22010.214 King of the Jews

“So Pilate went back into the government residence, summoned Jesus, and asked him, are you the king of the Jews? Jesus replied, ‘Are you saying this on your own initiative, or have others told you about me or did others talk to you about me?’” —John 18:33–34

In an effort to remove Jesus from the disorderly crowd so that he can question Him, Pilate calls Jesus into his palace. Holiness has been summoned into defilement. Is that not a perfect description of what Jesus does every time He is asked to enter a heart at the point of salvation? Purity, holiness, and blamelessness enter into a heart filled with sin and depravity—saving, cleansing, and empowering that heart to be like Him.

“Jesus showed us what God really wants to cleanse and purify—our hearts. Christ’s transforming work on the cross helps us to break free from desires that hold us in bondage. As we submit to God, we become like Christ, no longer wanting to offend God. Out of gratitude we obey Him from the inside out.” —Tremper Longman

The writer of Hebrews gives us the following description of our great High Priest and Savior, Jesus:

“And the others who became priests were numerous, because death prevented them from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently since he lives forever. So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. For it is indeed fitting for us to have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” —Hebrews 7:23–26

C.S. Lewis paints a vivid description of what he found when he examined his own heart: “A zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears and a harem of fondled hatreds.”

He also wrote: “Man is now a horror to God and to himself and a creature ill-adapted to the universe not because God made him so but because he has made himself so by the abuse of his free will.”

All four Gospels record Pilate asking the same question: “Are you the king of the Jews?” He obviously had a desire to know if Jesus professed to be the king of this ancient people over whom he and his soldiers now ruled. Considering our Lord’s humble appearance, Pilate possibly assumed that Jesus was merely a mock messiah—simply setting himself up over the throngs of people who adored Him. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus replying to Pilate with the same words: “You say so.”

“Then Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘You say so,’ Jesus replied.” —Matthew 27:11

“So Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate. ‘You say so,’ Jesus replied.” —Mark 15:2

“So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘You say so,’ Jesus replied.” —Luke 23:3

A few verses later in John 18 we find similar words from Jesus, yet with a stipulation for those willing to hear Him:

“Then Pilate said, ‘So you are a king!’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this reason I came into this world—to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’” John 18:37

Become More

The Roman historian Suetonius has noted that a rumor was prevalent throughout the East at this time in history that a king was about to arise among the Jews who would obtain dominion over the world. This rumor no doubt originated from Jewish prophesies. I cannot help but be reminded of the wise men’s statement as they sought to visit Jesus at His birth:

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’” —Matthew 2:1–2

Further Reflection

Jesus’ entire life was lived within the framework of his role as the King of the Jews. It is precisely because of it that He saves us!

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