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33 Pilate went back into the palace. He summoned Jesus and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others spoken to you about me?”
35 Pilate responded, “I’m not a Jew, am I? Your nation and its chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”
36 Jesus replied, “My kingdom doesn’t originate from this world. If it did, my guards would fight so that I wouldn’t have been arrested by the Jewish leaders. My kingdom isn’t from here.”
37 “So you are a king?” Pilate said.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.”
7 The Jewish leaders replied, “We have a Law, and according to this Law he ought to die because he made himself out to be God’s Son.”
8 When Pilate heard this word, he was even more afraid. 9 He went back into the residence and spoke to Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus didn’t answer. 10 So Pilate said, “You won’t speak to me? Don’t you know that I have authority to release you and also to crucify you?”
11 Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me if it had not been given to you from above. That’s why the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” 12 From that moment on, Pilate wanted to release Jesus.
Pontius Pilate, a hardened Roman bureaucrat, found himself facing a prisoner unlike any he had ever met. He’d seen lots of anger and defiance, but this calm sense that it was really Jesus, not Pilate, who had the ultimate authority—no, he’d never seen that. Jaded as he was, he even wondered if something otherworldly was at work, and asked Jesus, “Where do you come from?” (John 19:9)
Lord of all, you came to testify to the truth, including the truth about who you are and where you came from. I believe you, and I worship and follow you. Amen.
I had the privilege of listening to about 160 Confirmation students recite the Apostles’ Creed this past Sunday during their Confirmation ceremony at Resurrection’s Leawood location. These words have stitched together the fabric of my faith since before I was old enough to recite them at my own Confirmation service so many years ago.
As with many of the things we memorize and recite throughout our lives, it is easy to become removed from their meaning and rest in the cadence and verse that we often refer to as tradition. As I read our passage for today the words “crucified under Pontius Pilate” take on greater depth and meaning.
As Pilate questions Jesus, the words he says, and maybe even more the ones he doesn’t say, do not help Pilate feel good about the decision he seems to be trying not to make. Wanting answers, Pilate gives Jesus multiple opportunities to deny the things the Jews were saying about him. Jesus’ answers don’t come neatly packaged in ways that define a clear path for Pilate. Answers in the form of questions, statements that don’t directly relate to the question asked and Jesus’ silence only seem to create anxiety as Pilate tries to manage the situation presented him.
Pilate’s identity is rooted in his perceived power, but Jesus has no need to function within the constraints of the legal system Pilate represents. His kingdom is from another world, one far beyond what the label of being king could ever represent. Jesus is clear and steadfast in knowing what his purpose is and what he must do.
Ironically, it is Jesus that Pilate turns to for help. As Pilate asks, “Don’t you know I have the authority to release you and also to crucify you?” he seems to be pleading with Jesus to change both their fates. Jesus is gently and fully in control of the situation, demonstrating a type of power completely foreign to Pilate.
As we examine Jesus’ words that changed the world in this new sermon series, for me it’s the words Jesus doesn’t say that speak volumes. What have you done? Are you the king of the Jews? Where are you from…? The uncomfortableness of his silence clearly influences Pilate. Even after all of these questions remain unanswered, he wants to release Jesus despite the immense pressure to do the opposite.
As we move through this season of Lent, may the remaining words of the Apostles’ Creed continue to unfold, and may we discover new insights into who Jesus is and who God has created each of us to be through his life, death and resurrection.
* William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John—Volume 2 Chapters 8–21 (Revised Edition). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, page 244.
** J. Ramsey Michaels, study notes on John 18:36 and 19:10 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, pp. 207-208 NT.