In the past, we’ve talked a lot about the Kingdom of God. In the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, this is an important theme and a repeated term. John, however, confines most his discussion of Jesus’ kingship and kingdom to his trial and crucifixion. John’s focus, therefore, is the Kingdom of the Crucified Christ. Almost all of John’s uses of the terms king and kingdom fall between John 18:28-19:18. The only time he uses the term “kingdom of God” is in chapter 3 when Jesus is talking to Nicodemus. Here in John 18-19 there are 15 uses of either king or kingdom. There are also 15 references to the cross and crucifixion in these same verses! [Frederick Dale Bruner, John, p. 1081] Remember, kingdom in Greek does not refer to the geographical region over which a king rules, but rather the word kingdom refers to the authority to rule. Keep in mind that, throughout our passage, the use of the word king and kingdom are about authority. John’s emphasis is not just on the Kingdom of God, but that the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of a crucified Messiah, which runs counter to all expectations about kingdoms and kingly authority.
Our passage today is taken from Jesus’ trial with Pilate. All four gospels describe Jesus’ conversation with Pilate and in all four Pilate’s first words to Jesus are, “Are you the king of the Jews?” [Bruner, p. 1067] John, however, gives a longer, more detailed account of their conversation.
Leading up to this point, the Jewish officials have had Jesus arrested and have tried him overnight, which was against Jewish law. Trials were to take place during the daytime to encourage transparency and promote justice. Now, these same Jewish leaders have brought Jesus to Pilate’s palace. Interestingly, though, the Jewish leaders themselves won’t enter the palace because to enter a Gentile’s home would make them religiously unclean and it was the day before the Sabbath and the time of the Passover. So they’ll follow the laws about entering unclean homes, but not the laws about justice.
Pilate had come out of his palace to discuss the situation with them and they had turned Jesus over to Pilate for trial and execution. Now Pilate has returned to the palace to examine Jesus himself.