Jesus’ identity was still being questioned when he was brought before the high priest and elders of the Jewish religion the night before he was crucified. After he refused to defend himself against the charges that were being made, the high priest said to Jesus, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63). Jesus’ response was understood by these religious leaders to be a declaration of his deity. He stated, “I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need have we any further of witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death” (Mark 14:62-64).
The high priest’s accusation of blasphemy indicated that he thought Jesus was lying about his identity. The primary issue the religious leaders had was that they knew Jesus was a man like themselves. Even though Jesus was human, he was also God. Jesus never explained how he existed before he was born into the world, but stated emphatically, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The Apostle John identified Jesus as the Word and said of him, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3). The Apostle Paul expanded on John’s description by stating that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15).
Jesus’ conversation with the Roman governor Pontius Pilate revealed the dilemma he faced in keeping his identity from being the central focus of his interrogation. The Apostle John’s record of the Roman phase of Jesus’ trial suggests that he was present in the Praetorium, the governor’s official residence, for this trial (note on John 18:28). He stated:
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:33-36, ESV)
Jesus’ declaration that his kingdom is not of this world was probably meant to bring to Pilate’s attention the fact that he was more than just a human being. According to John’s record, Pilate never asked Jesus about his origin or the physical location of his kingdom, but Jesus made it clear to him that he came from a place outside the physical structure of Earth (John 18:37).