Summary: Jesus is too much a threat to Rome, to the Jewish religious authorities, and to the crowds. They all reject his words of life and his invitation to walk in God’s kingdom.
In the movie, “The Lion King” there is the classic plot of good versus evil. There is also a sub-plot of Simba learning what it is to be king. He has to answer the question, “Why will he be king?” Is it to have people do his will? Or, is being a king to serve people.
A similar struggle is being carried on before us in today’s text. Who is King? Is it Caesar, who is represented by Pilate and the forces of Rome, or is it the beaten man, Jesus. What is the proper use of power and authority? Is it to accomplish one’s will, or is it to serve others?
The scene opens with the Roman soldiers mocking Jesus. They dress him in a purple robe and place a crown of thorns on his head. They sign out, “Hail, King of the Jews,” and slap Jesus on his face.
On an ironic note, Jesus never says that he is king. The soldiers do. Pilate does. Even the Jewish authorities claim that Jesus said he was king. King’s rule by either divine right, or by the use of force. God, the Father, has declared Jesus to be King of kings.
Jesus is a different type of king. He doesn’t rule by physical force. He does not rule for his own benefit. The power of Jesus’ reign is love. Love is the one thing that has the true power to change lives. The extent of Jesus’ love and the love of the Father is demonstrated in the body of the tortured and mocked man.
We gather together to proclaim Jesus King. Individually we have claimed Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We have done this because we have responded to God’s love and not to an exertion of force. The most powerful declaration that Jesus is King that we make is in living lives of love, which touch and change the lives of others.
THE USE OF POWER
Pilate takes Jesus into his headquarters and begins to interrogate Jesus again. During the interrogation, Pilate claims that he has the power. Jesus disputes his claim. Pilate does not have any power over him unless it has been given.
Pilate is used to demonstrating his power. He is a ruthless ruler. He killed without hesitation, robbed the temple treasury, and wasn’t beyond using his power to his own advantage. Pilate’s power was an expression of his will.
On the other hand, Jesus realized that the true use of power wasn’t in the exercise of one’s will. Instead, power came from aligning oneself with God’s will and being caught up in the exercise of God’s power and will. Jesus had struggled with this issue in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he had concluded, “Not my will, but your will be done.”
Following Jesus’ example, the greatest exercise of our power does not come with the expression of our will, but rather seeking to flow in God’s power with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Jewish religious authorities rejected Jesus’ rule, his manner of expressing his kingship and his use of power. Jesus’ path was counter cultural and it posed a threat to the status quo and the personal welfare of the leaders. The people—pawns of the leaders—rejected Jesus because of their blind loyalty.
Pilate rejected Jesus because it was politically expedient for him to do so.
It takes a step of faith in order to accept the path that Jesus invites us to walk. Caught up in the worries and frustrations of the world we balk at the opportunity. It is only in response to God’s love and grace that we are able to follow.
In a few weeks, we will sing God’s praise—Jesus has been raised from the dead, conquered death, and now reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. We will do this knowing that the resurrection is preceded by death and that the path of service comes before new life.