John 18:33–38 (ESV)
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.”
Pilate comes back from his attempt to herd cats and tries to puzzle through all the nonsense by talking to Jesus, who could have made sense of everything by saying, “They’re consumed by hatred.”
Unfortunately for Pilate, Jesus’s agenda isn’t to help Pilate make sense of things. Pilate starts out with an excellent question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” This cuts right to the issue, but Jesus answers his question with a question about where he got that idea.
Pilate fires back that since he’s not a Jew, the answer is obvious. Then he asks, “What have You done?”
So, Jesus chooses this moment to answer Pilate’s original question, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. “So you are a king?” Note that Pilate’s words, “So you are a king?” are correctly translated with a question mark at the end. He meant it as a question, though the word order is like a statement.
Jesus takes it as a statement. “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate blurts out, “What is truth?” and then, without waiting for an answer, marches out to declare, “I find no guilt in him.”
“What is truth?” was just a rhetorical question. He’s being cynical.
That makes it all the more curious that what Pilate says to the crowd is carefully worded truth. He doesn’t make a broad statement about Jesus being innocent; he says precisely what he can authoritatively say.
The cold truth is that Pilate’s patience with this whole thing has run out. He’s a very high-level officer in a structured bureaucracy, and his professionalism shows. His job is hard to get—even hard to keep.
This feels like he resents having this circus land on his desk. He’s plenty busy with important things.
These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Saturday DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.