THE PREPARATIONS FOR THE PROCESS OF DEATH
In order for the Lord to pass through the process of death, it was necessary for everything and everyone involved in this process to be prepared. Judas, Peter, the high priest, and Pilate all had a part in this process. Judas betrayed the Lord, and Peter, bold in the flesh to resist, first cut off the ear of a slave of the high priest and later denied the Lord. The Jewish high priest judged the Lord and rejected Him. After this rejection, He was transferred by the Jewish religionists to Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate had no way to condemn the Lord, but he was forced by the people to do something. With Judas, Peter, the high priest, and Pilate we see certain steps that were a necessary preparation for the process of death through which the Lord Jesus, the great I Am, passed.
Not long before the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, the Roman Empire adopted crucifixion as a method of executing criminals. No doubt, it was sovereign of God that the Roman Empire adopted this method of executing criminals before the Lord was tried and sentenced to death. In the Old Testament it was prophesied definitely that the Messiah was to be cut off, crucified. In John 12 the Lord Jesus also prophesied that He would be lifted up, that is, crucified. However, the Jewish way of executing criminals convicted of a capital offense was stoning. Therefore, in order for the prophecies concerning the Lord’s crucifixion to be fulfilled, it was necessary for Him to be transferred from the Jewish authorities to the authority of the Roman rulers.
Moreover, according to Roman law, the Jews were not allowed to execute criminals. Concerning this, John 18:31 says, “Pilate said then to them, You take him and judge him according to your law. The Jews said to him, It is not lawful for us to kill anyone.” According to the next verse, this took place so that “the word of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying what kind of death He was about to die.” Therefore, the matter of executing the Lord Jesus was left to Pilate. The transfer of the Lord Jesus from the Jewish religionists to the Roman rulers led to the death of the cross.
CHRIST BEFORE PILATE
The King of the Kingdom of God
When the Lord Jesus was before Pilate, Pilate actually did not judge Him. Instead, Pilate held a conversation with the Lord. In this conversation certain marvelous things were manifested. First, Jesus was manifested to be the King of the kingdom of God. The Jews had mocked the Lord Jesus by saying that He was the King. When Pilate heard of their mocking word, he questioned the Lord concerning His being a King. In 18:37 Pilate said to Him, “Are you then a king?” The Lord answered, “You are saying that I am a king.” Immediately before Pilate asked Him about being a king, the Lord had said to him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My deputies would have fought that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from this world” (v. 36). The Gospel of John is the only Gospel that records this aspect of the conversation between Pilate and the Lord Jesus. The reason John’s Gospel includes this is that his Gospel reveals that the One who was about to be crucified is the great I Am and the King of the kingdom of God. The One who stood before Pilate was not merely Jesus the Nazarene. This One was Jehovah, the I Am. He was the King of the kingdom of God.
A Witness to the Truth
In the presence of Pilate the Lord Jesus was also manifested as a witness to the truth. He said to Pilate, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (v. 37). To this, Pilate replied, “What is truth?” (v. 38).
Concerning truth, or reality, we have seen that the entire universe may be compared to a shell and that the content of this shell is the Triune God. As created human beings, we also are shells, empty containers. We need God to be our content, to be our reality. The Triune God is the reality in the universe, and the Lord Jesus came to testify concerning this reality. This Gospel reveals that God is the truth, the reality, and the Spirit is the Spirit of reality. Every word that conveys the Triune God is also truth or reality. Truth, then, is the divine Trinity as the content of the universe and of God’s chosen people.
The Lord Jesus indicated to Pilate that He came as the King of the kingdom of God and also came to testify to the truth. For the Lord to testify to the truth means that He testified that the Triune God is the real content of the universe.
Pilate did not understand, and there was no time for the Lord Jesus to tell him any more. Pilate abruptly ended the conversation by saying, “What is truth?”
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 56, by Witness Lee)