“Are you the leader of the Jews?” (Luke 23:3 DT)The different translations of Jesus' statement vary, from, "You have said it." (NLT, HCSB, KJV, YLT, WEB) and "You have said so." (NIV, RSV, ESV) to "It is as you say." (NKJV, NASB)
While we can certainly accept the translations, "You have said it" and "You have said so," we cannot accept, "It is as you say." Why?
The Greek is simply, σὺ λέγεις. The word σύ (sy) means "you" and the word λέγεις - from the root λέγω (legō) - means "say this" or "have said this."
So Jesus is making a very clear but short reply. He is himself not answering yes to Pilate's question - as put forth by NKJV and NASB. He is simply stating that Pilate said it.
This is also confirmed by the fact that from Jesus' answer, Pilate could not find grounds to charge Jesus. Pilate responded by saying to the Jews who were seeking to persecute Jesus:
“I find no guilt in this man.” (Luke 23:4 DT)Pilate could say this only because Jesus did not claim to be the leader of the Jews. Claiming such a position would make Jesus subject to being charged for usurping the role of the Romans empire - because the Romans were governing the Jews at that time.
So we know Jesus didn't answer to the affirmative to Pilate's question, because that would have resulted in him being charged for treason against the Romans - the current leaders of the Jews.
As to the DT's translation of "leader" instead of "king" as many sectarian translations have it: The Greek word βασιλεύς (basileus) literally means, "leader of the people" according to the lexicon - as well as "prince, commander, lord of the land, king."
Because we know that Pilate was questioning whether Jesus thought himself to be the leader of a particular people (Jews) - this would not necessarily translate to "king" because, after all, Jesus was arrested by Jews (the guards of the chief priest) and was being tried because he was a leader - a spiritual leader. He had a following of disciples and students, and large crowds were listening to his lectures. Describing such a position "king" would be ridiculous.
So we know that Jesus played a leadership role - but as a spiritual leader. But nowhere in the Gospels do we find that Jesus ever conducted himself as though he was any type of "king" - a governmental ruler.
The bottom line is that Jesus did not claim to be someone that he wasn't. He didn't claim to be a king, nor did he claim to be the Supreme Being.
If he did claim to be God - then certainly he would also need to claim himself to be a king. Because God is the king of everything. God is the ultimate king.
Now surely, if Jesus was God, he would have affirmed this to Pilate, right? At least he would have answered Pilate with a simple "yes" when asked if he was the leader - or even king - of the Jews.
Why would God need to play coy when it comes to his position?
Because Jesus is not God as many currently portray him to be. Jesus is not the Supreme Being.
Yet we find that many sectarian institutions are claiming that Jesus is God.
In the very Scriptures they claim to read, not only does Jesus never say he is God, but we find numerous verses that specifically contradict such a notion that Jesus is God.
The most obvious is the fact that Jesus humbly prayed to God multiple times:
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39)
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.” (Matt. 26:42)
So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matt. 26:44)
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard me." (John 11:41)
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come...." (John 17:1)
This of course begs the question: If Jesus is God, who was he praying to? Was he playing games - and just pretending that God was someone else other than him?
Be serious. The Supreme Being doesn't have to play games. He is always God.
But some sectarian teachers will say there is this trilogy, and Jesus is not the "God the Father," but he is "God the Son." Then they will say there is also "God the Holy Spirit."
What does that mean? Does this mean that God is divided into three parts? That there is no individual who is God?
Why, then, would Jesus say:
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone." (Luke 18:19)In this statement, Jesus is clearly saying that he is not God. He also clearly says "God alone." Jesus is not just distinguishing himself from God here. He is also stating that God is an individual entity: A Person.
Yes, God is the Supreme Person. He is an individual being. Yes, the Supreme Being can certainly expand Himself, and appear simultaneously in different forms. But He remains at all times, Himself. An individual.
One can only love an individual. One can only lovingly serve an individual.
Only if God were an individual could Jesus instruct his students to love God:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’" (Matt. 22:37)We cannot love a vague force or a white light or some other impersonal thing. We can only love a person.
This said, it is true that Jesus is God's representative. So as long as we accept that God is ultimately a person, we can also accept that Jesus was sent by God and as such, Jesus can be worshiped as God's representative.
How do we know that Jesus is God's representative? Because Jesus himself said it:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" (Luke 4:18)
“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me." (Matt. 10:40)
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." (John 4:34)
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me." (John 5:36)
"And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form (John 5:37)
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them" (John 6:44)
"Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me." (John 6:57)
Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but He who sent me is true. You do not know Him (John 7:28)
Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the One who sent me." (John 7:33)
"But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me." (John 8:16)
"I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” (John 8:18)
“I have much to say in judgment of you. But He who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from Him I tell the world.” (John 8:26)
"The One who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” (John 8:29)
“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me." (John 8:42)
"As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent me." (John 9:4)
(Jesus praying) "I knew that You always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent me.” (John 11:42)
"For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." (John 12:49)
"Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the One who sent me.” (John 14:24)
"These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." (John 14:24)
"They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:21)
"but now I am going to Him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’" (John 16:5)These statements - made by Jesus himself - repeatedly indicate that Jesus is God's representative. Having been sent by someone, and then doing what pleases that person is specific to being that person's representative.
Furthermore, these statements by Jesus also indicate that he enjoys a particular type of relationship with God: A loving service relationship. The fact that Jesus wants to do God's will and he wants to please Him indicates something very critical about Jesus:
Jesus isn't God - Jesus is in love with God.
This is critical. Not only to the point of distinguishing Jesus from God - it points to the fact that there is an intimate relationship between Jesus and God.
And it is this intimate relationship between Jesus and God that - as long as we accept it and meditate upon it - gives us access to regaining our own loving relationship with God.
This is the essence of Jesus' message. He wants to give us a glimpse into what love of God is. Jesus doesn't just tell us to love and serve God - he showed us.
As for those who want to go on and proclaim that Jesus is God - they can do this if they want, but they will be missing out on gaining access to the greatest relationship in the history of creation: Love of God. This is because by claiming that Jesus is God they will be denying the very existence of the Person that Jesus is in love with.
This is why Jesus became very upset with these people:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)