Gospel Lectio Divina, The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 21, 2021
Pilate said to Jesus,
"Are you the King of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own
or have others told you about me?"
Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I?
Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me.
What have you done?"
Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world.
If my kingdom did belong to this world,
my attendants would be fighting
to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.
But as it is, my kingdom is not here."
So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?"
Jesus answered, "You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
"Are you the King of the Jews?"
Indeed, Jesus is the King of the Jews. He is the Son of David, the one whom the prophets prophesied about, a leader in the Jewish community like none other before him. If there ever was a King of the Jews, it’s Jesus. When we think of that title, perhaps King David or King Solomon come to mind more quickly. But Jesus is the king God had promised to his people for ages. He is just speaking on a whole different level than Pilate, and Jesus’ language is going right over the worldly leader’s head.
"Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?"
Jesus is appealing to Pilate’s heart, inviting him to speak the truth through his own convictions. Unfortunately, Pilate’s heart is too hardened, or perhaps too afraid, to see the truth. In the three-branch government of the United States, the nine Supreme Court Justices are chosen for their ability to ignore the opinions of the majority, other politicians, and even the president himself. Their duty is to seek justice in the face of all the influences in the world that would veil true justice from them. In Jesus’ trial, Pilate was not concerned about justice. He was concerned about appeasing the mob who wanted to kill Jesus. He was concerned about his career and status. He was a governor chosen to administer justice, and yet it was the last thing on his mind as an innocent man stood before him.
Jesus offered a similar opportunity to the disciples when he asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter answered, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). Such a simple question, on both accounts, can lead us to reflect on the roots of justice. It’s not based on what the majority of other people say, or what the greatest influencers in our life say, or what others expect us to say or do. It is about our own personal convictions deep in our own conscience, where Jesus speaks. “Do you say this on your own?” is a question not only for Pilate, but for any testimony we can make--whether in accusation of another, as in Pilate’s case, or otherwise. Pilate’s failure to declare Christ innocent and set him free is based on his precarious foundation for discerning the truth. He bases his truth on the opinions of others. In false humility, he most likely betrayed his own conscience in favor of the opinions of others.
We can speak highly of Peter because he declared Jesus to be the Christ when Jesus asked “Who do you say that I am?” But in the presence of friends who probably were close to saying and believing the same thing, it was easier for him than it was for Pilate. Pilate had to keep the peace in the city of Jerusalem. While a good leader would have faced the consequences of letting Jesus go free, Pilate acted out of fear and in accordance with the wisdom of the world. Peter didn’t do much better after Jesus was arrested, because he denied his Lord three times. What can we say about all of this human failure? We can only say that we should not look to either Pilate or Peter as exemplary leaders, but to Jesus.
"My kingdom does not belong to this world.”
So often, when I think of God I think of someone far away. Perhaps it’s because of statements like these. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. But Jesus doesn’t want us to see him as an alien. He wants us to see how this world gets in the way of our view of God’s kingdom. This world is the superficial layer that hides God’s kingdom from our fallen eyes. It is the temporal and finite realm while Christ’s kingdom is eternal and infinite. We read from the Book of Daniel in the First Reading this Sunday, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away. His kingdom shall not be destroyed.” Some kind of veil has been placed over our eyes, and it often prevents us from seeing beyond this world. Jesus wants to remove that veil and see the glory of his kingdom.
“For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth”
Christ’s kingdom is the kingdom of truth. Pilate cannot see it because he has chosen to live according to lies instead. Jesus’ kingdom is not somewhere far off. He is not swooping down from heaven to claim this world as his own. He never claimed to be a conqueror. Pilate was not aware of this. Instead, he saw Jesus as a threat because Jesus claimed to be a king. He thought his own power was being threatened. But Jesus invites us into a kingdom we cannot see with our physical eyes. It is in this way that his kingdom is not of this world; “this world” being the physical reality we sense with our five senses. This is why Jesus said earlier, “‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive” (Matthew 13:14). We understand and perceive the kingdom of God by opening our hearts and minds to the capabilities of God, who is inviting us to leave behind this world which will pass away and inherit his kingdom which lasts forever instead.
“Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
When we open our hearts and minds to the truth, we find Jesus dwelling there. He is a very distinct person, and you know him when you hear him. We all know this from experience, for he speaks to all of us. But there are many other voices that get in the way of us hearing it, and from abiding in the truth. Sometimes we refuse to admit our sins. Sometimes our fears get in the way of hearing God’s voice. Sometimes it’s just sheer desire for something other than the truth because we feel like the truth is not enough. Sometimes we do hear his voice, but we assume it’s something else. It is a challenge to trust in Jesus and believe that there is nothing better than belonging to the truth, and choosing it at every moment of decision. But we can be confident that nothing the world has to offer can compare to Jesus’ fulfilled promises, and nothing the world can do to us can take away what God has to give us when we abide in him, the truth.
Lord God and Truth himself, I can so easily lose my way in my search for the pleasures and treasures of this world. Thank you for showing me the joy that comes from searching for your kingdom. You said to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness, and all these other lesser wants will be satisfied as well. Help me to believe it. Give me the kind of vision I need to see your kingdom, so I can live for the right things and give glory to your name, Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Jesus says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” He is the Good Shepherd, and we are his sheep. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice when he calls. When we listen for the Truth, we can distinguish his voice from the others in the crowd of influences in our lives. The Truth is indeed a person. We can know him and his voice just as we can know any other person and their voice. We can know the voice of Truth so well, in fact, that we can decipher it from other voices when others claim to be telling the truth but are not. The more we listen to Jesus, the clearer this voice of truth becomes. This voice is telling us to believe, to be not afraid, and to trust in Jesus.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.