“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ ” John 18:37
In John 18:28-19:4, we are looking at different responses to Christ crucified. The first way is like the Jewish leaders, we may refuse to believe in Jesus because of our self-righteous religious pride (John 18:28-32).
The next possible way we may respond to the crucified Christ is seen in Pilate’s response to Jesus. LIKE PILATE, WE MAY REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS BECAUSE WE ARE TOO BUSY WITH LIFE TO TRULY LIVE (John 18:33-38a). In the following verses we see the majesty of Christ confront the proud majesty of Rome’s representative. After speaking to the religious leaders outside the Praetorium, “Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ ” (John 18:33). Pilate went back into Herod’s residence to question Jesus to see if He was a threat to Caesar. According to Luke 23:2, the religious leaders accused Jesus of three things: subverting the nation, opposing payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be “Christ, a King.” 1
Jesus answered Pilate’s question with a question. “Jesus answered him, ‘Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?’ ” (John 18:34). One commentator suggests that “Jesus seems to be giving Pilate a chance to develop personal spiritual interest in Him. ‘Are you speaking for yourself?’ If he were, this might well suggest Pilate would have received more revelation about Jesus and the life He gives.” 2
But Pilate was not interested in learning more about Jesus spiritually. He says to Christ, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” (John 18:35). When Pilate says, “Am I a Jew?” he is saying he has no personal interest in this matter. He sees it purely as an ethnic issue. Pilate wants to know what Jesus has “done” to stir up the Jews’ hatred toward Him.
Christ seems to answer Pilate’s earlier question about whether He was a King (John 18:33) when He says, “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.” (John 18:36). Jesus says, “Yes, I am a King.” But He assures Pilate that His “kingdom is not of this world” like Rome’s political kingdom. If it were of this world, Jesus would use the world’s methods to establish His kingdom, that is, His “servants would fight, so that… [He] should not be delivered to the Jews.”
Let’s think about this for a moment. The truth of the matter is that Jesus is the King of the Jews and He is also the King of the Romans. In fact, He is King of the entire universe!!! But the source of His authority and kingship is in heaven, not on earth. 3
Remember, one of Jesus’ “servants,” Peter, did fight in the Garden of Gethsemane and Christ rebuked him and healed the man Peter had wounded (John 18:10-11; Luke 22:51). But Peter was using worldly methods to establish a kingdom, not the methods of Jesus. This is a good reminder that if we are going to be Jesus’ servants, we have got to use His methods – not the methods of this world. Worldly methods “won’t work when your source is spiritual.” 4
When Jesus says, “but now My kingdom is not from here,” “this implies (especially the word now) that His being “delivered to [the will of] the Jews” is a necessary step toward His future rule as King of the Jews. One day Jesus’ kingdom will be on earth. However, that will be a revitalized world. It will not be ‘this world,’ a world whose god is Satan. In addition, Jesus will reign forever on the new earth (Revelation 21-22).” 5
Pilate realizes Jesus’ claim to kingship when he says to Christ, “Are You a king then?” (John 18:37a). Only a king would claim a kingdom. Ironically, Pilate recognized what the Jews refused to believe – that Jesus is Israel’s King. Christ confirms Pilate’s conclusion and proceeds to explain the nature of His mission and ministry. “Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ ” (John 18:37b). Jesus was “born” to be a King.
Jesus understood His purpose. Do we understand ours? God has a purpose for our lives that is complete in every detail. It is impossible for the God of the universe to allow any of His plans to be executed haphazardly. The life of Jesus is a prime example. His coming as a Babe in Bethlehem, His earthly ministry, His death and resurrection, all took place according to God’s eternal purpose. Christ was born for Kingship. He came to earth to reveal the truth about Himself.
Do you realize that your life, if you are a believer in Jesus, has been designed by your heavenly Father to fulfill a specific purpose? C.H. Spurgeon said, “But let us all do something for Christ. I will never believe there is a Christian in the world who cannot do something. There is not a spider hanging on the king’s wall but hath its errand; there is not a nettle that groweth in the corner of the churchyard but hath its purpose; there is not a single insect fluttering in the breeze but accomplisheth some divine decree; and I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank, and to be a nothing. He made you for an end. Find out what that end is; find our your niche, and fill it!” 6
Jesus said He “came into the world” to “bear witness to the truth” of His Person (cf. John 14:6). I believe Christ is appealing to Pilate to recognize His Divine Person when He says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” In the gospel of John, hearing Jesus’voice (John 5:25, 28, 37; 10:3-4, 16, 27) is “a metaphor for saving faith. It has the same sense here. The point is either that all who are now ‘of the truth’ have come to believe in Jesus, or that those who will be ‘of the truth’ will believe in Jesus (before they die).” 7 Christ sought Pilate’s salvation, not His own defense. He is saying to Rome’s representative, “Pilate, do you want to be a part of My spiritual kingdom? If so, listen to My voice – believe in Me.”
“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:38a). What did Pilate mean when he asked Jesus this? There are many possible interpretations. “Was it a wistful desire to know what no one could tell him? Was it philosophical cynicism concerning the problem of epistemology? Was it indifference to anything so impractical as abstract thought? Or was it irritation at Jesus’ response?” 8
“Sadly, Pilate’s question is repeated by this fallen postmodern world today. Many in our culture reject the notion of absolute truth. ‘Truth’ to them is relative—that is, what’s true for one person isn’t necessarily true for another. But this is preposterous. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. It’s not something that changes based on feelings or perspective. A person can deny that gravity is true, but if he decides to jump off a building to prove it, he’s going to find that truth doesn’t care about his feelings or perspective. Truth exists whether you embrace it or not.” 9
Less than twenty-four hours earlier, Jesus had said to His disciples, “I am… the truth” (John 14:6). All of us need absolute truth. And His name is Jesus Christ. The One Who is the embodiment of “truth” now stood before Pilate. 10 The One Who could best answer Pilate’s question about truth was standing before him. And what does Pilate do? “And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all.’ ” (John 18:38b). Pilate turns away from the One Who is “the truth,” instead of waiting for Jesus’ answer to his question.
Pilate represents people in the world today who are too busy with life to truly live. Imagine being in Pilate’s sandals. He experienced a close encounter with the Son of God. It was a great opportunity for Pilate to learn more about Jesus and put his faith in Him for the gift of salvation. But Pilate was interested in getting past this Jewish squabble so he could return to his own affairs. He asked Jesus, “What is the truth?” but he did not wait for Jesus’ answer. Instead he went out to the Jews. Jesus may have thought at that time, “Pilate, slow down so I can speak the truth to you.” Ironically and sadly, Pilate was too busy with life to live.
What about you? Are you moving at such a high speed that you are too busy to hear God’s voice? Have you slowed down enough to receive the never-ending life Jesus Christ freely offers to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26)? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). Apart from “the way,” there is no going to heaven. Apart from “the truth,” there is no knowing how to get to heaven. And apart from “the life,” there is no living in heaven.
Like Pilate, many people refuse to believe in Jesus because they are too busy with life to truly live. My friends, please don’t make that mistake because it has eternal consequences. Jesus spoke of one such man who was very wealthy and too busy with his own affairs here on earth to help a poor man named Lazarus (Luke 16:19-22). But the day came when both Lazarus and the rich man died. Lazarus represents those who believe in Jesus. When Lazarus died, God’s angels received him and took him to dwell in Paradise with God (Luke 16:22a). He did not die alone, but he died in the presence of God.
But the rich man represents those who do not believe in Jesus. When the rich man died, he was all alone – no family, no friends. When he died, he went immediately to a place called “torments in Hades” (Luke 16:22b-23). People who refuse to believe in Jesus during this life will go to this temporary holding place after they die until they receive their final judgment at the Great White Throne and are assigned to the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:11-15).
Jesus tells us that Abraham said to the rich man in torments in Hades, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” (Luke 16:25). This tells us that people in hell have the capacity to “remember” the events of this life and that they are forced to deal with those memories eternally. They will remember every gospel message they heard and rejected. They will remember how God manifested Himself in thousands of ways to draw them to Himself. They will remember and they will know that they have no one to blame for their situation but themselves!
If you have never believed in Jesus as your Savior, I wonder what you will remember when you get to hell? Will you remember this message? Will you remember all the Christians who witnessed to you and prayed for you? Will you remember how you wasted your life on temporary things and condemned your own soul to hell’s everlasting fire? Will you remember how busy you were and never took time to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ? Will you remember how good and gracious God was to you and how you rejected His great love?
You do not have to experience this kind of turmoil in eternity. Jesus invites you right now to come to Him as the embodiment of truth. And because He is “the truth,” you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47b). Do you believe this? If so, you now have His everlasting life.
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing Yourself to Pilate and to me. Like Pilate, I can be so busy with the affairs of life, that I do not take time to hear Your voice of truth. But I am now realizing that You are never too busy for me. You are always available to answer my questions and keep Your promises. I now believe that You are the only way to heaven because as the truth, You were the perfect and sinless sacrifice to pay the penalty for all my sins and then rise from the dead. You are the true God and eternal life. And as the life, You offer eternal life freely to those who believe in You. Right now, as best I know how, I am believing or trusting in You alone, Lord Jesus, to give me Your never-ending life so I can live eternally with You in Your coming kingdom on earth. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and for the place I will have in Your future kingdom on earth. Please use me now to advance Your spiritual kingdom by speaking the truth of You to those who are perishing without You. In Your marvelous name I pray. Amen.
1. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 686.
2. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 555.
3. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1820.
5. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 555.
6. C. H. Spurgeon’s January 11, 1857 message entitled “The War of Truth” at https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/the-war-of-truth/#flipbook/ .
7. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 556.
8. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 687.
9. Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 1820-1821.
10. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition, pg. 556.