Gospel of John: Where Are You From?


The chiasm outlined by Jo-Ann A. Brant has a classic seven-point structure.

A Exterior: John 18:29-32, Jesus is brought to Pilate with a demand for execution; Pilate refuses

     B Interior: John 18:33-38, Pilate asks about Jesus’s royal claim

          C Exterior: John 18:38-40, Pilate finds Jesus innocent, but the temple elite choose Barabbas

               D Interior: John 19:1-3, Soldiers scourge and scorn Jesus

          C’ Exterior: John 19:4-8, Pilate finds Jesus innocent, but temple elite charge capital crime

      B’ Interior: John 19:9-11, Pilate asks about Jesus’s origins

A’ Exterior: John 19:12-15, Temple elite demand Jesus’s execution; Pilate agrees

Three important turning points are represented in the C’ of John’s chiasm.

First, Jesus the Lamb of God’s blood is shed within Jerusalem, symbolically on Zion, fulfilling the ancient prophecy hidden within the first Passover, but he has survived this shedding—death is yet to come. The rest of the hidden prophecy would now unfold. John was careful to place the Last Supper on the Day of Preparation, when all the Passover lambs were made ready for their examination for slaughter the next day.

Jesus was found worthy of death by the Sanhedrin on the Day of Slaughter. Therefore, just as the Passover lambs were being bled within the temple precinct, so Jesus’s blood was shed within the Praetorium precinct.

Second, the chief priests and temple officials reveal their reason for demanding Jesus’s execution. He claimed to be the Son of God. They are invoking God’s command through Moses in the Books of the Law,

Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his head, and let the whole congregation stone him.  And speak to the people of Israel, saying: Anyone who curses God shall bear the sin. One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death.

Leviticus 24:14-15 (NRSV)

Death by stoning was an act the religious rulers—and even the religiously minded—had no problem implementing. However, those who frequented the temple area, and even many in the temple guard, were solidly for Jesus. The people loved him. And the temple elite were afraid of starting a riot, particularly with Fort Antonia so nearby. They needed Pilate to execute Jesus as a criminal that it might be another hated act by the hated Romans.

Third, John notes when Pilate heard -why- the temple officials wanted to put Jesus to death, he was “far more afraid.”


Annas, who was an astute observer of demeanor, marked how the procurator stiffened and seemed to pale. His nostrils and eyes widened slightly even as he slowly turned to Jesus and stared at the still figure before him. As Annas’s gaze also shifted to the itinerant preacher and purported healer, he had to close his eyes for a moment to readjust, now understanding why Caiaphas had before been so engrossed.

For the light shone around Jesus in such a way as to make the worn royal robe draped across his shoulders seem to be flowing, as wine being poured out. Or blood, he thought. A halo effect was whitening the outline of Jesus’s hairs, as though spun among them were filaments of light, and even the thorns on the vines wrapped around his head seemed to emit sprays of effervescence. Like an other-worldly crown, Annas thought sourly, disturbed by the effect, and angry it affected him.

Though having just endured the lash, the man before him did not sway or moan, or seem to tire at all, but rather stood as still as an image made of light beams, the sun’s rays glancing off his skin as though it were burnished gold. And from his golden face, two pools of dark eternity looked back at Annas with a scrutiny so vast and deep the deposed high priest became lost in them.

Those of Jewish faith were well aware the Romans believed their gods had children by human women from time to time. Such beings were called demi-gods, human in flesh and appearance, yet imbued with supernatural powers. A famous and much-loved hero of theirs, called Hercules, half-human and half-god, was found depicted nearly everywhere there was a Roman community or town.

Annas knew well the Sanhedrin’s accusation and Jesus’s declaration would unnerve the procurator. Twice Pontius Pilate had tried to import images of emperor Tiberius with his slogan, “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of divine Augustus,” into Jerusalem. Annas scowled at the memory of it. Despicable heathen. The chief priests and elders with them were counting on the governor’s Roman superstition and loyalty to Tiberius to put this imposter, this poseur, this blasphemer he thought to himself, to death.

Pilate finally turned his head back to the Sanhedrin representatives, the paleness of his skin now glistening with a thin sheen of sweat. He looked only at Caiaphas, a long glare, then turned again to catch the eye of his ever-watchful captain of the guard. A tip of the prefect’s head in the direction of the door meant personally for his use, brought the captain to Jesus. Taking him by the chain of his wrist manacles, the captain led the prisoner toward the judge’s private chambers. Pilate gave them a few moments’ lead, then followed without a word.

Once inside, the air was still and cool. An inner room, there were no windows, only wall sconces with flickering lamps and a chair and table for the governor. The entire floor was covered in mosaic, as though a carpet, featuring a richly detailed depiction of creatures from around the world. The seas and veldts of Africa, the forests of Gaul, the mountains of Italy, and the rivers of Palestine. Even the skies were filled with birds and creatures, and all around the rim gold and lapis lazuli portrayed the heavens with their orbs and planets, stars and comets. Each of the four corners seemed to hold heavenly beings, the wind blew from one, the sun shone from another, water and fire anchored the remaining corners.

Often, when Pilate entered this room, he found himself wishing he could bring in a marble of Justitia, goddess of justice. Particularly today, he would have been grateful for her presence and silent support. Now, as he stepped inside, Pilate noted with appreciation the goblet of wine and board of rolls, cheeses and fruit on his table, the soft and thick fur draped over his chair, and the armed men posted discretely in the corners. Jesus, the one they called Son of God, stood in the middle of the room, the eye of this storm.

The governor mustered his courage and walked with what he hoped conveyed the stride of a general and man of authority to his throne, elegantly flared his cloak, and settled with a practiced ease into his seat. He rested one hand on the goblet’s base, and with the other picked a grape, rolling it between his fingers. Finally, he spoke.

Where, he began, then cleared his throat. Where are you from? Pilate did not look at Jesus. He stared at the small, plump red grape he was rolling around and around, his fingers growing damp from the its dew. Finally, when there was no answer, Pilate looked up to see Jesus watching him, steadily.

The energy in the procurator’s chest ached, as though it were his heart pressing against a heavy burden. Pilate drew in a long, labored breath, then let it out slowly, all the while looking at the solitary figure, standing at peace in the midst of the mosaic depiction of all creation. Even in this inner room, his form seemed to draw light from the dancing flames along the wall, so that a soft glow surrounded him. He seemed, for all the world, a living portrayal of the mighty sovereign of the universe.

Suddenly, Pilate dropped the grape and thrust both hands in the air, in a silent, insistent question. Well?

You are not speaking to me?

Jesus continued to watch the pale and subdued Pilate, slightly shaking as he lifted the goblet to his lips to took a long draught of the cool, dark wine. He placed the goblet back on the table with a thump and rattle so loud it startled him, then drew his quaking hands to his lap, pressing them together.

Do you not perceive, do you not comprehend that I have authority and power to release you and also power and authority to crucify you?

Pilate had tried to keep his voice relaxed yet commanding. He wished to exude all the self-assured imperative of a man of position.

But Jesus’s response was one of gentle kindness, the rabbi instructing his young talmidim, with a voice of compassion for the student who is still so new their grasp of basic truths and concepts was yet tenuous.

You do not have any authority and power over me at all if it had not been given to you from above. Jesus paused, continuing to watch the governor with a peaceful gaze. He had not lifted his arms nor moved his hands, nor even shifted his feet.

He has spoken as though already a god, of supernatural power. Pilate thought, Where has his pain gone, where has his strength come from? The prefect rubbed the side of his face, realizing his imagination and his worry were getting the better of him. But, before he could respond, reassert his office as judge, Jesus spoke again.

Because of this, the one who handed me over to you has greater sin.

Pilate could have wept in that moment.


[Story taken from John 19:9-11]

[Pontius Pilate and Jesus | By Nikolai Ge – http://www.picture.art-catalog.ru/picture.php?id_picture=7515, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=426635%5D

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