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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

John 18

Verses 4-9

John 18:4-9

Consider this incident:

I. As a remarkable momentary manifestation of our Lord's glory.

II. As a manifestation of the voluntariness of our Lord's suffering.

III. An instance, on a small scale, of Christ's self-sacrificing care for us.

A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 197.

References: John 18:4-9 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 240; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 218.

Verse 6

John 18:6

Judas and His Bond

I. In the occurrence before us, we have a remarkable proof that, whilst Christ would not thwart the purposes of His enemies who thirsted for His blood, He was resolved to do enough to render them inexcusable in putting Him to death. The foreknowledge of the Redeemer quite informed Him of all that was to happen of the obstinacy with which His death would be sought, of the cruelty with which it would be compassed; but His foreknowledge did not interfere any more than it does in regard to any amongst ourselves, with the making every endeavour, consistent with human accountableness, to deter from wickedness, and to take away every excuse from those who persevered in its commission. The miracle actually wrought was exactly adapted to this. It went so far as to make those miserable who laid hands on Christ, but not so far as to frustrate their impious design.

II. It hardly ever happens that you commit any great sin without experiencing great resistance. I can promise the sinner that he will be withstood in his career; ay, so fearfully withstood that, as though it came on him as a voice mingling with the thunder in the heavens, he shall be prostrated to the ground, and there lie for a moment terror-stricken and confounded. And this moment will be just the turning-point in life for him. The man must not look to be kept on the ground; the mastery of conviction will release its stronghold, and he will again feel himself at liberty to rise and what will he do then? Saul was struck to the ground, but he rose not from the earth without first foregoing his persecuting purpose, saying unto Jesus, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" And Judas was struck to the earth, but he rose but to renew his traitorous attack, to make fresh quest after Jesus, whom he was determined to seize. The man in question may imitate Saul, or He may imitate Judas. He must not look for further opposition. If he rise from the earth to take another step towards crime, the likelihood is, that his path will be smooth, and he will be suffered to proceed without molestation. Be fearful of nothing so much as the being left to sin undisturbed. Come anything rather than the power of wrong-doing with ease.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1868 (see also Voices of the Year, vol. i., p. 311).

References: John 18:6 . Homilist, vol. v., p. 28; Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, vol. i., p. 141; W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. ii., p. 227; J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, vol. ii., p. 583. Joh 18:8 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 86. John 18:8 , John 18:9 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 722. Joh 18:10 , John 18:11 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 72. Joh 18:11 . A. P. Peabody, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 341; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xix., p. 118. John 18:11 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 243 John 1:11-14 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 73 John 1:12-14 . Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 169. John 18:15 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 72. Joh 18:15-18 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, pp. 469, 485.John 18:15-27 . W. Milligan, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 372. Joh 18:17 . W. M. Taylor, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 72, (see also Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 98). John 18:19-24 . W. Hanna, Last Days of our Lord's Passion, p. 50.

Verse 28

John 18:28

(with John 19:16 )

The Spirit of God striving with Man Pontius Pilate judging the Lord Christ

I. At first Pilate will scarcely attend to the accusers of Christ. He takes Jesus into the inner judgment hall of his palace, thinking probably that a very short inquiry will suffice. From the very beginning of this strange trial and all throughout, more and more, the pertinacity of the Jews tends to deepen the impression made on Pilate's mind, increases his concern, and makes him the more impatient for an adjustment.

II. Pilate thought he might evade the necessity of coming to a decision about Jesus and His claims. Let Herod be the judge; send the case, by all means, to Herod; he is on all accounts the proper person to dispose of it. But this expedient will not stand Pilate in stead; Jesus comes back to him, scourged indeed and buffeted, but not judged; neither absolved nor condemned. Herod mocks Him and sets Him at nought. Pilate attempts to make a compromise with the Jews. But though he selects one of the worst and most atrocious criminals then in custody, to be offered to them along with Jesus, and though, as Luke tells us, he three times most earnestly and pathetically beseeches the people to choose Jesus; he has the deep mortification of hearing their reiterated and impatient cry: "Not this man, but Barabbas," although Barabbas was a robber.

III. The struggle becomes more desperate as it draws near its close. The claim of Jesus, His claim of sovereignty, of truth, and now even of Divinity, is pressing closer and closer on Pilate's conscience. But alas! the loud cry prevails. "If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar's friend." It is a solemn reflection to think how near the vacillating judge, the despairing suicide, may once have been to a believer. It is a most emphatic warning to all, to trifle with no convictions of their own, to yield to no solicitations of others, to let the Word of God have free course in their hearts, and to give no resistance to the strivings of His Good Spirit.

R. S. Candlish, Scripture Characters and Miscellanies, p. 75.

Verse 36

John 18:36

I. Consider the nature of Christ's kingdom, "My kingdom is not of this world." It is spiritual. In other words, the emphatic mark of the rule of Christ which He was about to set up seems to be that of its perfect spirituality, of its utter unlikeness to those shifting earthly sovereignties which are founded in arms, which are maintained by policy, which are passed by death from one hand to another; or to that rude and turbulent anarchy which has often cast down and destroyed nations. He goes on to say, "If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight." The points at issue between us would have to be decided by the broad tests of earthly warfare, strength measured against strength, and skill against skill, till one of the opposing forces should give way. But, as we see throughout our Lord's ministrations, He never would employ force at all. From the first, the Saviour was careful to impress on all who should come after Him that the weapons of the Christian warfare are not carnal, that the wrath of man could never work the righteousness of God, and that, when undertaking any work for Him, if we could not accomplish it by the power of loving suasion, gentleness and meekness, we should never accomplish it in any other way.

II. Consider how Christ establishes and maintains His dominion in our own hearts: (1) The means by which His subjects are brought into the kingdom are not of this world. He uses no force, employs no bribes, has recourse to no deceit or guile. The agency which works in the heart is the power of love; the hidden strength of Gospel bonds; the remnants of a better nature appealed to to say whether such a Saviour should be slighted by anybody with a heart at all. (2) There are laws and statutes by which the spiritual government is carried on. These are not like those which belong to a kingdom of this world, not like them in regard to the seat and limits of their jurisdiction. The empire of Christ is over the heart, and is satisfied with nothing but the casting down of heart-pride, and the rooting out of heart-sin, and the maintaining in all its subjects of heart-allegiance and duty. (3) The chastisements and the rewards of Christ's kingdom are not of the world. The attribute of spirituality marks all His dealings. Not of this world is our kingdom, not of this world is our hope. We look for a kingdom which shall not be moved, and whose King is both the first-begotten from the dead and the Prince of the kings of the earth.

D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3122.

References: John 18:36 . A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 225; E. de Pressensé, Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 122; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 193; Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 205; S. A. Brooke, Sermons, p. 180; J. H. Evans, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xv., pp. 249, 261, 273, 285; D. Swing, American Pulpit of the Day, p. 241. Joh 18:36-38 . Homilist, 3rd series, vol. i., p. 206.

Verse 37

John 18:37

It was not as the Son of God that Jesus said this, but as the Son of man. It would have been nothing that the second Person in the Blessed Trinity should have been a King; of course He was, and much more than a King. But that poor, weak, despised man, that was standing there before Pontius Pilate, that was a King; and all Scripture confirms it. It was the manhood of Christ that was there. This is the marvel, and here is, the comfort.

I. The subjugation of the universe to the King Christ is now going on, and it is very gradual; we see not yet all things put under Him. Little by little it is extending itself: "One of a city, ten of a family." The increase will grow rapid and immense. When He comes again, at once to Him every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear: "For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Grand and awful! rather to be felt, than understood; where our little thoughts drift and drift for ever, on an ocean without a shore.

II. We pray: "Thy kingdom come." How much of that rich prayer is yet answered? how much are we waiting for? Three things it means: Thy kingdom in my heart; Thy kingdom over all the nations; Thy kingdom in the Second Advent. (1) The throne of God is set up in me. Sin is there, but now sin is only a rebel. It does not reign as it once did. (2) The second; it is being accomplished, and God bless the missions. (3) The third; we long and look for it with outstretched neck, and hail each gleam on the horizon.

III. When you go to this King in prayer, do not stint yourselves before His throne. Seek regal bounties. Ask for largesses worthy of a king. Not after your own little measure, but after His, according to that great name, which is above every name that is named in earth or heaven; and prove Him, on His heavenly throne, whether He will not open now the windows of heaven, and pour a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 156.

One man, so obscure that scarcely one historian thinks it worth while to mention His name one man achieved an empire such as the world has never seen over the hearts and spirits of men. Such an empire, I suppose, rested on some principle. As the history of a worldly kingdom is the history of arms, of laws, or art, so must this kingdom have some secret spring of power through which it subjugates so many souls. The explanation is this. It is the mystery of Christ's suffering, working with the mystery of our conscience, from which His power proceeds.

I. The evangelists do not, it is clear, mean to represent the death of Christ as a mere termination of life. The storm that girdled round him is no new, unlooked-for thing. About to ascend to the throne above, He is a king still I ought to have said He is therefore a king. To this end was He born. But for His assent the powers that slew Him could have had no power at all against Him; and, putting aside for a moment all consideration of effects resulting to others, I think we cannot, as men, be insensible to the greatness of this spectacle of a man, able to wield great influence over others by word and act, renouncing all this that He may die in a certain way because the duty has been laid upon Him by His Father so to die. He is more fit to reign as a king in men's hearts than if we had seen Him ride forth in majesty, amid the clang of martial music and the glittering of helmets, and the cheers of those who, in the flush of past successes, counted for certain the victory yet unachieved.

II. And yet there is something wanting. This devotion to God's will, this love to man, this beautiful calm and constancy, make Him admirable; they do not make Him mine. The mystery of Divine suffering requires the mystery of human conscience to explain it. Now, that mystery of human consciousness is simply this. Man attaches to his own actions the sense of responsibility. Out of the fact that man does praise and blame his own conduct, comes, if you will consider it, this surest evidence for God's existence and for your own immortality. A deep appreciation of what Jesus actually did for the sinful is the cause of our admitting Him to our hearts and minds to be our Friend, King, Saviour, Redeemer, Lord, and God.

Archbishop Thomson, Penny Pulpit, No. 427 (new series).

References: John 18:37 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1086; L. Campbell, Some Aspects of the Christian Ideal, p. 236; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 1; vol. xvii., p. 302; A. P. Peabody, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 296; E. W. Shalders, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 406; J. Keble, Sermons for Holy Week, p. 57; E. Bersier, Sermons, 1st series, p. 198; T. Birkett Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 120; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 156.

Verses 37-38

John 18:37-38

Consider the Duty of being "true and just in all our dealings,"

I. As peculiarly a duty towards our neighbours. The whole frame of society stands by mutual confidence. Knaves sometimes seem to prosper in the world; but it is only because they are supposed to be honest, and because on the whole we are obliged to trust in each other as being honest. If the belief in truthfulness and honesty as the general characteristics of mankind were entirely done away with, the earth would scarcely be habitable; the bonds of society would be broken. There is therefore no duty, perhaps, towards our neighbour which it is more important to enforce than this, and the more so because it is one of the breach of which human laws can frequently take no cognisance.

II. One way in which we should take good heed to be true and just is that of estimating liberally, fairly, and in a Christian spirit the conduct of our neighbour. It is not just to suppose that people always act from bad motives, except when we can prove the contrary. Christian charity hopes all things; and, though Christian charity will consequently in this wicked world be often deceived, still it is better to be deceived than not to hope the best. If we are thoroughly penetrated by the spirit of Christ's religion, it will show itself in such ways as this; it is by descending to the affairs of common life, by hallowing our smallest and simplest actions, that the religion of Christ really shows its power, and that it is proved that we are new creatures that the old things have passed away, and all things become new.

Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 4th series, p. 287.

References: John 18:38 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1644; Bishop Lightfoot, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 337; Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 99; E. Thring, Church of England Pulpit, vol. x., p. 577; R. Winterbotham, Sermons and Expositions, p. 290.

Verse 40

John 18:40

The narrative of Jesus' arraignment before the civil power in Jerusalem affords the most vivid illustration in the New Testament of just two great moral lessons. Pilate's behaviour shows the wicked wrong of indecision; and the chief priests' choice of Barabbas' release shows the utter ruin of a wrong decision.

I. The moral of this scene turns upon the wilful choice made between these two leaders the real and the pretended Christ. The whole history is often repeated even in these modern times. It will be well to bear in mind that the decision is offered and made between Jesus and Barabbas whenever the Lord of Glory is represented in a principle, in an institution, in a truth, in a person. The secret of the absurd choice published that day so vociferously, when the miscreant impostor came to the front, is found in the fact that the people did not choose for Him at all, but chose against Christ. They would not have this Man to reign over them. It is not true always that men love the evil they seem to clamour for; in many instances the explanation of their apparent preference is found in simple hatred of the truth which confronts them.

II. Our two lessons now appear plainly. (1) We see the wicked wrong of indecision. We are agreed that Pilate wished to let Jesus go. But when he gave Him up to the spite of His murderers he himself shared the crime. His name is put in the Apostles' Creed that all Christendom might hold it in "everlasting fame" of infamy; wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this that this man hath done be told for a memorial of him. (2) We see, finally, the utter ruin of a wrong decision. Goethe commences the fifth book of his autobiography with these somewhat discouraging words: "Every bird has its decoy, and every man is led and misled in a way peculiar to himself." We need not pause to discuss here the width of application such a statement might have. It was true of Pontius Pilate; it was true of that infuriated crowd clamouring for Barabbas before Christ.

C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 11.

References: John 18:40 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 595; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xvii., p. 100; C. Stanford, The Evening of our Lord's Ministry, p. 273; Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 145.John 18:0 , John 19:0 W. Sanday, The Fourth Gospel, p. 239. John 19:1 . Contemporary Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 103; Parker, Christian Commonwealth, vol. vi., p. 623 John 1:1-6 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 149. John 19:1-37 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 208. John 19:2 . Ibid., vol. ix., p. 190. John 19:4 . Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 350. John 19:5 . Parsons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 269; C. Stanford, Evening of our Lord's Ministry, p. 289; H. Batchelor, The Incarnation of God, p. 319; Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 140; vol. x., p. 208; R. Davey, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 222; F. Wagstaff, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 371; R. Balgarnie, Ibid., vol. xxviii.; E. Paxton Hood, Catholic Sermons, pp. 99, 172; Bishop Magee, Sermons at Bath, p. 136; H. I. Wilmot-Buxton, Literary Churchman Sermons, p. 102.; F. King, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 193.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on John 18". "Sermon Bible Commentary".