Summary: Millions of people have cited the words of the Apostle’s Creed. Do you think for a moment that Pilate’s mother thought her son would be referenced in every Christian creed for centuries to come?
It is Christmas and you are probably came expecting me to talk about shepherds, wise men, and Mary & Joseph every time Christmas comes around. Instead, scattered throughout your New Testament little statements of why Jesus Christmas came into existence. These statements tell you why Jesus came to earth that first Christmas.
Now on President’s Day we celebrate Presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington’s birthdays. But we don’t think of either of these men today as babies on President’s Day. Instead, we remember their accomplishments as adults. We don’t pass around pictures of Lincoln as a boy in his log cabin days. So why do so many stop to celebrate only the baby Jesus of Bethlehem in celebration of His birth rather than His actions as an adult?
This is a series devoted to showing God’s why behind Christmas. I invite you to turn with me to John 18. This is a really famous encounter and it is reported at some level in all four gospels. The sequence of events that brought Jesus before Pilate shows how organized crime also has an ancient legacy. Here you’ll discover cowardice, treachery, falsehood, scheming, and eventually murder. All these vices spring to life in the harsh reality of the most historic display of injustice in history, when Truth itself was on trial.
Only hours from His death, Jesus makes a statement about His birth.
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 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.” 37 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.” 38 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.” (John 18:33-38)
Millions of people have cited the words of the Apostle’s Creed:
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate…
Do you think for a moment that Pilate’s mother thought the boy she named would be referenced in every Christian creed for centuries to come?
This conversation between Pilate and Jesus has taken on a life of its own. Even just a few years after this conversation, Paul would speak growlingly of Jesus with these words: “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession” (1 Timothy 6:13).
The conversation takes place on the day we call Good Friday. Only hours from His death, Jesus tells the reasons behind both Christmas and Bethlehem. Only hours from His death, Jesus makes a statement about His birth.
1. The Truth About Him
In the opening of the interrogation, Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate wants to know if Jesus claims to be a political power. Note how Jesus responds to Pilate’s question for there is a deliberate strategy He employs. First, in verse 36, “No, I am not kind of king you are thinking about. My servants don’t fight.” But just one verse later, “I am king. I was born to be a king.”
1.1 Jesus’ Bookends
Jesus was bookended by a problem both at His birth and again, at His death. At His birth, He raised the jealousy of the regional ruler, Herod. Herod kills every male baby less than two years of age because he is threatened by Jesus’ Kingly nature. And now on the other side of His life, the confusion over His potential political ties is one of the reasons He will be killed.
1.2 The Background
Let’s step a back a moment to see how we arrive here. The religious leaders engineered Jesus’ conversation with Pilate because they didn’t possess the authority to execute Jesus. Jesus is before Pilate because the religious leaders wanted Jesus out of their way. They wanted Jesus to wash Jesus off their hands. Yet, these evil men were torn between two systems of law – the Hebrew code of law and the laws of Rome. Jesus is “pinballed” back and forth between the religious leaders and the Roman leaders. They put Jesus before Pilate in order for Pilate to deliver the death sentence. The resulting conversation between Pilate and Jesus takes place in private quarters (the praetorium), away from the potential mob violence outside. As he questions Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders are just outside awaiting his verdict (John 18:29-31).