John chapters 18 and 19.
These chapters, read as
narrative, might be thought to be historical in the sense
of giving an account of the trial and crucifixion of
Jesus, but there is that which is much more and much
deeper than that. Indeed, the true meaning and value is
not the historical but the spiritual. Jesus has, at
length, come to that for which supremely He came from
Heaven. This is the "My hour" of which He has
so often spoken. He had said so many things as to why He
came into the world. Now they are all concentrated into
Let us be quite clear
on one thing. All that ever Jesus has proved to be,
through the long period of nearly twenty centuries; over
an ever-growing area of the world; to an ever-increasing
multitude of people of every nation, tongue, class, and
circumstance: all that, He was in that hour. He was no
less then than He is now. He has not become a bigger or
greater or more wonderful Christ than He was then. To
realize this is to have an altogether transforming view
of His so-called trial, judgment, and death. The elements
of His subsequent history in the experience of peoples
were all present then. The final and inclusive reality is
His lordship. But nothing could ever look more unlike
lordship than that which a superficial reading of these
Challenge to and Exposure of the Jewish Rulers
Let us look again,
after having cleared and adjusted our minds as to the
essential constituents of government and lordship. Over a
very far-reaching area of the world, as it was then, the
Jewish hierarchy, centered in High-Priest and a Council
of Rulers, held sway. The far-flung Jewish system
referred and deferred unquestioningly to their judgment
and authority. To dispute that authority or to question
its integrity was to bring down the very judgment of
Heaven upon the offenders their excommunication and
Very well. Jesus knew
all this, and then did two things. He challenged and
refuted it, and then made havoc of it.
In that very hour,
when, from all physical and natural standpoints, He was
at a complete disadvantage and in "weakness,"
He utterly demoralized them right at the top level.
They had repeatedly to
change their methods to make up a case. They darted from
one point and argument to another when they sensed the
weakness of their position. They resorted to subterfuges,
half-truths, and false witness. They, who stood for
ceremonial cleanness, were made by Him to show their
inward corruption by stooping to moral infamy (18:28). If
there was one thing which in their heart of hearts they
hated, repudiated and would never have entertained, it
was Caesar's authority. But here they are being utterly
false to themselves and to their people, and are saying
the most humiliating thing conceivable: "We have no
king but Caesar" (19:15).
The case against them
is much greater and stronger than this, but the point
is that they - on all grounds - are in His judgment hall,
and He is the Judge, not the other way round. This surely
shows that Christ's kingdom and kingship is spiritual and
moral, in righteousness and truth, not official,
political, temporal, of this world; and it is a thing of
terror, a devastating thing to all that is not of it.
Even if you think - as they did - that you have done Him
to death, got Him out of the way, you have - as they did
- to meet Him and reckon with Him on these terms, and for
them it has meant centuries of unspeakable misery!
Judgment and Condemnation of Pilate
But that is not all.
What of Pilate?
If the Jewish High
Priest and the Sanhedrin were the center of religion over
a wide area of the world, Pilate was the local
representative of a still wider and more powerful world
system. The long and indomitable arm of Rome and Caesar
reached over the world and held it in an imperious sway.
This, in a very real sense, was the world - the kingdom
of this world. It could crush at a word and silence with
The Jewish hierarchy,
thinking to secure its ends through that austere and
relentless power, blindly forced Jesus into the judgment
hall of Pilate. With every kind of indignity and
humiliation heaped upon Him He stands with no defense and
But look - listen! What
He is quietly and
steadily tearing down the moral structure of that whole
edifice, and exposing the utter rottenness of its moral
foundations. Pilate is nonplussed, disconcerted, cornered
like a trapped creature. He is writhing, looking in every
direction for some way out. Subterfuges, tricks,
expedients, policy, pretension, playacting!
Jesus is the Judge and
Pilate is in His court.
He forever and for
history discredits Pilate as a rightful executor of
equitable laws by proving him guilty of accepting reports
without getting evidence (18:34,35); He makes him hide
behind the transparent veil of cynicism (38); compels a
verdict of innocence; draws out his inconsistency; drives
him to subterfuge; makes him repeat his verdict twice
(38,39; 19:4,6); uncovers a secret fear (8: note -
"the more"): puts him in the place of a puppet
(11); discloses more moral weakness (12,13); proves him
to be a mere worldly time server (12,15,16); draws forth
an acknowledgment even if in irony of universal
Vindication of the Son of Man
So Jesus has
established His claims. He came to bring the kingdom of
God - but, thank God, not of the rotten kind in this
World. He claimed to be the Truth, and He has torn the
mask from the Devil's system of falsehood. He claimed to
be the Light, and He has exposed the haunts and works of
darkness. He came to die not at man's choice and will,
but by laying down His life of His own accord. He came to
overcome the world and its Prince and He has done it! And
so we might go on.
The one inclusive and
glorious issue is that, while men thought themselves to
be in the saddle, driving on to their own ends, God in
sovereignty was in charge fulfilling His own
predeterminate and foreknown counsel. The real government
was with the supposed "victim."
"We beheld his
glory" - the glory of the transcendence of moral
excellence - "glory as of an only begotten from the
Father full of grace and truth."
The so-called "trial"
of Jesus is a parable. It forever illustrates and
demonstrates the judgment of this world - religious and
secular - and postulates the ruin of all that is built
upon corruption, falsehood, pretension, and mere
Here is the -
in the darkness,
Twixt old systems and the Word.
Truth for ever on the scaffold,
Wrong for ever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And amidst the dim unknown,
Standeth God, keeping watch above His own."
By His cross He