Forming Faith Blog

Jesus’ Trial and Physical Space (John 18:28-40)

Our physical space doesn’t just set the scene; it influences how we interact with one another. John’s account of the passion narrative forces us to pay attention to our physical surroundings.

An old gate set in a wall, a division of physical space
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Walls and Gates Set the Stage

The Narrative Lectionary continues to guide us through Jesus’ passion narrative this week. Throughout chapter 18, our Gospel writer pays special attention to physical space. In last week’s story, Peter stands outside the gate with the police and enslaved people (John 18:16-18), while Jesus is questioned on the other side of the gate in the courtyard by the high priest, an insider with power. John illustrates divisions and diverging positions by describing the physical space in each scene.

Recreate the Scene

In today’s story, physical space and physical divides again play a central role. Those accusing Jesus stand outside Pilate’s headquarters while Jesus is taken inside and questioned (John 18:28). It is Pilate who moves back and forth between the inside and outside. Accordingly, we might read chapter 18 not as one story, but two stories woven together. There are very different experiences and perspectives on Jesus’ trial depending on your vantage point: from outside or inside.

One way you might highlight and discuss these perspectives is by recreating the physical divisions in your reading. Try reading the story while half of your participants are in different rooms or somehow divided. Ask each group what they noticed in the retelling.

Our Position Determines Our Perspective

The Gospel writer might be reminding their readers that what Jesus’ ministry means differs based on your social location. The truth that Jesus brings might be different for those inside and outside the walls and gates of both ancient Jerusalem (literally) and our modern cities (metaphorically).

Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously said, “The good news [of Jesus Christ] to a hungry person is bread.” Following Pilate’s search for truth in today’s story, and the differing audiences and physical locations, listeners might respond with their own ideas about what Jesus’ good news is for various people and communities today (as well as for their own lives).

Assess Your Physical Space for Connection

Returning to literal space, one of my favorite resources for intergenerational ministry ideas is the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkley. Their website Greater Good in Action offers hundreds of research-based exercises to promote social and emotional health and mindfulness among kids, families, and communities. On that site, one of their suggestions for promoting connection among people is to consider the physical space that you inhabit. The center writes:

Are chairs facing toward or away from each other? Are there common spaces that are conducive to social interaction? Rearranging the layout of your home, office, or classroom can also help to promote feelings of connectedness.[1]

In discussing this story with your community, you might try a similar assessment and rearrangement of your physical space.

No matter what location you are reading this story from, I hope that God’s grace meets you again and stirs you toward justice and joy.



Rev. Billy Kluttz serves as Associate Pastor at Govans Presbyterian Church (USA) in Baltimore, Maryland where he focuses on children and family ministries, community engagement, and communications. He is also the co-host of the TLDR Bible Show, a humorous Bible summary and discussion podcast, and a Doctor of Ministry candidate at Wesley Theological Seminary.


Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “Almost the True Story” from our home-based family curriculum Living the Word: God’s Story @ Home (NL) designed to be used at home but can be used in any intergenerational faith formation!

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