December 22, 2008 No Comments
You might not have thought of it this way, but every year Christmas bears witness to the truth. We think Christmas is about “peace on earth” and “good will toward men” and it is. But peace and good will are difficult to come by in the absence of truth. I get this idea from a passage of Scripture not often linked with Christmas found in John 18.
Leave the tranquil scene in Bethlehem and fast forward to the end of Jesus’s life and ministry. The soft lullabies heard in the stable give way to the shouts of a frothing crowd calling for the Rabbi’s crucifixion. The flogged and bleeding Messiah is face to face with a savvy politician named Pilate. The governor is looking for a way to release Jesus and escape from having to order his execution. He doesn’t want the blood on his hands.
Pilate is full of questions. He turns to Jesus and asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” With supernatural composure, Jesus answers Pilate’s question with a question. “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”
Jesus was not playing politics with the politician. He wasn’t evading the question. He was forcing Pilate to look inside his own heart. In an unexpected turn of events, the defendant becomes the prosecutor and places the judge on trial. Pilate might have been asking about a Roman or Jewish king, but Jesus turned his political question into a spiritual one.
Pilate responds with a twinge of sarcasm. “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You up to me; what have You done?”
Rumors of Jesus being a king began in Bethlehem and followed him throughout his life and ministry. When the wise men came to worship this new born king, another governor named Herod was so threatened that he ordered the holocaust of every Jewish boy under the age of two. Miraculously and according to Scripture, Mary and Joseph escaped to Egypt and kept the boy safe.
Even the shepherds knew from the angelic announcement there was something special about this baby. The religious leaders thought they could get Rome to do their dirty work by convincing Pilate that Jesus was an insurrectionist who threatened Caesar’s kingdom. It worked.
“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus replied. “If my kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
With a confused look on his face, Pilate asks, “So you are a King?” Jesus’s reply is a flashback to Bethlehem,
“You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, hears my voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)
Pilate asks a question for the ages. He didn’t know he was staring the Gift of Truth in the face.