Jesus was speaking, but Pilate was not listening to the voice of Jesus.
Jesus was talking about a kingdom that was greater than the kingdoms of this world, but Pilate did not hear what Jesus said. Pilate’s ears were tuned to a different source of authority. Pilate’s king was Caesar. Pilate’s god was power. He could not comprehend the king who stood as a prisoner before him. Pilate could not hear the truth being spoken by Jesus, the servant of God.
Three times Pilate asked Jesus questions that were based on the power and politics of his day – the acknowledgment of Caesar as the all-powerful ruler of Rome and the worship of Caesar as a god. Three times Jesus offered Pilate the opportunity to hear the truth about true power and to worship the true God of life.
Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
Pilate asked Jesus, “You own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “my kingdom is not from here.”
Pilate sked Jesus, “So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For that 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.”
Jesus was offering Pilate the opportunity to listen to the truth being spoken by Jesus, but Pilate’s ears were deafened by the political power plays that defined his 10-year reign as the Roman Procurator of Judea. Pilate’s reputation as a ruler was based on a policy of acting first and thinking later. Four years earlier, Pilate had caused a religious uprising when he had Roman soldiers march through Jerusalem wearing medallions bearing the image of Caesar. This would have been considered an act of blasphemous idolatry by the Jewish people. At least three times in his political career as a Procurator, Pilate incurred the wrath of the Jewish people by ordering images of Caesar to be displayed in parades and public areas as an act of blasphemous idolatry. These displays caused massive public demonstrations by the Jewish people against Rome. It is likely that Pilate’s presence in Jerusalem during Passover was to make sure that no more trouble erupted during this holy day that celebrated the liberation of the slaves from Egypt and the power of the God of Israel over Pharaoh who was considered to be a god.
At first reading, Pilate’s three questions of Jesus may seem like a sincere desire to understand why Jesus was brought before him. In reality, Pilate’s questions were about Pilate’s own self-survival. Jesus’ responses to Pilate were more than an explanation of why he had been arrested. They were an invitation for Pilate to live in the truth of God’s kingdom where true power is found rather than living in the false claim of the idolatrous power of Rome. All of which led to Pilate’s fourth question of Jesus, “What is truth?”
In The Powers That Be, Theology for a New Millennium, Walter Wink tells of his friend, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, who discovered the truth that Jesus spoke to Pilate. Nelson–Pallmyer
“found himself walking through the streets of Calcutta, so enraged by the poverty that he wanted to scream at God, “How can you allow such suffering? Then he came to a painful realization: “In the suffering of the poor God was screaming at me, in fact at all of us and at our institutions and social systems that cause and perpetuate hunger, poverty, and inequality. We end, then, with that divine cry ringing in our ears, exhorting us to engage these mighty Powers in the strength of the Holy Spirit, that human life might become more fully human.
“This is the goal: not only to become free from the Powers, but to free the Powers. Jesus came not just to reconcile people to God despite the Powers, but to reconcile the Powers themselves to God (Colossians 1:20). We seek not only to break the idolatrous spells. ‘The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil’ (I John 3:18). We need to escape idolatry, not this planet.”
pp. 199-200, The Powers That Be, Theology for a New Millennium, Walter Wink
Today is the concluding Sunday of the Christian year, Christ the King Sunday. The purpose of the Christian year is to help Jesus’ followers answer Pilate’s question, “What is truth,” through our testimony about the one who is truth: Jesus. Verse 37 of the 18th chapter of the Gospel of John is the destination of the Christian year when Jesus tells Pilate:
“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.”
What is the truth Jesus testified to Pilate? The truth that:
- Jesus is truth
- God’s kingdom is defined by the power of God and not by the power of the kingdoms of this world
- The purpose of God’s kingdom is redemption through Jesus
What does it mean for Jesus’ followers to be listening to the voice of Jesus? Followers of Jesus listen to the voice of Jesus by:
- Witnessing to the truth that Jesus is truth
- Living in the power of God’s kingdom
- Being redeemed through Jesus
Today is Christ the King Sunday. It is time to listen to the voice of Jesus.
Listening to the Voice of Jesus
by Pastor Marc Brown
November 21, 2021
Accompanying Scriptures: John 18:33-38
(full online service video below)
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for November 21, 2021
The Good News “Listening to the Voice of Jesus”
Scripture Lesson John 18:33-38
Music “How Great Thou Art”
Closing Music “Fanfare for a Festival” Carl Simons