Saturday, September 14, 2013

Conversation between Jesus and Pilate (John 18:33-38)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 4 Aug 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 18:33-38

The Jews were not willing to be defiled, so they pushed Jesus into the Roman court. But this did not mean Jesus became defiled. Instead, it was the Jews who stayed defiled by refusing to believe in Jesus, even though they did not enter the court.

The Jews cannot touch a dead body, coffin, or a leper for fear of 'transfer' of uncleanliness. Exactly opposite to the Jews, Jesus Christ had never been scared of losing his cleanliness (as he could touch a leper, resurrect dead people, or let Himself be touched by a bleeding woman). The Lord has come to give life, not to give us religious rules.

Before Jesus was born, politics made use of religion in the form of King Herod building the temple in Jerusalem so that the Jews would support him as king although he was not of the line of David. Now, it was the Jews who made use of politics for their religion. They were hypocrites who did not want to use their own hands to accomplish their goal to kill Jesus.

Roman Empire imported 4 pillars of Greek culture:
1. Wisdom
2. Justice
3. Courage
4. Self-Control
Despite the greatness of Roman Empire in legal system, the Bible records that 3 times Pilate said that he could not find any fault with Jesus. Still, he could not escape from the trap that the Jews had put him in (being used by the Jews to kill Jesus). The Jews said that if he did not find Jesus guilty, he would not be a friend of Caesar.

In order to find fault with Jesus, Pilate asked if he was a king of the Jews, as being a king in a Roman territory would mean a political threat to his own rule. Jesus did not answer but asked if this was his own words. Pilate's deflected this question by saying that it was the Jewish religious leaders who brought Jesus to him (v 35), as if saying that this was not his own words. This showed that he wanted to force Jesus to admit that He was the king of the Jews.

The next answer of Jesus (that His kingdom is not of this world) was unique and showed us that Christians live in 2 worlds. Our kingdom in this world and God's kingdom will always have conflicts. Jesus answer made it clear that the kingdom he had always been talking about is not a kingdom of this world. God's kingdom is above earthly kingdom (i.e. human rights, political system, and democracy) as God's ways are higher than our ways. Culture is where our ideology meets our way of life. This is where Christians ought to exercise the cultural mandate. We should understand God's will and let this understanding influence our way of life just like it is said in Proverbs 1:7 'Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.'

By this, Jesus declared that his kingdom is about the Truth, and not about territorial, financial, or military. His kingdom in nature is about the Truth. He came to the world to witness and to preach about the Truth. This corresponds to what Jesus said in John 10, that his sheep, those who love the Truth, will follow him.

Pilate, on the other side of the conversation, must have felt strange as this dialogue does not contain any commonality. So he answered, in disbelief, 'What is truth?' Pilate must have thought like this: 'If truth is in you, you would not be here. The Jews would not have brought you here. Why would they try to judge you?' Internally, he would have felt guilty because he must have realised that Jesus did not commit any offence at all.

Although Pilate asked what truth was, he was not interested in seeking the truth, because the Bible recorded that he then stood up. Jesus came to affirm the truth, but Pilate denied the existence of truth. 

The statement 'suffered under Pontius Pilate' in the Apostle's Creed shows that Jesus' suffering is a true historical fact.


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