So, You Think You’re the King?

Pilate went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked Him,  “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,”  Jesus asked,  “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?”  Pilate replied.  “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me.  What is it you have done?”

The dialogue here continues to  fascinates me.  I really don’t know from the questions whether or not Pilate was really interested in the answers, but it’s evident he had heard rumors.  Up to this point the Jews hadn’t even accused Him of anything let alone told Pilate about Jesus’ claims to be king—at least from the record here—so either Pilate was assuming or he had heard rumors about Him.

Jesus’ answer to Him is telling.  First off, though I can’t say what was going through Jesus’ mind at the time, He’s either confronting Pilate’s presumption on the charges or simply testing him to see how interested he really was in the answer.  Was Pilate struck by Jesus’ bearing and attitude to the point of being impressed He was a king or had the talk about Him around Israel filtered up to his offices?  One thing’s for certain, after years of deliberating civil cases, a person working as a judge gets a feel for the guilt or innocence of the accused and accuser.  I think Pilate sensed Jesus was innocent not only because of the time of day (early morning, which meant the Jewish kangaroo court must had happened in the middle of the night) but also because he didn’t trust the Jews.

“Am I a Jew?” means Pilate, to me, had only heard rumors through the servants, dignitaries and others in his courts instead Jewish gossip hotline, so all he had was a vague impression from talk around his palace.  In his mind, whatever answer Jesus gave would decide his course of action.  His query held more to it than mere curiosity—I mean if it had been me, I would want to know who this man claimed to be and how he handled the question.  Jesus’ answer, however, probably wasn’t what Pilate expected.  Instead of declaring emphatically His innocence and railing against the Jewish leaders, the Master simply probed him about his motives for asking such a question.

Pilate decided to be direct:  “What is it you have done?”

Or:  “What did you do to make those people out there angry enough to kill you?”

The fact that he asked Jesus for clarification on the point of His arrest signifies he saw no guilt, tell-tale signs or evidence from the people outside He had committed a crime.  So was this question his way of looking for clues as to what the man before him held behind the mask of innocence?  A judge learns not to trust appearances alone, thus the probing.

Jesus didn’t answer to divert attention away from His condemnation but to probe Pilate’s heart for any opportunity to plant the truth of God in it.  When He did answer the question He directed Pilate to a spiritual kingdom rather than an earthly one.  When Jesus said,  “My kingdom is not of this world…” Pilate probably heard a man out of touch with reality and thus harmless to the Roman government.

The Master, even here, concerned Himself with the man’s soul rather than anything tangible to the human reasoning.  For Jesus, the spiritual man was (and for us, still is) the really important part of his humanity.  The physicality, power, prestige, position and wealth were so fleeting in the eternal perspective as to dwindle to insignificance.  Our sense of what’s important mirrors either the Jews or Pilate—church or state, take your pick.  Humans cannot seem to grab onto the spiritual reality without making a religion out of it and developing intricate guidelines for success in it.  Those focused on the state will either go completely political or make their personal “kingdom” the all consuming interest.

Jesus, however, points us to the spiritual as the reality we need for our foundational reality.  I don’t think even most Christians handle this truth very well for the evidence of what we accept or fight about displays a different story to the world around us than we believe we’re telling.  I find it hard to balance the two views—i.e. being a spiritually based person while living in a physical world.  The mission of Christ is to reconcile the two parts which were separated at the fall.  This, then, is our journey and greatest witness for the kingdom of heaven; our mission is to live connected ever more completely to the spiritual reality of Christ while living it out in the physical realm.

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One Response to “So, You Think You’re the King?”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    Paul worded the struggle best when he said, and I’m paraphrasing, that although he desperately wanted to go to heaven, he desperately wanted to stay on earth for our sake. Religion had nothing to do with it, he was reaching for souls knowing his own was secure, and I often wonder if we are there as Christians today? Are we secure in the knowing and are we desperate to sow seed?

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