John 18:28-19:16: Pilate


Pilate showed some suspicion of the motive of the Jewish leaders from the beginning. He asks for what charge they bring against Jesus. The Jewish leaders, in response, and unwilling to disclose details, hastily assert that Jesus is a criminal. Pilate, seemingly uninterested, told them to go and judge Jesus by their own law. However, the Jews really want Jesus put to death, and they can’t do that on their own, which they plainly tell Pilate. Pilate then, decides to interrogate Jesus himself. Are you the king of the Jews? This was the accusation brought against Jesus, because the Jews knew Pilate would not execute him unless the crime were of a political nature. Jesus, in response, asks if this was Pilate’s idea,  or if the Jewish leaders made this accusation. Jesus, of course, knew the truth of the matter, but he wanted Pilate to realize it as well.  Pilate retorts that he was not a Jew, and therefore had no part in the charge. It was the Jews who handed him over, and the Jews who conspired against him, not Pilate, so Pilate inquires what Jesus did to make them do so.

Jesus didn’t say that he “did” anything. He said that his kingdom is not on this earth, and it was obvious, as he had no servants to prevent his arrest or, in a larger manner, any armies to challenge the kingship of Rome. Pilate wanted to know then, what kind of king Jesus was, because it was apparent that Jesus was not the political enemy that the Jews said he was.

Yes, Jesus said, Pilate spoke truth when he said Jesus was king. Jesus said he was born to witness to the truth, to which Pilates asks, What is truth? The question philosophers have asked but never answered, but Christ is no philosopher. The truth is God loves us, the truth is God’s mercy and grace, the truth is all that Christ spoke, the truth is Christ died for our sins, the truth is Christ himself. With this, Pilate figured Jesus is no threat to Rome, and is prepared to set him free. His attempts are futile. Pilate then has Jesus flogged, perhaps reasoning that the people will be satisfied. Yet, they are not, and cried for his death. Pilate wanted no part of the death of Jesus. He told the Jewish leaders to take Jesus and crucify him themselves, because he could not find him guilty. The Jewish leaders charged him with saying he was the Son of God. This frightened Pilate. It scared him enough to go to Jesus and ask him where he was from- at this point, fearing that he truly was from God. Jesus was silent, as he had already spoken the truth. At this point Pilate was frustrated. He has tried to free Jesus twice, and twice he was rejected, and Jesus, was not speaking to his defense. Pilate, therefore, invokes his authority, as the one who holds life of Jesus in his hands.  Yet Pilate’s authority is but an illusion compared to the will of God. Whatever authority Pilate had, was permitted by God himself. Pilate did not condemn Jesus out of hate and malice, but he was the method by which the Jews would. Pilate was not innocent, but the Jews carried the greater sin.  Again, Pilate tried to free Jesus.  He presented Jesus to them as their king, and they rejected him, asking for his crucifixion. Yet, Pilate appealed to them again, but they rejected Christ, and asserted their loyalty to Caeser. Pilate knew, also, that charge of treason could be applied to him, as Jesus was labeled a king. The crowd threatened so, declaring if Jesus was not crucified, they would be sure to let the Roman authorities know. He finally yielded, and Jesus was taken away.

How often does Jesus try to enter our lives, and we reject him for the sake of an earthly king? How often may someone try to witness to us, yet we silence him? How often are we the crowd, calling for the crucifixion? How often are we Pilate, yielding to social pressure? Have we, for the sake of our own comfort, not stood up for Jesus Christ? Then end result of rejecting Christ is destruction, in this world, and the next.

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