37 Pilate said to Him: “Then are You not really a king ?”. Jesus replied: “You say that I am a king. It is for this reason that I was born and have come into the world that I might bear testimony to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
38 Pilate said: “What is truth?” Having said this he went out again to the Jews, and said to them: “I find no charge against Him.”
When Pilate replied to Jesus with these words: “Then are You not really a king ?” he was most likely expecting Jesus to say that He was a king. The question is spoken with the expectation of a ‘yes’ response.
We may use the same method of speech when we ask a question, expecting a ‘yes’ response. For example we may ask a question such as: “you’re not really going to eat all of that pork pie, are you?”, expecting the other person to say ‘yes’.
There may be an element of sarcasm in the question, as there was with Pilate.
It may also have been an attempt by Pilate to get Jesus to condemn Himself by His own words. If Jesus said ‘Yes’ then Pilate could have seen this as an admission that Jesus had some political ambitions against Rome.
Such a response would have made it easier for Pilate to condemn Jesus to death. Pilate would have been looking for a way that would make it possible for him to be seen as acknowledging the legality of the claims of the Jews.
Up to this point he had found no reason for Jesus to be put to death. However, when Jesus spoke about His Kingdom, Pilate saw an opportunity to see that Jesus was claiming to be a king, and kings had political and military ambitions. Therefore, he asked the question: “Then are You not really a king ?”
The response of Jesus is brilliant; He neither denies nor affirms that He is a king, instead He told Pilate that it was him who was saying that He is a king. It is another example of how Jesus handles the questions of men that were designed to trap Him into saying something that could be used against Him.
This is seen in how Jesus told a questioner that, in regard to paying taxes, they should give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God (Matthew 22.21). The questioner was looking for Jesus to say something which could be used against Him.
In His answer to Pilate Jesus displayed Divine wisdom. Such wisdom is available to all who follow Jesus, and it is through the Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom. It is always a good idea to pray for this gift before we give an answer to a question that is designed to trap us.