Whose voice would Pontius Pilate listen to? Would he listen to Jesus as he stood before him in his headquarters in Jerusalem? Or would Pilate listen to the crowd of chief priests and police who angrily shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate had to make a decision. Whose voice was more important to him? Whose voice would Pilate listen to?
We live in an age where we are bombarded with many voices all competing for our attention. Which political voices do we listen to? Which investment company’s voice makes the most sense to us? Television commercials speak to us about products to make us healthier or entice us to buy that car. We look at Youtube and find the voices of rock stars and choirs. We may even listen to the voices on podcasts to get the latest information about a topic we are interested in.
Jesus stood before Pilate for interrogation. After all, the Jewish authorities had handed Jesus over to Pilate so that he could judge Jesus and sentence him. But Pilate’s voice had a curious tone to it. He asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate wanted to know what Jesus would say about himself.
Moreover, Pilate wanted to know if Jesus was a rival king who could gather an army of Jews and start an insurrection. Pilate wanted to know if Jesus had the power and authority as a king to cause trouble in Judea. So when Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, his voice had a curious tone and perhaps deep within Pilate there was a bit of fear that Jesus had a large enough following to stir up the masses against the Roman government.
Jesus’ voice never quivered with fear and anxiety as he spoke to Pilate. Instead I believe Jesus spoke confidently when he said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom was not from here.”
Pilate listened to the voice of a calm and confident Jesus. But Pilate was still not certain about Jesus’ identity. Jesus spoke about his kingdom. Did that make him a king? Pilate wanted to know for sure. So Pilate stayed on topic about kings and kingdoms and asked Jesus one more time, “So you are a king?”
Jesus’ reply to Pilate was not a simple yes or no. And Jesus did not describe himself in terms of commandments armies, controlling lands, and amassing wealth. But King Jesus said to Pilate, “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Jesus spoke the truth about God’s Kingdom and about himself. In the Gospel of John there are seven “I am” statement which we hear from the voice of Jesus. King Jesus said:
“I am the bread of life.” Jesus feeds our hungry souls with his satisfying word.
“I am the light of the world.” Jesus illumines our pathways in this life so that we make decisions which are loving and caring.
“I am the gate.” Through Jesus we enter into a world of eternal life.
“I am the good shepherd.” Jesus protects us when the troubles of life want to overtake us.
“I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus promises eternal life for all who believe in him.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Following Jesus there is peace and joy.
“I am the true vine.” Connected to Jesus as his branches, we have abundant life.
Those “I am” statements witness to Jesus’ identity as a king caring for us in a multitude of ways. As we listen to what he says about himself we hear the truth. We are drawn to faith. But those who do not listen to him find themselves in a hopeless condition. They find themselves lost spiritually in this life. They will be consumed by jealousy, envy, and greed. And there is no real life in that.
Pilate listened to Jesus and found no case to crucify him at first. But when Pilate heard the voices of the crowd who had gathered and which cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!, he became frightened. And with that Pilate handed an innocent Jesus over to the soldiers to crucify him.
Jesus spoke the truth about himself time and time again. But Pilate never believed him. Let us never make the mistake Pilate made. Let us always listen to Jesus, listen to the truth of his word, and by listening to him there is life in his name.
Thanks be to God.