John 18:28-40 (ESV Strong’s Bible)
28 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. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”
After Jesus told Caiaphas and the Jewish council that He is indeed the Son of God and they will see Him seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven, they concluded that Jesus had committed blasphemy and therefore deserved to die. This means they had to approach Pilate as the roman governor at the time to get Him crucified. They indeed went to the governors headquarters but, could not enter themselves as they believed that entering a gentiles’s house would make them ceremonially unclean and could therefore not eat Passover. This is the reason why Pilate went outside to meet them. Pilate then asked them what Jesus is being charged with.
30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 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.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
They then told Pilate that if Jesus was not doing evil, they would not have brought Him to him. At this point Pilate would see this evil as something to do with their religious beliefs and hence he tells them to judge him themselves by their own laws. Then the Jews simply told him that they wanted Jesus dead and they could not do it themselves since it would be unlawful. Apparently Rome had prohibited the Jews from instituting death penalty. They had to have approval from Rome. This is the reason why they came to Pilate. They wanted Pilate to crucify Jesus. This was to fulfil what Jesus had said about How He was going to die. Jesus mentioned this in John 12:32-34, Mat 20:17-19, Mat 26:2.
At this stage we know that the reason why Jesus is being led before Pilate was that according to the Jewish leaders, He has blasphemed by calling Himself a Son of God and thereby claiming to be God.
33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Although John does not mention the reason why Pilate is asking Jesus if He is the King of Jews, Luke gives us a reason. Since the Jewish leaders knew that Pilate was never going to crucify Jesus on religious grounds, they had to come up with a political reason. Luke tells us in Luke 23:2-3 that the Jewish leaders told Pilate that Jesus was misleading the Jewish nation by forbidding them to give tribute to Caesar and claiming that He is the King of the Jews. If He is the King of the Jews then Pilate would see this as a rebellion to Caesar and a good enough reason for a trial. This is the reason why Pilate asks Jesus if He is the king of Jews.
34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”
Jesus then asked Pilate if what he is asking is based on what he was told or not. Are there witnesses who can testify to that? So, Jesus is again asking for witnesses to the charge. Jesus is been asking for a fair trial, since he was arrested and even now before Pilate, He is asking for a fair trial. Pilate, seeing that Jesus was asking for witnesses, says that He is not a Jew and that it is the Jews that accuses him. So, he then asked Jesus to tell him what he has done.
36 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.”
Jesus then explained that His kingdom is not of this world, if it was, His servants would have defended him.
37 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.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
Pilate then asked Jesus based on His answer if He was a King. Jesus’s answer here is very difficult to understand. There are two ways to interpret it. Firstly Jesus could be saying that you Pilate have said it correctly that I am a King, and this is the reason why I was born in this world and have come in this world, so that I can come and testify about the truth that I am indeed a king. Or secondly Jesus could be saying that you Pilate are the one who says that I am a king, I on the other hand have been born and have come into this world to come and testify of the truth. Most people seem to favor the first one.
Whatever it means, the fact is that Jesus was born into this world and He has come to testify about the truth. Jesus then said, similar to what He said about the sheep that listens to Him and knows His voice in John 10, He again says here that those of the truth, listen to His voice. Then Pilate almost sarcastically asked what is the truth.
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39 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?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.”
Pilate then went back outside and told the Jews that he finds Jesus not guilty. Pilate asked them a couple of times what Jesus has done and they kept on saying Crucify him. Pilate then gave them a choice between Barnabas(his name means son of the father), a criminal and Jesus who was the true Son of God. After being instigated by the Jewish leadership, the crowd shouted that Barnabas must be released.