Jesus Is Tried by Pilate
(Matthew 27.1,2,11-14; Mark 15.1-5; Luke 23.1-5)
28It was early in the morning when Jesus was taken from Caiaphas to the building where the Roman governor stayed. But the crowd waited outside. Any of them who had gone inside would have become unclean and would not be allowed to eat the Passover meal.
29Pilate came out and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 They answered, “He is a criminal! That's why we brought him to you.”
31Pilate told them, “Take him and judge him by your own laws.”
The crowd replied, “We are not allowed to put anyone to death.” 32 And so what Jesus said about his death would soon come true.
33Pilate then went back inside. He called Jesus over and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34Jesus answered, “Are you asking this on your own or did someone tell you about me?”
35“You know I'm not a Jew!” Pilate said. “Your own people and the chief priests brought you to me. What have you done?”
36Jesus answered, “My kingdom doesn't belong to this world. If it did, my followers would have fought to keep me from being handed over to our leaders. No, my kingdom doesn't belong to this world.”
37“So you are a king,” Pilate replied.
“You are saying that I am a king,” Jesus told him. “I was born into this world to tell about the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth knows my voice.”
38Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”
Jesus Is Sentenced to Death
(Matthew 27.15-31; Mark 15.6-20; Luke 23.13-25)
Pilate went back out and said, “I don't find this man guilty of anything! 39And since I usually set a prisoner free for you at Passover, would you like for me to set free the king of the Jews?”
40They shouted, “No, not him! We want Barabbas.” Now Barabbas was a terrorist.
We often get the impression that Jesus had nothing to say after he was arrested. While it’s true that some of the Scriptures emphasize his silence before those who interrogated him it’s also true that other Scriptures bear record to the times he did speak, whether to Caiaphas or Pilate or someone else. And in this passage Jesus had a lot to say to Pilate.
Jesus told a man who carried on his shoulders the weight and authority of the Roman Empire that he was indeed a king. But his kingdom was not in Jerusalem or Rome. It was in another world. Why had he left his kingdom to come to a world where he was not considered a king? To speak the truth to that world. “What is truth?” Pilate asked. We do not hear that he received an answer but Jesus had given the answer only a few hours before although Pilate had not been present to hear it: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6) Jesus not only came to speak truth to our world. He came to embody truth and to be truth.
Jesus can be quite cryptic in the way he responds to people, not only at his arrest and interrogation, but at other times in the four gospels. Pilate has no real idea what Jesus is talking about yet he still comes away with a favourable impression and wants to spare Jesus’s life. In fact his short time with Jesus affects him so much he will order a sign to be hung from the Cross that Jesus dies on: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. And when the enemies of Jesus demand the sign be altered, Pilate gives them a steely reply: “What I have written I have written.”
Sometimes we do not have the words to explain certain things we believe about God and Christ and heaven and earth. We try our best but the people listening to us remain puzzled. In fact, sometimes words fail us altogether. We attempt to convey the truths that are important to us yet they sound like nonsense to others just as Jesus’s words sounded nonsensical to Pilate. Nevertheless even if this should be the case when we answer those who want to know about our faith, it is still possible for them to understand more about us and our beliefs than our puzzling phrases and concepts might convey. As in this account of Jesus interacting with Pilate, it’s not the words that make sense to Pilate, it’s the man. The heart and soul of who Jesus is and what he stands for is impossible for Pilate to miss and it speaks louder than words.
It can be the same with us in many of our encounters. People may not truly grasp what it is we believe because the words go right over their heads. But they can read who we are by our commitment to what we believe and our passion for it and our utter sincerity in standing by it no matter what. That kind of integrity can impact people’s lives as much as the most perfectly worded response.
And perhaps more.
Jesus, Pilate did not fully understand your words yet what he saw in you reached into his heart and mind. If my words fail when I try to explain what it is I believe about you, I pray that people will still be able to pick up on how important you are. May they see how real and how life changing you are. Lord, do not let them walk away unmoved even if human language proves inadequate. Please let them grasp the language of my heart. In your name I ask this. Amen.