KMC Lectionary notes – 21.11.2021
At this time, the Jews were subject to Roman rule, and as such had no right to take a life, although sometimes they did take the law into their own hands (as in the case of Stephen as reported by Luke in Acts 7:57-60). If they had had the right, Jesus would have been stoned, like Stephen was, in accordance with God’s command given in Leviticus 24:16. However, Jesus had to be lifted up (John 12:32) and so the Roman law came into play to fulfil this prophecy.
It is clear that Pilate suspected the charges the Jews made against Jesus were lies. He did not want to be involved, he tried to release Jesus and then he had Him beaten. But this was not enough for the Jewish leaders. Pilate had been in trouble previously with both the Emperor and the Senate for the way he had handled various issues and his treatment of the Jews. So the threat made by the Jewish leaders to report him again was a serious one which would impact on his career and maybe even his life, and the Jews blackmailed him into crucifying Jesus.
In spite of his efforts to release Jesus, the Jews and his fear for his own future made it impossible for him to do so. Whatever contempt he felt for the Jews and all things Jewish, Pilate treated Jesus with respect although Pilate’s initial question as to whether Jesus was a King in this passage does hold an element of contempt. The last thing Pilate wanted was to be associated with the Jewish people for when Jesus asked him why he enquired whether Jesus was the king of the Jews, Pilate retorted, ‘Am I a Jew?’ In all the years in which he had governed Israel, Pilate had made no effort to learn about the Jewish customs or to understand them as a people.
It does seem as if Jesus was in control of the situation and Pilate was floundering. There seemed to be a superstitious nature to Pilate’s questions. He was afraid to let Jesus go because of the Jews; but he was afraid to put him to death because he had a suspicion that God may be involved in all of this and it could go badly for him.
Jesus explained that His kingdom is not one of rebellion but of love. He informed Pilate that He had come to tell the truth to all people – the truth about God, humankind and life.
‘What is truth?’ Pilate finally asks. Does he ask this with dismissal, cynicism, humour – or is there a longing in his question to know the answer for himself? What is truth? Could Pilate have recognised that Jesus was Truth? Was he suddenly aware of what was missing from his life? For whatever reason he asked the question, he did not have the courage to act on his suspicions that Jesus was innocent and so take a stand against the Jewish leaders.
This introductory passage to the Book of Revelation includes a general letter to seven churches in the Roman Province of Asia (not the continent). Seven was the number of completeness, so it is believed these letters were written for the whole Church. John begins his letter by passing on God’s blessing to all those who will read or hear his words. He speaks of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the seven Spirits who are before His throne. There is debate as to who these seven Spirits are. William Barclay suggests the following:
• They could be the seven archangels who cared for the elements of the world – fire, water and air. But this
is unlikely as angels are created beings.
• They could be the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety
and that of being filled with the fear of God.
• They could represent the seven churches to which John writes so each one was blessed with all the wisdom,
power and enlightenment the Holy Spirit brings.
Jesus is given three titles in this passage:
• The ‘faithful witness’, implying He speaks with first-hand knowledge about God Himself.
• The ‘firstborn from the dead’ through His resurrection and who had inherited all His Father’s honour and
power. He takes the primary place of honour and glory.
• The ‘ruler of kings on earth’. This aligns with Psalm 89:27 ‘I will make Him the firstborn, the highest of
the kings of the earth.’ This was recognised by Jewish scholars as a reference to the Messiah.
Jesus set people free from their sins at the cost of His own blood. Men and women are not just washed clean but set free! In the Greek the tense of the word ‘loves’ indicates a continuous act; whilst the words ‘set us free’ are past tense and indicate a single act that has happened already. Through Jesus’ sacrificial act on the cross, He has made those who follow Him a royal kingdom as they are now sons and daughters of the King of kings. He also made them priests in that everyone who follows God is able to gain access to Him at anytime, anywhere. The writer of Hebrews endorses this (Hebrews 4:16; 10:19-22).
Throughout the Book of Revelation, John refers back to the Old Testament. At such a dangerous time when persecution was rife, it was a comfort to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. Here he refers to the book of Daniel (7:13-14) when he speaks of Jesus coming with the clouds. The return of Jesus Christ is a threat to all who do not believe in Him. One day, through the grace of God they will see Him come, not as a crucified criminal but as a regal figure who rules over all creation. The word ‘Amen’ (so be it) affirms John’s longing for this to happen.
God is the beginning and the end – Alpha and Omega – complete. He is eternal, He was before time began, and He will be beyond the end of time. He is almighty. He has dominion over all things. Until this time, no empire had ever managed to stand against Rome. Humanly speaking the Christian church had no chance against the empire. But God … God holds all things in His hands and nothing can stand against Him. As long as the Church remains faithful to God, nothing can destroy her.
Points to Ponder
• If someone were to ask you ‘what is truth?’ how would you answer them?
• What is your opinion of Pilate? Did he really try to help Jesus? Many are quick to condemn him, but how do
we respond to situations where our future well-being seems to be threatened? Would we (not specifically
you) have acted any differently?
• Pilate asked Jesus ‘what is truth?’ What question would you ask Jesus today? Why would you ask it?
• In the Revelation passage Jesus dictates a letter for John to write to all churches at all times. How does
it make you feel to think that Jesus’ letter is for you today?
• What does that say about Jesus and His relationship with you?
• When you look at the clouds, do you dread/expect/hope to see Jesus coming on them? What is the reason for
you to answer in this way?
• Alpha and Omega – eternal God – beginning and end. How does God’s constant presence help you in your
• What does it mean to you when you consider that nothing can destroy the church as long as she remains
faithful to God?
• How do you see this happening/not happening in today’s world? Why is the church struggling in some places
but thriving in others?
• Do you believe you are the Church? Why/why not?
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible. The Gospel of John, volume 2. The Saint Andrew Press. Edinburgh 1981
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible. The Revelation of John, volume 1. The Saint Andrew Press. Edinburgh 1990