, none of Jesus’ bones could be broken (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12; Ps 34:20; 1 Cor 5:7).
II) Jesus is considered irrelevant by unbelieving Gentiles (John 18:33-40).
Pilate went back inside and had a private interview with Jesus. He wanted to figure out what was going on. We know from Luke 23:2 that the Jews told Pilate that Jesus claimed to be “Christ, a King”. So Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews. Jesus asked Pilate if this was his idea or if others had told Pilate this. Did Pilate consider Jesus a threat to Rome? Once again, Jesus is seen as in control. Jesus “has become the interrogator; the prisoner has become the judge” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, p. 593).
Pilate spoke back sarcastically and admitted that the idea came from the Jewish leaders. In John 18:36, Jesus let Pilate know that He was not planning to overthrow Rome. There was no military activity on His part. Jesus’ kingdom is different. It is not of this world. It is not even of this realm.
At this admission, Pilate responded, “So You are a king?” Jesus affirmed it and went on to explain His purpose for coming into the world. Jesus came to bear witness to the truth and everyone who is of the truth hears Jesus’ voice. By truth, Jesus doesn’t mean an abstract idea. Jesus means truth as in theology, doctrine. Jesus came to reveal truth about God and the truth of the Gospel.
Jesus was born like other kings but unlike every other king He came into the world, that is, from another realm (Jn 1:1-2; 14). Only Jesus existed prior to being conceived in Mary’s womb. Existing prior to that, Jesus had a purpose in mind before coming into the world.
What did Pilate mean by, “What is truth?” Was he implying that no one could really answer that question? Was he disgusted by something so abstract as ‘truth’ that was not practical? John doesn’t tell us what Pilate was thinking but he does report that Pilate didn’t wait for an answer. The Truth (John 14:6) was staring him in the face but he wasn’t interested in the truth. Pilate ended the interview. Jesus is no revolutionary. That’s all Pilate wants to know.
Pilate made an important statement. Being the ranking official in the land, he declared, “I find no guilt in Him”. As the ultimate Passover lamb, Jesus had to be without blemish (Ex 12:5).
Pilate looked for a way out of this difficult situation. He first offered to release Jesus in keeping with his custom at Passover time. With sarcasm he asked, “do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” They chose Barabbas instead, a robber and murderer (Acts 3:14). Note the irony. They wanted to release a murderer back into the population so they could murder Jesus!
III. Jesus is rejected by unbelieving Jews and Gentiles (John 19:1-16).
Unsuccessful in coercing the Jews, Pilate had Jesus scourged. Maybe a brutal beating would appease them. The Romans used a whip with several leather straps that had bits of bone or metal at the ends. It was done by several soldiers who would tie the prisoner to a post, then beat that person until the soldiers became exhausted or their commanding officer called them off. It was so brutal that some victims ended up with bones exposed or even tear open their abdomen. Many times it killed a person. It was designed to weaken a person to be crucified and to dehumanize them.
According to passages like Isa 52-53, Jesus had to be fully humiliated to take our place and bear our penalty for sin. He was scourged. He was mocked like He was a pathetic wannabe king, putting on Him a despicable crown made of thorns and a silly purple robe. The Roman soldiers mocked Him saying “Hail, King of the Jews” and then hitting Him in His face (See Isa 50:6; Isa. 52:14-53:6).
Once again Pilate brought Jesus out to the Jews and declared a second time that he found no guilt in Him. Barely recognizable, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate declared, “Behold the Man!” What a sight Jesus was by this time. What kind of king is this? Bloody, barely alive, dressed like a cartoon king. Keep in mind that in His suffering and death, Jesus manifested the glory of God as at no other time! As you grieve to hear of His intense suffering, make sure you lead your mind to see in it His glorious beauty and majesty! Grieve over your sin which required this. Then glory in the Savior who suffered this for you!
Pilate hoped to embarrass them. “Here is your pathetic king!” But they hated Jesus so much that they cried out to crucify Him. They wanted more shame heaped upon Jesus by crucifixion. At first, Pilate resisted this and declared now a third time, “I find no guilt in Him.”
The religious leaders weren’t going to give up. They didn’t want to take a chance of Jesus going free so they said He must die according to their law for blasphemy (Lev 24:16). They charged Jesus with blasphemy because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.
In the pagan religions that Pilate had grown up with, he had heard stories about how at times the gods would take on human like form and walk among men. Being superstitious, Pilate is struck with fear. Jesus gave no answer to the question about where He was from. This fulfilled Isa 53:7 which said that Jesus gave him no answer. Jesus wasn’t willing to stop short of paying for our sins!
Pilate was irritated by Jesus’ silence and pointed to his own authority. Jesus replied that there is a far greater authority. To God, all men are held accountable, including Pilate and the one who delivered Me up to you. That one has the greater sin. Who is that one? Most likely it is Caiaphas.
Pilate is greatly troubled now and hoped to set Jesus free. But the Jewish leaders employed a new tactic. If Pilate lets Jesus go free, he is disloyal to Caesar. Pilate now is caught between doing what was right and doing what would save his neck. Sadly for himself, he chose the latter.
It is Friday, Passover proper. That was also the day for preparing for Passover week (Unleavened Bread). In order to irk the leaders, Pilate brings Jesus out and declares, “Behold, your King!” But the people and leaders rejected Him once again and demanded that Pilate take Him away and crucify Him. Pilate gets his digs in a bit further, “Shall I crucify your King?” And in an ironic declaration, the chief priests shouted back, “We have no king but Caesar!” How right they were! By rejecting God’s Messiah, they would not have Him as King. The chief priests join the pagan rulers of the world under the indictment of Ps 2, taking their stand against Yahweh and His Anointed King.
Just as Isaiah predicted, Jesus was irrelevant to Gentiles (Isa 53:2, “He has no stately form or majesty…that we should be attracted to Him”). He was despised by Jews (Isa 53:3; Jn 1:11, “He was despised and forsaken of men…He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him”).
O Believer, behold your King! Only by faith can we see His glory in His humiliation. Under His crown of thorns He bore Adam’s curse of thorns. He was the spotless Lamb of God. He remained silent when an answer could have freed Him. He was determined to save sinners. While He looked so weak and pathetic it was He who held all creation together (Col 1:17), including His murderers. By His horrific scourging we are healed (Isa 53:5) of our deepest disease—sin.