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Jesus and Pilate

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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March 3, 2024 12:01 am

Jesus and Pilate

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 3, 2024 12:01 am

After interrogating Jesus for some time, Pontius Pilate declared to Christ's accusers, "I find no fault in Him" From his expositional series in the gospel of John, today R.C. Sproul examines the truth of these words that Pilate unwittingly uttered about the spotless Lamb of God.

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Pilate's interrogating, he's probing, and he says, I find no fault in him, because there wasn't any fault to find in him. The man who stood before Pontius Pilate was truth incarnate and a lamb who was without blemish. Following the arrest of Jesus, he was brought before Pontius Pilate, a kangaroo court, as we heard R.C. Sproul describe it last week.

Why is it, though, that after Pilate declares that he finds no fault in Jesus, that he still hands him over to be crucified? That's just one of the questions Dr. Sproul will answer on this Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Each Sunday we feature sermons from the preaching ministry of R.C. Sproul, and until Resurrection Sunday, you'll hear sermons from the Gospel of John, beginning last week with Jesus' arrest and culminating with his resurrection at the end of the month. But if you'd like to study all of John's Gospel, R.C. Sproul's expositional commentary on John is available for a donation of any amount at So let's meet Pilate, the man whom Jesus, according to the apostles' creed, suffered under.

Here's Dr. Sproul. This morning we're going to continue our look at the Gospel according to St. John. Last week we looked at the beginning of the interrogation of Jesus in his trial before Annas and Caiaphas, and this morning's account takes us into the Praetorium where Jesus appears before the judgment seat of the Roman governor and prefect Pontius Pilate. I'll be reading from John chapter 18, verses 28 through 38.

So at this time I would ask the congregation to stand for the reading of the Gospel. And then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. Pilate went out to them and said, What accusation do you bring against this man? And they answered and said to him, If he were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered him up to you. And then Pilate said to them, You take him and judge him according to your law.

But the Jews said to him, It's not lawful for us to put anyone to death, that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spoke, signifying by what death he would die. And then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus and said to him, Are you the king of the Jews? And Jesus answered him, Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Your own nation and chief priests have delivered you to me.

What have you done? And 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. Pilate therefore said to him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say rightly that I am a king. And for this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. And everyone who is of the truth hears my voice. And Pilate said to him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and he said to them, I find no fault in him at all. He who has ears to hear the word of God, let them hear.

You may be seated. Let us pray. Even now, O God, as we read of the Scriptures being fulfilled, that He was delivered unto the Gentiles for judgment, that we read in this narrative those moments of judgment that came upon our Lord, we ask that we may hear these things as people who are of the truth and who are of His kingdom. We ask it in His name.

Amen. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate. I'm sure you all recognize those words that come to us down through the ages from the Apostles' Creed. And in that creed we have the specific reference to Pontius Pilate, and theologians and historians have asked the question throughout the ages, why? Why of all the historic personages that surround the life of Jesus that Pontius Pilate is elevated to this level of being mentioned every time the creed is confessed? Why not Caesar Augustus? Why not Herod the Great?

Why not Caiaphas or Annas? Why Pontius Pilate? And the answer that has been given by the theologians of the church is that it's because of the role Pilate plays in the entire history of redemption that he functions in the drama of the death of Christ as the persona publica, that public authority who is in the position of judgment. And it is significant that the judgment that he renders after his interrogation of Jesus is the judgment that I just read where he said, I find no fault in him.

Well if this is the verdict of the Roman governor, why then does he turn him over to the mob and sentence him to death as we know he finally did? Before we look more carefully at the text that I just read, I'd like to take just a couple of minutes this morning to give a capsule summary of the life and career of Pontius Pilate. Of course we read about him in the gospels with respect to the trial of Jesus and also with respect to the sacrilegious murder that he committed with the people who were offering sacrifices at the altar. But in addition to these biblical references, there are also other references to Pontius Pilate that have survived through the ages from contemporary witnesses who were not numbered among the biblical writers. Particularly we have a record of Pilate's activity and his portrait and personality from the Jewish historian Josephus and also from the Jewish theologian Philo of Alexandria. And they give us the background, and I might add in addition to that, that in 1961 during excavations of Caesarea, which was a city established in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, that they uncovered a stone, a piece of stone in one of the amphitheaters that was used as a theater, a Roman theater that bears the name of Pontius Pilate. And we know that Pilate was appointed as governor over the Palestinians in the year 26 A.D. by the Emperor Tiberius.

Now something about that. During this time of the Roman Empire, one of the worst outposts to which any emissary could ever be assigned in the diplomatic corps was Israel because the Jews were notorious for being anything but acquiescent to Roman rule. And so that Pontius Pilate was assigned to rule over the Jews was not considered aplomb among such political appointments.

And he indicated his hostility to the Jewish people very early in his rule. Again he was appointed in 26 A.D. by Tiberius, and he ruled there until 37 A.D. One of the first things that Pilate did when he came to Jerusalem that's not recorded in Scripture was that he brought the Roman standards with the image of the Emperor into Jerusalem, which violated all of the sacred rules of the Jewish people. To have the image of the divine Emperor set up in the holy city was outrageous to the populace of Jerusalem. And so Josephus tells us that the Jewish people came into the city and literally went on a sit-down strike. They surrounded the house of Pilate, and they sat there and wouldn't move for five days. At which point Pilate came in with his troops, called them to bear their swords, which they did, and he said, if you people don't leave, my soldiers are going to cut off your heads. Whereupon the Jewish protesters laid down and stretched out their necks awaiting their execution, at which point Pilate backed down and removed the standards from the city. And then not much later than that Pontius Pilate tried it again.

He brought the votive shields of the Emperor into the holy place, which was another sacrilege in the sight of the people. And so once again the people gathered in protest, and the four sons of Herod sent a protest to Rome, to the Emperor, and the Emperor commanded Pilate to let these people have their religious freedom and to get those offending shields out of there. And so again Pilate was frustrated by these insurgent Jews. Then the third incident took place when he took the sacred treasure from the Jewish temple and used the funds to build a Roman aqueduct in the nation.

And when that happened, again a storm of protest took place, and the people all came in and assembled as a huge throng in multitude complaining. And this time Pilate sent his soldiers into the crowd with clubs and started clubbing them to death. Well, that created even more bad press for Pontius Pilate. And as much as the sycophant that he was towards the Emperor Tiberius, Rome was getting a little tired of hearing about these outbursts among the Jews in Jerusalem. The final offense came when the Roman governor, which was the privilege of the day, was able to strike coins with whatever images he wanted on the coins, and these copper coins that were minted under Pilate's jurisdiction bore the image of pagan religion. And that also was an outrage reported to Rome by the Jewish authorities.

Now I give you that background for this reason. If we wonder why it is that Pontius Pilate is so weak and so pliable that he bows to the clamoring of a multitude to crucify a man that he has already declared to be faultless, you have to understand the political pressure that he's in. If all Jerusalem is crying for the blood of Jesus, and Pilate doesn't give them the blood of Jesus, he's thinking, this might be it for me if word gets back to Rome. So let's keep that in mind as we look at this as the personality. We're told that Pilate was stern, selfish, friendless, stubborn, and cowardly from his contemporaries, all of which is borne out by the biblical portrait that we have before us.

So let's look then. They led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. The Praetorium was the place that was used by Pilate and the Romans when Pilate was in Jerusalem.

He normally stayed in Caesarea. He only came to Jerusalem when there would be massive gathering of Jewish pilgrims for their annual feasts. And since this was the feast time of the Jews for the Passover, he came to his temporary quarters there in Jerusalem where the guard itself was also housed in the military headquarters of the Praetorium. They came in the early morning, but listen to this little detail that I want you to pick up on. That the Jews who brought Jesus to Pilate from Caiaphas, we get this little notation from John, they themselves did not go into the Praetorium lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.

There are a couple of problems here. We've already seen Jesus eating the Passover, and that was the night before. Why are these Jews worried about eating the Passover? Well, remember that the Passover feast lasted seven days, and in order to participate in the entire feast, the priests and the officials had to maintain complete cleanliness from all forms of defilement. And to enter into the pagan residence of Pontius Pilate was to bring themselves into defilement. And so that they could keep themselves pure for the Jewish feast days, they turned Jesus over to the Praetorium guard, and they stayed outside.

Can you believe that? These men are being unbelievably scrupulous to avoid any defilement while they are involved in the most vile act of human history. As they're delivering the Lamb of God to the slaughter, they're making sure that their hands are absolutely clean in the meantime.

What this means is that in the meantime, what does that tell us? Here are people who are paying attention to the very details of religion without any faith, while their hearts are as far away from God as they possibly can be. When we read the Scriptures, the voice of the prophets, we are told over and over again that sometimes God hates religion.

And when does He hate it? When it is offered from hearts that are faithless. And these people went through all the motions, maintained all the rituals, paid attention to keeping themselves totally clean, following the liturgy of worship perfectly while they were crucifying the Son of God. And we can look from our vantage point in the 21st century back on that incident and say, what hypocrites these people were, how dark were their hearts, where the guns should be turned inward to ourselves, because we crucify the Son of God afresh every time we honor Him with our lips while our hearts are far from Him. And so when we look at this, instead of looking down our noses at these people who betrayed Jesus we have to see ourselves in that crowd, because this is what fallen humanity is like. This is what fallen humanity does, and we are fallen people.

Religion without faith is a deadly thing. So Pilate went out to them. They wouldn't have been the Pilate. They went out to them, and he asked them, he said, what accusation do you bring against this man? Pilate now is following the rules. He's saying, you have to level charges against him. You can't just turn him over to me.

I want to know what the charges are. And you can sort of get the hint of disgust in Pilate. Remember, he doesn't like these people in the first place, and he's wondering, what are they dealing with me early in the morning, bringing this guy in here who's a Jew over Jewish disputes and Jewish theology? I don't have anything to do with this guy. So why are they bringing him to me? Listen to how politely they answered Pilate. They answered and said to him, if he were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered him up to you. Why do you think we brought him to you, Pilate? You think we brought him to you because we think he's a saint? We brought him to you because he's an evildoer, and it's your job to get rid of evildoers around here.

And if he weren't an evildoer, we wouldn't be bothering you here in the middle of the night. I mean, it's an arrogant response that the Jews give to Pilate, and you can tell by his response, he didn't like it at all. Pilate said, you take him, you take him, and you judge him according to your law. Pilate wants to wash his hands of it. He wants to back off, just as he symbolically, according to the other gospels, does in fact wash his hands off it. He says, you take him. He sends him back. Judge him according to your law. But now they reveal why they brought him to Pilate. You must listen. But it's not lawful for us to put anyone to death.

It was the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die. Ha, that's why you brought him. You're not allowed to kill him, so you want me to kill him. That's the idea.

That's why they brought him. So Pilate entered the Praetorium again. He called Jesus, said to Him, are You the King of the Jews?

Now again, you see what the question is. The accusers have obviously let the cat out of the bag. The trumped-up charge that they bring against Jesus is not theological, but political. He's calling Himself a King, and you Romans can't put up with that sort of a thing.

That's insurrection. So Pilate comes to Jesus, gives Him the charge. Are You a King? Are You the King of the Jews? And Jesus answered him, listen to our Lord's reply.

Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning me? Now who's the interrogator? Now Pilate's on trial before the judge of heaven and earth. He was saying, he said, who told you that I was the King of the Jews? Is this something you came up with on your own, or is it hearsay? Jesus understood the rules of evidence even then, and the rule against hearsay convictions.

And how does Pilate respond? Cynically. He said, am I a Jew?

Do you think I would bring this up? Who do I care about what the Jews are doing? It's none of my business who they are fighting over. I'm not a Jew, so I'm not interested in who the King of the Jews is. No, your own nation, your own priests had delivered you to Me.

So what is it you've done? Well, Jesus gives this cryptic answer. 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. And listen to what His response is. Oh, are you a king then? What do you think?

Duh! If I stand there and tell you that I have a kingdom, then obviously I must be saying I'm a king. I'm trying to answer your question, Pilate. I do have a kingdom.

Am I going too fast? But My kingdom is not like any kingdom you've ever encountered. My kingdom is not the kind of kingdom that is manifested in this world. My kind of kingdom is not the kind of kingdom that you have in Rome that is built on violence, on blood, on war, and extortion.

That's the way the kingdoms of this world function. But My kingdom is not a world-like kingdom. Jesus is not saying that His dominion and His authority does not include this world. He's not saying that His domain is simply in some transcendent never-never land, some spiritual realm.

No. He is the same man who said, All authority on heaven and earth is given to me. And when He is elevated as King of the Kings and Lord of the Lords, His kingdom is over every king that walks on this earth. But what He is saying here is not that His domain does not stretch over Pilate or over Jerusalem, but He's saying, My kingdom is not like your kingdom. If you want to talk about kingdoms, and I have to answer your questions, we have to be on the same page so that when you ask me if I'm a king, I'm trying to say, Yes, I am a king, but we have to qualify the meaning of that term king in this interrogation. So Pilate hears all this business about His kingdom.

It's not of this world. If it was of this world, Jesus would have brought His servants and the angels of heaven, and right now it would be Pilate to be hanging on a cross. Are you a king? Are you a king?

You said it. You say rightly that I am a king. Jesus acknowledges His royal mission. Yes, Pilate, I am a king, and for this cause I was born, and for this cause I came into the world that I should bear witness to the truth. Truth.

Now what does that mean? Jesus is not simply saying that I am truth. I am objective truth. I'm not a relativist, and I'm opposed to all falsehood.

All of those things are true. But when He said, My purpose for coming into this world was to bear witness to the truth, what He's saying is I came here to bear witness and to make plain the truth of God. And the truth of God is that the Lord God omnipotent reigns. And you, Pilate, and the priests out there are all accountable on the final day of judgment to the King of heaven. And I am here to make that manifest.

My mission is to bear witness to the truth. And here, as I've told you in the past, I wish that we could read the face of Pilate as he gives his response. Was he speaking sarcastically? I mean, how does he answer? Does he say in a philosophical, speculative way, Gee, what is truth? Is he asking Jesus to teach him the truth? I don't think so.

It's because of his immediate departure, it's obvious that his response is completely cynical. What's truth? How 21st century was Pontius Pilate? We live in a culture where truth is slain in the streets. And people say, well, what's truth?

Whatever you want it to be, whatever turns you on. What you believe that's true for you, and even though it's the exact opposite of what I believe, it's not true for me, but it's true for you. What I believe is true for me, not true for you, because truth is no longer objective. Francis Schaeffer used to talk about true truth, not because he stuttered, but because he understood that the issue in our day over the very word truth is whether there is such an objective reality that is true for everybody, whoever they are, wherever they live, whatever they do. So that Jesus isn't interested in an existential, personalized, religious truth that turns you on.

He's talking about a kingdom that is real, that is objective, and that will measure and judge every person and every proposition that the world brings before it. And so when Pilate leaves, he went out to the Jews. The other gospels tells us he said, echohomo, but we'll get to that later. Here he says, I find no fault in Him at all.

Now let me just ask you this. Pilate's interrogating, he's probing, he's listening to the accusations, he's listening to the responses of Jesus. He's looking at Jesus as hard as he can look at Him, and he says, I find no fault in Him.

Do you know why that was? Because there wasn't any fault to find in Him. See, in the indirect way, this judge of the earth, this public person, Pontius Pilate, acknowledges the sinlessness of Christ, the one thing you and I can never, ever identify with.

We've never encountered sinlessness from the day we were born. And anybody could be put under the spotlight in this room this morning, and we could find fault, and we could find sin. And God doesn't have to hunt very far to find sin in my life or to find sin in your life. But the judge of all the earth could look with a microscope at Jesus and never find fault, because the man who stood before Pontius Pilate was truth incarnate and a Lamb who was without blemish.

Let's pray. O Father, that we might be numbered among those who are of the truth, who hear the voice of Christ. We know, O God, that even now within earshot there are people who have heard the voice of Christ a thousand times, who have not yet heard it, who have not yet embraced it, who have not yet fallen in love with it. O Father, that You would make us a people who love every word that comes from the lips of Christ, for those words are truth, and we ask it in His name.

Amen. And it's that spotless Lamb who secured our salvation and did for us what we could never do for ourselves. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was R.C. Sproul from a sermon series in John's Gospel that he preached at St. Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Florida. Those sermons and his study to prepare for them were the foundation for what would become his expositional commentary on John. You can add the hardcover edition of this commentary to your library when you give a donation of any amount at Perhaps use it as we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday to reflect more deeply on the suffering of Christ and the gracious gift of eternal life. You can make your donation at, and we'll send you this popular commentary. And remember, this offer ends at midnight. Join us next Sunday as R.C. Sproul continues preaching on Jesus' encounter with Pontius Pilate, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-03 02:35:00 / 2024-03-03 02:45:31 / 11

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