King of the Jews

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”   (John 18:33-34)

In an effort to remove Jesus from the raucous of the rabble so that he could ply Him with his own queries, Pilate summons Jesus inside his palace. Holiness has been summoned into defilement. Is that not a perfect description of what Jesus does every time He is asked to enter a heart at the point of salvation? Purity, holy, blameless, and set apart from sinners enters into a heart filled with sin and depravity–saving, cleansing, and empowering that heart to be like Him.

“Jesus showed us what God really wants to cleanse and purify–our hearts. Christ’s transforming work on the cross helps us to break free from desires that hold us in bondage. As we submit to God, we become like Christ, no longer wanting to offend God. Out of gratitude we obey Him from the inside out.” (Tremper Longman)

The writer of Hebrews gives us the following description of our great High Priest and Savior, Jesus:

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our needone who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:23-26)

C.S. Lewis paints a vivid description of what he found when he examined his own heart, which is not too dissimilar to any one of us: “A zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears and a harem of fondled hatreds.”

He also wrote: “Man is now a horror to God and to himself and a creature ill-adapted to the universe not because God made him so but because he has made himself so by the abuse of his free will.”

I find it interesting that all four gospels record Pilate asking the same question: “Are you the king of the Jews?” He obviously had a desire to know if Jesus professed to be the king of this ancient people over whom he and his soldiers now ruled. Considering our Lord’s humble appearance, Pilate possibly assumed that Jesus was merely a mock Messiah–simply setting Himself up over the throngs of people who adored Him. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus replying to Pilate with the same words: “Yes, it is as you say”.

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. (Matthew 27:11)

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
(Mark 15:2)

So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. (Luke 23:3)

A few verses later in John 18 we find similar words from Jesus, yet with a stipulation for those willing to hear Him–we must be on the side of truth:

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)

Take It to Heart

The Roman historian Suetonius has noted that a rumor was prevalent throughout the East at this time in history that a king was about to arise among the Jews who would obtain dominion over the world. This rumor no doubt originated from Jewish prophesies. I cannot help but be reminded of the Magi’s statement as they sought to visit Jesus at His birth:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

Jesus’ entire life was lived within the framework of his role as the King of the Jews. It is precisely because of it that He saves us!

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