Places to Go, Things to Do, People to See … So Leave Me Alone! – John 18:28-40

I again think it would be helpful to repeat this chart about the six trials of Jesus:

#

Trial Type

Presiding Official

Passage

1

Religious

Annas

John 18:12-14

2

Religious

Caiaphas

Matthew 26:57-58

3

Religious

the Sanhedrin

Matthew 27:1-2

4

Civil

Pilate

John 18:28-38

5

Civil

Herod

Luke 23:6-12

6

Civil

Pilate

John 18:39–19:16

So we can see that today’s passage covers the fourth and (beginning of the) sixth trials, as John does not record the intervening appearance before Herod.

Many of you know of my long-term interest and research in Civil War history. I have had a particular topic of inquiry, doing a lot of extensive research on one Union General in particular – Abner Doubleday, the alleged inventor of the game of baseball. Over the years, I have found a lot of Doubleday writings in obscure libraries. One of these includes the following paragraph he wrote about his experiences in the latter half of the Civil War, which he spent mostly in Washington presiding over court martial matters and other U.S. Army affairs. He wrote:

The presumption is that an officer is a gentleman—even when he cannot spell. I had however some doubts upon the point during a court martial I once sat upon. Among my fellow members was a field officer notoriously illiterate. He paid scarcely any attention to the proceedings until it came time for the sentence. Almost invariably he said then: “Oh, Let’s hang the cuss.”

That is the attitude we essentially encounter in our reading today about Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor from A.D. 26-36.  He was not genuinely interested in justice; he simply wanted to be done with this Jewish irritation about this Jesus character as quickly and cleanly as possible. OK, just crucify him if you must!

Pilate actually resided in Caesarea. He came to Jerusalem during feasts in case there was a need to deal with some kind of uprising or insurrection from these perennially unhappy Jews. This had the greatest potentiality to occur during Passover – a feast that celebrated the Jewish nation’s liberation from bondage. Thinking about their past suffering in Egypt tended to annoy and magnify current feelings about bondage under the Romans.

So being in Jerusalem was surely an irritation for Pilate that took him away from his regular routine. He didn’t like the Jews, and they didn’t like him because of his heavy-handed way of dealing with them.

The Jewish rulers had limited powers of authority to enforce their own rules, but that did not include the ability to carry out an execution. So the leaders come to Roman rule for this, wanting the Romans to be ultimately blamed by any of Jesus’ followers for actually performing the execution.

Pilate was certainly not fooled by the scene before him as the religious leadership brings Christ to him. He knew it had to do with their internal squabbling, jealousies and limitless traditions. And in interviewing Jesus, he finds that though this man has a fantastical view of his mission in life, there is nothing worthy of death.

But Pilate really does not want to be bothered with this irritation and any pursuit of justice, and so he seeks for a way to move it off his plate as quickly as possible. Hearing that Jesus is from Galilee, he uses this information to pawn off Christ to King Herod. So Jesus goes before Herod (not recorded in John), only to be sent back to Pilate.

His second ploy was to take the matter to the crowds, offering them Barabbas – a true criminal – or Jesus, whom Pilate presumed to be preferred by the masses. But the crowd surprises him by wanting Jesus crucified instead and Barabbas released.

And thirdly – in the next chapter – he would have Jesus flogged, hoping that a bit of blood would satisfy the people.

But all of this was to fulfill God’s plan that Jesus would die as the sacrificial lamb at Passover – the innocent in place of the guilty. The whole matter was more than Pilate wanted to deal with; after all, he had places to go, things to do, and people to see. Jesus was not worthy of his time or focus.

And that is how it remains with the majority of people to this day. They have no time or interest to focus upon who Jesus really is and what difference that makes for their lives. They’re busy and don’t want to be bothered with these seemingly endless religious details. Their attitude is, “I have places to go, things to do, and people to see. So leave me alone!”

How and where is your focus?

Jesus Before Pilate

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘The king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

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