Then they all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him. They said, "We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah-King."
Pilate asked him, "Is this true that you're 'King of the Jews'?"
"Those are your words, not mine," Jesus replied.
Pilate told the high priests and the accompanying crowd, "I find nothing wrong here. He seems harmless enough to me."
But they were vehement. "He's stirring up unrest among the people with his teaching, disturbing the peace everywhere, starting in Galilee and now all through Judea. He's a dangerous man, endangering the peace."
When Pilate heard that, he asked, "So, he's a Galilean?" Realizing that he properly came under Herod's jurisdiction, he passed the buck to Herod, who just happened to be in Jerusalem for a few days.
Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up. He had wanted for a long time to see him, he'd heard so much about him. He hoped to see him do something spectacular. He peppered him with questions. Jesus didn't answer—not one word. But the high priests and religion scholars were right there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.
Mightily offended, Herod turned on Jesus. His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering. Then they dressed him up in an elaborate king costume and sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves. Always before they had kept their distance.
The political drama of this passage is so interesting. From the religious leaders trying to go right to the top, to Rome passing it back down to a lower court, to Herod and Pilate’s new found friendship. This whole scene could be something out of a TV drama.
What did you notice about Jesus in the story?
What I noticed is that Jesus didn’t defend himself. He didn’t get his hackles up and got at Pilate or Herod. His only defense, “Those are your words not mine.” When he’s interacting with Herod he stayed silent.
He looked in the face of his accusers and tormentors and said nothing.
As I think about my own life and when I have been in situations where I feel like I’m being maligned or attacked I fight back. And I’m pretty good at verbal sparring. Obviously, I’ve never been engaged with something like what Jesus is experiencing here. Nothing even close, nothing even in the same universe.
So, why when the stakes are so small do I look for a fight and Jesus doesn’t when the stakes were huge?
I think it’s because Jesus was completely and utterly confident in his identity. He knew who he was. He didn’t need his ego to protect him. He could stand there and listen and take in all the anger, rage, wrath, and falsehoods knowing that none of it was true. It’s as if it passes right through. He’s completely untouched by it.
I am learning that as we grow in our lives and faith and become more grounded in who each of us are we are able to listen to the other. We no longer have a need to defend ourselves or make an argument for ourselves. No, we can simply look at the other and say, “Those are your words not mine.” We can say, “Who do you say that I am?” And no matter the answer it passes through us.
For instance, when I was a young Christian I was enthralled with apologetics. I was driven to find empirical support for every aspect of my “faith.” I had all kinds of head knowledge and I used that information as a weapon. I was inspired by stories of modern apologists who would tell tales of conversations on airplanes where they would make people cry as they “destroyed” the other person’s worldview. Those were my faith heroes. I wanted to be just like that.
Why? Because I was unsure of who I was and what I believed. I had to protect this fragile belief and faith. I was like the disciple with the sword on the Mount of Olives who sliced off the servant’s ear.
As the years go by and my faith grows and matures I find that the apologetics questions and the endless debates are uninteresting. They mean little by way of what really matters. To follow Jesus is not to follow a philosopher who is seeking intellectual dominance. The follow Jesus is to practice and embody love for God, self, neighbor, and enemy. I find that to be way more interesting and energizing. Wrestling through how I am supposed to practice love.
I have been reading a book called The Patient Ferment of the Early Church by Alan Kreider. It’s a deep dive into the life and practices of the early church. What has been so interesting to me is that their primary concern was changed lives. How did people who wanted to be part of the church live? This was the question. Before they were admitted to the fellowship they had demonstrate their lives were different and that they were living after the way of Christ. This took time and patience and training.
Today, we are overjoyed with someone saying a magic prayer.
No wonder we have lost the plot so thoroughly.
Jesus fully embodied his identity. He knew who he was and rested in that truth. As we move toward that reality then we no longer need to fight. We are able to move into a practiced reality of loving well. Even if that means standing silent before those who seek to mock or shame us.