(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)


     It is good to be together again as we look not the Word of God.  The title for the lesson is: “To Testify to the Truth.”  And our primary text is taken from the gospel of John chapter 18 verses 28 through 37 which we will refer to in the body of our lesson.

     In comparison to the meager details of Jesus’ trial before the former high priest
Annas and even the presiding high priest Caiaphas, the trial before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate is more detailed, fuller by far in John’s gospel.

     The Jewish rulers were the accusers however Pilate, representative of the Imperial Roman State, was the judge.  The trial charge before the Roman judge was not about blasphemy but about Jesus as “King of the Jews.”

     John chapter 18 verse 28A “Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor.”  The religious leaders had already condemned Jesus to death on religious grounds, but only the Roman government could legally execute the death penalty.  So, they took Jesus to the Roman governor and accused him of treason and rebellion against Rome.  Crimes for which Rome gave the death sentence by inhumane crucifixion.

     The NIV translates “palace of the Roman governor.”  The New American Standard Bible translates “into the Praetorium” which was where a Praetorian Guard was housed.  This was the elite guard of the Romans.  The Roman governor Pilate normally was headquartered in Caesarea about 57 miles Northwest of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean coast.  However, the Roman Governor was sure to be in Jerusalem before Jewish festivals in case of rebellion or riots.  Passover, the festival of unleavened bread was eminent.  So, Pilate’s headquarters in Jerusalem could have been at Fort Antonius that garrisoned the Roman Guard.  It was situated Northwest of the temple.  Or Pilate made his headquarters at Herod’s palace.

     Verse 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.”  “Early morning” here according to the Roman reckoning of time was 3-6 AM.  Roman officials often began their duties at dawn and often finished by late morning.  The Jewish leaders were aware of Roman ways moreover, their evil plan of expedience, for the execution of Jesus before the Passover sabbath meant there was no time to be lost.

     Curiously to us today, ceremonial uncleanliness of the Jews is rather odd.  However, Jewish oral law indicated Jews who went into Gentile quarters were considered ceremonially unclean, polluted, defiled.  They stayed outside in the courtyard to avoid being tainted.  It’s all ironic since these same Jews were incurring incomparably greater moral defilement by falsely accusing Jesus of Nazareth.  In their zeal to eat the Passover lamb they unwittingly helped fulfill the death of the “Lamb of God.”  And at the same time shut themselves off from Jesus’ saving work on the cross.

     Today by application, many endeavor to keep external rituals but receive no benefit of Christ’s atoning sacrifice because they have no internal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

John chapter 18 verse 29 “So, Pilate came out to them and asked, ‘what charges are you bringing against this man?’”  This question formally opens the Roman trial against Jesus.  The Roman governor Pontius Pilate was in charge of Judea where Jerusalem was located.  There was no love lost between Pilate and the Jews.  Pilate was despised for example, because he had taken money form the temple treasuries to build a water aqueduct.

     John chapter 18 verse 31 “Pilate said, ‘take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”  Pilate knew the religious leaders hated Jesus, and he did not want to act as their executioner.  Basically, in Pilate’s mind, Jesus’ life became a pawn in a political power struggle he preferred to avoid.

     Sadly, today many leaders use Christianity, Christians, and Christ as politically expedient for their own support to keep their power via the ballot box.

     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 previously stated that he would die for example, in John chapter 3 verse 14 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.”

     John chapter 8 verse 28 says in part “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am.  The NIV says, “the one I claim to be.”  John chapter 12 and verse 32 “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

     If the Jews would have executed him it would have been by stoning to death.  But God controlled every aspect of even the political procedures to fulfill all the prophecies regarding the death of his Suffering Servant.  Even the very way of his execution. 

     Psalm 22 verse 16 says in part “a band of evil men has encircled me; they have pierced my hands and my feet.”  Isaiah chapter 53 verse 5 says in part “But he was pierced for our transgressions.”   Zechariah chapter 12 verse 10 says in part “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.”  In Matthew’s gospel Jesus clearly predicted his death for the third time in Matthew chapter 20 and verse 19 that says in part “and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.”

     John chapter 18 verse 33 “Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’”  They spoke probably in the language of Greek regarding their dialogue together, Pilate and Jesus of Nazareth.  Obviously, Pilate had already been told some of the circumstances of Jesus’ charges against him by the Jews.  As Roman governor he would have asked whether Jesus was attempting to set up a rebel government.

     The Jews were using the term “king” to mean their religious ruler, the messiah the Jewish leadership believed Jesus of Nazareth to be an imposter, a false messiah.  Furthermore, the leaders wanted Jesus to die by crucifixion.  Later they cried “crucify him!”  in John chapter 19 and verse 15. Why?  Probably because of Deuteronomy chapter 21 verse 23 in the law which says in part “anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.”  The chief priests desired to ensure Jesus of Nazareth was not viewed as a martyr for God’s cause, but as an imposter who died under God’s curse.

     Sadly, today many still believe Jesus of Nazareth was an imposer.  Orthodox Jews are still waiting for their Messiah coming.  Most do not believe Jesus of Nazareth is deity in bodily form, but only a mere man and some believe just a teacher a mere minor prophet.  Some believe that He never really existed.

     John chapter 18 and verse 36 “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.’”   By this answer Jesus means his kingdom is not part of this man-made system.  It is not of this evil world system, in rebellion against God.  God’s kingdom is headquartered in heaven, but he is also sovereign over all the earth and all the universe.  God’s kingdom is manifestly to conquer sin, Satan and death itself especially permanently in the lives of his people of all dispensations, or times.  And Christ’s kingdom will one day also conquer this evil world system when he returns at his second coming to reign on a restored earth.  Notice carefully Jesus’ words.  “But now my kingdom is from another place.”  That is, it now exists in its spiritual dimension on earth until the end of the age.

     Consider from Revelation chapter 11 verse 15 that says in part “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

     John chapter 18 and verse 37 says in part “you are right in saying I am a king.  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.”  Truth has become rather elusive in this world.  Jesus Christ himself personifies pure, unadulterated truth.

     John chapter 1 verse 14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John chapter 14 verse 6 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, and the truth and the life.’  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

     This is an absolute, exclusive truth rejected by most today.  Do the world, mankind, science or religious scholars state pure truth?  Yet Jesus revealed, in his prayer to his Father in John chapter 17 verse 17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” 

     Why are so many perishing without the truth of God in Christ?  The answer is in Second Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 10 which says in part “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  This truth continues whether past, present or future as the absolute truth regarding countless human destinies.  But that need not be your case or that of many we know. 

     As we apply to today.  Second Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 13 “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”  For example, scientific truths are important, but truths about salvation and the only Savior: Jesus Christ, have eternal consequences.

     Some of you may have heard of Lew Wallace.  He was born in Brookville, Indiana which is southeast of Indianapolis, the capitol of the state of Indiana in the United States. Lew Wallace became an author, a diplomat, a lawyer, and a military leader.  His friend Robert Ingersoll was a famous agnostic.  He challenged Lew Wallace to write a book to prove the falsity of Jesus Christ.  That he never even lived, that its all false, a fantasy, a fable, a legend.  Wallace began to collect material from libraries all over the world that covered the period in which Jesus Christ would have lived.  Wallace did this for years and then he began writing.  He was four chapters into the book, he said, when it became clear that Jesus Christ was a real person, that really lived on this earth.  So, he asked himself, “If Jesus was a real person, was he then also the Son of God and the Savior of the world?”

     Eventually, the conviction became a certainty in his mind, he said: “I fell on my knees to pray for the first time in my life, and I asked God to reveal himself to me, forgive my sins, and help me to become a follower of Christ.”

     Lew Wallace went on to write a famous book, maybe you’ve heard of it.  The title “Ben Hur,” also made into an epic movie about the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire.  A very good read!  Wallace began his writing to disprove that Jesus even ever existed.  But the truth, carefully investigated, changed his mind and heart, and his eternal destiny.

     Jesus came to testify to the truth.  He stated: “I am the way, and the truth and the life.”   So many today still reject Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord because they have not taken the time to carefully investigate the claims of Jesus Christ. If you really seek the truth, God will reveal himself to you in Christ by the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your mind and heart and will.  Won’t you do this if you are still a seeker.  If you are still a skeptic.  If you are still looking for the truth.  Do this today.  Begin this today.  May you find as Lew Wallace did, the author of “Ben Hur”, that Jesus Christ is real and that he really is Savior, Redeemer of mankind, effectual to those who put saving faith in him.  

                David Johnson is minister of Sellersburg Church of Christ in Sellersburg, IN.