Sunday, March 23, 2014

... and the seemingly pointless trials continue, as the last day before the Crucifixion plays out.

This time, Jesus is dragged off to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. It’s obvious Pilate is irritated—for starters, Scripture tells us it’s first thing in the morning. From the account in John, we find out the Jews wouldn’t even enter the Praetorium because they didn’t want to be defiled on the Passover, so Pilate takes himself outside to talk to them. Luke’s account is fairly abbreviated—the Jews’ complaints are calculated to ensure that Pilate gets involved: he claims to be king, he forbids to pay taxes to Caesar. (We know this was a lie.)

I can almost hear Pilate heaving a sigh as he marches back inside and orders Jesus brought to him.

Are you the King of the Jews? he asks.

It is as you say, Jesus answers, in the account from Luke.

We know from John that there was much more to it, that Pilate’s curiosity was engaged at some point, and that Jesus takes the time to actually explain things in a way he doesn’t with anyone else during this time.

Are you the King of Jews? Pilate says.

Are you asking this for yourself, Jesus counters, or because others have told you so?

Hey, Pilate answers, I’m not a Jew. Your people and nation brought you here to me. What’s the deal?

My kingdom isn’t of this world, Jesus says. If they were, my servants would fight for me.

Kingdom, huh? Are you a king, then?

So you say, Jesus answers. This is why I was born, to speak the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.

And Pilate delivers that line, What is truth? and goes out to tell the Jews he can’t find anything on which to convict Jesus.

Not only that, but in stronger terms. He is innocent.

Throughout the rising and falling drama of the next hour or two, Pilate says it two more times. He is innocent. I find no fault in Him!

He knows the Jews want Jesus killed, and he’s trying hard to get out of it. He even tries sloughing off the job onto Herod, who’s at first excited to see Jesus, since he’s hoping to get some kind of magic show out of it. In this case, Jesus answers not a word. Disappointed, Herod joins in with his guard in mocking and abusing Jesus, and they send Jesus back to Pilate, dressed in a kingly robe designed to further mock Jesus’ claims.

Look, Pilate tells the Jews, ready to riot. Not even Herod found anything worthy of death. Let me punish him and then let him go.

No! Crucify him, they cried.

This is when Pilate orders the scourging. Even then, you can hear the exasperation in his pronouncement, Behold the man.

Look at Him.

By now He’s endured spitting and smacking and punching. Lies, malice, and mockery. All in silence, except for his cryptic statements to one Roman governor.

And Pilate caves to the crowd. Since when is Rome a democracy? Or swayed by the threat of riots?

By now I think Pilate was scared spitless. Caught between the under-rulers of a conquered nations and the appeal of a wife who begs him not to have anything to do with sentencing Jesus, himself arrested by the otherworldliness of this Man who wouldn’t even plead for his own life—indeed, who said  you would have no power at all over me if it hadn’t been granted you—who wouldn’t be spooked by that?

Astonishing, though. A hardened Roman official, who made it his business to clear out anyone stirring up trouble in this little province. Wouldn’t he have jumped at the chance to make an example of Jesus?

Yet, he doesn’t. Very strange.

And the Untame Lion continues walking the road toward His destiny as the ultimate Passover Lamb ...

13 Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, 14 said to them, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; 15 no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. (Luke 23)


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