Yesterday we thought about the question Pilate asked when Jesus had stated that he had come bear witness to the truth. Pilate asked, “What is truth?” Today I want to return to the same scene and consider another question this same Roman official asked.
Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:22).
Yesterday we observed that Jesus made the bold claim that he is the truth. If that be so – and it is – then every person on earth has the need of considering this question, again stated by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor before whom Jesus stood on trial for his life. Pilate asked this question of the Jewish mob who was calling for the death of Jesus. Pilate knew Jesus had done nothing worthy of death and wished to find some way of avoiding the responsibility of sentencing him to crucifixion.
He did not have the moral courage to stand up to the Jews and release Jesus, knowing that would create an even greater problem. So he turned the decision over to the crowd. Their answer: “Let him be crucified!” He asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” These people so hated Jesus that they didn’t attempt to give Pilate an answer, just, “Let him be crucified!” (Matt. 27:22-23). In doing that both Pilate and the Jews gave their answer as to what to do with Jesus.
Every person who hears about Jesus will also give an answer to this question. It is, in fact, the most important question ever to face each one who hears of him. It is vitally important because of what we looked at yesterday – that Jesus is the truth. He is truth that we cannot ignore. He is truth to which we will respond one way or another.
Here is the conversation Jesus had with his disciples just after the statement that he is the truth…
“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:7-9).
He is the truth about God. He came as the perfect representation of God to a world that did not know God. He is both the way to God and the truth about God. So what we do with him is what we do with God. That is important truth that demands a response.
Jesus claim to be the Messiah (“Anointed,” Christ, King) is also something everyone has to deal with. In his day people were looking for the Messiah who had been foretold to come. His conversation with the Samaritan woman turned to this subject…
“The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26).
Her response was to share the good news with her neighbors (John 4:29; 39-42).
The announcement Peter made on the day of Pentecost was that Jesus had been made Lord and King. The response of three thousand that day was “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:36, 37). Their question was essentially, “What shall we do with Jesus?” What would be the appropriate response to a king when one realizes he is their King? The only possible acceptable response is to honor him through obedience. This is what those people did on that day.
“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
There are only two possible answers the question Pilate asked. The people to whom he asked the question and they gave their answer. Theirs was the answer of unbelief. They rejected him. They called for his crucifixion.
Pilate gave the same answer. His answer did not come from hatred as did that of the Jews. His was out of fear and cowardice. He washed his hands “…saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves” (Matt. 27:24). Although he was saying to the crowd, “I will have nothing to do with this whole affair,” he actually was saying to Jesus that he rejected him. The truth that Jesus is was not important enough for him to do anything about it.
There are many who give the same answer today. They consider the claims of Christ to be unworthy of their consideration. They have made other things – other “truths,” other values – more important than the truth that is Jesus. His claims on them are not worthy of their consideration. His demands are not worth their time or their effort to comply. For them, his truth is not final truth.
What these people need to realize is that when they reject Jesus here that is not the end of the matter. They will one day stand before him in judgment and give answer for why they denied him. There will be no putting him off then. There will be no acceptable excuses. There will be no denying the inevitable fate that awaits them – his “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
But what of those who accept Jesus’ claim of ultimate truth? Having once answered it is that the end of the question? Can I put Jesus in my closet like my Sunday clothes and take him out weekly when I “go to church”? Will his truth make no difference in my day-to-day life?
Of course it will if we really accept it. His truth is so important that from the time we accept it we will be identified with him. To begin with, we will be baptized into him, publicly declaring that we belong to him and knowing that we are accepted by him (Romans 6:3-4). At that time we “put on Christ” as a garment. Our relationship with God will be changed; we will be from the time we respond to him, regarded as children (sons) of God.
“…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28)
Accepting the truth that Jesus is changes our relationship to other human beings, especially those who have also accepted him. In him there are no distinctions such as are used to distinguish groups of people among non-believers. We are all simply children of God. No national or ethnic distinctions. No social or economic classes. No gender-based denial of rights or equality. All are one in him because of who he is and because of what he has done for us.
These things are hard for some of us to accept. It is hard to realize and harder to make the changes necessary on account of the truth that Jesus is. But if we accept that truth we must accept everything that goes with it. We will begin to look at people differently. Those who accept the same truth we will regard as beloved brothers and sisters on the basis of our common faith in Christ.
Those who have not believed him we will regard with compassion as lost sheep astray from their shepherd. It may be a challenge to love those who are different from us, but love them we must because he certainly loves both them and us alike.
We must always remember that whatever we do to others we are doing to Jesus. He said so…
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40).
Truly we answer the question “…what shall I do with Jesus?” every day with every person we meet.