Today’s Reading: John 18
I remember a few years ago flying out of a large midwestern city in the middle of bad storms. Planes were still taking off, but passengers were feeling uneasy. I have to tell you, as I waited at my gate, I wasn’t feeling it either, and fear started to hit me.
Then I saw our pilot come to our gate. He was this old, wrinkle-faced man. His uniform bore a lot of gold bars on his coat sleeve, and his bags, covered with stickers, were beat up and falling apart. Did seeing him help the situation and my fear? You bet it did!
What did beat-up bags, gray hair, and a wrinkly face represent? Experience. No doubt he had been in this situation before and up in the air a lot. I did not want to see some wide-eyed young man who was excited about his first flight as he pulled his new bags to the gate. I wanted the old pilot captaining my plane. His experience quelled my fear.
Consider this: what would you think if the pilot got on the loud speaker and said, “This is your pilot, and I am so excited today because this is my first flight. I’ve never been in the air before but I got all A’s on my flight school tests.” I don’t know about you, but I would be looking for the exit door. To be a good pilot, you can’t just be book smart. You need something called flight hours. You have to be in the air, not just studying for tests on the ground. You need experience.
There was another Pilate in the Bible who knew some stuff, but did not have the experience of flight hours. And we meet him in today’s reading at the bogus trial of Jesus.
Jesus was standing before Pilate, and Pilate asked Him a question. Pay special attention to Jesus’ epic response:
Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” (John 18:33-34)
Jesus’ question to Pilate’s question was rhetorical. No answer was expected because we know the answer. Jesus’ question was: “are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about me?”
What Jesus was saying was, “Are you just repeating information, or have you experienced what you are saying?” Do you just have ground school or did you get in some flight time?
When Pilate asked Jesus about being King of the Jews, he did not know Jesus as King, he was simply repeating something he’d heard. He had no flight time with this King.
What kind of Pilate are you? Did you just hear this and are saying what you heard, or do you know Jesus as King? Have you experienced Jesus as King? Jesus was challenging not only Pilate, He is challenging all of us. Just because we say the right things doesn’t mean we have experienced the right things. Christianity is not just knowing the right stuff but experiencing a relationship with God personally as our King.
A marriage license doesn’t guarantee intimacy and a healthy marriage. You can have a document that says you are married and have no relationship with your spouse. The same is true with the Word of God. You can read the Bible, but that does not guarantee experience. Just because you know the Word of God doesn’t mean you know the God of this Word. Knowing this book is not based on education, but on a relationship with its author.
Pilate said the right words but it got him nowhere. So as you go on the 260 Journey, may you go further than the Pilate of John 18 and become like the pilot who flew my plane out of Gate 34A. One was just repeating what he heard, the other had the experience.
What kind of Pilate are you?