Christ the King 25.11.12 John 18.33-37

18 11 2012

The Voice of Truth

This passage is a really charged exchange. Jesus and Pilate in a face-off.

In my opinion it’s an outrage that the the Lectionary stops at verse 37. The drama is not complete until we hear verse 38: ‘Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”‘

By the way, I wrote about this passage in my book ‘Barefoot Discple’, reporting on a time when I got people to act this dialogue out. It was amazing. People found many different ways of doing Pilate – but the voice of Jesus was always calm.

John 18.33-37

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ 34Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ 35Pilate 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?’ 36Jesus 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.’ 37Pilate 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.’


To help give shape to the reflection I am going to suggest three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels. You might prefer to stay in one area. But beware of staying in your comfort zone. That’s rarely where profound preaching comes from.

‘Head Questions’

  1. Why did Pilate start with the question,’are you the king of the Jews?’
  2. Where is Jesus’ kingdom from?
  3. What does it mean to ‘testify to the truth’?

‘Heart Questions’

  1. How do you imagine the tension between Pilate and Jesus?
  2. What do you feel when you read Jesus’ words about hearing his voice?
  3. Do you like Pilate’s final question (v38)?

‘Hand Questions’?

  1. What personal responsibilty flows from following Jesus?
  2. What can you do to help yourself and others hear Jesus’ voice?
  3. Why have you come into the world – what, as far as you understand it, is your personal vocation?


These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up – working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.

Palm Sunday 1.4.12. Mark 15. 1-39

20 03 2012

Handed Over and Forsaken

It is possible to read a lot of scripture today. We know why. It is the story that matters and we need to be taken along by it. To get into it.  This is the one Sunday of the year when we might well let the story speak for itself. The one Sunday when there is no sermon (though whether this is for time management reasons or for more spiritual ones is another matter). It might be, however, that a few well-chosen words help the story speak afresh.

Mark 15.1-39

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ 3Then the chief priests accused him of many things. 4Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ 5But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them

"Give us Barabbas!" (from The Bible ...

"Give us Barabbas!"

according to his custom. 9Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ 10For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?’ 13They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ 14Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ 15So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called to

gether the whole cohort. 17And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ 19They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take it. 24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’ 27And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30save yourself, and come down from the cross!’ 31In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ 36And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

Reflections and Questions

‘Pilate was amazed’. v 5   John Pridmore in ‘The Word is Very Near You’ says that the word ‘amazed’ is a poor translation. ‘Pilate wondered’, is more like it. 

What for you is the difference between ‘amazement’ and ‘wonder’? Which experience takes you deeper?

Humiliation. v 6-20 Mark does not use the word. He doesn’t need to. Jesus is second choice to Barabbas. He is routinely called ‘The King of the Jews’. He is clothed in purple. He is crowned with thorns.  He is mocked.

You know all this. But have you ever put yourself inside the experience and felt your dignity, your identity, your heart, just melt away? Someone in your congregation will know what this feels like. Who might that be? How will you help them on a healing journey through Holy Week?

‘those who were crucified with him also taunted him’. v32  They are adding their voices to the passers-by, chief priests and scribes.  And so it continues. Relentlessly. Jesus is not only put to death he is driven out of any human company or companionship.

What can you say about the loneliness of this?

‘the way in which he breathed his last’. v39  The way in which Jesus breathed his last was evidence enough for the Centurion. The whole meaning of the whole story is revealed in the last gasp.  This is salutary. It is never too late to be so fully yourself that someone can see God through you.  

How do you hope to breathe your last?