HEY! WHO'S ON TRIAL HERE?
Good morning. Let's get right to work. Yesterday we looked at the Garden scene in John's account and discovered some differences between John's account and the accounts described in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus was in full control in John's scene. He was not praying for God's will to be done, He intended from the beginning to fulfill it. Also, when Jesus identified himself to the band of soldiers, and the others who had come to arrest him they fell over. In other words, John wants the reader to know that if Jesus did not allow them to arrest him, well...it wasn't going to happen. Everything that is about to happen to Jesus in John's gospel will happen only because Jesus allows it to happen. He is in full control.
We also saw yesterday where Peter drew his sword and cut off the right ear of one of the high priest's servants. I discussed the possibility that Peter did this in order to get the rebellion he was hoping for started. Jesus, however, told him to put his sword down. The next time we see Peter he is denying ever knowing Jesus. I believe that Peter realized that Jesus was not the messiah he hoped he would be. This is why he denied him.
Today I want to focus on the scene in which Jesus stands before Pilate. We have already looked at this scene as described by Luke. If you recall Luke presented Pilate as being confused as to why Jesus was brought to him in the first place. Pilate on three occasions in Luke pronounced Jesus innocent. Let's see what happens in John.
"Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.' 'But we have no right to execute anyone,' the Jews objected." (John 18:31) Just as in Luke Pilate doesn't want anything to do with this case. As far as he is concerned this is a problem for the Jews. In other words, Jesus was not his problem. Or was he? Well, Pilate may have thought Jesus wasn't his problem, but John presents this scene in an amazing way. We will see this in a moment. Notice, the Jews had already made up their mind as to what they wanted to happen to Jesus. However, they were not allowed to carry out death sentences.
"Pilate went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 'Is that your own idea,' Jesus asked, 'or did others talk to you about me?" (John 18:33-34) See, what I meant? Pilate asked a simple question as to who Jesus was to others, but Jesus twists the question and now Pilate is having to answer for himself. Jesus basically asks; "Do you believe that I am the king of the Jews?" At this point, and going forward, it doesn't really matter what the Jews think about Jesus. Pilate tries to defend himself by saying that he is not a Jew; so "how would I know if you are the kings of the Jews or not?" Then Jesus explains to Pilate that he does have a kingdom, but "my kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:26a) Then Pilate responds: "You are a king, then!" (John 18:37) Notice, he did not say "You are the King of the Jews, then!" No, he saw him as a king. Jesus answered him: "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37)
In this scene in John, Jesus may have been the one who was supposed to be on trial, but Pilate is the one who is being interrogated. Here, I think Pilate represents more than just a Roman official in a tough spot. I think he represents the world. Jesus own people have indeed rejected him and to the point they want him dead. He now stands before one who is not his own. Will Pilate get it right? What does Pilate do? Pilate asks perhaps one of the greatest questions in all of the Bible: "What is truth?" (John 18:38)
Was Pilate simply asking Jesus for a definition of truth? Did he want an explanation from Jesus? I think the answer is "No!" If he wanted a simple explanation from Jesus, he didn't wait around to get it. Instead, he asked the question and then turned and walked away. No, I think Pilate is wrestling with his own understanding as to who this Jesus is. I have often said that one of the greatest lines from any movie was the line by Jack Nicholson's character from "A Few Good Men." I didn't watch the movie and probably never will, but I have watched this scene many times. Tom Cruise yells out: "WE WANT THE TRUTH!" Then Jack Nicholson yells back: "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!" I think that the truth is often the hardest thing to handle. The fact is, "The Truth Hurts." Many, people argue and become divided because of how they view the truth. Truth is often a perception. Truth, according to us, is often based upon our traditions, views, etc. Often, people argue that there idea of truth is based on scripture. Be careful, many have argued their point using the scripture. Have all the scripturally based viewpoints throughout history been true? There were those who supported slavery by claiming the Bible supported slavery. Were they incorrect? Well, the Bible never condemned it, and even spoke to slave-owners. But, there were those who argued that the same Bible denounced slavery. Were they incorrect or correct? Well, the Bible speaks a lot about freedom from the slavery of sin. What is truth? There are those who use the Bible to say that women cannot perform certain roles. There are those who use the Bible to oppress women. The man who I spoke about yesterday who was shot and killed by the Missouri Highway Patrol Special Response Unit was one of those who did this. His wife was not permitted to leave the house. After his death some of the women in the neighborhood took her to places near her where she had never been. What does the Bible say? Oh, yes, it does say "keep your women silent." Oh yes, it does. And I can hear some say, "That's the Truth!" But, it also says "neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female." Paul does speak about women who are in ministry along with him. *Paul was the same one who told the Corinthians to keep their women silent. So, what is truth? Pilate walks out with that question on his lips and I suppose on his mind.
The question that Pilate asked Jesus concerning the truth was the end of the dialogue between these two men. Pilate got the last word. But, Jesus is still his problem. May I suggest that Jesus remains a problem until Pilate, or whomever is dealing with their own dilemma concerning the truth (about Jesus) answers the question themselves.
The Jews will certainly not help Pilate. They want Jesus dead. Now, we are not done with this story just yet. Monday we will look at the crucifixion. We will also come back to this scene where Pilate asks this question. I pray you have a great weekend. God Bless! -Pastor Rick