The Lord’s trial was at night, so when they brought Him to Pilate “early” (18:28,29) that means they were up all night trying to find something to pin on Him. Compare that to how His disciples couldn’t stay up with Him to pray an hour (Mt.26:40)! Sad, but most Christians can watch TV all night, but fall asleep if the preacher preaches an hour.
The Lord’s trial before the high priest ended with a charge of blasphemy (Mt.26:63—27:2) and He was sent to Pilate for sentencing (Jo.18:29). The Jews couldn’t enter Pilate’s judgment hall or be defiled (John 18:28 cf. Acts 10:28), but after condemning an innocent man this was straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel (Mt23:24). They were famous for this kind of religious hypocrisy (Mt.27:6)!
But modern Christians are no better. They are more wor-ried about the correct age and manner to baptize someone than in living a holy life. They are more worried about speaking in tongues than speaking the gospel. Even grace believers are often more worried about whether you are Acts 9 or 13 than they are about speaking the message graciously. There’s plenty of religious hypocrisy among us!
Pilate answered the door so early because there was a mob at his door that was impossible to ignore (Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1). When he asked the charge, the Jews accused the Lord of being a “malefactor” (John 18:30), i.e., a crook. If a judge today asked the charge and the prosecutor said, “We wouldn’t have brought him to court if he weren’t a crook,” the case would be dismissed! They couldn’t charge him with thievery or Pilate would have asked what he stole, nor could they charge Him with murder, for he’d have asked who He killed.
When he heard no charges, Pilate figured the Lord was guilty of breaking some Jewish law (John 18:3cf. Acts 18:12-16). But if it was unlawful for the Jews to execute a man as they claimed (John 18:31), why had they tried to kill Him so often (John 10:31 cf. Acts 7:59)? They meant “unlawful” according to the law of Moses. That’s what the word “unlawful” meant every time they used it. They were saying that they couldn’t stone a man on the Passover holy day, and they were anxious that He die right away. He had eluded capture so often in the past that they feared He might escape.
But there’s no way they could have stoned Him, since He predicted He would be crucified (John 3:14; Matthew 20:18,19). That’s why John said that the Jews said this to fulfill Scripture (John 18:32).
Where’d Pilate get the idea He was king of the Jews? (18:33)? The Jews hadn’t mentioned anything about this, but a week earlier that’s what the multitudes cried (Luke 19:37,38), and Pilate would certainly have heard about these treasonous words. You can’t say things like that without being charged with treason (cf.Acts 17:7).
The Lord couldn’t say He wasn’t a king, for He was one, so He asked Pilate if this was his idea or hearsay (John 18:34). He must have been thinking Pilate was a closet Jew (cf. Acts 26:67), for the prophets predicted a king would come (Jer.23:5) and if a Jew believed that Jesus was that king, he also believed He was the Son of God (John 1:49), and that was enough to save a man. Pilate denied being a Jew (18:35).
John 18:36 is used by our opponents to say that Christ never meant to establish a physical kingdom on earth, just as they use John 6:15. However, the Lord wouldn’t let them make Him a king in John 6 because He had not yet paid for the right to be king of the world, and the same was true in John 18.
Notice the Lord said that “now” His kingdom wasn’t of this world (18:36). That implies that someday it would be. We know that the Lord meant to establish a literal kingdom here on earth because He taught the disciples to pray for it (Mt.6:9,10). So He was giving Pilate a lesson in “rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). But now He’s admitted He has a kingdom, so Pilate again asks if He were a king (18:37).