Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on John 18:35

Pilate Asked Jesus "What Hast Thou Done?" (John 18:35b)

by Ralph Bouma

"Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?" (JOH 18:35b).

Our blessed Saviour could have spent from that moment through all eternity telling what He has done, but like a lamb before the slaughter, He did not open His mouth.

It was clear that Pilate, the Roman governor, who had authority to sentence Him to death, recognized the hypocrisy of those who delivered Jesus to him to be condemned to death. JOH 19:4 says, "Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him." The Sanhedrin, having been brought under the authority of the Roman Empire, did not have that authority to condemn Him to death. Pilate was giving Jesus His day in court and a fair trial.

The Roman law required a strict form of justice:
1) There must be a specific indictment;
2) The accusers must bring their accusation in the presence of the accused; and
3) The accused must have license to answer for himself.
Pilate was unable to get them to give him a specific indictment. Their accusations were so empty and hollow that they did not deserve an answer.

We see the credentials of the Roman judiciary in the trial of the Apostle Paul in ACT 25:15-16, "About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him. To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him." The Jews tried to have Paul condemned and executed without bringing forth a formal indictment.

The Jews, chief priests and rulers of the people knew this principle, therefore, they knew they needed a firm indictment against Jesus before they brought Him to Pilate. MAT 26:59-60 says, "Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses."

Their strategy revealed nothing new. King Solomon said in ECC 1:9, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun."

These same tactics, which are still so common today, were also used by Jezebel to justify her crimes against Naboth. 1KI 21:8-10 says, "So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth. And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people [in the place of judgment]: And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die." Two was the minimum number of witnesses required to put someone to death.

Until there is some semblance of justice, the people of the community will not accept it. This is what I have been through. This is why my name has been so furiously slandered in this community. This makes the people ready to accept false witnesses and false justice.

Even a Jezebel wants a good rating by public opinion, therefore, a semblance of justice. Even today, justice is administered by public opinion. MAT 26:60-61 says, "But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days."

Yet the false witnesses who testified against our Lord were not sufficient to satisfy public opinion. They clearly recognized that the flimsy charge these false witnesses brought was not the type of indictment the Romans would require to administer the death sentence. MAT 26:62-63 says, "And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God."

The high priest attempted to adjure our Lord Jesus, or force Him into an oath in the name of the living God (as it is in the original), calling the living God to witness in support of their hypocrisy. It was Jesus? duty under the Levitical law to respond. LEV 5:1 says, "And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity."

Even though the law was being perverted against Him, our Lord had come to fulfill the law by bearing its curse. GAL 4:4-5 says, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."

Therefore, even though our Lord Jesus knew the question was a loaded question, and what their response would be, He did not shun the Truth. In MAT 26:64-66, "Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death." Jesus had admonished the high priest that Jesus would be his judge when He returned in power. The action of the high priest when he rent his own clothes was the symbolic end of his high priestly office. The Aaronic priesthood was terminated.

This concluded His arraignment, where the formal indictment was prepared to present to Pilate, the Roman governor. Now our Saviour's words, which He spoke to His disciples, were about to be fulfilled. MAR 10:32-34 says, "And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again."

The fulfilling of this saying of Jesus is the first mention in the fourth Gospel of these things. The fourth Gospel covers many things that the other Gospels do not cover, but the other Gospels cover things the fourth Gospel does not cover. JOH 18:28 says, "Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover." These hypocrites should have realized that they were defiled by their murderous hearts, that merely entering into the court of the Gentiles could not have defiled them.

See how void these hypocrites were of any sense of a heart religion. Their whole religion was no more than a ritual under the ceremonial law without any regard for the moral law of love.

When Pilate asked our Saviour, "Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?" Jesus could have answered that He had incensed them with the truth. He could have told them what he said in MAT 23:24-28, "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."

To accommodate such hypocrisy under a pretense to avoid defilement, Pilate went out unto them to ask for the indictment without which he could not proceed. JOH 18:29 says, "Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor [an evil doer or a criminal], we would not have delivered him up unto thee."

[We see this in our day, when former President Bill Clinton, who had committed several felonies, was unable to be prosecuted because opinion polls favored him. However, the Constitution prohibits a felon from being President.]

See again how their appeal was to public opinion rather than any actual indictment for any crime. Even in this hour, Pilate's inquisition was tantamount to what Jesus asked them in JOH 8:44-46, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?" Their own hearts convicted them that what He had just told them was true. They could not tell Him that what He had just told them was not true. Later, they sought an indictment against Him before Pilate even though they could not convince Him of sin.

Their answer to Pilate seemed to imply that the sacred Sanhedrin had already tried Jesus and found Him worthy of death. All they required was the Roman sanction to put Him to death. Why should any further indictment be needed to support public opinion? JOH 18:31 says, "Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die."

This is significant! If Jesus was to be condemned to death under the Levitical law, it would have been by stoning. He could not be condemned under Jewish law. In GEN 49:10, Jacob, on his deathbed, had said, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." The legal authority (sceptre) had now departed from Israel, and it was given to the Romans. This showed that it was the time of the Messiah.

What death had Jesus signified that He should die? JOH 3:14 says, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up."

Pilate saw completely through the hollowness of all the accusations they brought against Jesus. He said to them in LUK 23:14, "Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him." He did not say that they had brought Him to Pilate as a blasphemer, because Roman law may not have considered that a capital offense.

These accusations were so obviously false that Pilate would not accept them, so they had to come up with a new accusation. LUK 23:2-4 says, "And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man."

Yet under a pretence of justice, Pilate gave Jesus an opportunity to put on His own defense. JOH 18:33-35b says, "Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice."

Jesus was telling Pilate, "I am not under your jurisdiction." Nothing will kill a court trial quicker than showing the court that it has no jurisdiction. When Christ mentioned bearing witness of the truth, the conscience of Pilate could not retain a lie. Christ's Word has power. Christ convicted the conscience of Pilate, and he saw the crafty designs of those who came against Jesus.

Verse 38 says, "Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all."

Here it would seem the Lord Jesus could have called to testify all those Jews who were at the cave where Lazarus was raised from the dead and the multitudes who had witnessed His many miracles. Jesus had a right to call His witnesses and make His defense. The Jews did not get an indictment against Jesus. Jesus gave Himself as an offering for sin.

The Lord Jesus was not overcome by the power of His enemies, nor was He unable to defend Himself before this Roman judge. He submitted to His Father's will as we read in JOH 10:15-18, "As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold [the Gentiles]: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." We should not get carried away with what the Jews, the Sanhedrin or Pilate did, we are the sinners who nailed Jesus to the cross. Since Jesus had to also bear the sins of the Gentiles, He had to be condemned in their courts. He took down the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles.

This was the Father's commandment, that sinners must take the Friend of publicans and sinners and bind Him with shackles and chains of iron. Why did Jesus do what He did? The answer is in ISA 53:3-9, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 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 openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich."

The blessed Son of God who is commissioned as the Judge of all the earth was condemned to die before the courts of sinful man that sinful man might stand righteous before the courts of heaven. 1JO 2:1-2 says, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." This is why we must proclaim His name to the ends of the earth.

Liars bore witness against the Truth, and Jesus, the resurrection and the life, had to die a felon's death. ACT 4:25-28 says, "Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." We must not overlook the fact that God the Father had determined beforehand that Christ would need to die on the cross, and that Jesus did this in humble obedience.

In asking Jesus what He had done in a further attempt to take Him in His own words, Pilate asked, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" Our Saviour's answer is significant. JOH 18:36 says, "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."

This is synonymous with JOH 17:15-16, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

His kingdom was not of this world, but His kingdom was in this world. His kingdom is in the hearts of His flock.

See Also:

Sermons for Good Friday

Sermon Collection Based on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross

Sermons for Passion Week

Passion Week Supplement in Malankara World

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