Sermon: Behold, Your King!: John 18:28-40

Old Testament Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1–12

“Now when [king David] lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ And Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.’ But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.’” (2 Samuel 7:1–12, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 18:28-40

“Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered him, ‘If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’ The Jews said to him, ‘It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.’ This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, ‘I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?’ They cried out again, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a robber.” (John 18:28–40, ESV)


Today is resurrection Sunday. It is on this day that the church has traditionally given special attention to the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In truth, the church is to give attention to this every Lord’s Day as we gather and reflect upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ through the preached word and through the observance of the Supper.

Today my objective is simple. I desire to send you away thinking, not only of the resurrection of Christ, but of Jesus as a victorious king. That is how he is to be viewed in his resurrection – as a victorious king; a conquering king; a mighty king.

It may at first be difficult for us to think of Jesus in this way given the lowly and humble way in which he first came. The whole of Jesus’ life was characterized by lowliness. He was clothed in humility. From a worldly perspective Jesus was unimpressive. This was true of his birth, it was true of his death, and it was true of most everything in between. He was indeed “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV) Certainly this is not the language that we would typically use to describe a great king.

Truth be told, Jesus, from a worldly perspective, seemed like a looser in the game of life in the end. He was poor. His band of disciples fell to pieces – one betrayed him; another denied him; most of the others were hiding in their homes, cowering in fear. Those with power and prestige amongst the Jews had, without a doubt, rejected him. They desired to put him to death. The Romans were indifferent. Jesus’ life meant little to them. They were willing to crucify him if it would serve their interests. Jesus was falsely accused, unjustly condemned, shamefully treated, brutally beaten, and hung upon a cross.

From an earthly perspective, then, it is indeed view Jesus as a king, much less the King of kings. But we should remember that things are not always as they appear. For Jesus was and is a king. He is the King of kings. The victories won by all of the kings in all the world combined look like nothing at all in comparison to the victory that he has earned through his life, death, and resurrection.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus was and is indeed a mighty and victorious king, but we will never see him as such if we fail to look upon him from the proper perspective. We must look upon him in the right light. We must gaze upon him with the proper lenses on. If we look upon him from a worldly perspective – from an earthly perspective – with the expectation that he do what earthly kings do, and establish the kind of kingdom that earthly kings establish, then we will not see him as a king. But if we look upon him with spiritual lenses on – biblical lenses – redemptive historical lenses – the lenses of faith, then we will indeed see and understand that he is the King of kings and Lord of lords, worthy of all glory, honor, and praise. He is that king who was promised to David long ago.

Notice that John 18 invites us to view Jesus in this way. Jesus is here presented to us as “the King of the Jews”. Notice that not only is he raised King of the Jews, but he first of all dies as such.  And three things need to be noticed about his kingship. First of all, Jesus is a righteous king. Secondly, he is a heavenly king. And thirdly, he is a self-sacrificing king.

Jesus, is a Righteous King

First of all, let us consider Jesus as a righteous king.

Here I simply wish to draw your attention to his innocence. He was innocent in regard to Roman law and Jewish law, and he was also innocent in regard to the law of God. He was indeed a righteous king.

The Jewish authorities brought Jesus to the Romans because they wanted him to be put to death. The Jews lived under the authority of the Romans. They did enjoy a certain degree of freedom. They, for the most part, governed themselves. But they did not have the authority to put a man to death. For this they had to come to the Romans. And so they brought Jesus to Pilate for this purpose.

That the Jews had nothing on Jesus is clear.

Notice how they are unwilling to answer Pilate with any specificity. Pilate asked the Jews “‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered him, ‘If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.’” (John 18:29–30, ESV) In other words, just take our word for it. He is guilty. They were not interested in going through any kind of judicial process with Pilate. They just wanted the job done.

By the way, do you notice the irony and the hypocrisy of the Jewish authorities in this passage?They refuse to enter Pilate’s headquarters lest they defile themselves and make themselves unfit to observe the Passover. The passover meal had already been eaten, but entering the house of a gentile like Pilate would have made them unclean and thus unfit to observe the feast of unleavened bread, which was also referred to as the Passover. They were concerned to keep the letter of the law, but the ignored the spirit of it. They were careful not to enter a gentiles house lest they be defiled, but they hardly thought twice about delivering up an innocent man to be crucified. Pure hypocrisy.

So Pilate come out to them. And what charge did they bring against Jesus? They at first accuse him of being an insurrectionists. They attempt to convince Pilate that Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews and as such posed a threat to Roman rule. The implication was that Jesus was gathering a following with the intention of revolting. This was a lie, of course. It was a lie meant to provoke Pilate to action. The Romans had little patients for insurrections, and so the hope was that Pilate would believe the lie and quickly put Jesus down.

That this was not really the concern of the Jews becomes clear. In 19:7 the Jewish authorities finally admit that their real concern. “The Jews answered [Pilate], ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’” (John 19:7, ESV) That was their real concern. Jesus claimed to be the son of God. This was blasphemous to them and deserving of death. Indeed, it would have been blasphemous were it not true. The point is that this was their real concern – this was the real charge. The began with the charge of insurrection thinking that Pilate would be more concerned about this and willing to act.

Furthermore, if the Jews were so concerned about an insurrectionists running around in their midst, then why did they call for the release of Barrabas, who was in fact a condemned insurrectionist? The ESV says that he was a “robber” at the end of verse 40. A better translation of the greek is “insurrectionist”, or “revolutionary”.  The NIV is better here, I think, saying, “Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion.” (John 18:40, NIV84) The TNIV says, “Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.” (John 18:40, TNIV) The NET says, “Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.” (John 18:40, NET) These translations are more to the point, I think. It is true that he was “a robber” in the sense that he was caught trying to take something that didn’t belong to him. But the thing that Barabbas was trying to take was power… from the Romans. It is interesting that Jesus was crucified between two other “robbers”. These were most likely Barabbas’ partners in crime. Brothers and sisters, these men did not steal fruit from a fruit stand. They were involved in a revolution, which is the very thing that Jesus was accused of starting, claiming to be the King of the Jews.  The point is this. If the Jews were really concerned about helping the Romans put down insurrectionists, then why did they cry out for the release of Barabbas?

Brothers and sisters, Jesus was a righteous king. The Jews had nothing on him, and Pilate knew it. He repeatedly came to the Jews saying, “I find no fault in him”. So why did he crucify Jesus then? The sad truth is that he did it to appease the crowd and to save his own skin.

Jesus was and is a righteous king.

Jesus, is a Heavenly King

Secondly, let us consider Jesus as a heavenly king.

Did Jesus ever claim to be the King of the Jews? Well, the answer depends upon what you mean by “king”, doesn’t it?

This was Pilate’s chief concern. “So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?’” (John 18:33–35, ESV)

Then Jesus answered the question directly, saying, “‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king’” Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’” (John 18:36–37, ESV)

Notice three things:

One, Jesus made it clear to Pilate that he was a king. Jesus’ mission was to establish a kingdom. He was born into the world for this purpose, he said. To establish a kingdom. To obtain a realm. And to bring subjects into that realm. He answered the question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” in the affirmative.

Two, Jesus also made it clear as to what kind of king he was. His kingdom is “not of this world”. Jesus, therefore, had no aspirations to be an earthly king. He is not interested in overthrowing Rome, or any other kingdom for that matter. His kingdom is “not of this world”. His throne is not an earthly. His kingdom is not geopolitical. It is not, nor will it every be, anything like the kingdoms of this earth.

So does Jesus’ kingship poses a threat to Pilate or Caesar or any other kingdom of this world? The answer is no, not in the least (this seems to be a point that Constantine, and many of his kind,  overlooked). If his kingdom were of this world then his followers would be compelled to fight, he says. But Jesus told Peter to put his sword back in it’s sheath. What kind of king is Jesus, then? He is a heavenly one. He is a heavenly king. His kingdom is a heavenly kingdom. Does his heavenly kingdom impact the kingdoms of this world? Certainly it does! But it is at it’s essence a kingdom, “not of this world.” (Christians today need to give more thought to this as they consider the relationship between the church and the state, and also their views on eschatology).

Three, notice how it is that Christ’s kingdom is established and how it grows. Jesus said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37, ESV)

Worldly kingdoms are established and advance by use of the sword. Military conquest is involved, generally speaking. The sword is the weapon of the state. But what is the weapon of Christ’s kingdom? How does it advance? Christ’s kingdom advances by the proclamation of the word. Truth is the weapon of Christ’s kingdom. Truth is the thing that conquers. When we pray, for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom we pray that his truth may prevail. We are praying that the Holy Spirit would bring men and women to believe in Christ’s truth and to live by it. This is how Christ’s kingdom grows.

And so Christ is a king! In fact he is the king. He is the King of the Jews, the one promised to King David long before the time of Christ. His kingdom is not of this world. And people are brought into it as they come to believe in the truth which Christ has delivered to us.

Jesus, is a Self Sacrificing King

Thirdly, let us consider Jesus as a self sacrificing king.

Here is the real reason why it is so difficult for us to see Jesus as a king. He won victory for those who belong to him in a most unusual way. He defeated his enemies, not by exerting his power, but by laying himself down. It was through death that he would bring life. It was through suffering that he would save. Jesus is our king! But he is our self sacrificing king.

In John’s narrative Jesus has already demonstrated that he had the power to conquer his persecutors. When they came for him in the garden and asked for him by name, he said, “I am he”, and they fell to the ground. In Matthew’s gospel we learn that Jesus told Peter “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52–54, ESV)

Jesus our great king earned victory by laying himself down. He submitted to the will of the Father. He gave himself up so that though death he might earn life. He laid himself down for us. He gave himself up. It was not for lack of power – it was not for lack of strength – he went willingly.

He died in our place. We deserve death, but he died for all who believe upon him. He served as our substitute.

The scriptures are clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, ESV) The scriptures are also clear that “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23, ESV) But thanks be to God that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, ESV) Why is it that eternal life is found in Christ? It is because he payed the penalty that we deserve. He died in our place, and on the third day rose again, conquering sin, Satan, and even death itself.

Friends, Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:9–11, ESV)

Jesus is our self sacrificing king. He laid himself down for al who believe. He is our substitute. The story of Barabbas illustrates this, doesn’t it?

Barabbas was a condemned criminal. He was indeed an insurrectionist. Matthew calls him “a notorious prisoner…” (Matthew 27:16, ESV) Luke tells us that he was “a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder.” (Luke 23:19, ESV) This man was a sinner. He deserved to die. All four gospels make the point this sinner was set free and Jesus the righteous one died in his place. When Christ was crucified, he was hung on the cross that Barabbas deserved.

This is picture of what Jesus has done for you and me and for all who believe upon him. Though we are guilty sinners deserving of condemnation, he took our place. He stood in for us. He endured the punishment so that we who trust in him won’t have to.

Peter reflecting upon of this wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed…” (1 Peter 2:21–25, ESV)

Christ went to the cross as our king. He is a righteous king, a heavenly king, and a self sacrificing king. And when he rose from the dead on the third day he rose as our victorious king!

Application and Conclusion

Here is the question: Is Christ your king? Is he your Lord? Have you believed upon him? Have you received his word? Have you acknowledge your need, turned from your sin, and believed upon him for the forgiveness of sins? He is your Lord? Is he your Savior?

the truth of the matter is that you are not free. You have someone as Lord. Someone rules you. You are either in in bondage to sin, and servant of the evil one, or you are servant Christ. It is good to be Christ’s servant. It is good to have him as king.

For those already believing upon Christ, I ask this: Do you see him as king?

Paul prayed for Christians that they would. He said,  “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:16–23, ESV)

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