John 18:33-37 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" 34 "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?" 35 "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?" 36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." 37 "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."
In the movie, “Talladega Nights,” driver Ricky Bobby is saying grace with his family around the dinner table. He addresses his dinner prayer to “Baby Jesus.” He defends his prayer by saying that he likes the Christmas Jesus best. He tells his wife that when she says grace, then she can pray to the “grown-up Jesus,” or “teenage Jesus,” or “bearded Jesus.”
Which Jesus do you like best? When you pray and worship, how do you envision Jesus? Do you see Him as He is pictured on the bulletin cover or on the stained glass window or on the painting? Do you visualize Jesus lying in a manger or hanging on the cross or sitting on His throne? Do you view Him wearing a crown of thorns or a crown of glory? Stripped naked or wrapped in glory? Surrounded by Romans soldiers and Jewish religious leaders or surrounded by legions of angels and countless saints? The One who is judged by Pontius Pilate or the One who judges on the Last Day?
The Jewish religious leaders who dragged Jesus before Pontius Pilate saw Jesus as a fool. He had grand visions of being the promised Messiah. But all of His fancy teaching and lavish miracles couldn’t do anything to change the fact that He was now on trial for blasphemy. Jesus is a fool.
Pontius Pilate and the Roman soldiers saw Jesus as a weakling. He was standing before Pilate with a swollen eye, a fat lip, and a bloodied nose. They had noticed His triumphant arrival on Sunday. But now only five days later, all of Jesus’ supporters are gone. The crowd had turned against Him. His own people were calling for Him to be crucified. Jesus is a weakling.
St. Paul wrote about this to the Christians in Corinth: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing …” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Nothing has changed in two thousand years. Skeptics, pagans, and unbelievers still consider the message of a God who hangs dead on a cross to be foolishness.
But really, who can blame the Jews and the Romans? Who would want such a king that appears so foolish and weak? “We have no king but Caesar!” the crowd shouts to Pilate. In other words, “We will not have this man as king. This man suffers and dies. This man is condemned. He is weak. He is foolish. He can’t save himself and God certainly won’t save him. How then can he hope to save us? He is no Caesar! He is no Alexander! He is no David or Solomon! He is no Messiah! No! We will not have this man as king! Crucify him!”
Pilate hears all this heated discourse and removes Jesus from their sight by bringing Him inside the palace. Pilate then asks Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replies, “My kingdom is not of this world. … 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.” Pilate realizes that there is something different about Jesus. He certainly isn’t an earthly king. But, of course, He can’t be any other kind of king, either. Perhaps He got hit on the head one too many times by the Sanhedrin. Not only is this Jesus weak and foolish, but He is also delusional.
How do you think people today view you as a follower of this Jesus? Do you think they imagine you as a fool for being a Christian or consider you to be weak for believing in Jesus?
Be honest. Aren’t you sometimes a little embarrassed telling people the details of what you really believe? Imagine you are on a flight next week to visit your parents for Thanksgiving. While on the plane, you and the guy seated next to you strike up a conversation. After you exchange all the pleasantries about your name, where you work, how many kids you have, etc., you start talking to him about your faith. You tell him, “I believe that a teenage woman who never had sex gave birth to the Son of God so that He could also be the Son of Man in one person. I also believe that Jesus is this Son of God who came down from heaven so that He could be murdered here on earth. He did this so that I could live with Him one day in heaven.”
Before the guy has the chance to call security, you add, “Oh, yeah, because Jesus died on a cross, I’m excited that I get to bear a cross in His name, too. I’m glad that I get to suffer for believing in Jesus.”
That’s when the guy gets up to leave for the bathroom and mysteriously doesn’t return until the flight is over.
What could be more convincing than a God who became an infant of an unwed teenage mother? This infant who grew up to be a poor carpenter’s son and a vagabond preacher. His message was so convincing that He had a total of 12 full-time followers. He turned off so many people among the Jews and the Romans that He was crucified on a cross reserved for the worst of criminals. And yet, He was born to be King.
It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?!
Don’t you sometimes wish God had saved you by some method more palatable to modern sensibilities? Then you wouldn’t have to be so embarrassed by your faith.
It all goes back to the question of how do you see Jesus? Do you see Him as someone who allowed Himself to appear weak and foolish, judged by a Roman governor and condemned by unbelieving enemies? Or do you see Him as someone who appears in power and majesty, who will judge the living and the dead, and condemn those same unbelieving enemies?
Admit it. We want an impressive Jesus.
But Jesus did not come to impress. He came to save. He is different than any kind of king this world has ever known. That’s what He was telling Pilate. This is the King who truly loves His subjects so much that He did not want His angelic warriors to fight for His release. The whole reason He was born into this world was to take care of His people’s greatest need. In order to do that, He had to be betrayed, arrested, beaten, put on trial before the Sanhedrin, judged by Pilate, and ultimately executed.
Jesus rightly knew that mankind’s greatest need was not to be impressed, but to remove their sin. That’s the truth. And Jesus came to testify to that truth. He told Pilate, “For this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” The truth is that sin destroys, but because Jesus loves you and me, our King chose to bear the destruction of our sin in our place. That is why, even though He had the power to escape from the Jews or walk away from Pilate or come down from the cross, He didn’t. He willingly stood there, was scourged there, was mocked there, was crucified there – all so that you and I could be impressed. Not impressed with what Jesus looks like. But impressed with what He accomplished.
And if you ever think that the name of Jesus is weak or foolish or powerless, then consider this. Notice how the politically correct cower at any mention of Jesus in public. They must remove all mention of Christmas. They can’t stand to look at a cross on a police vehicle or Commandments in a courthouse or a manger scene in a downtown square. While atheists and unbelievers publicly call Jesus and His followers weak fools, they privately cower at His name.
There is power in the name of Jesus. There is glory in the cross. There is majesty in His blood. There is love behind the weakness and wisdom hidden in the foolishness. There is a Messiah standing before the Jews and a King standing before the Roman governor.
Darrell Loomis was a truck driver. Each week he hauled goods from Cincinnati to Atlanta. Joe’s Diner was his favorite eating spot on the route. Darrell always stopped for meals at Joe’s. One summer afternoon, Darrell parked his truck and walked into the diner. Sitting down in his favorite seat – the third counter stool – he order the usual – hot meat loaf sandwich, mashed potatoes, and iced tea. In the distance came a roar and a cloud of dust, followed by the arrival into the parking lot of twelve members of a motorcycle gang, riding Harley Davidsons. The gang parked them next to Darrell’s Peterbilt truck.
As the gang stomped into the diner, the leader immediately spotted Darrell. “Well, who is this little sissy at the counter?” he sneered. Darrell merely remained silent and continued eating his lunch. The gang formed a semicircle around Darrell. Unperturbed, Darrell just sat and ate his lunch. One of the gang members picked up Darrell’s iced tea and poured it over his head. Darrell quietly dried his face with his napkin, but said nothing. Another gang member picked up Darrell’s mashed potatoes and stuck a handful in Darrell’s ear, wiping his hand on Darrell’s back. Darrell remained calm and didn’t respond. He simply continued to eat his lunch.
Although the gang continued to harass and taunt Darrell, he never responded to any of it. Even when Darrell finished his lunch, he only stood up, turned to Joe, and silently paid his bill. He left the diner without saying a word.
The leader of the gang laughed and said to Joe, “What a wimp! That guy sure ain’t much of a man!”
Joe, looking out the window of the diner said, “No, and he ain’t much of a driver, either. He just ran over twelve Harleys.”
Jesus was not the kind of King anyone expected. Many looked at Jesus and said, “What a sissy! He sure ain’t much of a man! What kind of King is this?”
Yet Jesus did not open His mouth (Isaiah 53:7). He was crowned with thorns, robed in purple, and struck with a rod posing as a king’s staff. The Jews rejected Him as their king. The Roman soldiers feigned allegiance to Him as their king. Pilate questioned His kingship. Yet Jesus remained calm and explained that His kingdom was not of this world.
Satan used the Jews and the Romans to laugh at Jesus, jeer at Him, and kill Him. Yet Jesus never opened His mouth. He calmly and willingly accepted it because He knew this was what He was born to do. He also knew that in the end, Satan, all of his demons, and all those who pierced Him, would seeing Jesus coming in the clouds and mourn because of Him (Revelation 1:7).
How do you see Jesus? Don’t let appearances fool you. He is no weakling. He is no wimp. He is no fool. He is the Son of God! He is the Son of Man! He is your crucified Savior! He is your coming King! Amen.