John 19:1–16a: The Kingship of Jesus
When Pilate asked Jesus whether he was a king, Jesus told Pilate, “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” (John 18:36). This idea is not new to the Gospel of John, for throughout John’s depiction of Jesus’ life and ministry, we have seen again and again that Jesus does not follow the typical paths of someone pursuing power. Yes, Jesus is a king, but his kingship looks nothing like the the reign of worldly kings. Again and again we have seen Jesus resist the crowds, rebuke the powerful, and embrace suffering and shame. What kind of a king is this?
Counterintuitively, John uses this moment in Jesus’ life—as Jesus is beaten, mocked, and condemned on his way to the cross—to depict the nature and source of Jesus’ kingship. In John 19:1–16a, Jesus is not the most attractive man, nor the most connected power broker, nor the most well loved by those in the world. In fact, John demonstrates painstakingly how Jesus is at the bottom of all measures of worldly power as he goes to the cross. From a worldly perspective, Jesus loses everything as he is sentenced to die at the cross. It is only when we lift our eyes above the power structures of this world that we recognize the true source of Jesus’ kingship: Jesus’ royal power is not of this world.
1. How many ways do we see Pilate wanting to avoid crucifying Jesus? Name a situation where you have felt pressured into doing something you knew to be wrong, but where the weight of the world seemed to force you in that wrong direction anyway. How did you fight that temptation? What should we do when we find ourselves, like Pilate, in a battle to choose between what is right and what is convenient?
2. Consider this question honestly: How often do you make decisions based on personal appearance? How do those decisions shape whom you support, invest in, and love? Why does God demonstrate repeatedly through the Scriptures that we should not base our decisions on outward appearances, but instead on the heart (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7)?
3. How does Jesus contrast the political clout of Pilate with the authority of his Father? What does this idea teach us about our own view of politics, whether the politics of government or the politics in our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and even churches? What does it mean to honor the authorities in this world while yet remembering that our kingdom is not of this world?
4. Think through all the places where you expose yourself to public opinions: newspapers, cable news, social media, water cooler conversations at work, etc. Why does the court of public opinion hold so much sway in our society? If we are honest, how much does public opinion shape the way that we think, believe, and act? How might we seek to be faithful when the votes of the court of public opinion are entirely against us?