Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” John 18:37
What does following Jesus mean?
“You are a king then?” says Pilate. What a strange sort of king Jesus is. He stands before Pilate. He stands before the man who represents the Roman Empire; he stands before the man who can call on the power of the greatest empire in history; he stands there as king. Pilate has no worldly reason to fear this man, but Pilate is terrified. Pilate wants nothing to do with this case against Jesus. Read on through Saint John and there is rising fear and panic in Pilate’s voice. Pilate tries to humiliate Jesus, the crown of thorns and the purple robe; and Jesus is even greater.
Do people believe in this Jesus? What would they be prepared to leave behind?
Pilate tries to bargain with the crowd, he is desperate. It is Pilate who becomes powerless. He has not the courage to stand for what is right and true against what is wrong and lies. “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate knows what a monstrous deed this is.
Jesus is brought to Golgotha, the place of the skull, the legendary burial place of Adam. Humanity has fallen from God’s purposes into death and destruction. Adam the first, Jesus the last, the Omega, the one who comes at the end of time as judge of the heavens and the earth.
Do people believe in this Jesus? What would they be prepared to do for this man?
Jesus is brought to the place of the skull and here he is crucified. Pilate prepares a notice and has it fastened to the cross,”Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”.The sign is in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. He is declared king in all the languages of the people. Aramaic was a popular form of Hebrew, it was the language of God’s own people. Latin was the language of the Empire, the language of the rulers and those in high office. Greek was the language of everyday life and trade around the Mediterranean. If he is king then Jesus is a king for all the people; for the Jews and the foreigners; for the great and the good; for the common and the ordinary.
Do people believe in this Jesus? Where would they be prepared to go for this man?
The soldiers divide Jesus’ clothes between them. A common enough thing to do, a scant reward for a gruesome task. The linen tunic is woven in one piece and they don’t want to tear it. Such a garment was worn by the Jewish high priest. The high priest went into the Temple on the most solemn day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people. Jesus offers himself on the Cross as an offering for the sins of the people, one and for all time.
Do people believe in this Jesus? What would they be prepared to say for this man?
To the end Jesus is the master of the situation. He is concerned for his mother and asks John to take care of her. Fulfilling Scripture he receives a drink before crying out, “It is finished”. Saint Matthew includes an account of events that are often left out of readings in church: the curtain in the Temple is torn in two; there is an earthquake; and many holy people are raised to life. I suspect many people in our own times would be uncomfortable with the description of such events, they don’t sit easily in our modern rational minds.
The readings for today are a test of faith. Do people believe in this new man, this Jesus, who comes to succeed where the old man, Adam, failed? Do people believe in this high priest who offers a final and complete sacrifice, offering people a place in heaven through what he has done? Do people believe in this king, this king for every sort and condition of person?
Do people believe in this Jesus?