Summary: Jesus’ discussion with Pilate during His trial has some powerful messages about power and about truth.
I’m always astounded at that point in the narrative of Christ’s final hours when Pilate says to Him:
“Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
To which Jesus replies, using the WJB paraphrase version of the Bible:
“You’re kidding aren’t you? You … power over ME! Not likely, mate. You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”
Jesus knew that everything that was happening to Him was planned, though not by Pilate. Jesus knew that it was all totally under the control of His Heavenly Father. Jesus knew what the apostles preached later, that He’d been delivered up according to the set purpose and foreknowledge of God, not because a mere human course of events was playing itself out.
He knew, too, that His whole life had been building to that moment, which He had engineered Himself. For instance, the priests had no case against Him. The witnesses couldn’t agree whether He’d said he’d build a new temple or rebuild the old one and Christ Himself had provided the damning evidence of ‘blasphemy’ that they used to justify taking Him to Pilate in the first place. (He’d replied to their question, “are you the Christ?” with a clear “yep, sure am.”)
And now he stands before the local representative of the supreme political and military authority on the planet at the time saying that it is he, Pilate, who is the powerless one! Christ was about to be executed in a humiliating fashion, a death that would for anyone else represent a shameful end to an ignominious life, yet as the writer to the Hebrews said later, “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame.” We see this scorn in His response to Pilate at that point. “I do this willingly,” He is saying. “This is happening not because you choose it, but because My Father has chosen it and I choose to obey Him. You think this will be a sign of the control that Rome exerts over people’s lives, but in fact it is going to unleash the power of God in a way that you can’t even begin to imagine. This is much, much bigger than you and there is actually nothing you can do about it.”
Behind that confidence was the knowledge that by His death, Jesus would undo the Fall of mankind and ‘make all things new’. This is the ‘truth’ that He had in mind when He challenged Pilate at another point in their conversation. “For this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” The word ‘truth’ literally means ‘that which is unhidden, that which is revealed’. Jesus is the revelation of the truth of God, the unfolding, the fulfilment and the culmination of the purpose of God from before the world began, which had been proclaimed through the ancient writings of the Law and the Prophets. This is the message that our Creator will go to extreme measures to claim us back from the power of anyone else. Everything that has come from our Fall – our entrapment to deceit, including self-delusion about who we are; our resultant inability to choose good and our failure to love as we ought; the persistent habit of suppressing God in our thinking and consciousness; and the brokenness of heart and life that comes from those things – will be swept away because Jesus has endured sin, death and shame on our behalf and won us back for God.
Pilate, pre-dating the cynics of our uncertain 21st Century, asked Jesus, ‘what is truth?’. He didn’t realise that Jesus had already answered that question when He said, “everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” As He’d said to the disciples when preparing them for the events that were then unfolding before them, “I am the way, the truth and the life”.
This is one of the things that really excites me about Easter. In Jesus was and is embodied the truth and the power of God. The truth that we are meant for a better life than this one, and the power to overcome the things that keep us from that life. Because of Easter He is making all things new - for you, for me and for all who will listen to Him.