John 18:28 – 19:16 – Roman Trial of Jesus


The trial before Pilate is arranged on the basis of the movement of Pilate between Jesus who is inside and the Jewish leaders who are outside the Praetorium or the palace of Pilate. Pilate id like a bridge between Jesus, the accused and the Jews, who are accusers. In fact, the people are bringing Jesus on trial and not Pilate. This is not a political trial. Hence the importance of the theme: Kingship of Jesus.

During the trial, Jesus is silent but speaks eloquently to defend himself against the accusations. Actually, the evangelist wants to show that Jesus is the one who determines his own fate and not Pilate and the Jews. Pilate is confused as he talks to the Jews who are violent and noisy. He is equally confused as he listens to Jesus who speaks in a defined manner and with depth. In this sense actually Pilate was on trial, not Jesus. Jesus is judging and not being judged. This is the meaning of judgement in the Gospel of John which is introduced in John 3. When Pilate is seated in the judgement seat with Jesus in front of him as the accused and the Jews standing outside as accusers and co-judges with Pilate, the climax of the theme arrives. In fact, Jesus was judging both the Jews and Pilate.

The clarification of the central theme, Kingship of Jesus is given through the response of the Jews in reply to Pilate’s question: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Jn 18: 33). Jesus does not deny that he is King. But he clarifies the concept.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. In a worldly kingdom the servants will protect the king. Having a kingdom is not the sign of being a king. Jesus explains the purpose of his coming as witnessing to the truth. “Coming” refers to eschatological coming from the Father or the nature of the mission given by the Father to Jesus. God is the truth. Jesus reveals the truth by revealing the Father and by being the revelation of the Father. Those who belong to the kingdom are those who believe in Jesus and follow his Commandments or listen to his voice. Those who abide in Jesus belong to the Kingdom of God. Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” (Jn 18: 38), shows the confusion that he experiences. For the believer this is an irrelevant question because the answer has been revealed to him/her through the ministry of Jesus.

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