Jesus, Pilate, and Sophistication
March 21, 2018 / Lent VI
John 18: 37 – Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice. Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
Dear Friends in Christ,
Story of daydreaming this past Friday night, after a long day, way past my bed time, going to the Dimmels to pick up the dear puppy, distracted and turning too early, onto the four lane, daydreaming cost me six or seven miles of driving time.
Five Wednesdays ago, we saw the Jewish nation distracted by their own false view and definition of the Promised Messiah, and yet we rejoiced in the simple truth that our God never slumber, He never sleeps, we are the very apple of His eye.
Four weeks ago, we saw Judas distracted by his love of money, and yet we rejoiced that Jesus Christ has purchased us and made us His own, not with gold nor silver, but with holy precious blood, and innocent suffering and death.
Three weeks ago, we saw Peter distracted by the train wreck he saw coming at Calvary, distracted by overestimating his own ability to stand firm, distracted by following at a distance and hanging out with the wrong crowd, and yet we rejoiced in our God whose great desire is to hide us in the shadow of his wings.
Two weeks ago, we saw Herod distracted by instant gratification of his personal passions, but we rejoiced in our Lord’s passion which was to suffer all that we should have suffered, his passion was to be crucified for us until he was dead and buried.
Last week, we heard Pilate asking Jesus if he was a king, we spent time with a Roman governor distracted by a false view of authority and how to use it, yet we rejoiced in Jesus Christ who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for man.
Tonight, we hear Pilate asking Jesus “what is truth?”, we see the highly educated Pilate caught up in elitism, caught up in an attitude that scoffed at the idea of absolute truth, distracted by what an author Herbert Lindeman calls “sophistication.” One dictionary defines sophistication as “having character and tastes based on intelligence and worldly experience, a quality of refinement. An old fashioned example of sophistication would be a person who enjoys opera and broadway musicals, in these days an example of sophistication might be the folks who have chosen science to the exclusion of revealed Scripture or the ones who always have the latest in technological advancement. (At a recent pastors’ conference, I heard one pastor admit somewhat sheepishly that his smart phone didn’t really talk to his ipad very well.”)
Two simple truths I lay before you today. Truth #1 is that our spiritual enemies are constantly tempting us to be full of ourselves, and truth #2 is a version of the theme of our recently completed Lutheran Schools Week, “the good life is still all about Jesus.”
Lindeman describes Pilate as “a man who has tasted so many delights of mind and body that nothing thrills him any more, who looks down from the superior heights of boredom on people who still retain their youthful ideals, who is convinced that life is meaningless, without ultimate significance of purpose.”
Two aspects we could note about how dangerous it is to be highly educated and to have climbed the social ladder all the way into the upper crust of society. First, the trouble with Pilate was not lack of education, it was the wrong kind of education. Many intelligent Romans at that time were for the most part athiests. They regarded religion as a racket maintained by the priests, which in many cases, was true. Pilate was what we would today call a career politician, and this is why the Jewish leaders were so much of a threat to him, they were hell bent on removing him from office, and he was weak enough in the knees that he ended up sentencing to death a man he knew to be innocent.
Secondly, and even more dangerous than the wrong kind of education for Pilate was his theological problem. His main trouble was that he didn’t believe in God. It is entirely possible that he did not have too much opportunity to come to faith. He may have been prejudiced against all religious belief by the false cults of his day. And it seems as though rubbing elbows with all kinds of believers really didn’t change his heart, although it may well be that his wife was a believer.
If we turn the clock forward from Pilate’s day to our own, we find all kinds of people still scoffing at the idea of absolute truth. The term “post truth” is now often used to describe the current political climate in the United States.
And oh how this famous scientist could have heard what our TLS and Sunday school children keep hearing, Jesus declaring, I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
And oh how sweet it would be if those who have been caught up in all kinds of self righteousness and moral relativism could hear their Savior coaxing them on their death beds, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am , you may be also.
The kingdom of God is like a highly educated professor who is ever so tempted to place his superior intellect in a position higher than clear and simple truths of Scripture. But in this Lenten season, he remembers back to bedtimes where his sweet mother would pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep….” He remembers back to his parents’ funerals where family and friends would sing loud and proud, in plain view of death, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” He thinks back to Lenten services in his little country church, the lights growing dim, the candles getting extinguished, believers singing out Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes, shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies. Heavs morning breaks, and earth vain shadows flee, in life in death O Lord abide with me.”
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town. They are like a city of lights set on a hill that cannot be hidden. All kinds of folks come and go, they hear, they believe, they are tempted, they stumble and fall. Again and again, the Lenten season they are reminded that the good life is still all about Jesus, reminded that they are the apple of their God’s eye, reminded that their God never slumbers, and He never sleeps. Reminded that their Savior has fixed His countenance upon them, and He will not be distracted.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther