Saturday, 21 November 2009

'Truth?' said Pilate. 'What is that?' (Joh 18:38 NJB)

The Gospel this week is taken from the gospel of John 18:33-17. It is the last Sunday of our liturgical year, the feast of Christ the King, and hence a Gospel regarding Jesus His kingship, not like kings on earth, but as King of Heaven. Next week we start Advent, the time of preparation for the birth of Jesus.

In the last weeks we have been walking with Jesus towards Jerusalem, as Luke often mentioned, and now the last Sunday of the year we are in Jerusalem. We can see the year as a journey, a journey we travel with our Lord, and now we finish in Jerusalem with Pilate, who asks Jesus "What is truth?" (Joh 18:38 RSV).

So what would we answer ourselves to this question? In the film 'the Passion' by Mel Gibson we hear Pilate talk about his truth, what will happen to him if the Jews get out of hand... the difficulties he has in his life. But such a truth, written with a small letter, is not really the same as what Jesus is talking about, but it seems that past which Pilate cannot see.

The dialogue between Pilate and Jesus is quite interesting to study, as it becomes obvious that Jesus is talking on a completely different level. Pilate start to ask Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" (Joh 18:33 RSV). Jesus does not answer the question, but starts to challenge Pilate on his own thinking. Did he think this himself, or is he just accepting what everybody is saying.
And so Jesus may ask us, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" (Joh 18:34 RSV) The question I have to ask myself, do I engage with the Lord myself, do I discover who he really is myself, or do I just following others in what they say and do... Before my conversion I was defiantly in the Pilate group as I just accepted whatever was said around me about Christianity and about God himself without actually inquiring in the matter, a matter so important!

So after Pilate more or less puts the question aside by showing little real interest in the matter and asks why he was handed over, Jesus pulls him back to the initial question:  "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world." (Joh 18:36 RSV)

Jesus speaks to Pilate in words he understand while he tells him that there is more, there is more than this world. Pilate, himself a man in power, would understand what Jesus is saying on a worldly level, but does he understand what Jesus is saying on a higher level? His response "So you are a king?" (Joh 18:37 RSV) again has to do with himself. If Jesus is a king he is indeed a threat, maybe indirectly to his own authority, but more directly to the peace of Jerusalem at that time, the Jews might want to revolt again as has happened before. He can hear the crowds roaring outside, that for him is real and the only thing Pilate can think of is his own blood.

Jesus replies "You say that I am a king" (Joh 18:37 RSV).  What is Jesus telling Pilate here? Maybe he is trying to tell again that there is more than just his little world he is living in, and that he has to think for himself. Depending on the punctuation, you could read I am (εἰμί ἐγώ) together, maybe resounding the I am (ἐγώ εἰμί) which is often used in the scriptures when Jesus seems to refer to himself as God. So does he say "You say that I God am a king?", alluding again that Pilate is just looking at the temporal world as he knows it, putting his own standard on higher things, not understanding Jesus Kingship to be Divine?

Jesus continues: "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice." (Joh 18:37 RSV), to which Pilate responds, "What is truth?" (Joh 18:38 RSV), and (possibly) without waiting for the answer returns to the Jews...

Can I see past my own truths? Can I open myself up to what the Lord has been telling me in the journey of the past year. Maybe it all has been like water running of a ducks back... like Pilate, I have not been really listening to what the Lord has been saying to me. This might be the time to reflect back and see what journey we have been on, and what the Lord has whispered in our hearts during the past year. Sometime from a day to day basis it might seem that we are stuck and do not seem to move at all, but now is the time to maybe look back over the past year, as it often seems to me that God works slowly and in mysterious ways, and only looking back over a long time reveals that God writes straight with crooked lines.

Pilate does not seem to be able to break from what he sees directly around him, he was not able to open himself up to the bigger picture...

(I am tempted to continue a bit on Pilate's question  "What is truth?", especially doing philosophy at the moment but think the reflection is already long enough, so I think I will refrain from it for the moment...)

1 comment:

My Heart Beats and I sigh said...

I Am. is a big part of my prayer. I talk about it alot and look for it in scripture. For me, I Am is the basis of Truth...philosophy... I Am is even a label in several prayer posts 'cause i search for I Am so much; yet i didn't catch this in Pilate's 'conversation' with Jesus. Nice...


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