Verse 33 In John’s Gospel, Pilate is made to go out to the Jewish leaders who refuse to defile the Passover by entering the house of a Gentile. The irony is palpable, because Jesus is the Lamb of God as the Baptist proclaims at the start of this Gospel. The question put by Pilate need not be insincere, because it is one of the questions which really matter. Later in chapter 19, we read: Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19) Then, the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” (John 19:21)
Verse 34 The questioner becomes the questioned. This turning of the tables is even clearer later on: Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11)
Verse 35 Historically speaking, some Jewish leaders plotted the death of Jesus. To make sure the Romans would pay attention, an essentially religious charge had to be converted into a political one. Later on we read: The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” (John 19:15) This is an especially hard saying on the lips of those for whom God alone is king. The earlier uses of the word “nation” help us understand the force of the dialogue: If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. (John 11:48–52) John’s Gospel excels here in the ironic and unconscious proclamation of the truth. Finally, “What have you done” is a tremendous question.
Verse 36 The “whence” (where from) of Jesus is a powerful technique used in this Gospel to explore his true identity. The texts are too many to give fully, but here are the references: John 1:48; 2:9; 3:8; 4:11; 6:5; 7:27–28; 8:14; 9:29–30; 19:9. The climax is 19:9. The non-violence of his followers is portrayed ironically too in this Gospel: Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus (= king!). Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:10–11)
Verse 37 Born: i.e. as a human being. Come into the world: i.e. as the Word who was in the beginning. The reader of course knows the deep origin of Jesus since the very first words of the Prologue.
On the lips of the Johannine Jesus, we hear the typical faith vocabulary of his community: testify and truth. To testify is found widely and significantly: John 1:7–8, 15, 32, 34; 2:25; 3:11, 26, 28, 32; 4:39, 44; 5:31–33, 36–37, 39; 7:7; 8:13–14, 18; 10:25; 12:17; 13:21; 15:26–27; 18:23, 37; 19:35; 21:24. Perhaps the most intense moments are in chapter 5:31-39. “Truth” reminds the reader of two texts: And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:4–6) Hearing the voice reminds us of the Good Shepherd in Jn 10.