“Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again and questioned Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this from yourself or has another spoken to you concerning me?’”
Jesus has thus been returned to Pilate’s custody and now Pilate must decide how to handle the matter. His first question to Jesus returns to the matter of politics — is this man a threat to Rome. While it may be a surprise that Jesus breaks his silence for a moment, it ought to be considered that this is, for the first time, a private audience without the priests screaming false accusations. Here, an honest conversation can take place. More importantly, Jesus uses this opportunity to change the discussion from the earthly to the eternal.
What is striking about this dialogue is its similarity to one that Jesus had with Peter earlier in his ministry, recorded in Matthew 16:15-17. Jesus is asking his disciples who people said he was. Many answers were given and then Jesus made the question more personal and asked Peter who he said that Jesus was. Peter’s response has become the bedrock of the Christian profession of faith — “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
But notice what Jesus says to follow: “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” This question of Jesus is a spiritual question. Jesus is asking whether Pilate is saying this because that is what he is thinking or because it has been told by another. The right answer would have been, “because I have been told by the Holy Spirit.” This, of course, was not in Pilate’s vocabulary and thus his response is very different than Jesus‘ — rather than professing Christ, the rock upon which the church is built, he professes that one cannot know anything that is true, but we get ahead of ourselves.
The definition of King and Lord and Savior is radically different depending on the source of that understanding. Many would intellectually call Jesus their Lord or King, but have lives that do not reflect that this is something they really believe. Many call Jesus Savior out of an emotional response, often from an experience during a difficult time in their lives, but when the emotion fades the lifestyle does not reflect the profession. The truest way to test a profession of faith is by watching the person persevere in that faith as they live their life because we can reform our lives for a short time, but lasting change requires a work of the Holy Spirit. Pilate sadly demonstrates the source of his understanding about Jesus (or lack thereof); what is the source of yours?