The sense of royalty that we have is very muted. We live in Australia in a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as our head of state. Yet, the role of the Queen (or her representatives in the Governors and Governor General) within our lives is very limited, and severely restricted under the constitution and conventions to offering particular suggestions and guidance. In the time of Jesus, almost every person lived under the direct and immediate influence of a king or emperor. People understood the nature and scope of royal authority and the way that this was normally exercised through military might and power.
Although there was the usual system of transferring kingship from father to son, the Jewish people were aware that revolution was also possible. Around 200 years earlier, the line of token kings was replaced by the revolutionary action of Judas Maccabeus against the Seleucid empire to establish a new Jewish kingdom; some thirty years before Jesus was born king Herod had replaced the Hasmonean dynasty with his own creation, acting as a client for the Roman Empire.
So when this Jesus stood before Pilate this morning, it was possible that he was wanting to create a new line of Jewish kings by revolution, rather than by birth right. But the man who stood there would have looked nothing like a king that Pilate would expect. Although he had gathered a large group of followers around him, they had all but fled, to leave him completely alone. He was not dressed in any finery, but would have shown the effects of a night without any sleep, and perhaps already some cut and bruises from being arrested and taken away by the Roman soldiers. So it is probably with great irony that Pilate looks with disdain at the man who stands shackled before him as he asks: “are you the king of the Jews?”
Recorded at Good Shepherd Church, Hoxton Park, 10am (9’50”)