Sunday 25 November 2018

Bible Book:

'… for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.' (v 37)

John 18:33-37 Sunday 25 November 2018

Psalm: Psalm 93


The account of the conversation between Pilate and Jesus begs many questions. How did the gospel writer know of this exchange between the two men? Did Jesus give a verbatim account of it in a later conversation with the disciples, unrecorded elsewhere? Or were Roman guards present in the background who, hearing Pilate and Jesus, later able to say exactly what they had heard?

We will never know exactly how the conversation was recorded, but it reads very much like a quick-fire interrogation between interviewer and interviewee on a radio or TV news programme. Without wishing to stretch this analogy too far, I am increasingly aware that many modern interviewers appear to be more concerned about putting their own views to the fore, at the expense of finding out the truth from the interviewee’s position or expertise. In Pilate’s defence, he does seem to want to get to the heart of the matter. “Are you the king of the Jews?” (v 33) is followed by listening to the answer and moving the conversation onwards.

Today is remembered by many as “Christ the King” Sunday, but what kind of king do we have in mind? In today’s passage an initial question about earthly royalty moves swiftly into an explanation by Jesus that “my kingdom is not from this world” (v 36). Pilate, unsurprisingly, needs an explanation and Jesus then ‘clarifies’ things by combining the ideas of kingdom and truth. True kingship, real authority, leadership grounded in integrity, is established in truth. The clear implication of what Jesus says is that all those who follow Jesus will be dedicated followers of the truth (about God). In the words of Singing The Faith 319: “Word incarnate, truth revealing.”

“What is truth?” (v 38) is Pilate’s reply. Is this whimsical or a sincerely searching question? Does Pilate yearn to follow a different path, or even a different leader? However Pilate tries to answer his inner questions, he now follows a course of action that appears to create a conflict between the need to do his job as a Roman official and his own personal integrity.


To Ponder:

  • Have you ever been conflicted between saying what you know to be right and staying silent in order to keep a job or a friendship? Whose authority do you follow?
  • Today is also remembered as “Women against violence Sunday”. Does today’s reading about personal integrity and ‘given’ authority, about witnessing to the truth, have anything to say to us in any situation where we find ourselves conflicted?
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