March 20, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

2 Pilate’s first question to Jesus—“Are you the king of the Jews?”—shows obliquely that the charges against Jesus had already been made known to Pilate. Mark gives us only a summary of the trial. According to Luke (23:2), the Sanhedrin brought three charges before Pilate: (1) Jesus is “subverting our nation”; (2) he “opposes payment of taxes to Caesar”; and (3) he “claims to be Christ, a king” (Lk 23:2). The three together indicate an insurrectionist claim to royal authority and so are appropriately summed up in Pilate’s question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” It is difficult to tell whether Pilate is sarcastically mocking Jesus or genuinely asking whether Jesus is claiming royal authority. In either case, from this point on Jesus’ kingship will be a central concern of the passion narrative (vv. 2, 9, 12, 18, 26, 32). There is heavy irony here. Although the title “king” is repeatedly used to mock and deride Jesus, the informed reader knows that Jesus is indeed the Messiah and King, who will enter his royal authority through suffering.

Jesus’ answer to Pilate is a qualified one: sy legeis (lit., “you say”). The NIV’s “Yes, it is as you say” is probably too positive and would be better rendered “You have said so” (TNIV; cf. NLT), or “those are your words” (CEV). Jesus seems to be saying, “Yes, I am the king of the Jews; but your concept of what that means and mine are poles apart.[1]

15:2. Mark’s account of the trial is the briefest of all the Gospel accounts. Apparently Pilate had already heard the charge against Jesus. This is seen in the first question he asked Jesus: Are you the king of the Jews? According to Luke 23:2, the Sanhedrin brought three charges against Jesus. They were: (1) he is “subverting our nation”; (2) he “opposes payment of taxes to Caesar”; and (3) he “claims to be Christ, a king.” The third accusation got Pilate’s attention.

Jesus’ answer to Pilate’s question was it is as you say. Jesus in effect was saying, “Yes, I am.” But the indirectness of Jesus’ answer left open the question of “What does that really mean to be the king of the Jews?” John’s Gospel gives us some insight. In John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world then my servants would fight.” Jesus made it clear that he was not a threat to Rome.[2]

2. Pilate questioned him, saying, You are king of the Jews? It is clear that though the Sanhedrin had accused Jesus of blasphemy, before Pilate the Jewish leaders do not immediately press this charge. They must have been of the opinion—and rightly so—that a more definitely political accusation would have a better chance to be considered legally valid from the aspect of Roman jurisprudence. Besides, they may have felt that a strictly religious charge would make little impression on a pagan. This does not mean, however, that they have altogether discarded the idea of ever bringing this religious indictment to the attention of the governor. They did in fact do this very thing (John 19:7), but for the present they hold it in abeyance.

When Pilate now asked Jesus, “You are the king of the Jews?” he asked it because he felt that for his own protection he had to do this, and not because he himself believed the charge.

The pronoun “You” is not only spelled out but heads the question. Great emphasis is placed on it, as if Pilate were saying, “You are the king of the Jews? How ridiculous!” Continued: Answering he said to him, You said (it). This can mean no less than, “It is even as you have stated.” For proof see a similar expression in Matt. 26:25, and cf. John 18:36, 37. In both of these other cases the context clearly establishes the fact that the answer of Jesus was an affirmation.

At this point (see f. above) Pilate steps outside the praetorium again and from his elevated tribunal declares to the chief priests and the multitude, “No crime whatever do I find in him,” that is, no legitimate basis for any accusation.[3]

15:2 Up to now, Jesus had been on trial before the religious leaders on a charge of blasphemy. Now He was taken before the civil court on a charge of treason. The civil trial took place in three stages—first before Pilate, then before Herod, and finally before Pilate again.

Pilate asked the Lord Jesus if He were the King of the Jews. If He were, He was presumably dedicated to the overthrow of Caesar, and thus guilty of treason.[4]

15:2. Pilate had sole responsibility for the Roman court’s decisions. The proceedings, usually held in public, opened with an indictment by the plaintiff followed by the magistrate’s interrogation and further testimony from the defendant and other witnesses. When all the evidence was in, the magistrate usually consulted with his legal advisers and then pronounced the sentence, which had to be carried out immediately.

Instead of confirming the Sanhedrin’s death sentence (cf. John 18:29–32) Pilate insisted on hearing the case. Only one of three accusations that had already been made (cf. Luke 23:2) merited Pilate’s attention, namely, Jesus’ alleged claim to be “a king.” So Pilate asked Jesus, Are You (emphatic) the King of the Jews? To Pilate such a claim was tantamount to treason against Caesar, a crime punishable by death.

Jesus gave a cryptic reply, literally, You (emphatic) say (so), that is, “The designation is yours.” It is best understood as a yes answer but with a qualification attached. As Messiah, Jesus is the King of the Jews but His concept of kingship differed from that implied in Pilate’s question (cf. John 18:33–38).[5]


[1] Wessel, W. W., & Strauss, M. L. (2010). Mark. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 965–966). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Cooper, R. L. (2000). Mark (Vol. 2, pp. 254–255). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (Vol. 10, pp. 630–631). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1361). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Grassmick, J. D. (1985). Mark. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 185). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.