Art Thou a King, Then?

John 18:37. “Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.”

Pilate could easily have just passed Jesus back to Caiaphas, allowing the Jews to kill Him. He didn’t, though, not yet. He seems to have truly wanted to understand Who Jesus was, and I believe that was partly because he truly couldn’t see that Jesus was the usual sullen, angry criminal who wanted to overthrow Rome. The situation didn’t make sense to Pilate.

However, Pilate had no love nor respect for the Jews, a troublesome bunch who were always stirred up about something that seemed trivial to Pilate. That seething unrest, by the way, is what happens when people are ruled by those who have anointed themselves the “Makers of all Rules and Regulations.” They become unreasonably angry when the rules they have forced on the people are broken, taking it as a personal insult to their authority and wisdom.

So when Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, it was more than a little sarcastic. “So, are You telling me, standing here in ropes, all bloody and bruised, brought here by Your own people—that YOU are a KING? REALLY?”

Jesus’ response, calm and full of authority, was, again, classic. “You have said that I am a King. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into this world: To speak the truth! Everyone who seeks truth will hear and understand what I say.”

Jesus did not use legal arguments to persuade Pilate to set Him free. He did not ask for mercy. He asked Pilate to hear the truth.

The truth often enrages those who do not want to hear anything but what they already believe. Truth is often scorned, belittled, treated as if the speakers of truth are ignorant at best, criminal at worst. Pilate was in a quandary, because his cynical mind did not want to accept that Jesus was anything more than another Jewish troublemaker; still he seemed to recognize that Jesus was different from all other criminals that he had been asked to condemn.

My Kingdom

John 18:36. “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence.”

This second meeting between Pilate and Jesus is notable for the amount of time Jesus actually speaks. I have often wondered, as Pilate lived out the rest of his life, if he ever came to belief in Jesus Christ. If not, I’d think he would be haunted by the memories of the Man of Sorrows Who stood before him and explained exactly Who and What He was.

My kingdom is not of this world: Yes, I am the King; but I am not in competition with you or any other earthly king. I am not leading a movement to remove you, or Caesar. I am not a rebel against Rome’s authority. You have nothing to fear from Me.

If My kingdom were of this world. . . .My kingdom is not earthly. If it were, my followers would put up a fight so that I would not be delivered over to the Jews. I can say My kingdom is not of this world, because it originates with My Father in heaven.

My servants would fight. . .If My kingdom were an earthly kingdom, My followers would raise an army and fight for Me, and not allow Me to be handed over to the Jewish religious leaders. But My kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. This passage from Guzik’s commentary says it much better than I could:

My kingdom is not from here: Augustine observed from this verse that earthly kingdoms are based upon force, pride, the love of human praise, the desire for domination, and self interest – all displayed by Pilate and the Roman Empire.

iii. The heavenly kingdom, exemplified by Jesus and the cross, is based on love, sacrifice, humility, and righteousness – and is to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23).

iv. “The obvious inference from His words would be that He came in to the world from another realm, that whoever did not listen to Him would not be characterized by truth, and that if Pilate really wanted to know what truth was, he would give Jesus his earnest attention.” (Tenney)

Blue Letter Bible

Sunday Morning Coffee: Vision

I was all set to crawl into bed (I usually write these posts on Saturday night) when I remembered I hadn’t written my SMC post for tomorrow. Sigh. The less I have to do on Sunday morning, the happier my world is, and all the people in it.

Anyway, here I am. I want to tell you about an event (that’s what my doctor called it) that took place in my left eye, without my knowledge. It is not related to my cataract surgeries in any way, and I was blithely enjoying my wonderful new vision, when one day I realized something was wrong. Closed my left eye–right eye is great. Closed my right eye–left eye is not so great.
After many tests and scans, the specialist my ophthalmalogist sent me to gave me a careful exam except for the exceedingly bright light he put RIGHT up to my eye–decided that I’d had what he called a tiny little mini-stroke in my eye that resulted in an occlusion (blockage) of the optic nerve. He could see right where the blockage had been.

The blockage is gone, with no discernible residue. That’s good. But in the tiny amount of time it was there, it blocked blood flow in my eye in the lower left quadrant up almost to the center. That’s not good. That vision is very likely not going to repair itself, and the doctors haven’t figured out any way to fix it. He said there are ongoing studies, but nothing definitive has appeared yet.

So when I close my right eye and focus on something, it blurs or disappears. My peripheral vision is great. And that’s good. The doc said sometimes it does repair itself, but by three months or so it probably won’t get any better. That gives me about six weeks before the three-month deadline. And no glasses will really help much, either.

I’d had long enough, waiting for this appointment, to accept the fact that I was probably losing some of my vision in that eye. It could have been a whole lot worse. And my right eye is perfect, so I’ll be fine.

After he was finished explaining all this to me, the doctor looked at me very kindly and asked if I was all right.
“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.”

“Most people get a little upset, you know, and keep asking me if it was their fault, isn’t there anything at all. . . .”

“Well, there is a little sadness. It was so great to have nearly perfect vision. But God knew all about it long ago, and He has it all planned out. I’ll be fine.”

“I wish I had that kind of belief–faith—“

“You can. Read the book of John, in the New Testament. Read it over and over. Pray and ask God to help you understand.”

So I got to share Jesus with him, and that’s VERY good.

See, there’s always a rainbow. Always a silver lining. Always a positive to offset the negative. Sometimes we can’t see it through the clouds, or tears, or darkness, but it’s there because God has said He would never leave us or forsake us.

He’s there, and He has me in the palm of His hand. Always.

And He is always good.

What Have You Done?

John 18:33-35.

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?

Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done?

John has combined two separate appearances before Pilate. Luke 23:8-12. tells us that Pilate had sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, the Jewish ruler of Galilee where Jesus came from. Herod, coward that he was, wanted no part in stirring up the people in Galilee who followed Jesus, so he sent Jesus back to Pilate. Here, we have the beginning of this fascinating conversation between Pilate and Jesus.

Pilate was familiar with other rebels who had tried to set themselves up as kings over Israel. Usually, they were a ragtag bunch with no manners, education or common sense. Jesus was different, and Pilate knew it. I’m imagining his intense gaze as he visually examined Jesus’ face and eyes, looking for signs of the wild men who usually came before him as insurrectionists against Rome. He didn’t see anything to cause him to pass Jesus off as insignificant.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus, as was often His custom, answered Pilate’s question with His own: “Are you asking for yourself, or in behalf of those who have already condemned Me?” If Pilate were asking for himself, he would be asking if Jesus were a political rebel, resisting the authority of Rome. If he were asking in behalf of the Jewish religious leaders, he could have said, “Are You really the Messiah Whom the Jews wait for?”

If Pilate were asking for himself, Jesus’ answer could have been, “No. I am not a political rebel against Rome.” If Pilate were asking in behalf of the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus’ answer could have been, “Yes! I AM!”

But He chose not to answer the question directly, and Pilate’s response to Jesus’ question is most interesting. “Am I a Jew? Your own religious leaders have brought You here! What is it You have done?”

Pilate was giving Jesus an unusual opportunity to defend Himself and perhaps free Himself of the impending sentence of death. Jesus could have given many answers. For instance, He could have said,

 He was without sin, never doing wrong against God or man· He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, calmed the storm, walked on the water, fed the multitude, defeated demons, and raised the dead· He taught the truth so clearly and powerfully that it astonished His listeners· He fearlessly confronted corruption.· He poured His life into a few men who were destined, in God’s plan, to turn the world upside down (or right side up)· He did not come to be served, but to serve – and to give His life a ransom for many

Guzik, Blue Letter Bible

His answer, instead, was to explain His kingdom to Pilate, who had no idea how privileged he was to hear these words from the mouth of the Son of God!

Jewish Law and Roman Law

John 18:30-32.

They answered and said unto him, If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up unto thee.

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which He spake, signifying what death He should die.

Pilate needed a clear answer to his question, “What is this Man accused of?”

He didn’t get it. “Well, if He weren’t a malefactor, we wouldn’t have brought Him to you!”

In other words, “Just take our word for it, Pilate. He’s a really bad guy.”

Malefactor is a strong word. It means “to do wrong,” and is usually used to indicate a really foul act, including murder or rape. It is not used for petty crime. The Jewish leaders wanted Pilate not only to take their word for it, but to agree that Jesus should die.

Pilate didn’t want any part of it. A little history on Pilate may help us to understand why his hesitation was unusual. His reputation was that of a corrupt, cruel, and insensitive man. Power-hungry and angry by nature, he usually didn’t hesitate to have people executed, untried and uncondemned by law.

He had married a granddaughter of Caesar Augustus, which is probably why he had the position he did in Judea, although it may have frustrated him to be given such a petty little place of power.

So why did he hesitate with Jesus? For one thing, his wife had warned him against condemning Jesus (Matt. 27:19). Some believe she actually practiced the Hebrew faith, and believed Jesus was Who He claimed to be. Although it is doubtful that Pilate had tender feelings for his wife, apparently her concern in this unusual situation had an effect on him.

Also, at this point, the Jews had not offered an accusation of a capital crime. Finally, in Luke 23:2, someone had the bright idea of saying that Jesus was stirring up insurrection. He was forbidding people to pay their taxes to Rome, saying the He Himself was the King.

But that accusation hadn’t been raised just yet, and Pilate told the Jewish leaders to take Jesus and deal with Him according to their own law. He wanted no part in it.

The Jews, however, responded that, as Pilate was well aware, it was against Roman law for them to execute anyone without the authority of Rome. While that was true, it didn’t stop them, for instance, from executing Stephen later on. He was stoned to death, without Rome’s approval. But they wanted a specific death for Jesus. Their hatred of Him was such that stoning would actually have been a merciful way to die.

They wanted Him to be scourged and crucified. Only Rome could do that.

In John 3:14, Jesus had described how He would die: And I, if I be lifted up, shall draw all men unto Myself. That prophecy was about to be fulfilled.

Pilate Appears

John 18:28-29.

Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this Man?

Closer and closer to the cross, Jesus now stands before Pilate. Poor, beleaguered Pilate, whose wife warned him to take care what he did with Jesus; whose city, ruled by Rome, was rising up against a Man Whose innocence was clear to Pilate.

As the crowd, yelling and clamoring, arrived at his palace, Pilate made a safe appearance from a balcony overlooking the courtyard of the Praetorium.

Jesus’ trial so far had been in two parts. The first, with Annas, had been hastily assembled very early in the morning, before sunrise. The eagerness to try and condemn Him is, to me, a strong indication that they knew He was guilty of nothing.

The second part was held before Caiaphas and the Sandhedrin, the religious ruling body of the Jews. It was more formal, but still there was a sense of urgency. They wanted this to be done before another day passed. I wonder why they were so terrified of Jesus, while claiming to despise Him and think He was nothing to worry about.

Now, Jesus faced the man who had the power to condemn Him to the gruesome death that awaited Him.

The term praetorium denotes the headquarters of a Roman military governor (as the governor of Judea was). Some believe that Pilate was using Herod’s palace as his headquarters. It could be, although Herod must have been horrified at such a situation, but there really is no solid proof that this was so. The importance of the place is simply that it was from there that Pilate, or whoever the Roman governor was, made pronouncements that could be life or death.

Jesus was taken inside to face Pilate, but the Jewish officers and people stayed outside. If they went inside, they would be considered. unclean, and unable to eat the passover. Such hypocrisy, when they themselves were guilty of the worst kind of heresy in their treatment of the Son of God. While they demanded His death, they took care not to break the laws of cleanliness.

Pilate, therefore, went out onto the balcony to address the people, saying, “What is your accusation against this. Man?”

A Sidestep for Study

We’ll be looking at several scriptures today, all from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. My husband gifted me some time ago with a wonderful little book called The Harmony of the Gospels. I had remembered using it in Bible college, and had mentioned it several times, I suppose, as I worked through the book of Matthew. Terry finally found the book online, and I am still delighted to have it. All that to say that, as many times as I’ve read through John, I was startled this time to read in v. 24 that Jesus was sent by Annas to Caiaphas; then, in the next verse, He was standing before Pilate.

Wait! What happened to Caiaphas? I remember that Jesus actually did stand before Caiaphas, and yet it is not mentioned in this chapter.

I want to remind you again that each gospel had a specific targeted audience and a specific way of presenting Jesus.

Matthew was written to the Jews, presenting Jesus as Messiah.

In Mark, He is the Suffering Servant. There is no genealogy in Mark because a servant didn’t get his genealogy recorded. He is seen as the fulfillment of Isaiah 53. The gospel targeted all who would hear.

Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man, and is the only gospel that gives us a tiny glimpse into His early years. The book is written to show how Jesus fulfills every prophecy of the coming of Christ to be the Redeemer of all mankind.

John presents Jesus as the Son of God. It starts with a bang–“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The emphasis in John is always on Jesus as the incarnation of God. He is central.

Understanding the presentation of Christ in each gospel helps us understand why they are not identical; why some things appear in one gospel, but not in another. Also, as I’ve said before, each writer had his own perspective, led by the Holy Spirit, and wrote as He directed.

With all that in mind, let’s look first at Matthew 26:57-68.

“And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against theeBut Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. The high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?”

I will refer you here to my study in Matthew for a more complete look at this passage. Go to this link and read up from the bottom, following the arrows at the bottom of each post as you travel to the next verse or two:

This is perhaps the most complete, and dramatic, description we have of the confrontation between Jesus and Caiaphas. You will find similar but less detailed accounts in Mark 14:53-65 and Luke 22: 66-71. In every account, Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled. In every account, Jesus remains mostly silent. He did finally say that yes, He was the Son of God, and mentioned far prophecy when He would come back as Messiah.

It drove Caiaphas and the people surrounding him to rip their clothes, a customary sign among the Jews of great distress. At this point, Jesus was only steps away from appearing before Pilate and being condemned to the horrible scourging and crucifixion that the Romans had established as the punishment for insurrection against their authority.

Of course we know that Jesus was already physically weakened by the beatings he took from the crowd and the officers; from the evil genius who created the crown of thorns that tortured His head, face, and neck; from being shoved, slapped, punched and mocked before He was led away to Pilate. He was already a mess when He stood before Pilate, yet His true character was never in doubt.

Tomorrow, we’ll start back in John 18:28.

Two More Denials

John 18:24-27.

Now Annas had sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.

And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of His disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not.

One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with Him?

Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.

Annas, probably to his own dismay, had no more to say to Jesus. When one is confronted with truth, and can find no flaw in it, the wise course of action would be to relent. Not Annas. He and the other “spiritual leaders” had long since condemned Jesus. So Annas made sure Jesus was bound like a dangerous criminal, and sent Him off to Caiaphas, who actually held the position of high priest that year. The more formal trial would be held before Caiaphas.

My imagination is at work again. The distance that lay between Annas’ quarters and Caiaphas’ was not long. As the soldiers walked Jesus from one place to the other, all who were gathered in the courtyard could see the procession–including Peter. Having already denied Jesus once, I imagine he could not look on Jesus’ face, but turned away so that their eyes would not meet. I’m also imagining the chagrin, the deep remorse, Peter must have been feeling. That remorse, however, was not enough to keep him from repeating his betrayal.

As the soldiers and Jesus went by, others in the courtyard asked Peter, “Aren’t you one of His disciples?”

“No, I am not!” Strike two.

A relative of Malchus, who had seen Peter whack off Malchus’ ear, said, “But I SAW you there!”

Peter denied it. Strike three. The rooster crowed three times, one for each denial. I don’t think they were little short squawks. I think they were loud, lengthy crows, nearly unendurable to Peter as he stood there with the beady eyes of the rooster aimed right at him as he announced Peter’s denials, and the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.

I really like the painting above. It captures the reality of Peter’s shame, the nearness of the people, and the rooster. It was a different time and day than ours. There would be no livestock in the courtyard of an important person, except perhaps a pet of some sort. Then, however, the roosters and chickens roamed wherever they could find something to peck off the ground. It’s difficult for us, perhaps, to imagine what was normal to the people of that time.

I wonder if, after the third denial, Peter’s eyes sought out Jesus. Did their eyes meet then? Did Peter see the look of lovingkindness in Jesus’ eyes? Or could Peter see only the back of Jesus’ head as he was pushed and prodded on his way to Caiaphas?

Sunday Morning Coffee: An Anniversary

I got a message from Word Press today congratulating me on using their platform for nine years now. They say I registered with WP in February of 2012. I don’t remember. My archives on this blog start with April of 2012, so it must have just taken me some time to figure everything out.

To me and Word Press!

Nine years of almost daily writing, lots of studying, lots of praying. Lots of blessings.

I’ve made some wonderful, interesting friends on Word Press, other bloggers with whom I share interests. I have another blog that is not as serious as this one: I don’t write as often over there, usually just once a week, although it used to be more often. You can find my responses to a weekly photo prompt, sometimes involving two little space aliens I’ve named Zing and Zang. Lots of fun.

Here’s one of those short stories:

The Fountain



“Earth people are so strange!” commented Zing. He and Zang were perched on the bench, watching the water fall from the spigots on all four sides of the pillar with the knob on top.

“I know,” replied Zang. “They put pipes underground from the river to this place, cover it all up with cement, and build an engine to push the water out the spouts. Why don’t they just enjoy the river?”

“Beats me! Hey, did you hear that? I just used a sling expression!”

“Sling? You mean “slang.”

“Right. Slang. Earth people have strange words, too”

Image result for cute aliens

On this blog, I’ve done lots of different things. My main emphasis is always the Bible study, but when I first started I did lots of posts that I called “Friday Counseling Issues.” Good response on those, and you can find them easily under Categories on the right side of the page.

I’m thankful that God nudged me to do this. It was an answer to prayer, giving me a platform for teaching the Bible after losing another teaching position. God always shows you another way, a better alternative.

I had to be patient. This isn’t a study that immediately draws thousands of viewers, and I’m not famous, so I didn’t have an audience waiting. It started slowly, with maybe 10 or so readers on an average day. Nine years later, I’m always over 150 per day, and often over 250. That’s a wonderful reward, and I’m so thankful for every single reader.

I’m especially thankful for two other things. One is for those who take a few minutes to leave a response. That is SO encouraging!

The other is that I can see in my statistics that there are people literally all over the world who see this blog. Some of them have written to me, and follow me daily. It’s utterly amazing!

I’m thankful that organizations like Word Press exist. It was a great help to a newbie like me, when I didn’t know how to publicize my blogs on Facebook, for instance, along with a host of other technical stuff.

So thanks, Word Press; thanks to all those who read, and especially who comment; and thanks to the Lord Who led me this way and has given me a ministry that I can do even when my rickety old body can’t do much else 🙂

Why Smitest thou Me?

John 18:21-23.

Why askest thou Me? ask them which heard Me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.

And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest Thou the high priest so?

Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou Me?

Jesus suggested to Annas that he should ask the people about the things He taught.They would know what He had said, and would give testimony to His words. Apparently, one of the officers thought Jesus was being disrespectful to Annas, and he slapped Jesus across His face.

The only other act that would be equally offensive would be to spit in someone else’s face. An open-handed slap shows complete disregard and disrespect for the victim, and an attitude of haughty arrogance on the part of the one who administers the slap. I have wondered many times if that officer later realized he had slapped the face of God, and if he suffered great remorse for doing so.

Jesus’ answer to Annas had not been disrespectful. He was simply asking for the law to be followed: No one could be formally charged without the words of witnesses who had been found to be trustworthy. Two or three witnesses had to agree with one another about what had happened. In fact, according to the Law, the witnesses for the defense were to be called first.

In no way did Jesus “trial” before Annas or Caiaphas go according to the law. His legal rights were completely ignored.

Jesus’ response to the insult was classic. “If I have spoken evil, then tell Me what was evil. If not, then why did you hit Me?” Jesus, of course knew why the physical abuse, which was just beginning, was done. He had exposed Annas and the others for not following their own law. They had conspired against Jesus as soon as He started His public ministry. There would be no justice, because they were not interested in justice. They only wanted Him gone, and as disgracefully as possible, in their hope of squelching any other form of rebellion among the people.

The saying comes to mind that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Sir John Dalberg-Acton).