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Jesus Claimed to be King

In the brief but significant conversation recorded between Jesus and Pontius Pilate, we read of Pilate asking Jesus, “Are you a king?” We can well imagine a sardonic grin planted on the face of this puppet in the hands of Caesar, inquiring into the kingship of this Jewish carpenter.

Jesus responded by questioning Pilate’s question, asking, in essence, “Are you asking this on your own or has someone else set you up?” This method of questioning the question was repeatedly used by Jesus with very good reason because it compelled the questioner to open up within his own assumptions.

Pilate was somewhat exasperated by this seeming insolence. “Look,” he answered, “I did not bring you here—your own people have done that.”

Then Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest. But now my kingdom is from another.”

Pilate said, “Ah! So you are a king.”

The response of Jesus discloses Pilate’s real predicament. “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,”

The answer is both subtle and daring. The fundamental problem Jesus was exposing to Pilate and to the world is not the paucity of available truth; it is more often the hypocrisy of our search. Truthfulness in the heart, said Jesus, precedes truth in the objective realm. Intent is prior to content. The most provocative statement Jesus made during that penetrating conversation was that the truthfulness or falsity of an individual’s heart was revealed by that person’s response to Him. The implication reveals more about you than it does about Him.

Pilate served as a perfect illustration of Jesus’ point. He muttered, “What is truth?” and never waited for the answer. I suspect he knew the answer but was a power-seeking slave to the system and to his own political ambition. Pilate really desired no solution—he merely sought an escape (see John 18:28-19:16).

Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, (Word Publ., Dallas: 1994), pp. 97-98

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