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Pontius Pilate

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 22, 2024 12:01 am

Pontius Pilate

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 22, 2024 12:01 am

As he looked into the eyes of truth incarnate, Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" Listen today as R.C. Sproul considers how Pilate unknowingly bore witness to Christ's purpose and priorities.

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We live in a time where the agenda of the church is focused on everything but the truth.

Why? Because truth inevitably divides. Truth causes controversy. Anytime the truth of God is proclaimed clearly, no matter how gently, no matter how winsomely, no matter how charitably, when the Word of God is clearly proclaimed, hell itself rises up in fury. Answering Pontius Pilate, Jesus said, For this purpose I was born, and for this purpose I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.

And as you heard R.C. Sproul say, truth is being avoided, even by some in the church, but we all must bear witness to the truth, and tell the truth, faithfully proclaiming the truths of God's Word. This is the Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind, bringing the final message in a week-long survey of people who encountered Jesus face to face. As this is the final message, it's also the final day to request the series yourself.

You can do that with a donation of any amount at, or by calling us at 800 435 4343. As we approach Good Friday, Pontius Pilate's encounter with Jesus becomes a point of reflection for many Christians, as Pilate ends up handing Jesus over to be crucified. But Pilate, by the decree of God, says something about Jesus that contains great truth and a weighty significance.

Here's Dr. Sproul. In the history of the Christian church, perhaps the oldest confessional statement that survives through the ages and the earliest effort to give a creed that would summarize the essence of Christianity is found, of course, in the Apostles' Creed. And in the Apostles' Creed, we find something that's a little bit unusual, and that is there is a reference in this creed to a historical person other than Jesus. That person who makes it into the creed and remains notorious and infamous because of it is Pontius Pilate.

We have the line in the Apostles' Creed, suffered under Pontius Pilate. Now, historians have asked the question frequently, why did the Christians of the early church find it important to make a specific reference to Pontius Pilate in a brief statement of faith that summarizes the person and work of Christ? And the answer that we discover when we investigate that question is that the early church considered Pontius Pilate to be a very important person in terms of redemptive history, that he was used of God at a particular time and in a particular place for a particular reason, namely to bring about the death of Christ that is designed for our redemption. And Pontius Pilate functions, according to the thinkers of the early church, in a role that is called the publica persona, or as we would say a public person.

He is a public figure who is in a position of authority, the seat of Roman power as he represents the Roman government in this drama. Just as the life of Jesus begins with a reference to a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, it ends in the hands of another Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate, who is functioning in this role of public person. Now the significance of that we'll see, I hope, in a few moments, but one of the most important statements, again according to the early church, that came out of the mouth of Pontius Pilate when he met Jesus face to face is a brief statement that he makes after his interrogation of Christ and after he has declared to the crowd, I find no fault in this man, when the people were screaming for Jesus and Pilate is feeling the pressure of popular opinion and bows out of political expediency to feed Jesus, as it were, to this frenzied mob. Jesus is presented to the crowd by Pilate, and Pilate utters two words in Latin that have become historically significant, and those two words are eka, e-c-c-e, homo, h-o-m-o. And when we see that in print, we usually see an exclamation point affixed to it, eka homo, which being translated simply means behold the man. Now again, in the early church, the fathers of the church believed that when Pilate made this seemingly insignificant statement, behold the man, after all he's just called Jesus forth, and placed him in front of the crowd, and he just says, here, look at the man.

You read that on the surface, and you ask, what possible significance is there in this? And perhaps if we followed the canon and the rules of exegesis that we use today in biblical scholarship, we wouldn't impute so much importance to this word. But in the early church, with the conviction that Pilate was not speaking merely as a private individual, but as one authorized by the Roman state, that his words take on more weighty significance. But even beyond the role of speaking as a public person in these categories, the early church saw in Pilate a man who was making statements that had meaning far beyond what he himself intended, and that he became in a real sense for this moment a spokesman for God Himself. Now the thinking behind that kind of interpretation and that kind of rendition of Pilate's words is rooted in some Old Testament passages where we see God speaking His word through pagans.

He even announced revelation through Balaam and even spoke through Balaam's donkey, and the idea is if He can speak through Balaam's donkey, He can speak through Pontius Pilate, or He can speak through me, which is even more appropriate to connect with Balaam's beast of burden. But in any case, the thinking of the early church is that here was a Spirit-driven utterance by a secular ruler that goes deeper than the surface of the words when he says, Behold the man, because there is supreme irony in that statement, because Jesus is seen in the pages of the New Testament not merely as a man, but He is seen as the man. Much of our focus, of course, when we look at the person of Christ and of His life is upon His divine nature.

This is the God-man. But when we take our eyes for a second and focus them on His humanity, we see that the New Testament views Jesus as the perfect man, as the second Adam, the new man, the man who restores the fullness of dignity that God intended originally with Adam. And Adam marred and disfigured the image of God in which we are created. He failed the test that he was placed in, and he became corrupt, and that corruption passed to every human generation and to every human being until this one man came on the scene of history, who lived his life, Coram Deo, every second before the face of God in perfect, sinless obedience. And so these dual statements of Pilate, number one, I find no fault in the man. Now, I want to ask for a moment, why do you suppose Pilate said that? Pilate said that because he didn't find any fault in the man, and the reason he didn't find any fault in the man that he had just interrogated is because there was no fault to be found. And so these two statements, I find no fault in the man, and then behold the man, behold the man.

And I speak particularly today to men who are looking for role models, who are looking for heroes, who are suffering some kind of identity crisis with their own masculinity. If you want to find out what it means to be a man in the fullest sense of the word, listen to Pontius Pilate when he says, echa homo, behold the man. Now, this comes, as I said, after a period of interrogation and examination where Jesus has been sent to the Roman authorities from the Jewish authorities because the Jewish people did not have the authority to execute criminals and to exercise capital punishment, and they were so determined that Jesus be killed that they delivered Christ into the hands of the Gentiles. And the Gentile now who represents the fulfillment of prophecy from the Old Testament that the Messiah would be given over to the Gentiles is Pontius Pilate. And we have in the New Testament a brief record, at least, of part of the conversation that ensued between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. We read in verse 33 of the 18th chapter of John these words, Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to him, Are you the king of the Jews? And Jesus answered him, Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning me? In other words, Jesus is saying to Pilate, Why are you asking me this question?

Is it to satisfy your curiosity? Are you worried? Are you nervous that I'm here to lead some kind of political revolution and throw you and the rest of you Romans out of this country?

Are you asking that question out of your own initiative, or did somebody put you up to it? But Jesus knew the answer to that question. He knew that He had been falsely accused as being a revolutionary in the political sense, and the Jewish rulers, in order to incite Roman fury against Christ, had accused Jesus of being seditious, of being a pretender for the Roman throne. And so Jesus challenges Pilate right at the beginning of this dialogue, and Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you to me.

What have you done? And Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight so that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now my kingdom is not from here. That's a fascinating reply that Jesus makes. The first thing He says is, you're thinking in wrong categories, Pilate.

He doesn't deny that He's the King of the Jews at all. In fact, His words, if you look at them carefully in the structure of the text, confirm that Jesus understood that He was the King of the Jews, but not in the sense that Pilate was understanding it, or in the sense that His other adversaries were understanding it. And so He says, My kingdom is not of this world. And then He gives a thinly veiled warning to this one who represents all of the power of the military might of Rome. He said, If I were a king in the sense you're thinking, if my kingdom was of this world, all I would have to do is signal to my servants, and it's over for you, Pilate.

And it's over for you, Pilate. This follows a theme that is an undercurrent in the New Testament. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, there are numerous occasions when the authorities seek to trap Him, and they want to find cause to arrest Him that they can be rid of Him. And on one occasion, the soldiers even came to arrest Him, and we are told that Jesus just calmly walked through their midst, and nobody laid a hand on Him. And those who were sent as this delegation were amazed, and they came back saying, We've never met any man like this.

We've never heard anybody like this, because He spoke as one having exousia, as having authority, powerful authority. And Jesus made it clear, nobody takes my life from me, but I lay my life down for my sheep. And He's making that same affirmation here to Pontius Pilate when He said, Hey, if I wanted to, I could call legions of angels. I could have my servants rise up and take over right now, but that's not my purpose. That's not who I am. My kingdom is not of this world. Pilate therefore said to Him, Are you a king then? And Jesus answered, You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. And everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.

What a strange turn and twist in the dialogue. We're talking about kingship. We're talking about politics.

Are you a king then? Pilate says. Jesus said, You said it, but that's not why I'm here. Now it's interesting when we look at the life of Jesus and we try to speculate, what was Jesus all about? What drove Him? What stirred His passion? What was His primary mission? How did He conceive in His own self-consciousness the mission that He was to carry out?

And there are several times in the New Testament where Jesus gives a summary of the purpose of His life and of His ministry. I came that you might have life and to have it more abundantly. I came to give myself as a ransom for many, and many illusions like that, but here He focuses on something else. When Pilate says, Who are you? What are you about? Jesus said, For this reason have I come into the world to bear witness to the truth.

That's what I'm about Pontius Pilate. My mission is not to bring peace. My mission is not to bring unity. My mission is to bring truth, to speak the truth, to act the truth, to do the truth, and to tell the truth. If ever the church needed to hear that afresh, it's today because we live in a time where the agenda of the church is focused on everything but the truth.

Why? Because truth inevitably divides. Truth causes controversy.

Truth creates uproar. People become furious over debates of doctrine and of theology. I don't know how many times in my life I've read Martin Luther's Bondage of the Will, but I read it again this week. I just keep coming back to Luther, and as Luther is crossing swords with Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, Erasmus is taking the position during this great controversy of the sixteenth century of the reconciler, of the peacemaker, and he's pleading with Luther not to be teaching his doctrines openly because they will cause an uproar. They said, Luther, you're teaching on the sovereignty of God, for example, and on the primacy of grace, for example, and you're teaching on the bondage of the human will.

These issues will create all kinds of fury. A floodgate of iniquity will be opened, and so he cautions Luther and pleads with Luther not to be teaching about these things. And Luther becomes indignant and said there cannot possibly ever be the presence of the Word of God in this world without an uproar following it. Any time the truth of God is proclaimed clearly, no matter how gently, no matter how winsomely, no matter how charitably, when the Word of God is clearly proclaimed, hell itself rises up in fury, and controversy comes.

And Luther says to Erasmus that it's a terrible burden for him that he hates the controversy that surrounds his teaching. He said, I am not a stone. I am not a person without feelings. I know that people hate me and say vile things about me, but it is my duty to preach the Word of God.

Now people don't relate to that in this day and age. The whole philosophy is don't rock the boat. Avoid controversy. And to do that, we have to fail to bear witness to the truth. And here's where we have to look to Christ, who defined His entire mission in terms of bearing witness to the truth and then makes this comment, and those who are of the truth hear my voice. Pilate now responds with the famous query, oh, what is truth?

Here's where we're at a disadvantage. The Bible doesn't tell us anything about His facial expression, His gestures, or the tone of voice when He asked that question. Was it sarcastic?

Was it cynical? Did He say, look at Jesus, smuggling, say truth? What's truth? Truth is whatever you want it to be. Truth is in the eye of the beholder. Truth is relative. Maybe that was Pontius Pilate's attitude.

I don't know. But it's also possible for one brief second in this man's political career, he had a sober thought, and he was brought up short, and instead of thinking of terms of political expediency, he thought for a second about truth, and he said, what is truth? The great irony, of course, of this encounter, this face-to-face meeting, is that what Pilate didn't know at that moment was he was standing face-to-face with the truth.

He hadn't heard Jesus' words that Jesus had spoken just the night before. I am the truth. I am the truth.

Jesus was the very incarnation of truth. His mission was to bear witness to that truth, and Pilate missed it. The truth was right in front of his nose, and he missed it, though, for again, for a brief second, even Pilate couldn't help but speak the truth because it was in the breath that he said, I find no fault in this man. For one moment, Pontius Pilate understood and spoke the truth, and then he said, for the benefit of the crowd, but I believe more importantly for the benefit of history, eka homo. Behold the man. Behold the true man. Behold the truth about me.

You're listening to the Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and that was R.C. Sproul on Pilate's face-to-face encounter with Jesus. Dr. Sproul told the truth, and we at Ligonier take the mission set before us very seriously to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness.

That means by God's grace, we won't shrink back. So when you support Renewing Your Mind and Ligonier Ministries, know that you are helping to build the world's most extensive library that is faithful to the historic Christian faith, and then taking that library over the coming decades into the world's top 20 languages. We don't follow fads but the old paths, and it is the clear proclamation of the Word of God that those inside and outside the church need to hear. So when you support that mission today with a donation at or by calling us at 800 435 4343, we'll send you the complete 13-message series that you heard from today, Face to Face with Jesus. As you wait for the DVD to arrive, you can stream the messages in the free Ligonier app and read the digital study guide to go even deeper in your study.

This is the final day for this offer, so please make your donation at while there's still time. When I was first exploring Christianity as a teenager, I remember asking a Christian why Jesus had to die on the cross. You know what? They couldn't answer. Well, all next week as we approach Good Friday, R.C. Sproul will help answer that question as we consider the cross of Christ. So join us beginning Monday here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-22 02:37:58 / 2024-03-22 02:46:13 / 8

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