Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for May 7

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for May 7

I Find No Fault

John 18:28–40

John’s account of the trial of Jesus is a literary masterpiece full of irony. Note the following ironic details: The Jewish leadership did not enter Pilate’s headquarters for fear of ritual defilement that would disqualify them from observing the Passover. Yet they requested the death of one they knew was not guilty of sedition. The Jewish leaders did not want to enter the headquarters of Caiaphas because they viewed the dwelling place of a Gentile as unclean, yet the leaders defiled themselves by executing an innocent man.

The Transfer (28–32)

The Jewish leaders conducted a trial of Jesus at night, violating Jewish legal jurisprudence. At the break of dawn, the Jewish leadership led Jesus to Pilate after conducting an illegal trial. In their hypocrisy, they refused to enter the headquarters of Caiaphas lest they religiously defile themselves and not be able to observe Passover.

Romans did not allow local leaders to practice capital punishment. Therefore, the Jewish leaders requested Pilate’s legal decision. Pilate advised the Jewish leadership to conduct a Jewish religious trial. Notice that prior to any trial, the Jewish leadership had already concluded that Jesus should be executed.

The Trial (33–38a)

The Jewish leadership accused Jesus of treason by the charge that He claimed to be the king of the Jews.

They had decided early in Jesus’ ministry to execute Him (John 7:20; 8:59; 10:31; 11:8, 11, 16, 50). Pilate’s question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” likely means the Jewish leadership presented the charge against Jesus as a leader of a political revolt.

Jesus did not deny He was king. He redefined the concept of king and kingdom by His comment, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus redefined the nature of His kingship and His Kingdom. His Kingdom is neither “of this world,” nor is His kingdom “from here.” Jesus described His Kingdom as a kingdom of truth. Jesus indeed is king, but His Kingdom is different from human kingdoms. Jesus came to testify to the truth of God’s Kingdom. Likely, Jesus’ action of testifying to the truth means He witnesses to the truth of God’s plan of salvation.

Jesus witnessed to Pilate. Who can enter Jesus’ kingdom? “Everyone who is of the truth listens” to the voice of Jesus. Pilate rejected the truth. The encounter between Jesus and Pilate ended with a flippant comment, “What is truth?” Pilate seemed to deny absolute truth; therefore, he purposefully killed one whom he knew to be innocent of the penalty of death. Pilate’s decision to crucify one whom he had no grounds for charging with a criminal violation suggests that Pilate was on trial rather than Jesus. Jesus was innocent. Pilate was guilty because he chose political expediency rather than truth.

The Trade (38b–40)

Pilate recognized he lacked grounds for sentencing Jesus based on the charge of criminality or rebellion (Luke 23:4). Pilate acknowledged he found no evidence for charging Jesus. He attempted to pacify the enraged Jewish leadership by offering to release Jesus. Pilate’s words are ironic. Pilate is a mere governmental servant — Jesus is King of the Jews. The Jewish leadership accused Jesus of being a revolutionary yet chose the revolutionary Barabbas over Jesus.

By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida

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