John 18:33-40

33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

34 Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”

35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.

39 “But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

40 Then they all cried again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

The Jews accused Jesus (Luke 23:2), and then Pilate took Him inside.

Jesus’ question (v. 34) was rhetorical. He was speaking to Pilate’s conscience. Why would the Jews accuse a man of being the king who would overthrow Rome? They would want this opposition under normal circumstances. And there were no Roman accusers! It was done in envy (Matthew 27:18).

Jesus answered Pilate (v. 36), perhaps because Pilate’s question was an honest one and not an attempt to get Jesus to testify against Himself.

My kingdom is not of this world (v. 36) — not established by the world, not given to Him by men but by God.

Now My kingdom is not from here (v. 36)— It was rejected by the Jews, but it will come later. He explained that His kingdom was no threat to Rome.

What is truth? (v. 38) — asked in contempt, not honestly, or Jesus would probably have answered.

I find no fault (v. 38) — A Lamb without blemish and without spot. Not guilty by Roman law.

Much occurs between verses 38 and 39 (Mark 15:3-12; Luke 23:5-18)

Pilate tried to wiggle out of his fix politically (v. 39). He tried to find Jesus “unofficially” guilty and pardon Him (Mark 15:7-11) to avoid trouble.

Barabbas (son of the father) was a robber — perhaps the leader of a rebellion (Luke 23:18-19, 25 — He was imprisoned with those who revolted) and a murderer (Acts 3:14)

Roman law required accusers and accused to meet face-to-face. This was denied Jesus.

The Roman historian Suetonius in his work states that at that time there was a widespread anticipation that a great king was about to take control of Jewish affairs and would rule in due time over the whole world. — Gaebelein, page 351.


If it had been a Roman officer who preferred this charge of being a rebel against the government it would have been a serious matter, requiring the most painstaking examination. But the accusers were the Jews, saying that He claimed Kingship. But how could it be that the Jewish ecclesiastical authorities should complain of one of their own nation trying to emancipate them from the Roman yoke? Pilate knew how the Jews would have thrown off that yoke at any cost and welcomed any man who would lead a movement against the pagan oppressors. So the accusers were unwittingly the witnesses of His innocence. Of course, Pilate had never heard a word that the Man who stood before him accused by the Jews had any desire whatever to lead a revolt against the Roman government and to set Himself up as king. And Pilate was not slow to see the point of the accused. His answer, “Am I a Jew?” shows that. He acknowledged that the accusation came from the Jews and therefore was a false accusation. With this answer he also voiced the fact that he, the Roman governor, despised the Jews. Many of the Roman authors and historians like Horace, Juvenal, Suetonius, Tacitus and Pliny, speak contemptuously of the Jews. We can imagine the sneering face of Pilate, when he spoke these words, as if he had been insulted. Then he added the truth, “Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me. What hast thou done?” With this sentence he shows that the Jews were the accusers and that he had no use for their charge as to his sedition. Then he appealed to the prisoner to tell him what He had done. — Gaebelein, page 349-350.


Three great facts are to be considered in this good witness which our Lord gave before Pilate (1 Timothy 6:13): (1) The Lord Jesus Christ is a King. As such He came, because He is according to the flesh the son of David, entitled to the throne of His father David. (2) The object of His incarnation was to testify to the Truth, to bear witness to it. His true humanity and His Deity are witnessed to by Himself. When He said, “for this end I was born” He states His true humanity, but when He declared “for this cause came I into the world” it is not a vain, unmeaning repetition of His birth, but shows that He pre-existed and came from above. (3) They only hear Him (receive Him) who are of the Truth. The meaning is that those proceeding from the truth, who are born again by the power of the truth and the Spirit of truth, hear Him. — Gaebelein, page 351


Pilate’s offer enraged the screaming Jewish officials, and they demanded that Barabbas, a convicted robber, be pardoned instead. The Greek word for “robber (lestes) was “used by Josephus the historian to describe rebels against Roman authority” (Lindsell). Thus, the rendering of the NIV: “Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.” He may have led the revolt mentioned in Luke 23:18-19, 25; according to Mark 15:7, he was imprisoned with others who took part in this revolt. Since Barabbas was a political criminal, the Jews’ request for the release of Barabbas and not Jesus underscored the irony of the situation. The Jews, pretending to respect Roman authority, asked for the release of a revolutionary against Roman authority. Furthermore, they wanted to give life to a murderer and murder the one who had come to give them life! — Comfort, page 291.

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