The Apostles Creed is a summary of the Christian Faith which carries historical weight to it. One line that highlights this is, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate.” The Roman Governor was responsible for having Jesus Christ crucified. the portrayal of Pilate in the Gospel accounts has a sense of him being cowardly. In other references to Pilate outside of the Bible, he is ruthless and violent in an irrational manner. In Scripture, Jesus Christ has been handed over to Pilate from the Jewish Jerusalem leadership. Reading of Pilate’s interrogation in John 18:28-19:16, there is a sense this wasn’t easy for Pilate to do. He examines Jesus and doesn’t believe there is anything here worthy of crucifixion. He sees the envy of the Jerusalem leadership (chief priests and elders) and thinks that Jesus is harmless. But words like king and Son of God become the chief priests rhetoric that stir and even shake this Roman Governor in ways that you wouldn’t expect. It shows that Pilate himself is being examined. He is standing before the One who Lord of all.
One of the characteristics of John’s Gospel narrating Jesus before Pilate (and vice versa!) is that of Pilate going in and out of his palace. Notice John 18:28; 33, 38; 19:4, 9. The constant runaround shows a flimsy Pilate who is not sure where he stands. One portion of which Jesus is being examined and the subject of kingship arises (see John 18:36-38). Jesus doesn’t give Pilate many answers that show Pilate comprehending. Bear in mind, the weight of this historical examination is what eventually leads to Jesus being crucified. After all, He is not a tame lion after all. Pilate feels he is getting somewhere when Jesus speaks of His kingdom being not of this world but from another place. Pilate exclaims, “Ah, then you are a king!” I have it straight from your own admission. Jesus says, “You said I am a king…I came to testify to the truth and those of the truth hear my voice” (v.37). Pilate’s response is like a deer caught in a headlights…”Truth, what’s that?!” And then Pilate leaves yet again to talk to the Jews. Pilate has no idea what truth is. We are to understand that if we don’t hear the truth then lies is the only other option. In a political environment of upheaval and intrigue where the petty pretentious politics of the day hold sway, Jesus cross-examines us.
Make no mistake about it. Jesus is the true king of our lives and this gospel story. That’s what makes it good news. Our king is the living Truth Himself. Pilate is a puppet of Rome and held in the grip of the evil one. Indeed in the words of 1 John 5: 19, “The whole world is in control of the evil one.” Lies are convenient and easy ways of passing off our true commitments. Jesus will have none of it. King Jesus suffers innocently and wrongly and is nailed to a cross to be shamed in death. For us as the recipients of this message, that doesn’t mean we get off the hook. We now have the responsibility of stewarding this gospel where human lives are held in control of the evil one. It’s a fight. That’s why we pray. It’s a battle, that’s why we live in the way of God’s steadfast love. Our lives are cross-examined by Jesus Christ, the Lord. We are exposed by the light of His cross. We are instructed by Him to bear our cross and live committed unto Him.
When Pilate takes Jesus outside the palace with a crown of thorns, the Scriptures say, “Pilate brought Jesus out and sat down on the Stove Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha)” (John 19:13). The irony of this line is that it sounds like the one sitting down in judgment is Jesus Christ, not Pilate! And that’s the truth! Jesus Christ, in His act of humiliation on the cross, is Lord of His own act. No one takes His life from Him, He lays it down freely, willingly, joyfully of His own accord (John 10:18).
In a surveillance society where the camera keeps rolling and we know of news in the blink of an eye, nothing before Jesus Christ the Judge is unseen or lost on Him (Hebrews 4:13). He is Lord of all or not Lord at all. Bring your life to Him. He sees you and knows everything about you. The good news is that no one who comes to Jesus will ever be cast away (John 6:37). Live accountable lives. He is present and reigning in this hour. Glory to the King! Amen.