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John 18:28-40 Study Guide: My Kingdom is Not From This World

Community Group Study Guide — My Kingdom is Not From This World
John 18:28-40

Study Information:
Throughout this section of the Gospel of John we’ve been learning about God the Son on trial before the religious and political leaders. John wants us to understand that Jesus was innocent and the trials were unjust and yet Jesus went forward for us and our salvation. We continue to learn that Jesus was innocent as the Jewish leaders fail to bring a credible charge against him and as Pilate assessed that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death. In order to try and free Jesus from these accusations, Pilate gave the crowd an opportunity to have a prisoner released. The crowd chose the actual criminal, Barabbas to go free which demonstrated the gospel in that Jesus took the place of the sinner. 

Jesus Before Pilate
John 18:28-38
The religious leaders took Jesus from the home of Annas, the former high priest, to the home of Caiaphas who was the current high priest. What is notable is that we do not get any insight from John into what happened at Caiaphas’ home, all we know is that it went from night to early morning which means Jesus has been kept up all night and was sleep deprived.

The religious leaders brought Jesus to Pilate because they were seeking the death penalty and they were not allowed to execute anyone under Roman law, only the Romans could do that. Notice a few things, first, Pilate asked them about the crimes Jesus had supposedly committed and they gave a vague answer of “he was doing evil, that is why we brought him here (John 18:30).” Second, the Jews had their own courts and systems of judicial review (John 18:31). There was some level of autonomy and ways to punish religious offenders, but they brought him to Pilate because they sought the death of Jesus and that went outside their jurisdiction. 

Pilate comes across as both cunning and fearful in the gospels. The job of the governor of Judea was not an easy one, Pilate was tasked with keeping the peace in a really unsettled and unruly area of the Roman empire. At times he governed with an iron first, but we also see moments like this where he moved to appease the crowds and had to navigate their accusations that Jesus was leading a revolt against Caesar. At the same time, he did not think that Jesus had committed a crime, especially one worthy of death (John 18:38). The crowds claimed Jesus as king, the religious leaders presented him as an opponent to Caesar, and Pilate was caught in the middle of those accusations and justice. If Jesus was a Roman citizen it would be unlikely he would have been tried and executed, but it became more expedient for one man to die than to face the uprising that would follow if Pilate had released Jesus (John 11:50). 

Was Jesus a king? That was Pilate’s central question. Pilate asked Jesus directly and Jesus replied “Do you say this of your own accord or did other say it to you about me?” and “you say that I’m a king” (John 18:34, 37). Jesus did not deny his kingship, but at the same time he did not claim kingship in the way the world thinks of kingship, which is likely why he did not come out and say “I am the true and rightful king.” Rather, Jesus said “my kingdom is not from this world (John 18:36).” If Jesus was leading a worldly kingdom he would have fought back, gathered and army and pursued worldly power, but his kingdom is otherworldly. Jesus was about doing something more than creating a physical kingdom on earth, he came to bear witness to the truth and claimed himself to be “THE” truth. His kingdom was about reconciling people to God, undoing the effects of sin, death and the devil and giving people freedom from the power of sin. Pilate could not wrap his mind around this and asked one of the more famous questions of the gospel of John “what is truth?” We can think of this from a contemporary lens and view Pilate as a philosopher or a postmodern person who denied absolute truth, but that would be to miss the irony that he was face to face with truth and failed to see Him. 

Jesus Condemned, the Criminal Went Free
John 18:39-40
We know from other gospels that Pilate sought Jesus’ release when he offered up a prisoner to go free. Pilate presented two options, “the King of the Jews” or Barabbas who was a “robber.” Likely Barabbas was the ring leader of the two other thieves who were crucified to Jesus’ right and left. The word “robber” is soft word for what Barabbas actually was. The word was Lestes and it meant more insurrectionist than thief. The irony was that the crowd chose to release the man who actually committed the crimes Jesus was accused of doing! Barabbas was likely someone who was leading military excursions against Rome and trying to stir up dissension and discord in Israel. The Jewish crowds demanding Barabbas’ freedom did not want justice, they wanted Jesus out of the picture. 

The crowds did not intend the true beauty of this moment. In this exchange we get a picture of the gospel. Barabbas is set free and the innocent Christ took his place. Just as we were worthy of condemnation and guilt and separation from God and yet Christ took our place. In a way we are Barabbas in how we get set free as Jesus took our place. That is one of the reasons Jesus’ innocence has been highlighted so much. Jesus was fully and completely righteous in all his actions and yet he was condemned as a criminal. As Barabbas went free, we get a picture of the gospel in how Jesus paid for our sin in our place. In our place, Jesus died.  

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 18:28-40

What are some ways our text highlighted Jesus’ innocence and why did the Jewish leaders bring Jesus to Pilate, what were they seeking from this trial?

What do you think Jesus means that his kingdom is not “from this world?”

How did the release of Barabbas picture the gospel?

How does this passage encourage your faith and hope in Christ?