This is Pilate’s question for Jesus. Not in the sense that he didn’t know the name of the person standing before him or anything about the details of his life. It’s a question about identity.
Read Mark 15:1-15
It’s the night before his crucifixion and Jesus has been handed over by the Jewish leaders to the Roman Governor. He has been rejected by his own people, those who claim to be God’s people and given to the Gentiles.
Pilate asks Jesus if he is “the king of the Jews.” Jesus doesn’t give a “yes” or “no” but instead says “so you have said.” He is pushing the responsibility onto Pilate about who he is prepared to see Jesus as, what he is prepared to call him.
Why does Pilate want to know who Jesus is and specifically why is he concerned about the question about whether Jesus is/considers himself to be king of the Jews? Well, this is essentially the charge sheet that has been made out against him by the High Priest’s investigation. For the Jewish leaders, the issue was that they understood that a messianic claim was more than just a claim to human leadership because the associations with Daniel 7 made it a divine claim. Their issue was blasphemy,
Pilate’s was treason. Another king in the region was a rival to Caesar because he would only allow puppet kings appointed by him like Herod. If the Jewish Messiah was God’s representative on earth to the Jews, then a Jewish King was Caesar’s representative to the Romans. So, the first question that Pilate was asking was “What kind of threat are you?” Jesus the King is a threat or challenge to all other kingdoms and thrones.
Another element of the question is in effect getting to the heart of who’s problem was Jesus, who did he really belong to. It may of course have been the case that Pilate was still going to have to clear the mess up but in effect, the fact that Jesus was claiming to be king was still very much a problem for the Jews. Even as he takes the issue on, Pilate mischievously compounds the problem for the Jewish leaders by asking them to choose between Jesus and Barabbas. The latter as a rebel leader might also be seen as a claimant to the throne. The Jews are invited to choose their king, to choose their rebellion leader. What kind of revolution do they want?
Pilate will ultimately crucify Jesus, not just as one who claimed to be king of the Jews but who was king of the Jews, a final bit of mischief to cause problems for the Sanhedrin and again another moment when they are forced to choose. Who do they think Jesus is. Killing Jesus as king was also a way of saying that he was putting an end to end of any rebellion, he was killing Judea, killing Jesus. He ensures that Jesus is crucified as the representative of God’s people.
This is good news for us because whilst Jesus therefore belonged to the Jews, by handing him over to the Gentiles, the Jewish leaders had said that he belongs to all of us. This king of the Jews was not just a local warlord but in that title as David’s heir came the claim to a greater kingdom, a reign over all nations. Gentiles would be ingrafted into his nation. Jesus died as our representative too. He died on our behalf.
Jesus then claims kingship, not just over territory but over our lives. This means of course that the challenges above matter. Everyone around Jesus from Peter, through to the Jewish leaders and including handwashing Pilate wanted to disown Jesus. Will we disown him like they did. Or are we ready to recognise him as our king, our Lord? Is Christ ours?
This means that if Jesus is a threat to every throne, every king and every kingdom, then the challenge is to the throne in our lives. Who rules in my life and yours? Who has power. Am I ready to fully vacate that throne, with all that this will mean? In other words am I completely submitted to his Lordship and filled with the Holy Spirit?