He Gave No Answer

  • Jeff Crotts
Sun rays shining into a cave

Sunday evening, a modest sized crowd from church gathered by Wasilla Lake. About 80 or so parents, singles, teens and children made the drive to watch a young teenager share her testimony and be baptized. It was a precious sight under a drizzled sky, as we stood semi-circled on the shoreline to affirm her gospel witness. Soft spoken, she testified how Jesus saved her from her sins and how she walks with Jesus as Lord. The saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words,” and this was the case as she willingly entered cold water and was immersed. Her witness was heard loud and clear! As we watched, so did everyone else around the lake. Swimmers thought whatever they thought. I cannot say whether anyone else even understood the meaning behind what was happening. I am not sure outsiders guessed this was a baptism but they might have. Whatever the case, what was undeniable was the power of her obedience, not to mention her sincerity.

Right after, we reconvened under our picnic shelter where I opened up an open mic sermon from John 18. This chapter airdrops us right into the scene where Jesus is on trial. If you know the story of Jesus’ arrest and trial then you know it is one great big sham. The night before Jesus was murdered on the cross, two trials ensue. Two courts held in a sense, simultaneously.

Jews accused Jesus to be a threat to the Sanhedrin. Rome was lead by the Jews to believe Jesus was a threat to Caesar. The Jews wanted Jesus dead but they had no legal power over him. Likewise, they could not fairly indict Jesus because no legitimate case could be made from their laws.

Rome was now the self-appointed political superpower over Israel, meaning the Jews had no power under Roman law to execute Jesus even if they could prove him guilty. Therefore, a veritable push and pull contest opened between Jewish court and Roman court all in a single night. Both parties reacting to the Son of God. Both begging the other to the deal with Jesus. The Jews made the case that Jesus is a threat to Caesar. Rome, in this case Pilate, said, “I find no guilt in him,” so deal with him yourselves!

This brings us to the interplay between Jesus and Pilate.

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom b is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that d I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:33-36)

Pilate’s question, “Are you King of the Jews” is an attempt to bait Jesus into a false admission that he is usurping the Sanhedrin through self-appointment. Jesus’ response puts Pilate’s play back onto Pilate, exposing him as unqualified to ask his question. The point is that Pilate’s question did not originate with Pilate. He did not even care about Jesus’ claim to be King of the Jews. This is a claim that poses no legitimate threat to Rome or Caesar.

Pilate, now back on his heals, responds with the exclamatory question, “Am I a Jew?” This reveals Pilate’s hand, saying this whole court scene is not his fight at all. Pilate wants this heat from the Jewish court turned down. Pilate’s exasperated confession proves this. “Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me…”

Jesus uses this as a natural segue to make his point! Jesus declares, “My kingdom is not of this world” (v. 36). This is a strategic blow to both courts in a single stroke. Jesus makes clear he is not a political threat. He does not want to be a political king over either side, neither Roman nor Jewish. Simply put, Jesus’ kingdom is entirely elsewhere. The threat is neutralized.

Pilate is tracking that politically speaking, Jesus poses zero threat. However, this does not solve Pilate’s big problem. Pilate is not a believer, thus naturally minded, and still confused by what Jesus means.

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth g listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. (John 18:37-38)

If Pilate were spiritually minded, he would have understood Jesus was the King of Heaven, come to reveal himself as such. A “witness to the truth.” Jesus indicts Pilate and Rome along with these unbelieving Jews by undressing their lack of spirituality. Neither are born again. Neither have the Holy Spirit. Neither have ears to hear nor eyes to see this King.

I have to admit, even knowing Christ’s overall mission, his lack of fire and meek response has left me confused me over the years. I have wondered why Jesus did not drop the hammer on Pilate and outright win this debate! Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s account say, “[Jesus] gave no answer.” Why does Jesus seemingly tap out at this poignant moment in this exchange? At risk of trivializing the moment, Pilate does not have “cell-service” to make the connection even if Jesus would have driven his point home.

Instead of Jesus burying Pilate, he says, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Jesus throws out a lifeline to Pilate, in essence saying, “Look at me, I am the King, I am the Truth, see me, hear me, yield to me.” Pilate, spiritually dead, will one hundred percent of the time do what he did. He goes to his default. To raw intellectualism offering a proud rhetorical question, “What is truth?”

Pilate’s answer is the spirit of our age. To question truth is meant to debunk any claim of a higher standard, especially given by and held by God. Jesus is the standard of truth. God’s Word, the revelation of Jesus, is our standard of truth! Christians know this. The national debates regarding race, pandemics, and sexuality rage with ferocity. Enter at your own risk. They are an inescapable whirlpool dragging its participants to the ocean’s floor.

The answer for believers? Bear witness to the truth. Speak truth into our world brimming with targeted agendas. Our goal? To win the debate? No, not really at all. Our goal is to speak the truth and see what God does.

In the case of Christ and Pilate, Pilate delivers Jesus right back over to the Jews who in turn cry out, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” (v. 40).

When you apply Scripture to debates surrounding race, pandemics, and sexuality, you really cannot predict what will happen. At the same time, we know the church is still carrying out Christ’s mission in the same way he did while on earth. We are truth-bearers.