(Vs. 25-27) While our Lord was being tried before the high priest, the apostle Peter was undergoing a severe trial in the courtyard. A full account of the three times he denied the Lord is given in Matthew 26:69-75. This denial of Christ arose from two things: fear of men and lack of faith in the Lord's power to keep and deliver him (Luke 12:4-9). Luke wrote that the Lord looked upon Peter (Luke 22:61-62); and when Peter saw the pain, the hurt and yet the love in his eyes, he went out and wept bitterly. Though Peter failed this trial, as our Lord had said he would, he was still a disciple, a child of God and a believer (Ps. 37:23-25). Oh, that we might learn to love and forgive as our Lord loves and forgives! (Eph. 4:32).
(Vs. 28) Caiaphas, the chief priests and their Sanhedrin had tried our Lord most of the night, and now, very early in the morning (probably about 6 a.m.), having judged him worthy of death (Matt. 26:63-68; Mark 14:63-64), they led him to the judgment hall of Pilate. It was the Passover season, so these religious hypocrites dared not go into the judgment hall of the heathen Gentiles lest in some way they should be defiled. They could falsely accuse the Son of God, lie, be filled with covetousness, hate and evil; but they were careful to observe their traditions (Matt. 23:23-26).
(Vs. 29-30) Pilate came out to meet them and asked, 'What accusation, or change, bring ye against this man? What crime is he guilty of? What proof do you have?' Pilate asked this that, as judge, he might be capable of dealing with the accused. This offended the Jews that Pilate should question them in such a way; so they replied, 'If he were not a criminal, we would not have brought him to you.' They dared not mention the true reasons for their hatred of Christ, but insinuated that he was guilty of some crime which came under Caesar's court.
(Vs. 31) Pilate evidently had heard of Jesus of Nazareth and his unusual works and miracles, as had all the people of that area (Acts 26:26). He was not ignorant of the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, so he said, 'You take him and judge him according to your laws,' for he knew it to be a religious, not a civil matter. But the Jews protested, 'It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.' Some say this right was taken away by the Romans; some say it was taken away by their own court. But their punishment was by stoning, and they wanted him to be crucified as a common criminal by the Romans, partly to relieve them of any guilt in the eyes of the people. If they had stoned Jesus of Nazareth, it would have raised a tumult among the people.
(Vs. 32) Our Lord had told his disciples what death he would die, and he must remove the curse from us by being made a curse for us (Matt. 20:17-19; Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:22-23). Crucifixion was not a Jewish but a Roman death. These Jews were doing what they wanted to do, yet fulfilling the purpose of God in the death of our Substitute (Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28). God makes even the wrath of men to praise him.
(Vs. 33-34) Pilate then brought the Lord Jesus into the judgment hall and asked him privately and pointedly, 'Art thou the King of the Jews?' Our Lord's answer gives us some insight into this question asked by Pilate, for our Lord knows the thoughts of all men. Pilate's behaviour during this entire episode reveals that he was deeply concerned about how he dealt with this unusual person (Matt. 27:19). The Lord replied to his question. 'Do you ask am I the king of the Jews as a private person for your own information, or do you ask as a judge, having hear such an accusation?'
(Vs. 35) Pilate responded, 'Am I a Jew? Do you think I am concerned about your law, prophets and religion? Your own people and leaders have delivered you to me to be crucified. What have you done? What have you done to stir up such hatred among the leaders of your nation?' (John 1:11).
(Vs. 36) 'I do not deny that I am the Messiah. I have a kingdom, but my kingdom is not an earthly kingdom as the Jews expect and desire. If my kingdom were an earthly kingdom, my servants would fight; and I would not be bound and delivered to you. My kingdom is not threat to the Roman government, for my kingdom is a spiritual kingdom over the hearts and minds of men, not earthly and worldly.' His kingdom is certainly in this world but not of it.
(Vs. 37) Pilate wanted a yes or no! 'Art thou a king, then? If you have a kingdom, then you must be a king.' Our Lord answered, 'Your conclusion is correct; I am indeed the King!' Jesus Christ was not born and came into the world from heaven as King and Saviour. He came as Prophet to declare the truth of God's glory, redemption and kingdom. He came as Priest to offer himself as our sacrifice and atonement. He came as King to rule over his kingdom and covenant people. All that are given to him of the Father and are of the truth hear his voice and follow him (John 10:26-30).
(Vs. 38) Pilate (politician, sceptic and man of the world) asked, 'What is truth?' not realizing that the Truth was standing in front of him (John 14:6). He then went to the Jews and said, 'I find in (Jesus) no fault at all.'
(Vs. 39-40) Where this custom originated, we do not know. Probably the Romans granted to the Jews, in honour of their great Passover festival, the life of any criminal they desired. Pilate felt sure that they would choose to release Jesus of Nazareth (guilty of no crime) rather than a noted criminal like Barabbas, and he would have Christ Jesus off his hands. But not so! They cried, 'Not this man! Release Barabbas and crucify Jesus!' (Matt. 27:15-26).