Will there be Christianity if Christ and the Apostles did not stand by the Truth of God? Who will defend the Truth if everyone is too ashamed or scandalized to stand by it? How can we hear the Shepherd’s voice if we are not of the Truth (cf. John 10:27; 18:27)?
We are told by the Apostle Paul that our Lord Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession (cf. 1 Tim 6:13). It was a good confession as to the manner of it, for our Lord was truthful, gentle, prudent, patient, meek, uncompromising, and courageous. His spirit was not cowed by Pilate’s power, nor exasperated by his sneers. In His patience He possessed His soul, and remained the model witness for the Truth of God—both in His silence and in His speech. Though He said but little, that little was all that was necessary. He claimed His crown rights, and, at the same time, declared that His Kingdom was not of this world, nor to be sustained by force (cf. John 18:36). He vindicated both the spirituality and the essential truthfulness of His Sovereignty. If ever we should be placed in like circumstances, may we be able to witness a good confession too! We may never, like Paul, be made to plead before Nero, but if we should, may the Lord stand by us, and help us to play the man before the lion! In our families, or among our business acquaintances, we may have to meet some little Nero, and answer to some petty Pilate—may we be true witnesses! O that we may have Grace to be prudently silent, or meekly outspoken as the matter may require, but in either case be faithful to our conscience and our God! May the sorrowful visage of Jesus, the faithful and true witness, the Prince of the kings of the earth, be often before our eyes to check the first sign of flinching, and to inspire us with dauntless courage!
During the confession, Christ claimed to be a king. The claim was made without ostentation or desire to be advantaged. There were other times when, if He had said “I am a King,” He might have been crowned amid general acclamations (cf. John 6:15). He who came in love to redeem men had no ambition for the gewgaws of human sovereignty; but now, when He is betrayed by His disciple, accused by His countrymen, and in the hands of an unjust ruler; when no good can come of it to Himself—when it will bring Him derision rather than honor, He speaks out plainly.
Our Lord’s claim must have sounded very singular in Pilate’s ear. Jesus was, doubtless, very much careworn, sad, and emaciated after recent experiences, and must have looked very unlike a king. Yet never earth saw a truer King! None of the line of Pharaoh, or the race of the Caesars, was so intrinsically imperial. The carnal eye could not see this, but to the spiritual eye it is clear. The real Christ of today among men is unknown and unrecognized as much as He was among His own nation two thousand years ago.
When our Lord said to Pilate, “You say rightly that I am king,” He was not referring to His Divine Dominion. He was speaking of that rule which He personally exercises over the minds of the faithful by means of the Truth. You remember Napoleon’s saying, “I have founded an empire by force, and it has melted away; Jesus Christ established His Kingdom by Love, and it stands to this day, and will stand.” That is the Kingdom to which our Lord’s word refers—the Kingdom of spiritual Truth in which Jesus reigns as Lord over those who are of the Truth. He claimed to be a king, and the Truth which He revealed, and of which He was the personification, therefore, the scepter of His empire! He rules by the Truth of God over those hearts which feel the Power of Righteousness and Truth, and therefore willingly yield themselves to His guidance, believe His word, and are governed by His will. It is as a spiritual Lord that Christ claims sovereignty among men! He is King over minds that love Him, trust Him, and obey Him because they see in Him the Truth which their souls pine for. Other kings rule our bodies, but Christ our souls! Other kings govern by force, but He by the attractions of His righteousness; theirs is to a great extent, a fictitious royalty, but His is true, and finds its force in the Truth of God.
Our Lord, in effect, tells us that Truth is the pre-eminent characteristic of His kingdom, and that His royal power over men’s hearts is through the Truth. He dealt not with fiction, but with facts; not with trifles, but with infinite realities. Jesus has power over His people because He testifies not to symbols, but to the very substance of the Truth of God. The Scribes and Pharisees were very fluent upon sacrifices, offerings, oblations, tithes, fasting, and the like; but what influence could all that exert over aching hearts? Jesus has power over contrite spirits because He tells them of His one real sacrifice and of the perfection which He has secured for all believers! The priests lost their power over the people because they went no further than the shadow, and sooner or later all will do so who rest in symbols. The Lord Jesus retains His power over His saints because He reveals the substance, for Grace and Truth are by Jesus Christ!
Christ’s Kingdom is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17)! The power of Jesus in the hearts of His people lies much in the fact that He brings forth the unalloyed Truth of God without mixture of error; He has delivered to us the pure Light of God, and no darkness; His teaching is no combination of God’s Word and man’s inventions; it is no mixture of inspiration and philosophy—silver without dross is the wealth which He gives His servants! Men taught of His Holy Spirit to love the Truth of God recognize this fact, and surrender their souls to the royal sway of the Lord’s Truth, and it makes them free, and sanctifies them; nor can anything make them disown such a Sovereign, for as the Truth lives and abides in their hearts, so Jesus, who is the Truth, abides also! If we know what Truth is, we will as naturally submit ourselves to the teachings of Christ as children yield to a father’s rule.
Jesus taught that worship must be true, spiritual, and of the heart, or else it would be worthless. He declared that the time was come when those who worshipped God would worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23). Regenerate hearts feel His Power in this, and rejoice that it emancipated them from the beggarly elements of carnal ritualism; they accept gladly the Truth of God that pious words of prayer or praise are vanity unless the heart has living worship within it. In the great Truth of spiritual worship, believers possess a Magna Charta dear as life itself; we refuse to be again subject to the yoke of bondage, and we cleave to our emancipating King! Our Lord also taught that all false living was base and loathsome; He poured contempt on the phylacteries of hypocrites, and the broad borders of the garments of oppressors of the poor. With Him ostentatious alms, long prayers, frequent fasts, and the tithe of mint and cumin were all nothing when practiced by those who devoured widows’ houses! He cared nothing for white-washed sepulchers, and platters with outsides made clean—He judged the thoughts and intents of the heart! Our Lord came not only to teach us the Truth, but a mysterious power goes forth from Him, which subdues chosen hearts to truthfulness, and then guides truthful hearts into fullness of peace and joy. Have we never felt when we have been with Jesus that a sense of His purity has made us yearn to be purged of all hypocrisy and every false way?
Christ never yet set up His Kingdom by force of arms. He said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath” (John 18:11). Truth needs not such unworthy aid; her own beauty, and the Spirit of God, are her strength. Moreover, Jesus used no arts of priestcraft, or tricks of superstition. None can say that He reigns over men by the glitter of pomp, or the fascination of sensuous ceremonies. No kingdom is worthy of the Lord Jesus but that which has its foundations laid in indisputable verities; Jesus would scorn to reign by the help of a lie. True Christianity was never promoted by policy or guile, by doing a wrong thing, or saying a false thing.
What Truth did Christ witness to? Ah, what Truth did He not witness to? Did He not mirror all Truth in His life? In an age of shams, He was always sweeping away pretences and establishing Truth. This is the way in which Christ’s kingdom is to be set up in the world. For this cause was the Church born, and for this end came she into the world, that she might set up Christ’s kingdom by bearing witness to the Truth.
Our Savior, having spoken of His Kingdom and the way of establishing it, described His subjects—“Everyone that is of the truth hears My voice.” Wherever the Holy Spirit has made a man a lover of the Truth of God, he always recognizes Christ’s voice and yields to it. Those who love pure Truth, and know what Christ is, will be sure to fall in love with Him and hear His voice. If we love the Truth, we know and obey the Voice which calls us away from our old sins, from false refuges, from evil habits, from everything which is not after the Lord’s mind. We have heard Him in our conscience rebuking us for that of the false which remains in us; we have heard Him encouraging us for that of the true which is struggling there!
Let us praise God with the song “At the Name of Jesus”: