John 18:28 – 38
“The moment of truth.”
There is a point where everyone must make a decision. At that point, many of the small decisions we have made along the way bring us to the place of a personal crisis. For Pilate, the moment was forced on him. We see Jesus pulling Pilate to the moment of truth. Unfortunately, Pilate puts a “but” into his words and actions.
What is the “but” that keeps you from bending your knee to King Jesus?
I. Pilate’s personal crisis.
A. Pilate’s history
1. Pilate was the procurator, from 26 A.D to 36 A.D. (Unusually long time.) His position indicates he was from a wealthy and powerful family.
2. Pilate had unquestioned military, financial, and judiciary authority over Palestine.
3. Philo describes him has a brutal dictator who enjoyed offending the Jews and seldom changed his mind or course of action.
4. Josephus tells the story of Pilate taking temple money to build an aqueduct.
B. Many ways to interpret Pilate in this story.
1. Some have suggested he was weak and at the mercy of the Jewish leaders. (His ability to irritate the Jewish leaders throughout his involvement in the story says not.)
2. Some have suggested he was a typical Roman, incapable of separating the political from the spiritual. (His contact with Jesus challenges this core Roman philosophy.)
3. Some have suggested that he was an insane monster who was eager to find another way to goad the Jewish leaders. (His understanding in this case seems to be to advanced.)
4. Proposed: Pilate was a normal individual cornered by a religious and political issue. He was able to believe Jesus was a king but unable to act on that belief.
C. The crisis:
1. Jesus had been schemed against by religious (Pharisees and Sadducees) and political groups (Herodians). Pilate, being ultra-sensitive to any hint of insurrection would have probably known this.
2. Jesus had been betrayed by a close friend and deserted by His closest friends. The lack of any support for Jesus would have told him this.
3. Pilate takes the time to privately interview Jesus. Something he probably would not have done if he was a puppet or a tyrant.
4. [v 35] Pilate would not lower himself to seriously considering the possibility.
II. The process of personal crisis:
A. Jesus’ goal in questioning Pilate is clear.
1. Pilate must be forced to answer the question... that is the crisis.
2. Pilate must be brought to an intelligent understanding of the choice he faces.
3. Pilate must act on his choice.
B. How does this happen?
1. Pilate is “cornered.”
a. He is caught between what is and what should be...
b. The rule of the Roman empire vs the claims of Jesus.
2. Pilate is “confronted.”
a. “Truth is God’s way of thinking about things.”
b. Pliny (Roman historian and philosopher) “the only thing for certain is that there is nothing certain.”
3. Pilate is “questioned.”
a. In interviewing Jesus, Pilate finds that he is the one on trial.
b. He confesses his spiritual inabilities (lack of understanding) and possibly his pride. [v 35]
c. He is challenged to listen to Jesus. [v 37]
4. Pilate maybe convinced but not convicted. [v 38]
a. He does not see Jesus as a threat. (A habitual “criminal.”)
b. He does not see Jesus life worth risking another serious incident.
5. Symptom: at the moment of truth there is a “but.”
III. “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’...” (Quote)
A. What excuses could be come up with?
1. The church has sissified Jesus. (True, we have often only presented His “tender” or “compassionate” side and glossed over images like cleansing the temple and “King of Kings.”)
2. We tend to overstate the “now.” (True, but what else do we have? Living in the past is mental illness and worrying about the future is sin.)
3. We have contrary physical appetites. (True, sometimes are physical desire are counter spiritual.)
4. We are caught between the rock of what we see and think we know and the hard place of Jesus’ truth claims. (True, it is difficult for us to get perspective on how Jesus’ truth claims will impact us.)
5. We allow circumstances to carry us. (True, life happens and sometimes it feels like we don’t have much choice.)
6. We fear earnestness and zeal. (True, zeal scares us because it is either radical or shallow. Earnestness in world filled with false is a difficult disadvantage.)
7. We are “stirred up” against Christ with seldom specific and without substance innuendos. (True, it seems like “everyone” can speak from ignorance with authority.)
B. “But” what is the real picture?
Imagine doing a jigsaw puzzle. What is the first thing you do? (Take it out of the box.) Etc... What do you have to do to solve the puzzle? (Keep looking at the picture.) Our problem is not a missing piece. The real problem is we are looking at the wrong picture. If you do not have the right picture, you will never solve the puzzle. If you are not looking at Jesus, you will never understand. When the moment of truth happens, you will always have a ‘but’ ready. There will always be some hesitancy, some nagging suspicion, some reservation.
IV. What is your story?
(Ill.) “According to Jim” TV show. Discussion about being a hero and being courageous. Jim: “Hero’s are not courageous, they are cornered.” Reality, hero’s are those who behave courageously when cornered.
A. When faced with Jesus. Be honest.
1. Sometimes Jesus’ truth claims are hard to understand because of where we are at the moment.
2. The moment of truth happens as the Holy Spirit impresses on us the truth.
B. When faced with Jesus. Be courageous.
1. In a world with lots of voices, many of them angry and directed at Jesus, it takes courage to take a knee in submission to Jesus.
2. Yet all the reasoning in the world will not change the position of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of lords.
C. When faced with Jesus. Do the right thing.
1. In the truth of Jesus’ claims to be King and savior, convinced but not convicted is falling short.
2. We can invent any excuse we want too... It does not excuse us of doing the right thing.