NOT REALLY A KING?
I praise you Lord, the God of the old and the new, the God of innovation and tradition. Visit me again today!
Read JOHN 18:28–40
Jesus Before Pilate
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Timothy challenges us to pray for those in authority over us.1 Who might God want you to be praying for and how?
Pilate mistrusts the Jewish leaders’ intentions from the start. Receiving a Sanhedrin delegation at dawn, demanding the execution of a prisoner, was unusual, but the timing before Passover suggests a desperation that must have given him pause. Straightaway Pilate frames the discussion in Roman law, using technical legal language: ‘what’s the charge?’ (see v 29). Their response is legally evasive: ‘would we be bringing him to you if he wasn’t an evildoer?’ Dismissively, Pilate tells them to try the case under Jewish law, but the religious leaders don’t want a trial, they want an execution, so they state that Jesus has claimed to be a king. Given that such a clear act of sedition against Rome would justify execution, Pilate goes in to question Jesus about his claims.
When challenged, Jesus stresses that his kingdom won’t come through human fighting and that it isn’t in any sense geographical or political (v 36). Pilate rubbishes his claim to be a king at all on this basis (v 37 could be translated, ‘Not really a king, are you?’). Jesus insists that he came to establish his kingdom on truth and that ‘everyone being of the truth hears my voice’ (v 37, literally).2 In this, Pilate has not the slightest interest, though it convinces him that there’s no substance at all to the charge brought against Jesus (v 38).
Trying to appeal over the heads of their leaders to the crowd, Pilate proposes to release their king to them, but he has misjudged the moment: Barabbas’ relatives, the leaders, and their attendants shout for him instead. Although they wouldn’t step into a Gentile home for fear of becoming unable to eat the Passover, nevertheless they’ll engineer the killing of an innocent man on a trumped-up charge – and shout for a proven man of violence to be released in his place.
Political responsibility can be hard to bear. How could you and your church pray for and show your appreciation for local political leaders?
Mighty God, at times I avoid taking responsibility when I am responsible. I need courage and strength from you to live responsibly.
1 1 Tim 2:1,2 2 Cf John 10:3,4
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