John 18:28-32 (ESV)
28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
Have you ever heard the term “doublespeak?” Doublespeak is language that is used to deliberately obscure, disguise, distort, and even reverse the meaning of words. It’s used to deflect the listener’s attention and understanding away from the truth. It’s prevalent in politics, advertising, and other areas where the goal is to keep others from knowing and understanding the truth.
In this passage, we get a good example of doublespeak when the religious leaders bring Jesus to Pontius Pilate.
Pilate was the appointed Roman governor of Judea. At this time, the Romans are the dominant world power and the hated occupiers of Judea.
Pilate’s main goal was to keep things quiet in Judea in order to keep the food supplies from Egypt to Rome flowing, and Pilate didn’t hesitate to employ any means necessary to achieve his goal including acts of brutal violence.
We also know from scripture and scholarship that Pilate delighted in frustrating the Jewish leadership. Anytime Pilate had the opportunity to make their lives more difficult he would use that opportunity to show them who was in charge.
That’s apparent in our passage when the religious leaders bring Jesus to Pilate. Pilate asks them to present their accusations against Jesus. The religious leaders respond with doublespeak, insisting that Jesus has somehow done something wicked and evil which is why they are handing Jesus over to Pilate (note that they don’t give a specific answer).
Pilate then instructs the religious leaders to judge Jesus by their own laws, which only serves to frustrate the Jewish leadership, revealing their desire to see Jesus dead.
This, John tells us, is to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken. Jesus has spoken of His death before, that He would be lifted up and that when He was lifted up, He would draw all people to Himself (3:14, 12:32).
All of this is pointing to the cross. The dominant world power of the Roman Empire, the legal system of Roman “justice”, the storied Jewish faith, and the long-standing promises of God are all coming together.
Pilate and the Jewish leadership are acting in their own self-interest, but the Lord is acting deliberately and unselfishly to reveal the full extent of His love and saving grace for all the world in the gift of His Son, Jesus.
And Jesus, “at the center of this storm was indeed dying for the sins of the world (N.T. Wright).”
God’s love and grace are on display and poured out for you and me through Jesus’ death on the cross.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers.