Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 21
The Judge on Trial
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 18
The eighteenth chapter of John dramatically depicts the interview between Pontius Pilate and the Lord Jesus Christ. Pilate moves with biting brevity and concealed sarcasm as revealed in his staccato-like barbs and questions throughout the interview: "Am I a Jew? Art Thou a King? What is truth?"
In contrast the Lord Jesus is seen moving in majesty and dignity before his earthy judge. Such was His bearing that though Pilate was to examine Him, the outcome of the interrogation was that prisoner and judge exchanged roles. Pilate is revealed in all the bankruptcy of his condition.
The presence of Christ revealed the moral weakness of Pilate. Convinced of the innocence of the man before him, Pilate nevertheless vacillated between acquittal and conviction, conciliation and accommodation. Righteousness was an element foreign to his decision making as he was faced with the most momentous decision of his life.
His spiritual indifference is no where more obvious than when in response to Christ’s claim to have come to bear witness to the truth, he retorts "What is truth?". Pilate is not interested in truth, spiritual or secular. These subjects may be interesting topics for
The search for truth carries the heavy price tag of responsibility.
conversation at social gatherings, but to actually search for truth is very uncomfortable. The search for truth carries the heavy price tag of responsibility.
Our chapter reveals more of the character of Pilate. Even a cursory reading will show you his inhuman cruelty, pride, opportunistic approach, and fear of public opinion. Our purpose however is not to dwell upon Pilate but to point out a principle: Men brought into the presence of God are revealed for what they are. The ultimate light of God’s nature searches out and manifests ultimate reality.
The... light of God's nature... manifests ultimate reality.
And familiar cases in the Bible substantiate this. Recall how Peter in Luke 5.8-10 said to Christ, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord". The Lord Jesus did not correct him as though he were guilty of undue exaggeration. Peter recognized the sinfulness of his own nature when in contact with Christ.
Isaiah, one of Israel’s greatest voices, pronounced woe after woe upon the moral degeneracy of his nation (Isa. 3-5). In the very next chapter, he has a vision of the Lord in His intrinsic holiness. His declaration now is "Woe is me, for I am undone..." Before Isaiah could speak for God, he did not visit a counsellor for guidance in the matter of self esteem. God cleansed him from his sin. His assessment was accurate. He needed cleansing not confidence.
The book of Job is familiar to all. Frequently read in schools and colleges for its literary value, it details the spiritual voyage of a man through his own soul. His conclusion is given in Job 42.5,6 : "Now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."
God’s desire is to bring us into the light of His presence that we might measure ourselves against Him. Sadly our natural instinct is to measure ourselves against each other , which Paul the apostle reminds us, is not wise (2Cor. 10.12). We need an ultimate standard to judge and evaluate. Men claim at times to measure themselves against God’s standard, yet it is a God of their own making; a God they have invented for themselves.
The proof of this lies in the Bible itself. It declares "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3.23. All men are declared to be deficient when brought into the
We need an ultimate standard to judge and evaluate.
light of God’s presence. It is here though that God is able to meet men and provide the salvation they need. By virtue of the sacrifice of Christ upon Calvary, God is able to forgive sins and provide men with pardon and justification, as no loss to His character.
The light of God’s presence reveals our sin and need. The love of God reveals the remedy He has provided in the blood of His Son.
"...Who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God." Rom. 4.25;5.1.