So Are You A King?
Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
“What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.”
John 18:33-38 (NLT)
Messianic expectations always ran high at Passover season, and it would be easy for a Jewish pretender to stir up the people into a riot or a rebellion against Rome. Pilate no doubt felt himself on safe ground when he asked about Christ’s kingship.
What was our Lord really asking?
“What kind of a king do you have in mind? A Roman king or a Jewish king? A political king or a spiritual king?”
Jesus was not evading the issue; He was forcing Pilate to clarify the matter/or his own sake. After all, it was not Jesus that was on trial; it was Pilate!
If Pilate had a Roman king in mind, then Jesus could be considered a rebel. If the governor was thinking about a Jewish kind of king, then political matters could be set aside. It is interesting that Pilate called Jesus “king” at least four times during the trial, and even used that title for the placard he hung on the cross (John 18:39; 19:3, 14-15, 19).
Pilate’s reply to Jesus showed what the Romans thought of the Jews:
“Am I a Jew?”
No doubt there was an obvious note of disdain and sarcasm in his voice. Jesus was not a prisoner because Pilate had arrested him, but because His own nation’s leaders had arrested Him! Where there is smoke there must be fire; so Pilate asked,
“What have You done?”
Graciously, Jesus consented to explain Himself and His kingdom. Yes, He admitted that He is a King; but His kingdom (reign) does not come from the authority of the world. The Jews were under Roman authority, and Pilate was under the authority of the emperor; but Jesus derived His authority from God. His kingdom is spiritual, in the hearts of His followers; and He does not depend on worldly or fleshly means to advance His cause. By now, if His kingdom were from the world, His followers would have assembled an army and fought to release Him.
Jesus did not say that He had no kingdom in this world, or that He would never rule on earth. He does have a kingdom in this world, wherever there are people who have trusted Him and yielded to His sovereignty. One day He shall return and establish a righteous kingdom on earth (Dan. 7:13-28). Pilate’s concern was the source of this kingdom:
Where did Jesus derive His authority?
In John 18:37, Jesus explained who He is and what kind of kingdom belonged to Him. Pilate probably did not grasp the significance of these profound words, but we today can discern some of the meaning Jesus had in mind. He was “born,” which indicates His humanity; but He also “came into the world,” which indicates His deity. The fact that Jesus came “into the world” means that He had existed before His birth at Bethlehem; and this is an important and repeated truth in John’s Gospel (John 1:9-10; 3:17, 19; 9:39; 10:36; 12:46; 16:28; 17:18).
But Jesus not only told Pilate of His origin; He also explained His ministry: to bear witness unto the truth. His was a spiritual kingdom of truth; and He won people to His cause, not through force, but through conviction and persuasion. He spoke the truth of God’s Word, and all who were His people would respond to His call (See John 8:47; 10:27). Rome’s weapon was the sword; but our Lord’s weapon was the truth of God, the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).
We do not know with what attitude Pilate asked his now-famous question,
“What is truth?”
In his classic essay “Of Truth,” Francis Bacon wrote, “‘What is Truth?’ said jesting Pilate; and would not stay for an answer.” But we are not certain that Pilate was jesting. Perhaps he was sincere. For centuries, Roman and Greek philosophers had discussed and debated this very question and had come to no settled conclusions. Whether Pilate was sneering or sighing as he asked the question, we do not know, so it would be unwise to pass judgment.
At least he had the courage to face the crowd and declare his verdict: “I find in Him no fault at all.” But he did not get the response he desired, for the chief priests and elders only began to accuse Jesus all the more! (See Matt. 27:12-14) Jesus was silent before His accusers (1 Peter 2:21-23) and this silence amazed Pilate.
Could this King not even defend Himself?
If He did not speak, how could anyone secure any evidence?
Pilate faced a dilemma.
But the chief priests and elders solved his problem when they shouted that Jesus had stirred up the people even in Galilee (Luke 23:5). Galilee!
That was Herod’s responsibility, so why not send the prisoner to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem for the feast?
Between John 18:38 and 39 you have the events recorded in Luke 23:6-12. Pilate’s maneuver did not solve his problem, because Herod sent Jesus back! All that it accomplished was the healing of the breach between these two rulers. Pilate still had to deal with Jesus and the Jews.
To Be Continued…
Growing In Godliness
To the NT disciple, godly living is living in through, and for Jesus. Godliness includes these three elements:
- Obedience and
By living godly lives, we learn to see things as God does and adopt His Word as our only standard.
Practice Christian citizenship, but realize that the world system is often opposed to God’s kingdom.