19.  The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine.

It appears that Annas is referred to as “the high priest” here, even though he was not currently holding that office.  This is probably since he had held it in the past.  Here in the United States, we will often refer to past Presidents this way, like “President Reagan,” even though he is dead and his Presidency long over.

Annas questions the Lord about His disciples and His doctrine.  Remember that the disciples were not arrested with the Lord, at His command.  Thus, they are not there, either to testify about the Lord’s teaching or to represent His following.  Thus, Annas questions him about both, hoping, no doubt, to draw something out of Him that they can use to condemn Him.

20.  Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world.  I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing.

The Lord responds that He has always spoken in the open.  He has spoken to the world, the “kosmos,” the very system and order of men that existed around Him.  His doctrine was not one of secret conspiracies.  He was plotting no underhanded deeds.  His teaching was all done openly and in public.  Thus, Annas had no reason to ask Him about it, since what He had taught was well known.  Of course, the Lord well knew that all Annas was interested in was finding something he could twist in the Lord’s words to condemn Him.

21.  “Why do you ask Me?  Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them.  Indeed they know what I said.”

If Annas truly wanted to know what the Lord said, he could easily have asked one of the many people in Israel who had listened to Him teach.  Thus, the Lord refuses to summarize His doctrine for Annas.  There was no reason for Him to do so, since Annas truly had no real interest in it.  All an answer would do is help him concoct a story to condemn the Lord.

22.  And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?”

One of the officers of the temple guard who was standing by decided he didn’t like this answer, and struck the Lord with the palm of His hand.  He spoke as if this had been some greatly disrespectful thing the Lord had said.  Notice again that he also refers to the past high priest as if he still held the office, much like we do with our Presidents in the United States.

It was illegal to strike a prisoner while questioning him.  Christ’s trial was only a show trial.  Nothing about it was done properly or according to the law.  The religious leaders were not interested in fairness.  The outcome of the trial was decided before it ever began.

23.  Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?”

Of course, the Lord had said nothing wrong or disrespectful, and he points this out to the officer who had struck Him.  If He really had said something wrong, then what was it?  If not, then why did he strike Him?  Notice that the Lord is still treating the situation as if He is in charge, as if He is the One judging the actions of these men and not the other way around.  I am reminded of once when I went to meet the parents of a young lady I had just started to date.  I was very interested to see what kind of people they were, as I knew you could learn much about a young lady by looking at her family.  I think they were very much planning on checking me out, to see what kind of young man this was who wanted to go out with their little girl.  No doubt they were surprised to find me questioning them and checking them out as much as they were questioning me and checking me out!  Similarly in this situation, the Lord was the only One Who really realized how things actually stood.  All these men will stand on trial someday before the same Lord that they were then mocking and mistreating.  The Lord was still in charge of His fate, although they didn’t know it.  Yet at that future trial, He will be in charge of their fates!  Thus, when we see Him judging their actions here, we can understand that they were in a much graver position than He was, though they knew it not.

Some have accused Christ here of not living up to His Own words by not “turning the other cheek” when He was struck.  Yet remember that these were words to His disciples commanding their behavior while they served Him.  They were not words for all times or all situations.  The Lord was taking care of His disciples, and it was His job to protect them from their enemies, not their own.  For those of us who follow the Lord today, to not fight back against evil would often be a very poor choice indeed.  So, though the Lord did not fight back against this mistreatment, neither did He take it without comment.  That would not have been appropriate in this situation.

24.  Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Annas, finding that He will get nothing out of the Lord to accuse Him with, sends Him on the Caiaphas, the high priest.  There is no word for “had” before sent, as is inserted in the old King James Version.  The questioning we just read about was before Annas.  The trial before Caiaphas, though not recorded here, is recorded in other gospels.  The word for “sent” here is apostello.  Annas sent the Lord to Caiaphas with his authority behind the sending, meaning he was now giving Caiaphas his permission to do with the Lord whatever he saw fit.

25.  Now Simon Peter stood and warmed himself.  Therefore they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?”  He denied it and said, “I am not!”

We learn in the other three gospels that this questioning was led by a servant girl, yet, as we find out here, others joined her in questioning Peter before he finally responded.  It may be that at first he tried to ignore her accusations, hoping no one would pay attention.  Yet when she persisted, as we see from the different wording used in her accusation in the three gospels, meaning she repeated her accusation in different words several different times, some of the others at the fire joined in and accused him as well.  Finally, Peter had no choice but to answer the accusations, and again he does so by denying that he was one of the Lord’s disciples.  Again, he emphatically states his denial.  Peter was only afraid for his own life here, warming himself by the fire of the Lord’s enemies.  His brave words earlier were long since forgotten.  Peter was not as strong as he had thought he was!

26.  One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?”

A servant of the high priest is not convinced by Peter’s denial.  He is a relative of Malchus, the man whose ear Peter cut off.  Peter is standing in the light of the fire, and in the garden he had been in the flickering light of the torches.  We can understand why this man, though he was probably close to the action in the garden, still did not definitely recognize Peter here.  Yet the sight of Peter’s face still seems to ring a bell with him.  He does not positively identify Peter as the swordsman in the garden, but he recognizes him enough to connect him with that event.

This is the only gospel that lists this accusation and denial.  As I have set forth before in my studies on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as in my series on “Contradictions in Scripture,” I believe that Peter denied the Lord six times, not three.  Three of them were before the rooster crowed the first time, and three were before the rooster crowed the second time.  (See Mark 14:30 and 68.)  John lists the first three denials in order, the only gospel to do so, followed by the first rooster crowing.  The other gospels list the second denial here before the fire, and then pick two of the later denials after the first rooster crowed.

27.  Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.

Peter now denies having been in the garden with the Lord.  Immediately when he does so, a rooster crows.  Thus, the Lord’s words were fulfilled that Peter would deny Him three times before a rooster crowed.  Yet notice that Peter does not begin to curse and swear here and deny knowing the Lord, as he does in the last denial in the other three gospels.  He only denies having been with the Lord in the garden.  This is not the climax of Peter’s denials.  Nor is there any indication that he hears the rooster crow, or that the fulfillment of the Lord’s words registers in his mind.  That would await the second rooster crow and the fulfillment of the Lord’s words in Mark 14:30.

28.  Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning.  But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.

The trial before Caiaphas being over, the Jews lead the Lord Jesus to the judgment hall of Pilate, called the Praetorium.  This is not “early morning” in Greek, just “early.”  Remember, the Israelite’s day started at six o’clock in the evening.  The Lord had eaten the Passover, gone to the garden, been arrested, been tried by Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin, and now has been led to Pilate, all without a break.  The time is now between eleven o’clock and midnight.  That is “early” in the Israelite reckoning, and very late in ours.

Remember, the Passover meal was sacrificed in the evening, but it could be consumed any time before morning.  Thus, the religious leaders still had until around six o’clock the next morning to eat the Passover.  They have no desire to let their meal go to waste, yet to go with the Lord into the judgment hall would defile them in their estimation, since they had created a rule that just going into the dwelling of a Gentile would defile the one who did it.  This verse would not make sense if the next day was Passover, since then they could simply wash themselves at evening and become clean again to keep the Passover.  This only makes sense if the Passover was to be eaten this night.  Thus, they remain outside, and so we see that this event will go forward with Pilate talking to the Lord in the Praetorium, then going out and talking with the religious leaders, and then going back in to talk to the Lord.

29.  Pilate then went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?”

Pilate, having received the Lord in the judgment hall, goes out to the Jews to ask them what accusation they were bringing against Him.  Of course, this makes sense, since if Pilate were to judge Him, he must know what He was accused of.

30.  They answered and said to him, “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.”

The Jews do not answer Pilate’s question.  Israelites were often reluctant to give up any prisoner to Roman justice, since they so despised the Roman rule and authority.  Yet we can also see here that the Jews really had no case against the Lord.  They had failed to find anything wrong in what He had done, and they could present no wrongdoing to Pilate.  It seems they expect him to take the Lord and condemn Him purely on their say-so!  They obviously had little respect for Roman law.  Perhaps Pilate had given them little reason to respect it.

31.  Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.”  Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,”

If they did not wish to give Pilate the information he needed to judge the Lord, then Pilate suggests that they judge Him themselves according to their law.  But the Jews argue that they did not have the power to put anyone to death.  This was certainly not true, for they did have the power to stone people to death, as we see them doing many times in the Word.  What they really meant was that they did not have the power to crucify anyone.

The Jewish method of execution was by stoning, whereas the Roman method was beheading.  Yet the Romans had devised a much more cruel and torturous method that they reserved for slaves and for the worst of criminals called crucifixion.  This was a means of punishment so odious that it is said that Romans would not even speak the word “cross” in polite company.  This was the death the religious leaders desired for the Lord.  They wanted this particular death for two reasons.  For one, we know that they feared the people, for as a rule they all loved the Lord.  They thought that, by coercing the Romans into executing Him, they could protect themselves from the wrath of the people that would have come upon them had they executed Him themselves.  Moreover, the clever Pharisees and priests knew that a dead leader can often be looked at as a martyr.  If the Lord had been stoned, this may only have served to rally men to His cause.  Yet death on a cross was so dishonorable and so discrediting that it was almost impossible to imagine anyone rallying to the cause of a crucified man.  As Galatians 3:13 points out, Deuteronomy 21:23 declares that, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”  The Jews well knew this, and this was for them another curse on top of the ignominy of death on a cross.  Thus, by having Him put to death on a cross, they hoped not only to end the Lord’s life, but also to crush the movement of His followers once and for all!

32.  That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

This takes us back to John 12:32-33, which reads, “‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.’  This He said, signifying by what death He would die.”  The Lord had determined what death He would die, and He could die no other way.  He was still in charge, even now!  And this went back even further, for also in the Old Testament it was predicted the kind of death the Lord would die, in passages such as Psalm 22:14-17.

33.  Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

We have no record that the Jews brought this charge against Him.  No doubt, Pilate had heard rumors about the Lord, and recognized Him now as the Man Who was said to be Israel’s new king.  This was not something that would have condemned Him in the eyes of Rome.  Rome’s policy towards the countries they captured was that they allowed them to keep their own local leadership, subservient now, of course, to the Roman leadership.  They found this helped keep nations content and avoid rebellions.  They also added a nation’s gods to their own pantheon of gods, thus accommodating a conquered nation’s religion.  These two things together, coupled with Rome’s military might, were enough to keep most nations satisfied.  Yet this never worked in Israel, for one cannot just add the LORD to a list of a pantheon of gods, as if He were no better than one of them!  The Jews were strict monotheists, and what pacified other nations only infuriated them.  Thus they were a puzzle to the Romans, and one they would soon tire of trying to solve.  Yet they did still allow them local leadership.  Remember, Herod was currently a Rome-sanctioned king in Israel, although he was not of the line of David and thus was not a king that was chosen or sanctioned by God.  Yet the concept of a King of the Jews was not something foreign to Rome, or that they would have considered a threat by itself.  No doubt Pilate kept a close eye on the Lord due to the claims of many that He was to become King.  It was Pilate’s job to know about such things, after all, since it was his job to keep the peace in Israel!  Thus, he would have had his spies listen to the Lord, and he would have well known that the Lord showed no signs whatsoever of stirring up rebellion against Rome.  No doubt if He had, Rome would have attempted to move against Him long before this!

34.  Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”

There had not been any conversation about this when Pilate went out of the judgment hall to speak to the Jews.  The Lord may not have been able to hear the exchange between Pilate and the Jews, but He had divine knowledge of what was going on.  Therefore, He asks Pilate if this was told him by others, or if he was just asking a question that had been on his own mind, well realizing that this was Pilate’s question, not that of the Lord’s accusers.

35.  Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew?  Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me.  What have You done?”

Pilate had perhaps been guessing this was the contention between the chief priests and the Lord, and he had been hoping the Lord’s words would reveal this to him, even though the chief priests themselves refused to.  When the Lord answered in this astute way, it foiled his purpose, and so he tries a different tack.  He points out that he was not a Jew, which of course he wasn’t.  Then he accuses the Lord with the fact that His Own nation and chief priests were the ones who had delivered the Lord to Him.  What had the Lord done to get them so angry, Pilate challenges Him?

36.  Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

The Lord answers both Pilate’s questions at once here.  By His words, He admits to being a king, but He likewise reveals to Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world.  The word He uses is “kosmos,” which means the system or order of men that existed upon earth at that time.  His kingdom, His government, His Own sovereignty, did not arise from the world of men.  If it did, His servants would have fought to keep the Jews from delivering the Lord to Pilate.  Since His Kingdom is not from here, not from this present arrangement of things and order of men and authority on the earth, no such battle had occurred.  By this statement, the Lord also implies the answer to Pilate’s second question.  The reason His Own nation and chief priests had delivered Him to Pilate is because He was the King of a different world, a whole different system, from the one they were a part of and had their authority in.  They feared the Lord’s world, and that is why they delivered Him up.

This verse is a refutation of all those who are post-millenialists, who believe that men or “the church” will bring about the Kingdom on earth by their own religious efforts.  Those who believe this fail to realize or admit that the Lord’s authority does not arise out of the world system that now exists.  The church and all religious men in it are a part of that world, and Christ’s Kingdom can never arise out of them.  His authority, His government and sovereignty, arises out of a much different place.

37.  Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”  Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king.  For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate is quick to pick up on the implications the Lord is making here, and asks Him if He means that He is a king.  The Lord affirms that he is correct.  He is indeed a king.  Moreover, He reveals that that is the reason He was born: to be a king.  The Lord was a king by His very birth, for He was the legitimate heir to the line of David and thus the God-given kingship was rightfully His.  Moreover, He reveals that it was for this cause that He had come into the world, the order of men that then existed: to bear witness to the truth.  Of course, that was what He was doing even then when He was proclaiming that He was a king.  The truth of the rightful place of the heirs of David on the throne was one that the religious leaders wished would just be forgotten, for a true, Davidic king would have the religious authority over Israel that they had usurped for themselves.  Nevertheless, the Lord had come into the world to bear witness to the truth, and this was the truth.  Then He tells Pilate that everyone who is of the truth hears His voice.  What a statement this is!  All who love the truth are always ready to hear the words of the Lord Jesus Christ!  Some there are who claim to love the Lord or to love the truth, and yet who want nothing to do with many of the things the Lord said.  Let us ever strive to be those who are of the truth, and who truly hear the Lord’s voice!

38.  Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”  And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.

There were many philosophies and religions vying for men’s attention in that day, even as there are in our day.  Pilate almost wearily answers the Lord, “What is truth?”  It seems he had almost given up on hoping to find and understand the truth.  Little did he realize that the One Who was the truth was standing there before him!  I have met those in our day who likewise seem to be weary of seeking the truth.  They see so many different religions and so many different philosophies, all claiming to be truth, and they just seem to give up on ever finding which one might be right.  Might we pray for all such that they will come to understand that in Jesus Christ they can at last find what really is the truth!

Alas, Pilate’s weariness of seeking the truth leads him to turn away from the One Who had the truth he had all but given up seeking.  The Lord had told him that all who are of the truth hear His voice, and yet Pilate was so jaded by all the falsehoods around him claiming to be truth that he could not bring himself to believe the Lord’s words.  No doubt that is part of the object of Satan in spreading so many false teachings and religions.  It can keep those who are seeking from even recognizing the truth when they find it!  Yet remember the great purpose of John’s book: to produce men who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and who believing have life in His name (John 20:31.)  So the question arises: are you like Pilate?  Have you become so weary of the world’s religions and philosophies that you will not believe the Lord Jesus Christ either?  Or will you hear Him when He claims to be the One Whom all who are of the truth hear?  Will you believe in Him and receive the everlasting life He offers?  That is the great point and purpose of this book we are studying!

Having wearied of this interview with the Lord, Pilate returns again to the Jews, and tells them that he finds no fault in the Lord at all.  Of course he did not, since the Lord had done nothing wrong.  This was not at all what the Jews wanted to hear, however!

39.  “But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover.  Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

The relationship between Pilate, the representative of the Roman government, and the Jews, the religious leaders in a land that despised Roman rule, was never a very harmonious one.  Thus, in an attempt to pacify them, it seems that Pilate had this custom to appear as if he was “getting into the holiday spirit,” as we would say.  He would release a prisoner to the Jews at the Passover.  These were generally political prisoners.  Remember, the Israelites hated being under the polytheistic Romans, and there were always freedom fighters arising to attempt to throw off the Roman rule.  These would get themselves into trouble, and often would get arrested by Rome.  Yet they were very popular with the people, and to release one of them could help to elevate Pilate in their estimation.  Thus, Pilate had the custom.

Pilate asks them if they wish him to release to them the King of the Jews.  Perhaps he was hoping this would give them an out, since they would not have wanted to admit they had brought the Lord to Pilate for nothing.  If he hoped to talk the Jews into a compromise, his use of the phrase “King of the Jews” to describe the Lord was hardly the way to do it.  The Lord was their king, and that was the very reason these men hated Him so much.

40.  Then they all cried again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!”  Now Barabbas was a robber.

The religious leaders could not be moved by Pilate’s appeal.  They had planned too long and hard to give up on securing the Lord’s death now.  Thus, they ask not for the Lord Jesus, but for another prisoner, Barabbas, to be released to them.  Some of these freedom fighters, it seems, used the idea of trying to overthrow Rome as an excuse to become highway robbers and little more than thugs.  Such a one was Barabbas, a man who had been a highway robber, and had committed murder in the course of the robbery.  Now, this is the man whom the religious leaders ask for instead of the sinless Jesus Christ!  It is inevitable that, when men refuse the righteous, they will become friends with the unrighteous.  Thus, these men become allies with a robber like Barabbas in the act of rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice who it is who was asking for Barabbas rather than the Lord.  Too many imply that all of Israel is present here, and that they all ask for Barabbas rather than the Lord.  They will suggest that these are the same people asking for Barabbas who had earlier met the Lord gladly by the road to Jerusalem at the triumphal entry.  Then, upon making such a ridiculous connection, they blame these people for having a fickle attitude towards the Lord!  How ridiculous this claim is.  This trial was taking place in the middle of the night at the judgment hall of Pilate.  This was the night of the Passover feast, and all good Israelites were snug in their beds, sleeping the sleep of the righteous after having completed their Passover festivities.  The ones who had welcomed the Lord a few days before had no knowledge of what was happening to Him now.  How could they?  This was the very reason the chief priests and Pharisees had arrested Him in the night: so that the common people wouldn’t know!  The men who were rejecting Him here were His enemies, the religious leaders and those under their control.  The common people had nothing to do with this!

It is nothing short of slander against the common people of Israel to claim that they rejected the Lord here.  Why do so many then believe this?  Because the sad fact is that anti-Semitism is the traditional norm in the Christian church.  We have received this teaching as the continuation of a long-standing tradition of hating and maligning Israel.  This teaching is nothing more than an inherited lie, even THE inherited lie of Christendom.  It is a most sad and scandalous one against the vast majority of faithful people in Israel who so gladly accepted the Lord when He came.  Let us excise from our minds any such ideas that have been planted there to cause hatred among the ranks of Christians against the people whom God loved and chose for Himself.  Those many in Israel who loved the Lord did not betray Him.  Those who chose Barabbas instead of Christ were not the common people, but were those who were already His bitter enemies.  This is the truth, and all who love the truth should realize and accept it.

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