“Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” John 18:28
A legend tells of an Irish king who disguised himself and went into the banquet hall of one of his barons. He was escorted to a lowly place among the throng who sat at the feast. The brilliance of his conversation and the nobility of his manner soon attracted the attention of someone with sufficient authority to escort him to a higher table. The same thing occurred again, and soon he was seated among the nobles of the realm. After another display of great wisdom, one of the lords spoke out, “In truth, Sir, you speak like a king. If you are not a king, you deserve to be one.” Then the king removed his disguise and took his rightful place among his subjects. 1
This is what should have happened when the eternal Creator God of the universe, Jesus Christ, set aside His glory in heaven, took on human flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14). Although Jesus was the Son of a carpenter from the despised town of Nazareth (Matthew 13:55; John 6:42), His words and works should have persuaded the Jews to understand that He was their promised Messiah and King. But the Jewish leaders were so blinded by the lies of their father, the devil (John 8:44), that even the incredible miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead only solidified their resolve to kill Jesus (John 11:45-53).
We are gong to look at several different responses to Christ crucified in John 18:28-19:4. Most likely you will be able to identify with one of these responses to Jesus. Christ’s words and works demand a response. One cannot remain neutral toward Jesus Christ. If you choose to ignore or dismiss Jesus, you decide against Him. Let’s look now at the first possible response to Christ crucified: LIKE THE JEWISH LEADERS, WE MAY REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS BECAUSE OF OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUS RELIGIOUS PRIDE (JOHN 18:28-32).
Luke informs us that the Sanhedrin had charged Jesus with blasphemy earlier (Luke 22:66-67) and they were intent on applying the death penalty to Him. But because these Jewish leaders did not have the legal right to put Jesus to death, the case had to be brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. In A.D. 6, Judea became a Roman imperial province ruled by a governor appointed by the emperor. 2 Normally, Pilate “lived in Caesarea (Acts 23:25), but stayed in Jerusalem during the Jewish festivals to be available to handle a crisis and maintain order. Pilate is described by his contemporary Philo (Legatio ad Gaium 3-1-2) and later by Josephus (Atiquities 18.55-59; Jewish Wars 2.169-77) as a greedy, inflexible, and cruel leader. He created much antagonism between himself and the Jews on” a number of occasions. 3
For example, “he and his soldiers brought standards into Jerusalem bearing the emperor’s image (Josephus Antiquities 18.55-59).” 4 According to Luke 13:1, Pilate’s soldiers killed “some Galileans while they were in Jerusalem offering sacrifices… Pilate used revenues from the Temple to construct an aqueduct to bring water to Jerusalem (Josephus Antiquities 18.60-62).” 5 As a result, Pilate did not have good relations with the Jewish people.
After Jesus’ trial before the Jewish authorities (cf. Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71), 6 John informs us, “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” (John 18:28). The “Praetorium” was the Roman governor’s official residence either at one of King Herod’s palaces in West Jerusalem or at the Antonia fortress northwest of the the Temple area. 7 The Jewish authorities stayed out of the palace to avoid becoming ceremonially unclean by entering a Gentile dwelling. Should they become ceremonially unclean they would not be able to participate in “the Passover.” 8 The reason Gentile houses were thought to be unclean by the Jews is because Gentiles were believed to throw abortions down the drains. 9
“Pilate then went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’ ” (John 18:29). Pilate wants to know what formal charges these Jews brought against Jesus. His question does not mean he was completely ignorant of Jesus’ affairs. Matthew tells us that Pilate “knew that they had handed Him over because of envy” (Matthew 27:18). Christ was stealing their following. Multitudes of people followed Jesus because He healed their sick and He taught them with authority, not as their scribes taught (Matthew 7:29). After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, “the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, ‘What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.’ ” (John 11:47-48). Jesus’ growing popularity threatened their grip on power. Rather than lose their positions of power, these religious leaders wanted Jesus to lose His life.
So “They answered and said to him, ‘If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.’ ” (John 18:30). The Jewish leaders’ answer was evasive. They had no charge that would stand up in a Roman court of law. They simply wanted Pilate to confirm their verdict without further examination. “Certainly we wouldn’t trouble you, Pilate, if Jesus were not a criminal,” these leaders are saying,“Trust us, Pilate.” But Pilate had enough issues of state to attend to without getting involved with a petty Jewish controversy. “Then Pilate said to them, ‘You take Him and judge Him according to your law.’ ” (John 18:31a). Assuming Jesus had violated some religious law or custom, Pilate instructed them to try Jesus by their own “law.” Pilate’s response demanded that these Jews clarify their request.
So they made it clear that they wanted an execution, not a fair trial. Yet they didn’t have the authority to inflict the death penalty, but the Romans did. “Therefore the Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,’ that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.” (John 18:31b-32). If Jesus was executed by the Sanhedrin, it meant death by stoning. But for Jesus to be tried in a Roman court meant death by crucifixion. John tells us that this “fulfilled” Jesus’ teaching earlier where He alludes to death by crucifixion (cf. John 3:14; 12:32-33).
Tragically these Jewish leaders had rejected God’s promised Messiah and were seeking to put to death an innocent Man, yet they were more concerned about being ceremonially unclean (John 18:28)! They failed to see that their wicked actions and intent toward Jesus already made them spiritually filthy! 10 They were more concerned about their image in front of people than the condition of their own hearts before a holy God.
Jesus taught earlier that it is what comes out of our hearts that defiles us, not what we eat (Mark 7:19-23) or I might add – what places we go to. The religious leaders were concerned about making themselves look good on the outside, but wickedness came from within them. Following customs and traditions cannot cleanse our sinful hearts. Only Jesus Christ, through His atoning work on the cross, can grant us forgiveness of sins and a transformed heart (Hebrews 10:16-18) that is in sync with God, enabling us to love Him and others. 11
Before we condemn these Jewish religious leaders, let’s take a look at our own hearts for a moment. Are we any different than these religious men? Have any of us refused to believe in Jesus because of our own self-righteous religious pride? Do we look at our own religious activities and conclude that we are better than others because they do not appear to be as good as we think we are? Do we think that our good life, prayers, or religion will gain us acceptance before God so we can enter His heaven? Are we offended when people suggest to us that we are sinners who need a Savior?
If so, we need to understand that pride can be so much a part of us we don’t recognize it for what it is. For example, a woman said to C. H. Spurgeon, “I have not sinned for some time.” He replied, “You must be very proud of it.” “Yes, indeed I am!” she rejoiced. 12 What about you? Are you proud in areas you don’t even recognize?
These Jewish religious leaders were. Their pride persuaded them to put God’s Messiah, an innocent Man, to death. They were so focused on Jesus and His growing popularity, that they were blind to their own sinfulness and need for Him.
A woman was dying, but she had lived a good moral life and had never felt she needed a Savior. But when a minister offered to come and talk with her, she allowed him to visit. The pastor explained the way of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Emphasizing that Jesus died for the sins of everyone in the world, including her, he urged her to trust the Savior.
The woman responded, “Do you mean to tell me that if I’m going to be saved, I have to come to God on exactly the same terms as anyone else – even the most wicked person in the world?”
“That’s right,” the pastor answered, “there’s only one way.” The woman thought for a moment and then declared, “Well, if that’s the case, I want no part of it!” (Our Daily Bread, 2000). 13 You may be like that woman. You see other people making mistakes, but not yourself. Don’t look at what the other person is doing, look at yourself. Be willing to say, “I have done wrong. I am a sinner.”
Like the religious leaders, we may need to understand that all the good things we do, say, or think cannot make us righteous before a holy God. The Bible says, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” (Isaiah 64:6 NASB). God looks at all the righteous deeds we have done and sees that they are all stained with sin. None of these “good things” can take away our sins.
We may have a tendency to compare our righteousness with the righteousness of other people and think we will go to heaven if ours is greater than theirs. But when God considers how sinful we have been, He compares us to the most perfect Person who ever lived, His Son Jesus Christ. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). The “glory of God” is Jesus Christ. Jesus never, ever told a lie. But we lie to ourselves and others daily. Christ never had one unkind thought. But we average a minimum of five a day. God’s Son never hated His enemies. But sometimes we can’t even stand the person we are married to or live with. So when it comes to behavior, in God’s eyes, we do not measure up. All of us fall short of God’s perfection and are guilty before Him.
Therefore, we must come to God the same way as any other sinner. Simply recognize we cannot save ourselves from sin’s penalty. But Jesus Christ can because He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead. Jesus is alive today and He invites us to believe in Him alone for His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 10:43). And the moment we do, His righteousness covers imperfect righteousness so God can accept us into His heaven.
The Bible says, “Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” (Romans 3:22). Just as there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles being guilty before God because “all are under sin” (Romans 3:1-9), there is also no difference in the way all people are “justified” (declared righteous) before God which is “through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe.” (Romans 3:22; cf. 3:21-26). The hand that receives God’s free gift of justification is “faith in Jesus Christ.” There is no other way to obtain a right standing before God.
Henry Ironside shares a helpful illustration about what it means to be justified before God. One morning on his way to a sheep ranch, he noticed a very peculiar sight. He saw an old ewe loping across the road followed by the strangest looking lamb he had ever seen. It seemed to have six legs, and the last two were hanging helplessly as though paralyzed. When one of the sheep ranchers caught the lamb and brought it over to Ironside, the rancher explained that the lamb did not really belong to that ewe. She had a lamb that was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. This lamb that Ironside saw was an orphan and needed a mother’s care.
But at first the ewe refused to have anything to do with it. She sniffed at it when it was brought to her, then pushed it away, saying as plainly as a sheep could say it, “That is not my lamb!” So the ranchers skinned the lamb that had died and covered the living lamb with the dead lamb’s skin. When the covered lamb was brought again to the ewe, she smelled it once more and accepted the lamb as her own as if to say, “That is Mine!”
Like that orphan lamb, all people are born as outcasts, separated from God because of our sin. But God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), died in our place on the cross and rose from the dead, so that when we believe or trust in Him alone, God can accept us into His family because He sees we are now clothed with the righteousness of His Son! He can say, “That is Mine!”
Prayer: Lord God, it is my tendency to avoid my own sin and shortcomings by focusing on the failures of others. I have convinced myself that I am better than others by the good things I think, say, or do. But You do not compare my righteousness with other people. You compare my righteousness with Your perfect Son, Jesus Christ. And I fall far short of His glory. All people are guilty sinners before a holy God. And therefore, I need Your perfect righteousness through faith in Jesus. As best I know how, I come to You right now as a guilty sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God Who died in my place for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting in Jesus alone (not my imperfect righteousness), to give me His gift of righteousness and everlasting life so I may be accepted into God’s heaven. Thank You, my Lord and God, for covering me with Jesus’ righteousness and giving me everlasting life. Thank You for declaring me totally righteous before You the moment I believed in Jesus. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.
1. Donald Grey Barnhouse,Let Me Illustrate (Grand Rapids: F. H. Revell Co., 1967), pp. 180-181.
2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 326-327.
3. Ibid, pg. 327.
6. Tom Constable, Notes on John (2017 Edition), pg. 332.
7. Ibid, pp. 332-333; Laney, pg. 327.
8. There seems to be a conflict between the Synoptic gospels which teach that the Last Supper was the Passover meal (Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Mark 14:1, 12, 14, 16; Luke 22:1, 7-8, 13, 15) and the gospel of John, which teaches that the Last Supper was not a Passover meal (John 13:1; 18:28; 19:14, 31-36). This apparent contradiction between the Synoptic gospels and the gospel of John can be resolved when we recognize that in Jesus’ day there were two systems of reckoning the day: from sunset to sunset (Exodus 12:18; Mark 4:27; 5:5; Luke 2:37) and from sunrise to sunrise (Genesis 1:14, 16; Deuteronomy 16:4; Matthew 28:1; Acts 4:3; 20:7-11; 23:32). The Galileans and Pharisees used the sunrise to sunrise reckoning. Thus, according to the Synoptics, the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Since this day was to be reckoned from sunrise, the Galileans, and with them Jesus and His disciples, had the Passover lamb slaughtered in the late afternoon on Thursday, Nisan 14 (cf. Exodus 12:6) and later that evening they ate the Passover with the unleavened bread. On the other hand, the Judean Jews who reckoned from sunset to sunset would slay the Passover lamb on Friday afternoon which marked the end of Nisan 14 and would eat the Passover lamb with unleavened bread that night which had become Nisan 15. Thus, Jesus had eaten the Passover meal when His enemies, who had not as yet had the Passover, arrested Him. This interpretation eliminates the difficulties presented in John’s gospel. First, this gives good sense to John 18:28 where the Jews did not want to enter the Praetorium so as not to be defiled since later that day they would slay the Passover lambs for those who reckoned from sunset to sunset. Second, John 19:14 makes sense for it says that Jesus’ trial and crucifixion were on the “day of preparation for the Passover” and not after the eating of the Passover. Third, this fits well with John 19:36 where it speaks of the fulfilment of the Old Testament (Exodus 14:26; Numbers 9:12) when no bones of Jesus, the Passover Lamb of God, were broken. After Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, He died when the Passover lambs were slain in the temple precincts.
9. Herbert Danby, The Mishnah (Oxford: Oxford Univ.: 1933), pg. 675, n. 10.
10. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1819.
11. Ibid., pg. 1602.
12. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publication, 2012), pg. 127.
13. Ibid, pg. 138.