Pilate Interrogates Jesus (18:28-19:16)

John's account of the trial before Pilate is much more extensive than the accounts in the Synoptics. The literary power is evident here as John presents seven scenes in a chiastic pattern that alternates between the Jewish opponents on the outside and Jesus inside, with Pilate going back and forth between them (Brown 1970: 859, from which the following diagram is adapted):

A Outside (18:28-32) The Jews demand Jesus' death

B Inside (18:33-38a) Pilate questions Jesus about kingship

C Outside (18:38b-40) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; Barabbas choice

D Inside (19:1-3) Soldiers scourge Jesus

C' Outside (19:4-8) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; "Behold the man"

B' Inside (19:9-11) Pilate talks with Jesus about power

A' Outside (19:12-16a) The Jews obtain Jesus' death

Inside Jesus exhibits a royal calmness while outside the opponents are greatly agitated (Brown 1994:1:758-59). "Pilate must shuttle back and forth, for he is the person-in-between who does not wish to make a decision and so vainly tries to reconcile the opposing forces" (Brown 1994:1:744). Jesus is no more cowed by Pilate than he was by Annas. Just as he offered Annas a chance to accept him (v. 23), so will he confront Pilate with the claims of his identity and demand a decision. He reveals himself as king of an otherworldly kingdom and as witness to the truth—terms that transcend Jewish categories in Jesus' addresses to this Gentile. But Pilate in his own way rejects Jesus as decisively as had Annas. Both Jew and Gentile collaborate in the Passion of Jesus. Both Jew and Gentile are graciously offered a chance even now to accept Jesus rather than reject him.

The glory of the love of God shines forth, as it has throughout the story, in the way Jesus relates to everyone with whom he comes in contact as he suffers through this humiliating and painful climax to his ministry.

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