“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied. The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. Mark 15, verses 2-5
You know that you don’t have to answer questions. Here in the US, TV crime shows make a big deal out of ‘Mirandizing’ people who are arrested, reading them a scripted statement that informs them of their Constitutional rights. That’s in response to a 1960s-era Supreme Court case where the plaintiff, a man named Miranda, was ignorant that he had the Fifth Amendment right to not say anything to the authorities who questioned him.
Long before there was a Constitution, Supreme Court, or television, Jesus took the 5th. The representative of the civil government, Governor Pontius Pilate, questioned Jesus about the severe accusations that the Jews brought against Him. The only things that Jesus says to Pilate are statements that speak to Pilate’s heart, things to make him think. Pilate asks Jesus the mocking question “are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus responds with word play, both confirming what Pilate says and throwing him a lifeline. I’ve always wondered what Pilate really, truly thought at all this. The Book of John sheds more light on their conversation, with Pilate either mocking or questioning (or both) the very concept of the truth Jesus embodied. Do you think the governor ever really wondered?
Notice, too, how Jesus is checking out of the conventional wisdom. He isn’t playing the expected game. His priestly accusers expected that Jesus would buckle under the intimidation of the governor, who (literally) held the power of life and death in his hands. It’s as if they expected that the man they couldn’t get to talk would sing like a canary under the sway of Rome’s military authority. Jesus flipped their CW and they didn’t even notice. That’s sad, if you think about it. It’s pathetic because not only is it obvious that they don’t understand who Jesus us. It’s obvious, too, that they don’t want to.
Yet consider how Jesus turns His accusers’ words around, not as weapons but as tools with which He can teach. What He does with Pilate He does to give Pilate the chance to contemplate the miracle of God standing before him. It’s one of those moments when Jesus proves how God loves everyone, not just his chosen people. Jesus even does this with the priests by not responding to them. It’s as if He lets their empty accusations hang in the air, speaking for themselves in the hope that they will see the gross sin of it all and turn away.
Finally, notice how Jesus still amazed those who held His fate. Pilate’s words in this drama tell me that he was both mocking and genuinely torn over this Jesus. There were political, social, military, and ecclesiastical aspects to consider over what each player said and did; Pilate was well aware of this. Through it, Jesus amazed him. Pilate seems moved by Jesus’ reaction, almost incredulous at how Jesus kept His composure knowing full well that doing so would result in His death. It wasn’t just that this rabbi was brash. It was His countenance, His authority coupled with His peace that impressed the Roman governor to try, again and again, to free Him.
All because Jesus took the 5th.
Lord, I’m constantly amazed by You.
Read Mark 15, verses 1-15.