Updated: Feb 5, 2021
Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate 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?” Jesus 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.” Pilate 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.”
This is the Gospel selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Twenty-seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018, which is the Last Sunday after Pentecost. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday would be referred to as Proper 29, but it is called “Christ the King Sunday.” It will next be read aloud in an Episcopal church by a priest on Sunday November 25, 2018. It is important because Jesus admitted to Pilate that he was a king, but that admission is left up to the whole world to discern (just like Pilate had difficulty understanding): Where is Jesus’ kingdom, if it is not from this world?
I will preface this reading interpretation with the basic statement that one has to have a firm grasp on the facts of reality, as far as Jesus’ final days are concerned.
1. Jerusalem was packed with Passover Festival pilgrim Israelites, local Jews, Romans and other Gentiles.
2. The Passover Festival in ancient Jerusalem lasted eight days.
3. Jesus had his disciples prepare for the Passover Seder meal [the first of two Seders: the night of 15 Nisan and the night of 16 Nisan] on Friday, 14 Nisan.
4. Jesus was arrested early in the morning of 15 Nisan, which was a most holy Shabbat [Saturday].
5. The written accounts of Jesus’ appearances before a Temple high priest, a Roman provincial governor, a Roman tetrarch [ruler of one quarter of a country] and back to the Roman provincial governor could not possibly happen on the same day and have his body taken down from a cross of death the following Friday.
6. The Romans were good record keepers and little is written of the trial and execution of Jesus of Nazareth, meaning the world did not stand still because of Jesus’ arrest.
7. Biblical records [the four Gospels] are so laser focused on what happened to Jesus that is appears that time stood still, just as it appears that a four-hour Passover Seder ritual meal was over in minutes.
8. The ignorance by Gentiles of the ritual of a Seder meal means the non-Jewish Christian thinks the Yachatz (breaking of the middle matzah) preceded the Beirach (Grace after Meals) and Kos Shlishi (the Third Cup of Wine), as quickly as a Christian priest can hold up a cup of wine and a large wafer, while reciting the Biblical text of Matthew.
With that understood, this reading from John must be seen as taken from the whole, as one part of an eight-day event that was surrounding the life of Jesus; this episode being one witnessed by John, who was not a disciple of Jesus. It is important to know that Mark [Peter’s Gospel writer] wrote of Peter’s disowning Jesus at the end of chapter fourteen. At the beginning of chapter fifteen, Mark wrote of Jesus appearing before Pilate. Matthew wrote of the same order, but he wrote of Judas hanging himself prior to witnessing Jesus before Pilate. Luke, likewise, followed the same order of Peter’s denial, such that Jesus appeared before Pilate later; but Luke [Mother Mary’s Gospel writer] then was the only one to write of Jesus being sent to appear before Herod, followed by Jesus standing before Pilate again.
All four Gospels then create a three-dimensional view of the truth surrounding Jesus before Pilate, such that this account by John is the first time Jesus was seen by the governor of Judea. However, this reading from John is seamlessly attached the account of Pilate offering Barabbas and Jesus to the people to vote on freeing. That event, as told by Luke, clearly said it was Jesus’ second appearance before Pilate. For the truth of all to emerge, one needs to be able to see an invisible point of transition appear in John’s words.
The word translated as “headquarters” is the Greek word “praitōrion.” When capitalized, this word is translated as “Praetorium,” which [in Latin] was the official residence of a governor, but when Herod visited Jerusalem it was his palace. Both Herod and Pilate were in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover Festival. In Jerusalem there was both a Palace of Herod and a Hasmonean Palace within the temple compound, both of which would justify being identified in the upper-case as “Praetorium.” However, the spelling in John is in the lower-case, which means this can refer to the “praetorian guard,” which were Roman soldiers that were primarily housed in the Antonia Fortress, but also had guard houses surrounding the palaces.
By understanding the intent of the lower-case spelling, this meeting by Pilate with Jesus was not in the palace. Instead, the Sanhedrin had taken a prisoner to the guards of the fortress, which obviously had holding cells for prisoners. The presence of Jews bringing in a Jewish prisoner necessitated Pilate be summoned to the fortress, to approve that imprisonment. The last thing Pilate wanted was a riot ensuing, due to a Jew being falsely imprisoned by Rome, in Jerusalem, during the most holy time of the year when emotions were already high.
John’s verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine state, “Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them.”
This says it was after sunrise, after Peter had denied Jesus three times, and after Judas hung himself at dawn. The aspect of the elite Jews wanting “to be able to eat the Passover” says it was 15 Nisan, the Sabbath, with evening being when the second Seder would be eaten. They, like Jesus and his disciples and family, had partaken of the first Seder meal before Jesus was arrested.
By reading that Pilate “again” went into the “praitōrion,” he had been outside talking to the Jewish leaders. That discussion was recorded by John, in verses twenty-nine through thirty-two. He had obviously been inside the first time to give the orders to imprison Jesus, before going outside to talk with the ones making accusations that Jesus was a criminal against Rome. When he returned inside the fortress and went to the holding cell of Jesus, he was “again inside” the fortress. Pilate then asking “Are you the king of the Jews?” was based on nothing written by John that would indicates that title was expressly stated by the Jewish leaders.
This is why Jesus [who had the mind of the Christ for his insight] asked Pilate in return, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Jesus knew the true answer to that question, which means he immediately knew that no one had accused Jesus of claiming to be a king. John wrote they told Pilate, “If he was not doing evil, then we would not have delivered him to you.” (John 18:30) [In that verse, “kakon poiōn” translates as “evil doing,” not “criminal.”]
As far as Rome was concerned, a promised “Messiah” [in Greek a “Christ”] was nothing to worry about. As long as someone was not raising a sword against Rome [something to which they would gladly raise one in return], religious zealots (such as John the Baptizer) were nothing more than a lot of harmless hot air.
Look! Up in the sky! It’s the Messiah!
We then read that Pilate said to Jesus, ““I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”
This is the mantra of all Gentiles, including the Christians of the Western world. The vast majority of Christians, as produced by the Roman Catholic Church, beginning in earnest in the Dark Ages, proclaim, “I am not a Jew, am I?”
As Romanized Christians, rather than Apostles who have been passed the torch of the Holy Spirit, those people act as if they are doing Jesus a favor by picking up what the Jews cast off. Christians of the West say, “Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me.”
Finally, as those who have no bloodline connection to the lineage of Jesus of Nazareth [born in Bethlehem] and having never witnessed any of the miracles that Jesus was said to have performed, Christian Gentiles ask Christ, “What have you done?” Sure, they have been told what to believe, and like good pagans-turned-Christians, they believe. However, they ask the same question as Pilate, with most muttering under their breath, “for me.”
While it can seem as though Pilate was speaking from a level of ignorance about the Jews, as a Roman citizen appointed as the fifth Perfect over Judea [there had been four Perfects of Judea prior to Pilate, him having succeeded Valerius Gratus], and only in that position for about the same length of time Jesus had been ministering the children of Israel, it is better to see Pilate working Jesus like a cop in an interrogation room. By playing ignorant, he hoped Jesus would begin bragging about all he had done, which would have allowed Pilate to hear for himself if Jesus was doing “wicked deeds” against the Jews of the temple, or against Roman dominion there.
When Jesus then said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” he admitted that he had allowed others, in one way or another, to hear him talk about a kingdom that he possessed. If cable TV and The History Channel had existed back then, and if Pilate had been a fan of Ancient Aliens, undoubtedly he would have been intrigued by Jesus’ answer. He might have wondered what ancient alien theorist would say about an “out of this world kingdom.”
Still, the Greek written by John, “Hē basileia hē emē,” can say, “This authority [or rule] this my own.” The word “kingdom” is not to be understood as a worldly nation of people, but one person. While Pilate could not discern the importance of the capitalization of “Hē” (meaning “This”), one can imagine Jesus gestured with his hands, by sweeping them along the form of his body from chest to waist. By his saying “This” along with that gesture, his word would then show that Jesus himself was where his reign was. By then repeating the word “this,” without gestures, Jesus was then saying [as Seinfeld made a running joke in one episode], “I am the master of this domain that stands before you.”
While Jesus had just admitted Jesus of Nazareth was a kingdom, he then added, “not is of the world this.” In actuality, the Greek of John says, “exists not in this realm” or “is not from here.” The paraphrase assumes that Jesus was not talking of a kingdom on earth, but his words could have been heard by Pilate as saying, “My kingdom is not in Judea.” Pilate’s ears could hear, but they were not geared to think in metaphysical ways. He was deaf to the proposition that the king of the kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth was not material in nature but spiritual.
Think about that for a moment and let that sink in. See if your ears can hear Jesus saying, “This (my body) kingdom this my own (body) [has a King] not from the material realm.”
[tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock]
Jesus said, “You will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (John 8:28) He also said, “I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.” (John 12:49) Jesus again said, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (John 14:10)
What Jesus said to Pilate was no different than what he had said to others before. This is Jesus being exactly as the Israelites were all supposed to be, as priests to Yahweh. Each was to be a kingdom of which God was the king. When the elders of Israel went to Samuel and said, “Appoint for us a king, to be like other nations,” Samuel said, “God is your king.” Samuel, like Jesus, was a kingdom of God, as human flesh, with the king being the presence of God within them, via the Holy Spirit.
Pilate was having none of that out of this world namby pamby. The investigator in him came out; so we read, “Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?”
He must have missed the hand gesture. All he wanted was a confession. He did not realize that every word coming from Jesus’ mouth was the truth of God. The answer had been given, “Yes, I God am a King, but my Kingdom is Spiritual, which in Jesus of Nazareth stretches as far as the skin can go and inward to the soul.” To Pilate, Jesus spoke, not Yahweh.
Since God had already answered Pilate’s question prior, He then told Pilate through Jesus’ lips, “You say that I am a king.” Jesus was saying that Pilate was only defining the word “king” in worldly terms. Jesus then said, “You are putting words in my mouth, which I did not say.” Jesus said he had “authority” that was solely his own. He did not say, “I am a king of a kingdom that is not from this land possessed by Rome.”
Jesus had explained to Pilate that, if he were a ruler of land, then he would command soldiers to fight for his release, as kings do. Those soldiers would have given their lives fighting against the tyranny of the Temple rulers, who had arrested Jesus. No soldiers had come to rescue Jesus, so Jesus was a kingdom of one. Only he was there defending himself. No real king would do that.
In this children’s game, the most important piece is the flag. It cannot move. It must have other pieces defend it.
To clarify what Jesus had previously spoken, which Pilate misunderstood, Jesus said, “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”
Twice Jesus said “touto,” which is again stating his use of “this” prior: “This authority this my own not of the world is this.” The word that was used to express “this kingdom not of this world” was “toutou.” At this time the verbiage was “this kingdom not of this world” was why Jesus was born. He said “this kingdom not of this world” was why Jesus came into the world in “this” body of his, which came with Spiritual authority … like a kingdom.
To be a kingdom of God on earth was the absent purpose that was not in existence in Judaism. All the high priests, all the scribes, all the lawyers and common folk were supposed to be kingdoms of God, but they all had failed God. Because they were not kingdoms of God, God sent Jesus to be the torch that would re-ignite that responsibility in all the children of God.
Jesus then said what his “authority” was. It was that “rule” he had been given by the Father [God] that the leaders of the Temple were mistaking as Jesus saying he was a king. Jesus was sent by God [the King] “to testify to the truth.” While Pilate would question, “What is truth?” [not part of this reading, so it might have been asked when Jesus returned for his judgment], the truth that was missing was the kingdoms of God that each Jew and scattered Israelite [as well as Samaritans and Gentiles later] were supposed to be was not. They were dead to God in their hearts. Only the truth of Holy Scripture could awaken them from death’s slumber.
Jesus spoke the truth of Holy Scripture by being a living example of that truth. Thus the truth proclaimed by him and his disciples was, “The kingdom of God has come near.”
Jesus then told Pilate, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” The truth was then all of God’s people, as His chosen ones. They had been spoken for. They belonged to God in marriage. They had broken the marriage contract and thus had been divorced; but God would open their hearts again with the truth. Jesus was sent to speak the truth of God, but God needed to release the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ so that more than one human body of flesh could be the voice of truth.
Pilate, unwittingly, had a divine role to play in that release. He had never been convinced that truth truly existed. That was why he asked [not read in this reading]: “What is truth?” That doubt is why God sent His Son to a world that lacked true Spirituality.
As the Gospel reading selection for the last Sunday after Pentecost, also known as Christ the King Sunday, when one’s own personal ministry for the LORD should be underway – one should be that voice of truth as Jesus Christ resurrected into a new bodily kingdom of God – the message here is to stop being like Pilate, refusing to hear what Jesus said. This does not mean reading the verses that the witnesses of Jesus of Nazareth remembered he said [or having someone read them to one] is the voice of truth. While the words are always true, they are easily misunderstood [reference Pilate]. Therefore, hearing one’s own voice speaking as the voice of truth that comes from having been reborn as Jesus, through the Christ Spirit, is the only true way to hear Jesus speak.
When one has been reborn as Jesus, one has become the womb from which Jesus could return into the world in Spirit. When one has resurrected the Holy Spirit of Christ and become Jesus again on earth, it is then “to testify to the truth.” The truth is not known by Gentiles, such as Pontius Pilate, as they ask, “What is truth?” Therefore, when one is reborn as the holy duplication of Jesus – an Apostle or Saint – one is tasked to make the truth be known.
While the truth comes from Scripture, which is the Word of God, leading others to facts and figures, those explanations and interpretations are only the essence of truth. The Word of God comes alive and speaks as the voice of God to those whose hearts are then opened to receive the Spirit. One has to become one with God the Father, becoming one with the Son, as one’s soul is joined with the Holy Spirit – the right hand of God.
The Trinity is when Heaven and earth meet in you. The Trinity is Jesus again born into the world so the voice of truth can be witnessed … a holy kingdom, where Jesus Christ is the high priest and God is the King.
The whole concept of “Christ the King Sunday” is then a return to being like Pilate, who asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
To see Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ is missing the point. One is seeing the flesh of life that stands on two feet and talks. One is seeing a human ruler of a religion that has not yet begun. That is the wrong way to see how Christ is the King.
Jesus said he was the kingdom, all by himself. The “authority” that made Jesus of Nazareth [born in Bethlehem] a kingdom was God. God was [and still is] his King. God is always the King who is not from this world of matter. God Created the material world from His Spiritual realm. Thus, God rules over His kingdoms that have been reborn as Jesus of Nazareth – the prototype of a fully committed wife of God, whose love of God has brought forth the Christ Spirit.
Those potential wives [virgins] not prepared for the coming of the Lord [death] will weep.
The Christ Spirit is the presence of God in a human soul [not of matter], so Jesus of Nazareth [a planned human birth by God the Father of Jesus] was born without a self-ego, being given the Christ Mind from birth. The sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth, which Pilate was destined to order after inspecting the Lamb of God and finding him without blemish, was so the soul of Jesus Christ could be released from its prison of flesh and then fill countless other souls who sacrifice their self-egos in order to serve the Lord.
This means “Christ the King” is God. To choose Jesus the man to be one’s Christ is to make the same wrong decision Pilate made. Pilate heard what Jesus said and ignored the statement that implied, “God is King, I am the kingdom.” All he heard was, “So you are a king?”
One has to listen to Jesus’ response. Jesus said to Pilate just as he says to all who fail to recognize God is the King that loves his subjects and His subjects love God in return. God IS the Christ.
When Jesus said, “You say that I am a king,” he meant that the reader (just as Pilate) thinks human subjects must kneel before a human being and swear allegiance. To worship Jesus [a man born of a woman, thus made of matter] as king means to sentence that king to crucifixion and let his soul go away from oneself, as Arthur was sent sailing off to Avalon. Jesus has been exiled by Christians, sent to a magical island that is not of this world.
“Bye bye Jesus my king!” his fans cry. “Watch over my sinful soul and wretched flesh from your new island home, so my soul can sail off to be with you when I die.”
God is the Christ. God is the King. God is Christ the King.
Jesus is the model of what a loyal, loving subject does for one’s King.
Live the truth.