John 18:28-19:16 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What question does Pilate ask Jesus (see John 18:33 printed below) and how does Jesus reply (see John 18:34 printed below?) Why do you think Jesus replies in this way?

Pilate went back into the palace, summoned Jesus, and asked him, Are you the King of the Jews? (John 18:33)

Jesus asked, Do you say this of your own accord, or did others speak to you about me? (John 18:34)

Pilate could not ignore the charge brought against Jesus by the Jewish leaders (Luke 23:1-2), so he now addresses the question to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” The Greek text seems to indicate Pilate’s scorn, contempt, and disbelief: “You are the King of the Jews?!?” Pilate no doubt expected a negative reply to his question and thus a swift end to this whole episode. But to Pilate’s surprise, Jesus does not respond like a frightened little animal: timidly denying the charge, cringing in fear before the prospect of the horrible death by crucifixion that Pilate was able to administer. Jesus assumes the role of the interrogator. Note that the question He asks Pilate—Have you personally come to the conclusion that I am the King of the Jews or is this just something that others have said about Me?—comes close to the question He once asked His own disciples (cp. Matthew 16:13,15). In effect, Jesus is asking Pilate, “Where do you stand with regard to Me? Do you really perceive that I really am the King of Israel? Or do you find that to be incredible?”

2. What is Pilate’s response to Jesus’ question (see John 18:35 printed below?) Again, how does Jesus reply (see John 18:36 printed below?)

Pilate replied, Am I a Jew? Your own people and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done? (John 18:35)

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight in order to prevent me from being handed over to the Jews. But, the fact is, my kingdom is not from here. (John 18:36)

With scornful indignation, this proud Roman governor responds, “I am not a Jew, am I?” Pilate seems to have perceived the import of Jesus’ question, “Have you given serious consideration to who I am?” Pilate responds with a complete denial of Jesus’ kingship and a disdain to even be associated with Jesus or His people in any way. Pilate seeks to assert his dominance over Jesus: You have been delivered to me; you are my prisoner! Pilate seeks to identify Jesus as a mere man standing before the tribunal of imperial Rome. He inquires of Jesus, “What have you done? What sort of trouble are you in?” With solemn dignity the Lord Jesus disdains to even honor Pilate’s question with a reply (verse 36). On the contrary, Jesus affirms that He, indeed, does possess a kingdom: three times He speaks about “my kingdom.” Jesus declares that this kingdom is not an earthly kingdom; that is to say, it does not have its origins in this world.

3. How does Pilate respond to Jesus’ assertion that He, indeed, is a king (see John 18:37a printed below?) Once again, what is Jesus’ response (see John 18:37b printed below?)

Then Pilate said to him, So then, you are a king. (John 18:37a)

Jesus answered, You are right in saying that I am a king. For this reason have I been born, and for this reason have I come into the world, namely, so that I may testify to the truth. Every one who belongs to the truth recognizes my voice. (John 18:37b)

Pilate responds to Jesus’ words with a bemused exclamation, “So then, you are a king!” This practical Roman, conversant with power politics and military might, is bemused with Jesus and merely views Him as a harmless idealist. Jesus refuses to disgrace His divine majesty by directly answering Pilate’s contemptuous remarks (verse 37b). He merely testifies that the reason He has come into the world is to bear witness to the truth. He asserts that everyone who has an affinity with the truth—everyone who is “tuned in to” the truth—will recognize the ring of truth in His words and in His life.

4. After having scourged Jesus, what does Pilate do with Him? See John 19:4-5 (printed below) Why do you suppose Pilate did this?

Then Pilate went out again and said to the Jews, Look, I am bringing him out to you so that you may know that I do not find him guilty of any crime. (5) So when Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, Here is the man! (John 19:4-5)

Having recognized that Jesus has violated no Roman law, and seeking to placate the Jewish leaders, Pilate determines to scourge Jesus and release Him. Pilate now presents Jesus to the Jews in this miserable state of mocking and degradation, exclaiming, “Here is the man!” (verse 5). He holds Jesus up as an object of contempt: How could this helpless victim of violence and derision be viewed as a king? Pilate presented Jesus as an object of pity; perhaps he sought to solicit compassion from the Jewish mob as they looked upon this helpless, battered individual who was one of them.

5. When Pilate learned that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, how does he react? See John 19:7-9 (printed below)

The Jews answered him, We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he claimed to be the Son of God. (8) When Pilate heard this, he became even more afraid. (9) He went back into the palace and said to Jesus, Where do you come from? But Jesus gave him no answer. (John 19:7-9)

When Pilate heard this—”he claimed to be the Son of God”—he became even more afraid. Pilate was obviously troubled by the fact that the Jews were insisting on his executing an innocent man. Pilate had become increasingly perplexed by Jesus’ silence, when a negative reply to his question, Are you the King of the Jews? would have insured His release. Pilate would become all the more disturbed by the report sent to him by his wife, how she had “suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” (note Matthew 27:19) So it is that Pilate rushed back into the palace and demands of Jesus, “Where do you come from?” (verse 9) Having earlier ascertained that Jesus was a Galilean (Luke 23:5-7), it is evident that Pilate is not inquiring about Jesus’ earthly origins. The words of Jesus spoken earlier (John 18:37) may have been ringing in Pilate’s ears and speaking to his heart.