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JESUS, THE KING OF TRUTH

John 18:12-19:16a
Key Verse: 18:37

Last week we learned that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The Son of God named Jesus came into this world and lived three years in public. How he lived is written in the four gospels in the New Testament. His life was pure, selfless, always serving, powerful and truthful. The person Jesus and his life were altogether beautiful. People thronged about him, wherever he went. Then the end of his life was not that desirable to the eyes of the people of the world. He was helplessly arrested and tried and killed on the cross. He had not done anything wrong in his life, but all that were right and true. However, he came to a tragic end from human viewpoint. He could have lived his life in power and love to the end satisfying people’s expectation and thus led all people of the world to God. But that was not the way of his life. He was crucified and died. Why did he have to suffer much and die in that way? This question has arisen in the hearts of people of all generations, and the question still remains in humanistic Christians. The gospel writers did not write why he had to suffer, but only the facts, what he suffered and how he suffered. However, when we carefully observe what and how he suffered and how he responded to all the unjust treatment of the world, we can comprehend why he suffered and who he is, and how are to be related to him. Today, we will study about Jesus’ trial in John’s gospel, which reveals Jesus as the king of truth.

First, Jesus’ trial before the high priest (18:12-24). Look at verses 12-13. “Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.” Then in verse 14, the author tells about Caiaphas: “Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people.” This is written in John 11:49-53. He did not say this on his own for the sake of his people, but as high priest that year he prophesied. He said this not knowing its true meaning that Jesus would die not only for the Jewish nation but also for the scattered children of God bring them together and make them one. From that day when Caiaphas spoke this, the religious leaders plotted to take his life. It indicates that Caiaphas was a man of expediency.

Look at verse 19. “Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.” Who is this high priest who questioned Jesus? When we refer to 18:24, “Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest,” the one who questioned Jesus was Annas. The Massage translated verse 19 straightforwardly, “Annas interrogated Jesus regarding his disciples and his teaching.” Here Annas acted as the high priest, although his son-in-law was the high priest that year. It shows the falsity and expediency of the high priesthood. The father-in-law and the son-in-law could be interchangeably the high priest according to their convenience.

The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. The high priest did not ask about miracles Jesus performed or the mob that gathered around him, but his disciples and his teaching. It was because the influence of the disciples and teaching would last long generation after generation. The high priest was really clever and maneuvering. How did Jesus reply? Look at verses 20-21. “I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” Here Jesus did not say anything about his disciples. Of course, he had to protect them, even in danger of his life. In 18:8, Jesus had said to his arrestors, “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” According to Jesus’ saying, we learn about his teaching. In this world many things are taught in secret or locally. But Jesus’ teaching was not done in secret; it was open to the world. We know that the truth is to be said not in secret but spoken to all people.

Then what is written next? We expect for the high priest’s response to Jesus’ reply. But something else is written that seems to be insignificant. Look at verse 22. “When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. ‘Is this the way you answer the high priest?’ he demanded.” To the official the high priest was the highest authority. Probably he wanted to get recognition from the high priest, not much thinking of what he was doing. Actually to strike people during a trial was against the law. What draws our attention was how Jesus reacted at such a bad-tempered and anger-provoking act? Since Jesus had power to do anything, he could have made the official hand shriveled. Or according to his teaching, he could have turned the other side of his face to the official. Or he could have just endured it and remained silent. How did Jesus respond? Look at verse 23. “‘If I said something wrong,’ Jesus replied, ‘testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?’” Certainly, this was not his emotional response out of momentary anger. Jesus had already accepted that his arrest and trial and all the sequent happenings were a part of God’s will. And we are sure that in this acceptance of God’s will Jesus did not say this to defend himself. Such a defence would be of no use. Throughout his trial he did not speak any word for his defense. Yet, Jesus spoke this to the official who would not be worthy of Jesus’ words, so that he might also have a touch of Jesus, the king of truth. Jesus revealed himself to the thoughtless and violent official as one, who speaks nothing but the truth, so that he might know who Jesus is and find himself and turn to God. This is the end of Jesus’ trial before Annas. There was no any other response from Annas, for there was nothing wrong found in Jesus. He sent Jesus, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest. In this part we see a glimpse of the king of truth amid the falsity and expediency of the high priestly office.

Second, Jesus’ trial before Pilate (18:25-19:16a). Look at verse 28. “Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor.” Here we see that the author John did not write about Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin which went on the whole night and the decision of which was to put Jesus to death, and which are written in all other Gospels. John focuses on Jesus’ trial before Pilate, the Roman governor. It is so that the readers may know Jesus’ trial is not related only to the Jews but to all people of the world.

Look at verses 28b. “By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.” To the Jews, even the palace of the Roman governor was the Gentile territory, which would make them unclean if they trampled on it. If so, they would not be able to eat the Passover. Yet, they wanted to speak to the Roman governor, a Gentile and get help from him in dealing with a Jew. What a contradiction! When they just tried to keep the law literally, not knowing the truth of God, they became hypocritical and contradictory.

Let’s see their talk with Pilate. Look at verse 29. “So Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘What charges are you bringing against his man?’” However, the Jews did not say about the clear charges. They just said, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” It is a very vague and groundless charge. At this Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” Pilate did not want to be involved in the Jews’ matter without clarity, for the Jewish matters had made him troubled time and again. But the Jews objected, “But we have no right to execute anyone.” Romans allowed the Jews a good deal of self-government, not the right of execution. There could be some reasons for this. But the author commented in verse 32. “This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.” Jesus had spoken repeatedly that he would be lifted up when he died (3:14; 12:32,33), which meant he would die on the cross. Only Romans had such punishment system, while Jews could put a criminal to death by stoning. So Jesus would die by the Gentiles. It was the constant Bible prophecy that Jesus would die by the hands of the Gentiles so that the people of the world might know the whole world was involved to the death of Jesus.

Pilate felt pressured and went back inside the palace and began to talk with Jesus. Now let’s see the intimate conversation between Jesus and the Pilate, which is solely written in John’s gospel. Look at verse 33. “Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’” In the synoptic gospels, Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say” (Mt 27:11; Mk 15:2; Lk 23:3). And then Jesus made no reply to any question, even not a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. But here how did Jesus respond to Pilate’s question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did other talks to you about me?” If this was Pilate’s own idea, that would lead him to salvation as in the case of Magi (in Matthew 2:2). But if this was just others’ talking to him about Jesus, it would not mean anything to him. Even from the beginning of the conversation with Pilate, Jesus really wanted to help Pilate. To Jesus, Pilate was one of completely lost sheep. Still, Pilate was smart as the Roman governor and skillfully escaped the question, saying, “Am I a Jew? It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Pilate thought that only Jews were related to the king of the Jews and just wanted to find out any crime Jesus might have committed.

What did Jesus say at this? Look at verse 36. “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were my servant would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Jesus did not say anything about what he did in this world, which was Pilate’s concern. Jesus repeatedly said, “My kingdom…my kingdom.” Jesus really wanted Pilate to know his kingdom, the kingdom of Jesus. The kingdom of this world which is visible is not everything. There is a much more important, much more precious kingdom, though invisible. In the kingdom of this world so many fights, even blood fighting, are going on among those who wanted to occupy the kingdom. Inevitably all people belong to this kingdom and are desperate to remain in the kingdom, powerful and successful. But Jesus is not of this kingdom. So he did not fight calling his servant to prevent his arrest by the Jews. He clearly said, “My kingdom is from another place.” Certainly, Jesus’ kingdom is from above, from heaven. His kingdom is the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God beyond this world. Also, this kingdom exists in the hearts of his people as the spiritual kingdom here and now

When Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world…now my kingdom is from another place,” how did Pilate respond? Did he ask sincerely, “Where is your kingdom?” No. He said, “You are a king, then!” His interest seemed only to know whether Jesus is a king so as to charge Jesus. Then how did Jesus continue the conversation? Look verse 37. “Jesus answered. ‘You are right in saying I am a king.’” Jesus, anyway, acknowledged his saying, although Pilate meant something different. Then Jesus said the key point: “In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’” Here we see Jesus’ kingdom is the kingdom of truth, and he is the king of this kingdom, so the king of truth. And he was born and came into this world to testify to the truth.

In a sense the gospel of John is the gospel of truth. The word “truth” itself is written one two times in other gospels, but more than 20 times in John’s gospel. For instance, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only…full of grace and truth” (1:14), “His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (4:24), “The truth will set you free” (8:32), “I am the way and the truth and the life” (14:6), “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (17:17). God is truthful (3:33). Jesus is the man of the truth (7:18) and he is the truth (14:6). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the truth (14:17; 15:26; 16:13). We can say that Christianity is the religion of truth. Half truth is not truth at all. The truth should be whole.

Jesus said, “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Then what is the truth to which Jesus testified while on earth? When we read the gospel story, the truth to which Jesus testified is himself. Jesus once said to the Jews seriously, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (Jn 8:24). In another occasion Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats may flesh and drink m blood has eternal life…For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (Jn 6:53-5). In short the truth is that Jesus came into this world from heaven to give his flesh and blood through his death so that he would solve men’s sin problem and give them life that is eternal. For this he was now standing before Pilate to be tried and then would be flogged and crucified.

Now when Jesus said, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,” Jesus was speaking with the terms Pilate could understand. To Nicodemus, Jesus said, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again,” and “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” For the sake of Nicodemus Jesus used spiritual or religious terms in helping him. But for Pilate, Jesus used the general terms to help him most effectively. Also, Jesus said in this way, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,” for at this point of his life Pilate really had to stand on the side of truth in dealing with Jesus as the judge. Here we see that Jesus was full of shepherd heart for Pilate so that Pilate might become a member of Jesus’ kingdom, the kingdom of truth.

We thank and praise God for Jesus, who is from the kingdom of truth and is the king of truth. Thank him that he came to testify to the truth. Until Jesus came to testify the truth and shine the world, the world was in darkness without the whole truth. That’s why John wrote in chapter 1, “The light shines in the darkness…The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (1:5,9). Since his coming to testify to the truth, all the falsities, a quarter truth, half truth or three quarter, have been exposed and expelled. All those on the side of truth listened to him and belonged to his kingdom of truth, and will listen and belong to his kingdom. Among us until the light of the truth shone, some were in the darkness of Buddhism, some in Confucianism, legalism, hedonism, materialism, humanism, relativism, agnosticism and skepticism, etc. We really thank God for shining in us through the truth of Jesus. This grace was costly. May we bear keep this grace and also be able to testify to the truth of Jesus and shine in our dark campus.

Look at verse 38. “‘What is truth?’ Pilate asked.” Pilate have heard the truth and seen the truth. But by questioning, “What is truth?” he was rejecting the truth. With that question, he went out to compromise. Choosing the truth requires a sort of sacrifice. But Pilate did not want to make the due sacrifice. In his best effort, he wanted to compromise. He knew Jesus was innocent. He said to the Jews three times, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” However, instead of freeing Jesus, he attempted to compromise, the first time using the Jewish custom of the Roman governor releasing one prisoner at the time of Passover. But it did not work. The Jews shouted, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!”

The Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. Roman flogging was a terrible punishment different from Jewish flogging. A Roman whip was made of six leather straps; each strap had lead or a piece of bone attached to it. The Roman flogging was dreadful that many fainted or even died in the course of being flogged. The Roman philosopher, Cicero, said that flogging was like killing men, so the Roman government did not apply flogging to Roman citizens. The law said that they could flog a non-Roman citizen whipping 40 times and a Jew 120 times. Jesus was flogged with the whipping of 120 times. Whenever the whip struck, Jesus’ back his flesh was torn apart and taken away and blood streamed out. This was a part of price Jesus had to pay to testify to the truth. Even more the crown of sharp thorns was put on his head and blood dripped down. He was clothed in the purple robe and scorned again and again.

Then Pilate went to make the second compromise by presenting the tortured and blood-soaked Jesus to soothe the shouting and infuriated blood-thirsty Jews and arouse their sympathy for Jesus. This attempt also failed when the Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid. He had the second encounter with Jesus. This time Jesus’ body condition was different after being flogged. Pilate thought that he had power either to free Jesus or to crucify him. Jesus again spoke the truth, “You would have no power over me, if it were not given from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” In saying this Jesus wanted Pilate to use his power given by God in a right way, not following the Jews who used their power in a wrong way by condemning the innocent Jesus. From then on, he tried to set Jesus free. But when he heard the Jews’ shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” At this his heart must have sunk. For until that time he could not have a good relationship with Caesar, though he maintained it. Being no friend of Caesar meant the death of his political career. The Jews really knew Pilate’s weakness. They played the role of the devil. Then Pilate brought out and sat down on the judge’s seat at place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). Still Pilate was not happy with his decision. He was still wavering. Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.” But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” Then lastly Pilate said, “Shall I crucify your king?” “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priest answered. They knew that God was their king and many were sacrificed as they claimed God as their king rejecting Caesar. But they now said, “We have no king but Caesar.” In the falsity and expedience they denied every principle that they had. Finally, Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. According to the historian Eusebius, Pilate was in agony and could not forget this wrong judgment. He was exiled five years later and eventually committed suicide.

In this study we thought of Jesus’ trial before the high priest and before Pilate. He was true and he revealed himself as the king of truth. He came into this world to testify the truth. He was flogged, and the crown of thorns was put on his head and he was scorned in the purple robe to pay the price for his testimony. Thank Jesus that because of his testifying to the truth the light of his truth shone in our souls and made us the members of his kingdom of truth. May we keep this costly grace, stand on the side of the truth at each time and live by the truth, and testify to the truth in this compromising and confused generation.

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