My dear Christians and non-Christians alike, and you of all faiths and all views and all opinions, I bid and ask you to join with me in another voyage of intellectual discovery. I welcome you in this quest and task of attaining and coming to know intellectual honesty and honest discernment. Join me in this voyage of discovery to get at and find what is valid and authentic in this present world of confusion and do come with me in tearing apart the curtain of lies and darkness that hides from us what is truth and facts.
My fellow thinkers and readers and men and women of all faiths, today, as I have many times before, I will attempt to interpret and explain and in some sense perhaps come to understand and grasp the words and an event in the life of Jesus found in the gospel of John, chapter 18 verses 33-40 as follows:
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose, I was born and for this purpose, I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
This is certainly one of the most telling events and words at that time in the life of Jesus. Jesus answers the question and inquiry of Pilate whether he is the king of the Jews. When Pilate tells Jesus he has been handed over to him by the Jewish nations and the priests, Jesus answers with a key comment: his kingship is not of this world, otherwise, his servants would fight for him not to be handed over to the Jews. In answer to Pilate’s question, if he is a king, Jesus answered that he was born for this and came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Jesus says that everyone who is of the truth hears his voice. Pilate concludes that he finds no crime in him. He notes the Jews have a custom at Passover to release one man and asks if they would have him release the king of the Jews. They demand Barabbas, a robber.
To obtain a full grasp and understanding of this passage, one must comprehend that Jesus answered Pilate a number of times as to whether he is the king of the Jews. He said that his kingdom is a spiritual kingdom and not of this world, not an earthly kingdom. Jesus makes clear that he has come from God, the Father, to bear witness to the truth and has come into the world for that purpose. Because he is God and claims the divinity of God, everyone who is of the truth hears his voice, the voice of God.
Finally, the historical significance of what happened here is Pilate finds no wrong or evil in Jesus. What is no less than a mob demands a robber, Barabbas, to be released, thus condemning the son of God, an innocent, to torture, punishment, and death on the cross. Jesus makes claim here to a spiritual kingship and kingdom. Nevertheless, the crowd demands the release of Barabbas and the condemnation of Jesus in whom Pilate has found no evil or wrong.
The two main points to be understood and noted here are 1. Jesus makes clear that his kingship is not a political or material kingship, an earthly position, but a kingdom and kingship from heaven and God, a kingdom not of this world but a kingdom of the spiritual, next world. 2. The charge against Jesus is a Jewish charge, not a Roman charge. The Roman can only make an inquiry as to what Jesus has done to incur hatred and to justify the accusation. Jesus’s account of his mission shows that he is to reveal the truth and not to assert some sort of political power. Pilate is convinced of Jesus’s political innocence and sees a means of releasing him through freeing a prisoner at Passover. The crowd prefers the robber, Barabbas. Jesus is not the kind of king the Jews desire, so they prefer the release of Barabbas, an armed rebel.
I hope and trust in this little essay on this gospel passage that I have shed some light on the meaning of the events described here and, of course, the meaning of the words of Christ. As always, I urge my readers to return to the biblical text and seek to understand what happened here and the depth and profundity of this event in the life of Jesus and the words of the son of God.