Summary: Jesus stands before Pilate. Jesus’ kingdom is not from this world, but he is still King of kings and Lord of lords.
It has often been said that Jesus, "Lived so that he could die." Such comments stress the crucifixion, but down play Jesus' life. I think it might be more accurate to say that Jesus died because he lived. In other words, Jesus bringing in the Kingdom of God was threatening to the worldly kingdoms of Rome and institution of the temple. They could not tolerate a rival kingdom and because of this they attempted to destroy this alternate kingdom by executing Jesus.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we live in the tension between these rival kingdoms that is displayed in today's gospel text.
Jesus is transferred from the the residence of Caiaphas the high priest to the Antonia Fortress and the headquarters of Pontius Pilate. Jesus faces another earthly kingdom that cannot tolerate a rival kingdom.
As the kingdoms face each other, their stark contrasts can be seen.
-- Pilate uses power and authority for selfish ends with no concern for the building of community, and certainly not a community guided by love and truth.
-- Pilate hoards power and lords it over people even to the point of destroying them, on a cross or otherwise.
-- Jesus empowers others and uses his authority to wash the feet of those he leads. He spends his life on them, every last ounce of it; he gives his life to bring life.
-- Pilate's rule brings terror, even in the midst of calm;
-- Pilate's followers imitate him by using violence to conquer and divide people by race, ethnicity, and nations.
-- Jesus' followers put away the sword in order to invite and unify people, as Jesus does when he says "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (12:32).
-- Pilate's authority originates from the will of Caesar and is always tenuous.
-- Jesus' authority originates from doing the will of God, and is eternal.
Pilate wavers: he knows what is right…but he also knows what is easy, what is politically expedient, and he’s torn between the two. Ultimately, he takes the easy road, caving into political pressure and denying the truth that he sees right in front of him.
Though Pilate's kingdom is admittedly powerful, the writer of the gospel highlights its weaknesses and proclaims that Jesus is king.
BEHOLD THE KING
In this confrontation of kingdoms, the powerful Pilate is portrayed as troubled, unable or unwilling to do what he wants to do, and forced to act in order to please the Jewish leaders and populace. He goes back and forth between his headquarters and the courtyard where the Jewish authorities have gathered.
In verse 37, Pilate identifies Jesus as King. Rome recognizes who Jesus is even thought the Jewish religious authorities do not. Later he has the sign, "King of the Jews," placed on the cross.
The Roman soldiers ironically crowd Jesus king--in chapter 19--and clothe him in a robe of purple--the color of royalty. Jesus is robed in purple when he hangs on the cross. Jesus dies a king.