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If There Ever Was A Mocerkery of a Judicial System...

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Text:  John 18:12-40


            The symbol of the judicial system in America is a blindfolded lady holding stone tablets in one arm and a pair of scales in the other.  The stone tablets represent the first law God delivered to Moses.  The scales represent weighing out a matter to determine justice.  And the blindfold represents absolute impartiality.  Since men and women live or die based upon decisions made through our judicial system, those three components are absolutely critical.  We go to careful lengths to insure judges of integrity are voted into position, and when there’s one who can be persuaded by bribes, our society pays dearly. 

            Such was the case with Pilate.  He was a weak man swayed by popular vote, and convicted a man he knew was innocent.  If there ever was a man altogether righteous who was convicted of death, it was Jesus.  If there ever was a notorious prisoner set free wrongly, it was Barabbas.  The judge?  Pilate.  The jury?  Pilate.  The mob that swayed the vote?  The very people Jesus came to die for.

            But it had to be…because if it were not for this mockery of a judicial system, you and I would be the guilty parties in a life and death decision.  Jesus took the rap, but we get to go free.  And you know what?  God stood by and let it all happen.  It was His plan.  Read Text.

            Jesus has just convinced Peter to put away his sword and let the events happen as they may be.  Following a long emotional evening (His last with His dear friends), Jesus is kept up all night through several illegal trials.  What will stand out is the character of the One who is altogether innocent.  Tonight, you be the investigator…investigate what of this man’s character needs to absorbed into your character.

1.      Handcuffs indicate guilty parties.  Jesus was bound and lead through the streets.  What feelings do imagine there are in One whom is a King and drug off to court?

2.      Does anyone have any idea why Jesus was taken to Annas first, and then to Caiaphas?  (Annas was a high priest from AD 6 to 15; the Romans deposed him.  Caiaphas then took the position of high priest from AD 18 to 36.  Though Annas was not the high priest at this time, he had considerable influence.  He held the same contempt for Jesus as the Pharisees, so they go to him first, and then to his son-in-law, Caiaphas with a recommendation from Annas.  Annas is the leader of the plot.  This was the first of many inappropriate and illegal court proceedings.)

3.      Do you remember when Caiaphas first said what is mentioned in verse 14?  (11:43-53)  What did Caiaphas originally mean by this statement, and how is it spiritually ironical?  (Irony: An expression marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.)
Insight: There are several illegal proceedings in these trials.  Capital trials (decisions about life or death) were to be given several days notification prior to their proceedings.  All trials were to begin after prayers after dawn, and never to prolong after prayers at sunset.  Capital trials were to be based upon true testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses.  None of the above was the case for Jesus.

4.      Verse 15 is a jewel of a verse.  It gives us an indication how we got the content of the trials that took place that night.  Who do you think “the other disciple” is?  (John.  This is consistent with John’s style.  He never calls himself by his name in his gospel, but rather, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and here, “the other disciple.”  He is our only witness to the content of the trials.)

5.      Out in the courtyard another scene is taking place – the prophesied denial of Peter.  What can you think of that would give reason for this crowd to recognize Peter as a disciple of Jesus?  (Most likely there part of the same mob that arrested Jesus in the garden and witnessed Peter lopping off Malcus’ ear.  Also his frequent presence around Jesus in His travels and conversations in the Temple.)

6.      What difference do you see in Peter here, versus just an hour previous?  (At one moment ready to defend Jesus and die by the sword and now denying he even knew Him.)     Do you ever find yourself wavering in your faith like Peter?     What contrast do you see between Peter and Judas?  (Judas turned his back on Christ, but did not repent – he despaired to the point of suicide.  Peter, on the other hand, repented with bitter tears after he turned his back on Christ.  Mk. 14:72)
Insight: God can forgive our failures if only we turn back to Him.  The size of the failure is not the key issue.  The tenderness of the heart that decides whether to go back makes the difference between salvation and a damning denial.

7.      When questioned by Annas about His teaching, Jesus did not take the opportunity to defend it.  Instead He told them to ask those who heard it.  Why do you think Jesus did that?  (Jesus knew their hearts and that they were not curious, but critical, so He refused to go that direction.)  Matt. 7:6     Jesus’ answer was answered with a blow from a guard, but Jesus’ response to the blow in verse 23 stops them dead in their tracks.  How so?  (“If anything I have ever taught or said now is wrong, produce the witness to prove Me wrong.”  They knew they couldn’t, so they sent Him to Caiaphas.)  1 Pet. 2:20-24

8.      What’s the impact behind the prophecy Jesus made of Peter’s denial and the cock crowing?  (When the 3rd denial took place and the cock crowed, Peter then realized that Jesus was there in the Spirit to hear the denial and knew about it ahead of time.  Jesus’ intimate knowledge of him brought about repenting sorrow.)     How did Jesus build up Peter and prepare him for this dark page in his biography?  Lk. 22:31-34 

9.      What is revealed in verse 28 that gives you an indication that the Pharisees were doing things illegally, or not according to their own code at the least?  (The Praetorium was a Roman hall of judgment, and during Jewish feasts they were to have no contact with the Gentiles.)     Pilate asks them what the charges were, and they offered none – only that they were not permitted to exercise the death penalty.  Did the Pharisees follow this rule consistently?  See Acts 7:54-60
Insight: To bend the rules or not follow them consistently so as to meet their own corrupt motives shows the depth of spiritual deprivation of the Jewish leaders.  When leadership behaves accordingly, God will protect His sheep by removing the false shepherds and put a true Shepherd in their place.  Jesus was in the process of laying His life down for the sheep and steers them in a new direction.  1 Pet. 5:1-4; Acts 20:28-31; Rev. 7:13-17

10.  Pilate returns to the Praetorium and asks Jesus if He was the King of the Jews, stating that he is not a Jew and therefore Jesus being a King of the Jews was of no consequence to him.  Pilate could tell this was an “in-house” problem among the Jews and didn’t want to make a judgment on the matter.  Jesus even replies with a statement that His Kingdom wasn’t even of this world.  So there’s no problem here – no coup in the making.  So what’s the real problem here?  (Jesus was too popular and gaining too many disciples AWAY from the Pharisees; plus He had exposed their own corruption; they were getting rid of Jesus only to save face!  How sad!) 

11.  According to Jesus’ own words in verse 37, who are those who make up His Kingdom?  (Those that hear His truth in their heart and receive it.)
Insight: Jesus admitted to being a King, but totally confused Pilate by conveying that His Kingdom did not have land nor troops.  Even here Jesus seems to reach out to Pilate rather than defend Himself.  If only Pilate (and others like him) would listen to the truth Jesus came to give, but he would not.  What a compassionate Savior to think of others in an hour when we would think only of ourselves.

12.  Pilate made his initial judgment: he finds no guilt in Jesus and is willing to let Him go.  To appease the angry mob, Pilate calls to mind the tradition of setting a prisoner free during the Passover and offers Jesus and that prisoner.  They choose Barabbas instead.  Spiritually, who does Barabbas represent?  (YOU…me)

13.  What do Pilate’s actions & decision tell you about his motive and character?  (He did what he did to save his own skin.  He had no character of the moral kind.  His popularity meant more to him than the blood of an innocent Man.)


            In the courts on earth, it’s a rare thing that the notorious sinner goes free and an innocent man dies in his place.  In the courts of Heaven that scene is consistently duplicated over and over again every time the sinner cries out, “Father, forgive me!”  And you know what?  God calls that judgment RIGHTEOUS!

            How can it be…that a sinner like me goes free…while the innocent Lamb of God is led to the slaughter??!!  That’s injustice in my eyes!!  But the Lord of Heaven and Earth slams His gavel to the desk and declares, “Not guilty!!  You may go free!” 

            “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”  (Rom. 8:1-4)

            Hallelujah!  What a Savior!  (…and I am so undeserving!)

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