John 18:33-38

33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’

34Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’

35Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’

36Jesus answered, ‘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 is not from here.’

37Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. 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.’ 38Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’

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I feel sympathy for Pilate. On one hand, he is the one with all the power. His decision is a matter of physical life or death for Jesus. Pilate does not need to bow to anyone’s wishes or demands. He is answerable only to Caesar and, Caesar has no interest in the tiny back-water community of Judea as long as the appearance of peace is maintained.

But confronted by Jesus, Pilate has to navigate a world he does not understand. He is involved in a situation that makes no sense to him; it hardly makes sense even for those who are sympathetic to Jesus. In the world of Jesus, Pilate is powerless. He lacks the tools to operate in the Jesus kingdom.

How could anyone expect Pilate to make a good decision? He has no idea how to answer his own question –

“What is truth?” (John 18:38)

The tools Pilate has used up to now, are simply not adequate to the job of finding the light for which he longs. He has been accustomed to successfully finding his way in the kingdom of “this world.” Pilate knows how to wield the world’s power. He is accustomed to getting his way and exerting his authority.

But suddenly, in Jesus, Pilate is confronted by a kingdom that “is not from here.” To find his way in Jesus’ kingdom, Pilate must soften and open. He must find his way to that place of gentleness and vulnerability to which Jesus calls those who have ears to hear.

The kingdom Jesus embodied is not a kingdom most of us are eager to embrace. The cost of coming to life in the Jesus kingdom is dying to the Pilate kingdom.

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How do I find my way in the kingdom of this world while seeking to be open to that kingdom which “is not from here”? How does the kingdom of this world feel different from the kingdom which “is not from here”?