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John 18:33-37 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 13 mins 33 secs

Pilate and God Consciousness; John 18:37

John 18:37 NASB "Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, "You say {correctly} that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice'. [38] Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?' And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, 'I find no guilt in Him. [39] But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?' [40] So they cried out again, saying, 'Not this Man, but Barabbas.' Now Barabbas was a robber."

Pilate gives the Jews a choice. They can either crucify Jesus or Barabbas. Barabbas was a known criminal and was hated by many Jews. He was responsible for many crimes and so Pilate picked Barabbas because he figured well, who could be worse than Barabbas? Yet the crowd turned the tables on him and they chose Barabbas. That reminds us that you can never compromise with hatred or with any form of mental attitude sin. Guilt reaction, shame, anger, whatever it may be, if you cater to it in your own life or in someone else then you will eventually lose. Compromise is never the path to success when absolutes are involved. This compromise is one of mere political expediency and shows us once again that political expediency always destroys leadership. True leadership means that you take a stand for absolutes no matter what the consequences might be. Instead of taking a stand for the objectivity of Roman law Pilate wavered because he had not basis for absolutes in his own soul. His attempted compromise did not save him from disaster; in fact it precipitated that disaster.

Two years later Pilate put down a revolt in Samaria and that incurred the anger of his superior, Vitellus, who was the Syrian governor. Vitellus brought Pilate up on charges of incompetence and he had to go to Rome to defend himself. At this particular time Tiberius was dying and by the time Pilate got to Rome Tiberius, who was his benefactor, had died and Caligula became emperor. Caligula hated Pilate so by the time Pilate got to Rome he knew that his days were numbered and that Caligula would find him guilty, so in order to avoid the disgrace of a trial he killed himself. The interesting thing about all of this is that in his lifetime Pilate regarded the innocence of Jesus something that was not significant, but in his death it was that "insignificance" of Jesus that became the basis for his eternal punishment. Pilate condemned an innocent man to death on the cross but because of that death on the cross Pilate himself became condemned. That is the basis for John 3:18.

John 18:33 NASB "Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' [34] Jesus answered, 'Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?'" Here Jesus is focusing on Pilate's internal dynamics. Jesus as God knows the answer. He is going to make it clear. God always makes clear the reason for a person's loss of salvation. He is going to make it clear that Pilate has had every opportunity to respond positively to the gospel but that his condemnation is based on his own negative volition. So he asks him, "Are you saying this on your own initiative?" In other words, have you figured this out after all this interview, that there are some greater spiritual dynamics going on here than all these trumped up charges by the Jews, or are you simply carrying out your function as a magistrate and are not interested in finding out the significance of King of the Jews at all? Are you really personally interested in the answer to that question or are you simply carrying out your duties as a magistrate. Pilate's answer reveals his own negative volition to the gospel.

John 18:35 NASB "Pilate answered, 'I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?'" By his answer, "I am not a Jew, am I?" he is basically saying, I really don't care. It is none of my business and I am not interested in all of this theological squabbling that is going on. As he interviews Christ what we see is that he clearly understands that Jesus is claiming that His kingdom is not of this world, that it is merely a spiritual kingdom. He understands the spiritual nature of the kingdom but he doesn't understand its implications. He is just simply carrying out his basic function as an administrator, he is not at all concerned about spiritual things.

Pilate has not interest whatsoever in spiritual things. He understands the nature of what Jesus is saying, that His kingdom is not of this world, but he doesn't understand its implications and he doesn't want to understand its implications. He is an unbeliever and as an unbeliever, according to 1 Corinthians 2:14, he is unable to understand spiritual things. Anyone who was really positive would begin to ask questions to try to understand some things and seek some information about God on their own. Once he understand what Jesus is saying he has basically two options. The first is to use the objectivity of Roman law to get Jesus off and have Him declared innocent and not executed. Or he could be curious enough to determine why the Jews are really so interested in killing Jesus. But he has no interest whatsoever. If Pilate had had some level of positive volition it is possible that he could have been saved.

Pontius Pilate in his childhood would at some stage have reached the age of God-consciousness, and when he did he obviously went negative. As a result of that scar tissue built up on his soul (hardness of heart) so that when he finally was confronted with the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Saviour of the world, he had no interest whatsoever. Pilate is a typical example of the heathen. What do we mean by heathen? The heathen are those who either have never allegedly heard the gospel or are in a culture where the gospel is not readily present or available. Heathen culture is defined as a culture of negative volition, either those who don't know or don't understand the gospel. Pilate has completely rejected God, he has no interest in knowing about spiritual things, no concern, and he never asks any questions.

John 18:36 NASB "Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm'." He uses an argument here to demonstrate that He has a different agenda, it is not a physical-political agenda, and that He is not fighting against Rome. This does convince Pilate but he is on the horns of a dilemma and seeks another way out.

John 18:37 NASB "Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say {correctly} that I am a king. For this I have been born…" He uses a perfect tense here to emphasise the present reality of a past action: the perfect active indicative of ginao [ginaw] indicating that His birth was significant. By entering into history the eternal God was going to provide a perfect solution to mankind. "… and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice'." Jesus Christ bore witness to the truth, first of all by His miraculous birth through a virgin conception and virgin birth in His entrance into human history. A second way in which He bore witness to the truth was in His humanity. He developed His spiritual life; He learned doctrine. We know from Luke 2:52 that He grew with respect to the knowledge of God. In His humanity Jesus Christ had to learn doctrine. He had to learn the Word of God and apply the Word of God to grow spiritually, just like every believer.

"Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice," that is, everyone who is positive to God hears His voice and will respond to Him. Obviously Pilate is not positive.

John 18:38 NASB "Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?'  And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, 'I find no guilt in Him'." We know that when Pilate says, What is truth? He is not saying, Okay let's discuss this. What do you mean? He is not asking the question that way. It is a rhetorical, question probably dripping with sarcasm because he doesn't stay around for an answer, he just turns around and walks out. He has rejected because of negative volition at God-consciousness. Once you reject an absolute in the universe the only thing that you can have is relativism in your soul. So Pilate no longer believes in truth, he does not believe in any absolutes, and so when he hears what Jesus says he rejects that and walks off.

This brings up a question related to those who have never heard. Pilate heard, but what about those who have never heard? First we need to clarify the question. The question is not what about those who have never heard? The question is, what about those who allegedly or apparently never heard? Because what the Scripture says is that everybody has had the same opportunity and the same chance to be positive towards God. Romans 1:18 NASB "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, [19] because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." What Paul is asserting is that every single human being has the same evidence before them that God exists, and that this evidence is so strong, so powerful and so overwhelming that everyone knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists. They reach a stage of God-consciousness where they are aware that God exists. [20] "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." In other words, God has revealed Himself lucidly to every single human being. No one can say to God: "I didn't know you existed." The non-verbal witness, the general revelation of God, is so clear that no one has any excuse. [21] "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart [the thinking of their soul] was darkened." What are they doing? The are suppressing, they are volitionally involved in suppressing the truth of God's existence in unrighteousness.

The definition of the problem is that it is not about those that never heard but those who allegedly never heard, who apparently never heard. There is enough historical evidence to suggest that there has never been someone who never heard. Our problem is historical ignorance. Biblical evidence: Acts 17:6, Colossians 1:6, and 1 Timothy 3:16 emphasise that the entire world, even during the apostolic period, was being evangelised.

We have to understand the essence of God. God is absolute righteousness and justice, which means that God's dealings with mankind are always based on absolute fairness. He is sovereign, which means that He is in control of human history and He can take the gospel to wherever He wants the gospel to go. So if anyone expresses positive volition at God-consciousness God is going to make sure they get the gospel. God is eternal, which means that for all eternity He has known about every circumstance, every situation in human history, and can make provision for it. He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, which means that he is able to get the gospel to people wherever it needs to go.

When we talk about What about the heathen? We need to realise that in that definition heathen are those who don't know the gospel or who have rejected God at God-consciousness. The doctrine of unlimited atonement means that Christ died for every single human being on earth and that it is God's desire to save everyone who will respond positively to the gospel. So God in His omniscience knows who will respond positively to the gospel and he makes sure that they get the information necessary in order to be saved.

Pilate was negative at God-consciousness and even when he had the King of kings and Lord of lords in His presence he was unconcerned and uninterested, and he dismissed Him with the sarcastic question: What is truth? He went out to the Jews and said he found no guilt in Him. He had enough objectivity to realise that Jesus Christ was innocent but he did not understand who He was and His person. So he tried then the path of expediency and an ultimate solution, hoping that this would get him off the hook, and he offered to them a criminal in place of the innocent Jesus. The Jews turned the table on him and chose Barabbas instead of Christ.