Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews? Jesus responds: “Do you ask this on your own or did others tell you about me? One of the things I like about Jesus is that he never seems to get rattled, to be all undone You ever notice that” In the gospel passages when He is approached and challenged, sometimes maliciously, he puts the onus back on the person that asks the question with another question. Jesus always seems to keep his cool. It kind of reminds me of Cool Hand Luke, but a lot more righteous guy than Cool Hand Luke.
We read three chapters later in John that there was a whole bunch of other stuff that Jesus did that we are not privy to that has never been written. Listen to this passage: “There are so many other things Jesus did. If they were all written down, each of them, one by one, I can’t imagine a world big enough to hold such a library of books”. (John 21:25, MSG) So, there are lots of times that Jesus probably showed his emotions more on his sleeve. Remember the story in John about his friend Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. Lazarus died, and we read that Jesus cried. Jesus wept because he loved these friends so much. So we do see the emotional side of Jesus there. There was the time that he drove that money changers and marketers from the temple with a whip in hand. And, remember when He was on the cross, he looked over to his disciple John and said, John take care of my mother, and then he told his mother, Mother, John will take care of you. At this time most women did not have a means of support outside of their family. Jesus took time as he was dying on the cross to make sure his mother would be taken care of after his death, a very touching and emotional passage.
Back to our story of Pilate questioning Jesus. Pilate says, “So if you are a king why has your own nation and your chief priest handed you over to me. If you are a king what have you done to make these people so angry”? Jesus calmly says, “Your kingdom is of this world Pilate, but mine is not. If my kingdom was of this world, my disciples would rally around and fight to keep me from being handed over to you. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify that they who belong to the truth listen to my voice”. That scared the daylights out of Pilate.
From that moment on Pilate did everything he could do to try to get Jesus released.
We are told in Matthew that even Pilate’s wife sent him a message: “Don’t get mixed up in judging this noble man. I’ve just been through a long and troubled night because of a dream about him.” (Matthew 27:19 MSG) But, Pilate is caught in a dilemma. “After all there are laws. He is calling himself a king, that statement alone is treason, and there is no king except for Caesar”. Have you ever been caught in the middle of a dilemma where you know the right thing to do, but you are expected to do something other than what appears in your heart the right thing to do? You kind of know what the right thing is deep down inside, but you know that if you make the decision that seems more in touch with God’s values, there will be some negative results? It might hurt you financially? It might hurt you politically or socially? It might hurt you with your work? Is it worth losing your job over? Or in Pilate’s situation, is it worth losing your position, because you are standing up in the face of something that is perceived to be right, but is not? Or let’s take it one step further, is it worth losing your life over? Pilate was struggling with this dilemma, wanting desperately to let Jesus go, but knowing that anyone who claims to be king other than Caesar, it is considered treason and the punishment is execution.
Pilate is stuck in the middle between the right choice and the wrong choice. Here is what he faces: “If Jesus says he is a king, it is my duty to try him as a traitor of the kingdom. If I do not try him for treason, I could possibly face charges myself. I could have big trouble upstairs with the higher ups”. Pilate was stuck. He was in a pickle, a jam. I’ve been in a jam before, and it’s not pleasant, being all tied up on the inside, and didn’t really know what to do, that the decision to be made would not be pleasant either way, at least for a while. But, I have been in dilemmas before, not like the one Pilate was facing, but a dilemmas all the same, as I am sure all of you have been too.
Often when I am preaching, I have a sense that I’m talking to the choir. You have all been in dilemmas like this too, and you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes in an ethical dilemma you have to take the worst of two wrongs, but sometimes you take the thing that is wrong over the thing that is right, and then it is no longer a grey area, but we know the difference between the yes or no decision, the right and the wrong. You know what’s right, but you don’t do it. The letter of James tells us that “if you know what is right and don’t do, then it is a sin”. (James 4:17)
Jesus says the bad decisions come from the heart, so you get to the heart of the matter by allowing Christ to be king of your heart. It’s the department of internal affairs.
What is sin for me, might not necessarily be sin for you. Is Christ the King of your life? We know the right and the wrong, as the Apostle Paul told the people in the Corinthian Church: “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts”.
(2 Corinthians 3:3, NIV) The Word is written in our hearts not with ink on paper or engraved in stone, but with the Spirit of the living God who writes the truth within us. But, subtle as it may be, sometimes we choose the wrong over the right, because it may work out for our best interest.
“Count the cost”, Jesus says. We are challenged to do the right thing, even when the right thing might not appear to be in our best interest, because it may not work out for our best interest.
We are all called to follow Christ. Count the cost daily, and making right decisions. And, that’s not just a onetime deal. Like we looked at last week it is a continual process this thing called sanctification, being changed. We are challenged to do the right thing, even when the right thing might not appear to be in our best “short-term” interest, yet we are challenged daily to do the right thing, to make right choices.
Jesus says this conflict comes from within. We need to get a handle on the battle that sometimes rages within making it difficult for us to make right decisions, even when we know what the right thing to do it is, can be a difficult struggle. Christ is king, and He desires to be king in every area of our lives, so that we may be transformed into his image, the image of our King, the image of Christ.
Let us make this choice today: “As for me and my house, we shall serve the King”.
All hail King Jesus!