The Gospel of John
1. We have been studying the Gospel of John. Last week we considered Simon Peter and his terrible backsliding.
2. A few weeks ago we looked at Annas and Caiaphas, the high priests. Tonight, we will look at another important figure in the trial of our Lord, and that is the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
3. The Bible does not tell us much about this man Pontius Pilate. From what we can gather from the Bible and from secular history, he was a rich and corrupt politician, a proud, worldly-minded and selfish man, more concerned with his own career and his own comfort than with justice (like most politicians today).
4. We know from secular history that he was appointed governor of Judea by Tiberius Caesar in 26 AD, and held that position till 37 AD. The details surrounding his death are not clear but apparently he committed suicide. Suicide was very common among the Romans.
5. In Luke 13, we are told he slaughtered some Galileans while they were offering their sacrifices in the temple (Luke 13:1).
6. Pilate had nothing but contempt for the Jews (cf. John 18:34, 35). But it is evident He had respect and admiration for our Lord (John 18:38; 19:4, 6; Matt. 27:24).
7. When studying the trial of Jesus, this one fact becomes clear: Pontius Pilate was distracted and torn between two conflicting feelings – a fear of offending the Jews (which could have led to an insurrection), and a conscious conviction that our Lord was innocent.
8. But being a cowardly man, destitute of any fixed principles, and being interested only in himself, he yielded to the blood-thirsty mob and had our Lord crucified. So ended Pilate’s part in the greatest crime which ever committed since the world began.
I. PILATE WAS INTIMIDATED BY WICKED SINNERS
1. Most politicians are like Pontius Pilate. They choose to look the other way. For example, they know so-called “gay marriage” is wrong but they will not speak out against it. In fact, many of them are now promoting it.
2. Many politicians understand that abortion is nothing but murder and yet they go along with it.
3. But it’s not just the politicians that are cowardly. Oftentimes Christians are afraid to take a stand for what is right.
4. John 19:1 tells us that Pontius Pilate took Jesus and “scourged Him.” It would seem that Pilate felt sorry for our Lord and was hoping the blood-thirsty mob would feel pity for Him.
5. Then Pilate pointed to Jesus, wearing the purple robe and crown of thorns, and said, “Behold the man!” But they felt no pity, no remorse, and no guilt. They were hardened sinners – hateful sinners – and hypocritical sinners – determined to have Jesus crucified (19:4-6).
6. These wicked sinners who brought our Lord to Pontius Pilate were not drunkards or prostitutes or pick-pockets. They were the religious leaders of His day. And the Bible says Pilate was “afraid” of them (John 19:6-8).
7. Pilate also “knew that for envy they had delivered Him” (Matt. 27:18). This characterizes the religious leaders who had Jesus put to death (cf. Rom. 1:29).
8. Let me emphasize that the religious leaders of our day are no different than the wicked religious leaders 2,000 years ago. They wear similar fancy costumes and colorful robes; they have the same pretentious titles; and they also have the same great wealth and influence. And they stand in their pulpits and preach a false gospel.
9. They deny the plain teachings of God’s Word. Like Judas Iscariot, theirs is “the greater sin” (John 19:11). Like the scribes and the Pharisees, they “shall receive the greater damnation” (Matt. 23:14).
10. You will recall that our Lord was first brought before Annas, the father in law to Caiaphas, the high priest (John 18:13). Then Annas had sent our Lord bound to Caiaphas (John 18:24).
11. Caiaphas and the other corrupt religious leaders put together a phony trial, and they concluded that our Lord was guilty of blasphemy (Matt. 26:65-68). This would have been the end of the trial, and they would have crucified our Lord right away, but for one thing. Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin had no power to inflict the death penalty (John 18:31).
12. That is why our Lord was brought before Pontius Pilate (John 18:28, 29). We have noted before that these bloodthirsty killers would not step foot inside the judgment hall “lest they should be defiled” (John 18:28).
13. Isn’t it interesting that they were very careful with their religious observances, but had no qualms about bringing in false witnesses and murdering their Messiah?
14. I wonder if there is some lost sinner here tonight who is very careful to observe religious rituals but still has not received Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Religious rituals cannot save; only the blood of Jesus can save.
15. Pilate did not want to execute our Lord, but the people – led on by the chief priests and elders – insisted upon it (19:6-15).
II. PILATE WAS WARNED BY GOD
1. As we study this story, we see how Pontius Pilate was warned by God. First of all, he was warned by our Lord. Jesus explained to Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).
2. But all Pilate could comprehend was this world. He was like most worldly people. He said to the Jews, “Shall I crucify your King?” (John 19:15). He would not accept Jesus as his King.
3. Like most politicians, Pilate had a problem with the truth. He asked our Lord, “What is truth?” (John 18:37, 38). He was face to face with the Son of God, who said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Truth incarnate stood before Pilate but Pilate could not see because he was spiritually blind. He asked an important question but walked away without waiting for the answer (John 18:38).
4. Lord Bacon wrote: “What is truth said jesting Pilate
And waited not for an answer.”
5. Pilate was also warned by his conscience. Even heathens such as Pontius Pilate have a conscience, which instinctively tells them right from wrong.
6. The Bible says our Lord “gave him no answer” (John 19:9). Seven hundred years before the cross, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
7. At this, “the governor marvelled greatly” (Matt. 27:14). We can only wonder what went on in Pilate’s mind as he stood face to face with the sinless Son of God.
8. Here was a sinful, finite man standing in judgment on the sinless, infinite Son of God. One preacher put it this way: “How could a faulty creature find flaws in the faultless Creator? This was Pilate’s predicament; this caused his confusion.”
9. Another way Pilate was warned by God was through his wife (Matt. 27:19). He should have listened to his wife. This one reference by Matthew is all we know of her but one can imagine the urgency of her warning.
10. The Bible does not tell us about her dream. Perhaps she saw our Lord being nailed to the cross and as those huge nails were being driven into His hands she woke up in a panic, crying and grief-stricken. She told her husband, “I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of Him” (Matt. 27:19).
11. Perhaps she saw the situation reversed. Instead of Pilate sitting at the judgment seat, and our Lord being judged, perhaps she saw the Lord Jesus Christ seated upon His throne up in heaven, and Pilate being judged (cf. John 19:10, 11).
12. Perhaps she saw her husband being cast off into hell and his horrible screaming and weeping and wailing woke her up, startled and terrified.
13. But instead of listening to Jesus, and instead of listening to his conscience, and instead of listening to his wife, he listened to the chief priests and elders who had persuaded the multitude to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus (John 18:39, 40).
14. We are told in Mark 15:7 that Barabbas was a murderer.
15. H.A. Ironside told a story about a Jewish merchant who had a Christian business associate. They would often talk about the Lord but the Christian was not able to lead his friend to Christ. One day the Christian man found out his old friend was dying and rushed to his bedside. The Jewish man was lying in bed with his eyes closed and his family said: “You must not talk religion to him; you must not excite him.” So the Christian man knelt quietly by his friend’s bedside, took his hand and prayed silently that God would save him. Soon there was a movement on the bed. The old man opened his eyes and tried to sit up. He said to his Christian friend, “Not Barabbas, but Jesus,” and he fell back on his bed dead.
16. Are there any here tonight without Christ? Unsaved friend: Don’t wait till you are on your death bed. Don’t wait till God sends you a dream like He did with Pilate’s wife. Don’t wait till the last minute like the thief on the cross. Come to Jesus now.
17. As the mob cried out for our Lord’s crucifixion, Pilate asked, “Why, what evil hath He done?” (27:21-23). Pontius Pilate knew that our Lord was innocent but he did not have the courage of his convictions.
III. PILATE TRIED TO SOOTHE HIS CONSCIENCE
1. We see in the Gospel of John, three times Pilate say, “I find no fault in Him” (John 18:38; 19:4, 6).
2. He tried to release Jesus but was intimidated by the angry mob (John 19:12, 13).
3. After realizing that “he could prevail nothing,” Pilate washed his hands and said: “I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it” (Matt. 27:24). But all the water in the world could not clean his bloody hands.
4. The blood-thirsty mob then made a self-imposed curse that has haunted them and their descendants for 2,000 years – “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matt. 27:25). That curse will remain until unbelieving Israel repents and receives the Messiah they have rejected.
5. Pilate tried to be neutral towards Jesus. But you cannot be neutral towards Jesus – you are either saved or you are lost.
1. The Bible says in James 1:8, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Pilate was a double-minded man.
2. He had a mind to release our Lord for He knew Jesus was faultless, but he also had a mind not to displease the howling mob.
3. There are double-minded people in every church. They know they must be born again but like Pilate they do not want to give up the world. The world means everything to them, even more than Christ.
4. Some carried their Bible to church this morning but where are they tonight? Will their Bibles be read at all this week?
5. John tells us in 19:8 that when Pilate heard the Jews demanding the death of Christ, “he was the more afraid.”
6. This same John wrote that “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and idolaters, and all liars, SHALL HAVE THEIR PART IN THE LAKE WHICH BURNETH WITH FIRE AND BRIMSTONE” (Rev. 21:8).
7. Unsaved friend: don’t be like Pontius Pilate. It is too late for him. He is in hell right now, but there is still time for you.