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This Sunday for the Feast of Christ the King we’re reading from the Gospel of John. As you read John’s gospel, you notice that much of it is made up of the lengthy teachings of Jesus to his disciples and those who oppose him. At the Last Supper, for example, John gospel quotes extensively for almost five chapters what Jesus says to his disciples about who he is and what he wants them to be. “I am the vine, you are the branches…Love one another as I have loved you…Peace I leave you, my peace I give you.” John’s gospel is filled with the words of Jesus.
But then, as Jesus leaves the supper room that night and crosses over the Kidron Valley, you notice he hardly says a word. It’s not the time for words; it’s the time to act, to be who he says he is, no matter what.
You notice in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus hardly answers those who come to take him. His words are few to the leaders of the people who bring him to trial. Then he’s brought before Pontius Pilate. This is one of the great scenes of the gospel story. Jesus before Pontius Pilate. Pilate in his fine robes seated on the raised judgment seat, where powerful Roman justice was meted out. The Romans didn’t like long trials; they were masters of quick judgments and getting things done.
Jesus stands below the Roman judge tied and beaten, soon to be scourged and crowned with thorns.
You can hear the sarcasm, the disdain in Pilate’s questions: “Are you the king of the Jews? …What have you done?” You can hear quiet, unshaken conviction in Jesus’ response. “I am a king, for this was I born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth hears my voice.”
John’s gospel has a way of presenting the story with wonderful irony. Pilate seems to be all powerful, in control of everything, but his power passes away. Even his sentence of death in overturned; Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus seems to be a condemned nobody, but he’s the stronger of the two. He knows who he is, he’s born a king, and that dignity never leaves him, whether he’s threatened, or ridiculed, or made fun of, or beaten, or put to death. He knows he’s a king. He’s knows he tells the truth, no matter what. He knows that ultimately truth wins out, because God is true.
“He suffered under Pontius Pilate,” In those words our creed summarize the whole story of his passion of Jesus. They can summarize our lives too. How hard that is to understand, but think about it. When we see Jesus, we see ourselves. We say, “I’m not a king; I’m not God made flesh.” That’s true. But we’re children of God, given life by God, made for a purpose. We have a mission in this life. Jesus himself says we have, and he is with us to accomplish that mission.
“He suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Is there a way we do that too? Well, can the powers of this world, the day by day world, the official world, the world of leisure, the world of culture–can that world intimidate us, threaten us, ridicule us, make fun of us, question our truth, frighten us to death? Sure it can. We can all suffer under Pontius Pilate.
And so we come to the Lord who did that once, and ask him to stand with us and make us strong and remind us who we are and feed us with the bread of the strong and wisdom of truth.