Away With Him, Away With Him!
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
Preached in PCC Worship Service, 5 November 2017
Part 1 of 3

We are continuing with our study of repeated names and words/phrases in the Bible. In our next three articles, we will be looking at John 18:28-19:16, where in 19:15, we read these words, “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him…”  

This passage begins with Jesus being led from the house of Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters, and it ends with Jesus being led away for crucifixion.

The passage unfolds in six different scenes:

·  Scene 1: Pilate questions the prosecution (18:28-32)

·  Scene 2: Pilate questions Jesus (18:33-38)

·  Scene 3: Pilate questions the crowd (18:39-40)

·  Scene 4: Pilate presents a beaten Jesus to the crowd (19:1-8)

·  Scene 5: Pilate questions Jesus again (19:9-11)

·  Scene 6: Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd again and hands Him over for crucifixion (19:12-16)  

Scene 1: 
Pilate Questions the Prosecution 
(Jn 18:28-32)

Verse 28 tells us that the Jews brought Jesus to Pilate’s headquarters in Jerusalem early in the morning, probably at around 6 am. On arriving, the Jewish authorities refused to enter the judgment hall of Pilate, the reason being they did not want to defile themselves and become disqualified from eating the Passover.

Jewish tradition regarded entering the building or dwelling place of a Gentile as a ceremonially unclean thing, and so they chose to remain outside in the courtyard. This is ironic because the Jews took elaborate precautions to avoid ceremonial pollution in order to eat the Passover, but they had no difficulty with becoming morally polluted by falsely accusing someone and manipulating the judicial system in order to secure His death!

Furthermore, the Lord Jesus is the very fulfilment and substance of the whole Passover feast, which was but a type and shadow. Christ is THE Passover lamb that the people of old were looking forward to. The feast itself was but an empty shell without Christ. And so the irony is that the Jews wanted to observe and partake of the Passover but at the same time, they wanted to put to death the very One to whom the Passover pointed!

But of course, they saw nothing ironic in their actions since they had become so hardened in their hearts and blinded by unbelief that they could not see that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed their Messiah.

In verse 29, Pilate goes out to them since they would not go in, and he asked them, “What accusation bring ye against this man?” They replied by saying that if he were not an evildoer; they would not have delivered him over to him. The Jews were hoping that Pilate would ratify the trial proceedings and the final judgment of the Sanhedrin concerning Jesus and proceed with the execution. And so they must have been rather disappointed when Pilate would not confirm their judgment and order the death sentence but instead orders a new trial and a fresh hearing in his presence. 

Pilate was not convinced that the Jews had a legitimate case. And he was probably quite annoyed with the way they answered him. And so he said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” To which the Jewish authorities replied, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” They were pressing Pilate for the death penalty, which they could not carry out since the Romans alone retained the power of execution at that time.

In verse 32, John says, “That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.” Now consider the significance of this statement: if the Jews had the legal authority to execute Jesus, they would not have gone to the Romans and Jesus would not have been put to death by crucifixion. The Jews would have carried out their execution by stoning. But according to the scriptures, particularly Psalm 22, and John 12, Jesus had to be crucified and not stoned. John 12:32-33 says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.”

Now the Jews couldn’t care less which method of execution was used. They turned to the Romans not because they specifically wanted Him crucified but simply because they had no legal authority to execute. The point in John saying all this is that even the method of His death was determined and directed by God. Not stoning or being pushed off the cliff or any other method but crucifixion. Again, this is a reminder that the death of Christ was no accident or human tragedy. God was ordering all things to come to pass according to His divine will and plan.

This brings us then to scene 2 where Pilate questions Jesus.

Scene 2:
Pilate Questions Jesus
(Jn 18:33-38)

So having spoken with the accusers of Jesus outside his headquarters, Pilate goes back in and questions Jesus. “Art thou the king of the Jews?” he asked, and the reason why he asked that question was because the Sanhedrin had charged Jesus with treason or political rebellion against Rome. They wanted to impress Pilate with how dangerous this man was and thus to bring down the death penalty on Him. But remember that that was not what they had charged Him with in their own court earlier on. They had earlier accused Him of blasphemy but before Pilate, they shifted their accusation from a religious one to a political one in order to achieve their goal of having Him killed. The Jews were willing to go to any length to destroy Jesus. Such was their enmity against Him.

The Lord responded to Pilate’s question in verse 34, “Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?” In other words, did Pilate’s question originated from himself or from the Sanhedrin. Jesus could not answer the question with a simple yes or no unless He first established what Pilate meant by it. If the question arose from Pilate, then perhaps He could lead him to a better and deeper understanding of who He was and what He had come to do. But if Pilate was simply repeating what the Sanhedrin had said, then Pilate was already so misled that major clarification was needed if Jesus was to answer truthfully at all.

Well, Pilate was indignant and said, “Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?” Pilate really couldn’t be bothered with the dispute between Jesus and the Sanhedrin since it had to do with their own Jewish religion. Nevertheless, he was also not convinced that the Sanhedrin was justified in bringing those charges against Jesus and so he wanted to hear from Jesus Himself what was going on.  

The Lord then replied Pilate, “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.”

What Jesus was saying is that He was indeed a king, but He was not that kind of king that they were thinking of. If He were that kind of king, then his followers would fight for Him to the death and protect Him from arrest. But that was not the case. Instead, His kingdom is of a different nature and character. It is not of this world.

This means at least two things. First it does not originate or have its source in this world. Christ did not obtain His kingdom by popular vote or by physical or earthly succession or by other means. Rather, His kingdom has a heavenly origin. He obtained it directly from His Heavenly Father. But second, His kingdom operates on different principles from the kingdoms of this world. The kingdom of Christ does not advance by the power of the sword or by physical force. Rather, it advances by the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Now please understand that Christ is not saying that because His kingdom is not of this world, therefore it has nothing to do with the physical and temporal realm or that it will have no effect or impact on this world that we are living in. We just need to think about the 2nd and 3rd petitions of the Lord’s Prayer to know that that is not so. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”

Furthermore, the LORD, in His Great Commission, calls the church to go into all the world and disciple the nations and to teach them to observe and obey everything that He has commanded. When people everywhere begin to truly observe all the words of Christ, you can be sure that the world will be reformed and transformed in every area of life.

Pilate then asked Jesus, “Art thou a king then?” He gathered from the Lord’s earlier statement about having a kingdom that He was implicitly claiming to be a king. He wanted to make sure that that was indeed what Jesus was saying, so he asked “you are a king, then?” The Lord replied, “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.”

The Lord’s statement in verse 36 was a negative one explaining what His kingdom is not. Here in verse 37, He gives a positive statement about what it is. One of the reasons for His coming into this world is so that He might be a king, and as a king, He testifies to the truth. In other words, Christ is saying that His kingdom is a kingdom of truth and one of the ways He exercises His kingship is by testifying to the truth. It is by the truth that His kingdom advances and conquers and defeats the enemy. And all those who are of the truth, that is, all the citizens of the kingdom of truth, will hear His voice.

So to summarize what Christ is saying in these two verses: negatively, His kingdom is not advanced by force or violent upheaval. It is not the kind of kingdom that the Jews were accusing Him of and that would pose a threat to the Roman Empire. But positively, His kingdom has to do with the truth – the preaching and believing of it.

Pilate then said, “What is truth?” Now the question we need to ask is, “Was Pilate asking this question in a sincere way and truly desiring to find out more?” Or was he asking it in a cynical and mocking way as if to say “who knows what the truth is anyway?”

Most probably it is the second. Pilate was not interested in knowing and finding out the truth. He was far more concerned about making sure that a riot didn’t break out during this crucial time that might threaten his political career and position as governor.   

But his question “What is truth?” is another instance of irony in this passage. Pilate, as the governor and judge, had been charged with the task of determining the truth of the matter but he casually dismisses the relevance of truth in his judgment hall. “What’s truth? Or Who cares about the truth?”

And even more ironic is the fact that he dismisses the relevance of truth in the very presence of the One who IS the truth. Here standing before him was no less than the eternal Logos or wisdom of God in human flesh. Here is the very embodiment of truth itself. Christ had earlier said in John 14:6, “I am the Truth.” And so Truth itself was standing right in front of him but he could still ask the question, “What is truth?” How ironical!

But Pilate was spiritually blinded to the truth. He was not of the truth. He was not one of the sheep of Christ. He was not one of the citizens of the kingdom of truth, and thus he could not hear the voice of truth speaking before him.  

Then having asked, “What is truth?” Pilate immediately went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find in him no fault at all.” He recognized that Jesus was innocent of the charge of treason and insurrection. Instead, He was really the victim of a Sanhedrin plot to destroy Him.

The kind of king that Jesus was and the kind of kingdom that He ruled over was of no concern at all to the Romans. The Romans were only worried about kings that drew the physical sword and led a hostile campaign against them. And so Pilate plainly informed the Jewish leaders that Jesus was faultless and that there was no basis for their charge against Him.

Now at this point in terms of the chronology of events based on all the four gospels, Pilate actually sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, to be tried. We read of that in Luke 23. And like Pilate, Herod found no fault with Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate. 

So with Jesus back in his court, Pilate goes before the Jews yet again. This brings us to the third scene where Pilate questions the crowd…


… to be continued

—Linus Chua