Jesus before Pilate

John 18:33-37

This is the last Sunday in Year B, and so we leave behind St Mark’s Gospel. On this Sunday before Advent, we deal with the theme of Christ as King.

St Cyril of Alexandria reminds us of the cunning of Christ’s accusers, for although they had no evidence against him, by focussing on the notion that he was setting himself up as a rival to Caesar, they had picked an issue which Pilate could not afford to ignore. Pilate knew how unwillingly the Jews submitted to Rome, and he would have been worried for his own security as well as his reputation back in Rome if there was a rebellion. So Pilate takes that accusation to Jesus and asks anxiously whether it is true.

Tertullian reminds us that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, and that in showing that he turned from all the vain pomp of this world, he had already shown that. But men like Pilate and the Pharisees could not understand such a man.

Jesus tells him that his kingdom is not of this world. Both Chrysostom and St Augustine comment that the kings of this world should note this well, and note that the Church does not want to share the rule of this world with them. Christ’s kingdom is those who believe in him and who believe him when he said: “You are not of this world, even as I am not of this world”. His kingdom will endure to the end of the present order, and the tares will grow with the wheat.

St Augustine says that Jesus was not afraid to confess himself a king, but that his reply was nuanced enough to make his own point without accepting Pilate’s definition; PIlate can think only in worldy ways. Jesus refers to his own birth in the Incarnation – his coming into this world in our flesh. Christ witnesses to the truth to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

Here, as St Cyril comments, Jesus shows the stubborness of the hearts of PIlate and the others, for they cannot understand because they are not of the truth – as Isaiah [7:9] pointed out ‘If you will not believe, neither will you understand’. PIlate shows this when he asks what is truth when he is standing before Him.