Not-So-Subjective Truth: John 18:28-40

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Last week, we talked about Luke’s description of Jesus facing Pilate. In Luke’s gospel, we read that Pilate had two separate encounters with Jesus, with these two separate encounters being divided by Pilate sending Jesus to see Herod, and Herod sending Jesus back.

However, none of the other gospels include Jesus’ visit with Herod, and John’s gospel includes greater detail of Pilate’s conversation with both Jesus and the religious leaders. While we can only speculate where Herod’s visit occurred in what the gospels share about Jesus’ trial before Pilate, we know that what happened that morning was more detailed and nuanced than any of the gospel writers had space to include.

Last week, I speculated that John’s conversation between Jesus and Pilate could have occurred before Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, or it could have occurred after Jesus was sent back. But regardless of when Jesus was sent to visit Herod, let’s read what John’s gospel tells us about Jesus’ trial before Pilate and the conversation that takes place between Pilate and Jesus.

Our passage is found in the gospel of John, chapter 18, and we will be reading from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 28, John transitions away from Jesus’ trial before the religious leaders and onto His trial before Pilate by saying:

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

In this passage, I see something amazing take place. Up until Pilate references the Jewish custom about releasing a prisoner, Jesus is presumed to be innocent. While the religious leaders only brought Jesus to Pilate on the claim that He is guilty, Pilate has just stated his conclusion that there is no basis for a charge against Jesus, and we could add that there is no basis for a charge that is worthy of death.

However, Pilate, perhaps unknowingly, switches assumptions after sharing His conclusion. Up to this point, Pilate assumed and concluded that Jesus was innocent, but now Jesus is presumed as guilty and in need of being freed. Perhaps this switch in assumption is because a small group of religious leaders and temple guards bring Jesus to Pilate, and the assembly of Jews present Pilate believes are impartial observers.

But this is unlikely, because only 12 hours prior to this, Jesus was walking around as a free man. For most Jews present in Jerusalem, they would have gone to sleep believing Jesus to be free, and they would have woken up and headed into Jerusalem at around the point when Jesus was being led with a cross to Golgotha. The only Jews present for the trial before Pilate are the ones who were handpicked to be awake for Jesus’ trial in front of the religious leaders, and they would have logically followed Jesus to Pilate’s palace to aid in Jesus’ judgment on the state’s side.

Pilate incorrectly assumed Jesus’ guilt after stating that he did not find the case against Jesus was valid, and he incorrectly assumed the neutrality of the Jews present in his court to help him decide his case.

However, within Jesus’ conversation with Pilate is an interesting idea that Pilate doesn’t fully understand. Jesus avoids the description and title of king, while also describing Himself as having a kingdom. Like most people would, Pilate equates the possession of a kingdom as being equal to being a king, but Jesus separates the two.

Jesus also separates His kingdom from both the Jewish leaders and this world as a whole. This is worth paying attention to because it runs counter to everything we believe about earthly kingdoms, countries, and empires.

In this conversation with Pilate, Jesus reveals several profound ideas. First, Jesus has a kingdom, but this kingdom is from a place that is not this world. This revelation should both ease tension between Christians and those focused on holding political power, but while doing so, it should also raise tension between Christians and other people who do not want to acknowledge a world other than the one we live in.

Jesus did not come to upset the political powers of the empire He lived in, and He did not call His followers to do this either. The idea that Christians should seek political influence is not found in the teachings of Jesus. While Christians can be promoted to political offices, this should always be secondary in relation to their service to Christ.

However, with this idea shared, Jesus also shares that His mission into this world is to testify to the truth. Jesus says that those who are interested in learning truth will listen to Him. Pilate, like many people living the post-Christian, post-modern world today, scoffed at Jesus claiming to have a handle on truth, especially when the concept is so subjective to so many people.

However, this is what Jesus claimed, and while Pilate rejected Jesus’ claim that He was on the side of truth, if we call ourselves followers of Jesus, we should be willing to side with the truth that Jesus taught above everything else that people today claim is truth. As followers of Jesus, His Word should supersede any claim of truth from anywhere else in culture, regardless of how loud, dominant, or widespread a theory or claimed fact is. If Jesus validates an event, idea, or fact, we can trust in it regardless of what culture says.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to place His truth above truth that the world claims it has, and to trust in His promises regarding our present lives, and the future, eternal lives He has promised to those who place their belief, faith, and trust in Him.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As always, be sure to seek God first and use Jesus’ Word as the filter for everything you see in the world today. Don’t let any idea, assumption, or secular idea take the place of the foundation of Truth that Jesus has called His followers to accept. When we side with Jesus, we accept the truth that He teaches, and this truth is as true today as it was yesterday and as true as it will be tomorrow. Jesus’ truth is truth for eternity.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, pray and study the Bible for yourself, personally, and let God, through the Holy Spirit, teach and lead you into the truth He wants you to learn. Open the Bible with a prayer requesting for the Holy Spirit to teach you, and then let the Holy Spirit open your mind to the truth about God. Don’t let anyone get in the way of you learning from God through the pages of His Word.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or let the world push you away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of the Cross – Episode 40: During His conversation with Pilate, we discover some amazing things about who Jesus is, what He came to accomplish, and where His kingdom is located. We also discover, through the response he gives Jesus that Pilate has a lot in common with our culture today.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Jesus Met the Standard: Matthew 22:1-14

Focus Passage: Matthew 22:1-14 (NIV)

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Read Matthew 22:1-14 in context and/or in other translations on!

Have you ever wondered if God expects us to measure up to a standard?

Or, have you ever thought that Jesus came, met God’s standard, and because of this, we don’t have to think about standards, or how we live anymore?

In Jesus’ parable within this entry’s passage, we find an answer to these questions. The parable here in Matthew shares a similar storyline with another one of Jesus’ parables recorded in Luke 14:7-24. However, since the setting Jesus was in was different when He shared Luke’s version, and because the punch-line conclusion is also different, we will look at Matthew’s version of this parable separately from Luke’s. Also, Matthew’s version includes the character we will be focusing on in this entry.

After the banquet hall is full, the king decides to mingle with the last-minute guests attending, and to His disbelief, He finds one who is not wearing wedding clothes. How disrespectful is that!?

However, what happens when we look deeper at the other details about these attendees.

The original invitees rejected their invitation, so the King sent servants out to gather anyone who wanted to come. These last-minute invitees would not have had time to go home to get changed; some might not have even known where the King was hosting this party.

So the implied conclusion is the King had wedding clothes ready for those who came who did not have any. Not only was the invitation free, so was the attire. The barrier to entry into this feast is really simply just showing up and getting dressed.

But somehow, a guest gets inside who is not wearing wedding clothes. Perhaps he rejected the gift of the clothes, or perhaps he simply thought they were unnecessary and that his current clothes were good enough, but in the end, he is thrown out.

Who is at fault here: the king for throwing out a guest who wouldn’t conform or the guest who rejects the free gift and singles himself out?

Many might point to this parable and say the guest is at fault, but if this is the case, then these people are also admitting God has a standard, and that not everyone’s perspective about God is correct. This guest had the perspective that wedding clothes were not necessary, but with this choice, he also made the choice to be thrown out.

Some people might live with the thought that everyone will be included in the banquet, and it doesn’t matter what someone believes, thinks, or does. In this line of thinking, the King is at fault for being unreasonable: He invites people at the last minute, but then requires something from them. However, this belief clearly misses not only the reality that everything needed to enter the banquet was free and provided, but also that even before the banquet hall filled up, there were a number of people who rejected the invitation and who were also excluded.

In this parable, Jesus teaches us there is a standard, but also that Jesus met the standard, and He gives us the results of His success – free wedding clothes. But we still have the choice whether to accept His gift, or reject it.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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The One Who Knows You Best: Luke 10:21-24

Focus Passage: Luke 10:21-24 (GNT)

21 At that time Jesus was filled with joy by the Holy Spirit and said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank you because you have shown to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned. Yes, Father, this was how you were pleased to have it happen.

22 “My Father has given me all things. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then Jesus turned to the disciples and said to them privately, “How fortunate you are to see the things you see! 24 I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not.”

Read Luke 10:21-24 in context and/or in other translations on!

Tucked away in a prayer Jesus shared within the earshot of His disciples is a very powerful and profound statement. While we are quick to focus on the second side of the idea Jesus shared, the first side is really just as powerful – perhaps even a little more.

In verse 22, Luke records Jesus saying, “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

We tend to focus our understanding of this verse on how Jesus is the only way we can truly know the Father, and while this is completely true, this truth comes as the second half of the big statement. When setting up this statement, Jesus shares how the only One who truly knows Him is God the Father. The disciples had spent lots of time with Him, and of those on earth, they probably knew Him the best, but their knowledge was nothing like the knowledge God the Father in heaven had.

This huge idea extends to everyone alive today and to everyone who has ever lived – and that includes you and me. While your friends, family, and other significant people in your life know you, their knowledge of you is nothing compared to God the Father’s knowledge of you. God even knows you better than you know yourself. This means that He knows your thoughts, your hopes, your dreams, your mistakes, your anger, your passion, and really every other thing you have ever thought, said, done, and/or forgotten.

And even with all this knowledge, God still loves you. We know this because Jesus came to this earth to give His life for people like you and me. While humanity was actively sinning, Jesus came to show us that God still loves us.

God knows us better than we know ourselves and He has chosen to love each of us regardless of our mistakes. The only question that remains is whether we will accept His love and love Him back, or if we choose to reject the gift He has freely offered to us.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — Close to the Kingdom: Mark 12:28-34

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During the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, it seems as though all the various groups of religious leaders collectively decided that now was the time to trap Jesus with His own words. Near the end of their challenges, after a religious group known as the Sadducees had given their challenge, the gospel of Mark tells us that one of the teachers of the law had a question for Jesus.

From this teacher’s question, it is unclear if other teachers sent him with this question, or if he had been present earlier in Jesus’ ministry when another leader asks a very similar question, but whatever this teacher’s background, the reaction he gives to Jesus’ response is powerful.

Let’s look a little closer at what happened and at what was said. This event can be found in the gospel of Mark, chapter 12, and we will be reading from the New International Reader’s Version. Starting in verse 28, Mark tells us that:

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard the Sadducees arguing. He noticed that Jesus had given the Sadducees a good answer. So he asked him, “Which is the most important of all the commandments?”

29 Jesus answered, “Here is the most important one. Moses said, ‘Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 And here is the second one. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There is no commandment more important than these.”

32 “You have spoken well, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one. There is no other God but him. 33 To love God with all your heart and mind and strength is very important. So is loving your neighbor as you love yourself. These things are more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 Jesus saw that the man had answered wisely. He said to him, “You are not far from God’s kingdom.” From then on, no one dared to ask Jesus any more questions.

What stands out to me most in this conversation is that this teacher responds in a way that validates Jesus’ response. In this passage, we hear Jesus give an answer, then it is a little surprising that this teacher backs up Jesus’ response and agrees with Jesus’ words rather than following up with another question or idea to challenge Him.

Part of me wonders who this teacher was, and if this teacher may have been one of the secret Jesus-followers present in the religious elite. The phrase that stands out most in my mind is that this teacher concludes his remarks by saying that loving God and our neighbors are, “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices”.

Earlier, this same question regarding the most important commandment had prompted Jesus to share a parable related to identifying who our neighbor truly is. In that case, it appeared that the question regarding the most important commandment was simply a set up question for the real one about defining who our neighbor is.

However, in this event, it seems that this teacher was truly interested in focusing the attention of everyone present onto the characteristic of love, and it seems as though Jesus was happy to do this.

Even though the teacher successfully shifted the focus onto the key portions of the law and commandments, Jesus comments at the close of this conversation in verse 34 that this teacher is “not far from God’s kingdom”. On the surface, it appears that everything this teacher asked, said, and replied to was correct in Jesus’ eyes, but even with the right answer, Jesus still implies that this man is still has not found God’s kingdom. Close to God’s kingdom is good, but it’s better to be included in God’s kingdom.

From looking at the nuances included in this passage, I can come up with two things this teacher may have missed prior to this conversation with Jesus that would have led to Jesus stating that he still needed something more to make it into God’s kingdom.

The first is that this teacher had all the right answers, but nothing is implied or stated that said this teacher followed through with his love for God and his love for his neighbor with tangible action. Having the right answers is great, but they don’t mean anything when faced with reality. In my mind, Jesus might be challenging this teacher to live the life that is being described. While the teacher has said that loving God and others is more important than even sacrifices, Jesus may have known that this teacher had been poorly modeling this attitude in his own life. Love is only as valuable as it is visible and helpful to others. Love that is hidden does not have any value in the big picture.

The second thing that I could see Jesus implying with His comment that this teacher was not far from God’s kingdom is that all that was left for this teacher was to accept Jesus as his substitute and to make the commitment to put his hope, trust, faith, and belief in Him. Another way to say this is that it does not matter how much we say we love others, or how much we love God. The key thing that matters is that we have placed Jesus first in our life.

The most loving person in the world who has rejected Jesus will still be lost when faced with the judgment. This is because there is nothing we can do, say, act, or pay that will get us into God’s kingdom on our own merit. Instead, the way into God’s kingdom is by accepting Jesus into our hearts and lives, and perhaps, in the case of this religious teacher, he was not far from God’s kingdom because he was on the verge of accepting Jesus into His heart and life.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

If you have not accepted Jesus into your heart and life, now would be a great time to do so. We accept Jesus into our hearts when have the realization that nothing we do can earn our own salvation, and we make the commitment to depend on Jesus 100% for our eternity. We then choose to live moving forward with the faith that Jesus has taken care of our past, and that He has secured our future, and that everything we do today is done as our way of saying “Thank You” for giving us the gift we truly don’t deserve.

Also, as I always include in these challenges, be sure to continue study the Bible for yourself in order to grow and strengthen your personal relationship with God and Jesus. When we have a strong connection with God, we will be able to clearly see Him working in our lives, and we will be more in touch with His will for each of us.

And as I always end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 39: Cam discusses a religious teacher’s question for Jesus, and what we can learn from their conversation about what the greatest commandment is for God’s followers.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.