Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
Relate: Are You king? Was Pilate baiting Jesus? If Jesus came right out and said yes, then Pilate could turn right around, hand Jesus over to be crucified and the matter is done. Would Jesus dare just blurt out yes, the truth, and make it that easy? If there was one thing Pilate had learned about these Jews… they sure knew how to speak their mind. If only it could be that easy.
One thing we can be pretty is certain of is that Pilate was not serious. He might have been curious if Jesus really thought Himself to be such a king. There might even have been news of this itinerant healer and prophet that had filtered its way to him. There were probably advisors in Pilate’s court who would have given him a very slanted update about what was going on with the locals. With the Passover right around the corner he might even have listened to them long enough to get an update.
Since he was skating on thin ice with Tiberius any news of potential riots or uprisings would have made its way to his ears and Jesus entry into Jerusalem five days previous would probably have put him on Pilate’s radar. The thing is, Jesus entry that day was on the back of a donkey. The symbolism of the event was a king coming in peace, not one coming in triumph or for war. I seriously doubt Pilate was fearful or truly concerned but he probably was a bit curious.
“Are you asking for yourself or are you leaning on the reports of others?” Jesus’ response was neither a yes or a no. If He answered truthfully, He would have been signing His own death warrant. If He lied, well, it is impossible for God to lie. His answer does two things: first, it reverses the roles. Now Jesus is the one in authority questioning Pilate. The procurator had been given his authority through a title despite his obvious lack of ability. In one brief response Jesus demonstrated a natural ability in taking the initiative for the interview. He demonstrated His right to rule. More importantly, Jesus forces Pilate to stop going through the motions and seriously consider what he is doing. Are you simply doing and asking what is expected or do you truly care? Do you really want an answer?
Pilate’s next response shows that on this second level Jesus had succeeded. I read his retort with far more sincerity than his initial idle curiosity. “Am I a Jew? Why have Your people handed You over to me? What have You done?” In picturing this scene in my mind, Pilate is seated in his chair (a place of judgment) while Jesus stands before him bound in chains. Pilate’s first question is asked with an almost bored air as he doesn’t even bother to turn and look at the man before him. When Jesus responds, Pilate turns. Now he is looking intently at the Son of Man before him, elbows on his knees, asking this next assault of questions in rapid fire. Now he is engaged.
React: Is Jesus king? That is a question that each of us will eventually be confronted with. This time of year many of us will sing out of tradition right along with those harkened herald angels, “Glory to the newborn king.” We grant Him the title but we do not give Him the authority. We can’t be bothered. Perhaps there have been a few people who have tried to convince us of the story. Maybe every now and then the concept will slip past our subconscious until we crowd it out of our mind with the “more important” thoughts of the day. We tell ourselves that there are more pressing issues than the identity and value of an ancient backwater rabbi whose words and actions have been inflated to mythological proportions.
What does He have to do or to say for you to sit up and take notice? Christmas isn’t just about peace and hope and joy and love and the giving of gifts. We can have peace because the King sits enthroned on high. Hope is possible because He has paved a way for us to follow. Joy is ours because He has been proven victorious over fear and death and the grave. Love… love defines Him. We give gifts because He gave Himself. So, not as a line in one or two of the songs you will hear from the carolers enduring the snow and the cold but rather as the question which will determine the direction of the rest of your life I ask again… Is Jesus King?
King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I acknowledge You as my King and my Lord. Let those not just be titles but rather definitions of how and why I live my life. Let my entire being be seen as that of a subject within Your Kingdom. Let my every action be those of a servant to Your Lordship. Keep any seditious thoughts from my mind and words from my lips. I have a tendency to want to place myself on Your throne. Root those desires right out. In everything let me always give all glory to You for You are my King.