“Pilate’s Five Questions”

John 18:33-38

November 21, 2021

Christ the King

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 18:33-37

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

| Centering Prayer |

His questions intrigue me, and

Reveal to us where this train is headed.

Pontius Pilate had only five questions for the incarcerated Jesus;

Held and tried on full display before Annas, Caiaphas, and other Jewish authorities.

1. “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Translation: Anyone claiming authority over the Emperor would be guilty of treason and immediately put to death by crucifixion.

Careful, Jesus.

Pontius Pilate is judge, jury, and executioner.

“Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Jesus responds to the question with a question.

Translation: The Jewish authorities want Jesus dead but they didn’t have the authority or stomach to kill him themselves.

Pilate would serve their need for an assassin by proxy.

2. “I am not a Jew, am I?”

Translation: Pilate’s question is a statement that he is not a Jew.

Therefore, his answer to Jesus’ question

Informs Jesus

just who it was

behind the plot to kill him.

Pilate lifts the curtain, and the religious authorities are caught red handed.

Who knew? They blushed.

3. “What have you done?”

Jesus previously reported to the Caiaphas, the High Priest, that he was only guilty of teaching in synagogues and in the Temple.

That got Jesus a slap across the face by a Temple police officer.

(John 18:19-224)

The unspoken charge was blaspheme;

teaching irreverently about God or sacred things;

You know, things …

Like the Temple was corrupt,

Religious authorities preyed on the poor, and

Lust after wealth, power, and control.

What had Jesus done?

The Son of God exposed organized religion as organized crime.

4. “So you are a king?”

Christ’s sovereignty isn’t political, ideological, tribal, or national.

Jesus informs Pilate that his kingdom is comprised of

everyone who belongs to the truth and listens to his voice.

(John 18:37)

Christ’s teachings are truth.

Those on the other side of truth

Pay no attention to Jesus.

Their sovereign is darkness and death.

Those of us who listen to Christ’s teachings and belong to the truth are members of Christ’s kingdom.

Listen and learn from Jesus.

Embrace truth.

Christ is our King.

5. “What is truth?”

The loyal flunkey of Caesar

thought he knew a few things about truth,

as he saw it.

Truth was …

In his eyes,

Pilate had all the power

over life, death, and everything in-between.

Truth and power,

influence and affluence,

all were his to hold or wield

as he saw fit.

Truth was …

In Pilate’s eyes,

the strong rule the weak.

The powerful judge the weak.

Rome demanded peace, obedience, and an uninterrupted flow of cash.

Pilate thought he knew a few things about truth:

It had proved to be politically useful

to befriend the religious authorities

to enlist their help

to keep the peace

to become the pipeline of money

delivering tax income to Rome.

Some considered it collaboration with the enemy.

The religious authorities saw it as a means to an end.

Whatever the justification;

When Rome was happy

Pilate was happy.

Pilate held all the cards,

Jesus had none.

Or, so Pilate thought.

Truth was

the spineless Temple priests

charged Jesus with blasphemy

but didn’t have the courage

to face him themselves

without the power of Pilate and his soldiers

to back them up.

Pity Pilate and his lackey Temple priests.

Their assumptions about truth

had all been wrong.

The question

“What is truth?”

simply points to

the depth of their ignorance,

the absence of faith.

Truth does not change with time.

What was true yesterday

is true today

and will be true tomorrow.

Truth can be replicated by others.

making it universal in its application.

It crosses all divisions

– gender, race, culture, and economics.

Truth is valid

in every time and every circumstance.

Therefore,

Contradiction undermines truth.

It creates an imperfection,

distressing incongruities,

and leads to failure.

The truth about God

is that there is more than what is seen, known, or experienced.

The mysterious nature of God is an ocean to our small island.

Had Pilate been able to see

what we see through the lens of history

he would have seen the fall of the Roman Empire,

the Ottoman Empire,

Nazi Germany,

And the crushing of ISIS.

Pilate would have been faced

with God’s larger truth that

the strong do not rule the weak.

Rather,

in God’s kingdom,

domination leads to failure,

power leads to corruption,

and those who hoard money find it impossible to

thread a needle with a camel.

If Pilate had been able to see

the larger picture,

absent of contradiction, imperfection, and incongruity,

he would have seen that

that God favors the poor,

the weak,

the least, the lost, the disadvantaged,

all those who get left behind.

The truth about God

is rooted deeply in faith.

What is beyond what can be seen

at any one time

is a reality in which

God is immortal, almighty, and in absolute control.

This is God’s kingdom

And Jesus is our king.

While we may be preoccupied

with the minutia of everyday

living and dying,

God is doing far greater things.

God is shaping and molding

into an ultimate, final divine will for all things,

from the vast expanse of the cosmos

to the particular of every human experience.

God creates and recreates everything

From the big to the small,

From the East to the West,

From the North to the South.

Faith that God is in control

frees the self

from equating cure with healing,

from connecting affluence with blessing,

and insisting that punishment

is the only solution for sin.

Faith in God

frees the self

from the necessity to always take charge,

and allows us

to submit,

to serve,

to give,

and to let go.

Faith that God is in control

allows one to recognize

the fact that we do not need to know all things,

to be a part of every decision,

to trust,

ultimately,

to allow God to be God.

Justice will prevail.

Peace will come.

The truth about God

is also rooted in a foundation of love;

the source of every

divine motive

from the beginning of time

through every eon of eternity.

Love overcame the flaw of sin;

the garden’s imperfection.

Love gave Moses a voice

Abraham a covenant

and the prophets a message.

Love birthed Jesus into the human condition,

forgives all flaws

and brings victory over the grave.

Love brings light and salvation

to a world hiding in darkness and sin.

We are a forgiven people because of God’s love.

We are a resurrection people because of God’s love.

We are a claimed people because of God’s love.

Where ever love can be found

it is possible

to trace its origins

back to the source

back to from whence it came

back to the Lord God, Almighty.

“Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice,”

Jesus informs

the faithless personification

of stubborn, selfish, human will.

We know in our heart

that Jesus is right.

But to listen

and to obey

implies

surrender

of the will

to the Divine will.

Yes,

this is the price of Truth;

the only price that we are asked to pay.

“Are ye able,

said the Master,

to be crucified with me?”

to surrender the self

wholly to Christ,

to go

only where he leads?

to follow

only his voice?

“Are you the King of the Jews?”

asked a perfumed, pompous ruler

who thought he knew better.

“My kingdom is not from here,”

Jesus answers.

Thank God.

Thank God

Christ’s kingdom was never built on

political power, military might, or state wealth.

Thank God

we can handle the truth;

The truth is that God is in control.

The truth is that faith is able to free us.

The truth is that eternal love is God’s only pure and unblemished motive.

Amen.

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