Two men confronting each other: Jesus and Pilate.
- a ruler and a slave
- a master and a servant
- a king and a subject
But which is which? Who is the ruler and who is the slave? Who is truly King? Each one of us has to decide for ourselves. Where do we stand? On whose side are we?
Let's look at Pilate:
He seems to be powerful enough.
- Surely you know, he says to Jesus, that I have power to release you and power to crucify you?
- He occupies the chair of the governor; he wields the authority of Caesar himself.
- He has servants and slaves to carry out his wishes and fighting men at his disposal.
- Undoubtedly he would have been rather wealthy.
He certainly seems to be a powerful individual and, in the ways of the world, a real success story; one of the mighty ones with a great future ahead. In modern terms he would have been a senior politician; his face would regularly be in the newspapers; he would have a fine limousine, minders, authority, and a certain amount of fearful respect from the 'ordinary' people. And the fact that he probably got there by stepping over the heads of his opposition would make the world respect him even more. Someone to be looked up to.
But is that really so?
What we have described so far are all the external things; things that tell us nothing about the man himself. What sort of a man do we see in this confrontation with Jesus?
What does Pilate reveal about himself?
We see a man ruled by doubt.
- He is constantly running back and forth, goes inside and comes out again; from Jesus to the crowd outside and from the crowd back to Jesus.
- He, the strong man, asks the crowd: What must I do? What do you want me to do with this man Jesus? Whom shall I release for you - this man or Barabbas?
- He finds no guilt - so he has Jesus scourged.
- He washes his hands in innocence - and orders his crucifixion.
- He feels pity for Jesus: Here is the man, look at him! and has him killed.
- He realises that they are out to get Jesus through jealousy - and hands him over.
- He is the man who is supposed to uphold the law, to pronounce judgment and dispense justice and he asks, like a blind man: Truth, what is that?
- He is afraid that Rome will dismiss him from his job.
- He is afraid of losing his grip on his power and prestige.
- He is afraid of a riot and he is afraid of losing face before the people.
Jesus stands before Pilate the giant with feet of clay, whose world is about to crumble and who, actually, is soon to be dethroned.
Face to face with him, his arms bound, his eyes swollen from the blows he has received, spittle covering his face, stands Jesus, shivering with the cold.
- In Jesus, evil is not king because Jesus IS Love.
- He is not ruled by violence because he IS Peace.
- In him there is no room for lies and cheating, no questions like 'What is truth?' because he IS the Truth.
- Jesus is not a giant with feet of clay but rather the cornerstone of the whole building.
- In him there is no frantic movement to save himself but rather a deep confidence and trust in his Father.
- He does not even turn his face from those who spit at him and tug at his beard; you have to be powerful to be able to do that.
- No need, like Pilate, to use threats - his is the calm of knowing he stands in the authority and power of God.
- No need, like Pilate, to protest his innocence because his Father will show his innocence when the time comes.
- No whimpering because he faces a savage death, because his life has been one long preparation for this moment.
Is it Pilate or is it Jesus?
Outwardly Pilate is the giant with power and prestige but he is broken inside. Inside he is no giant. Inside he is small and weak and frightened.
The world is really like that. Our society is really like that. Our Church community is really like that. Each one of us individually is really like that - small and weak and frightened. We sometimes put on displays of great power but we remain small and weak and frightened.
But Jesus is not so. He is the true Ruler - King - Lord. He alone is able to withstand the strength of the great and make them nothing. He needs no army and no servants. His greatest weapon is the relationship he has with God his Father and so he has no need for displays of any kind. Jesus manifests to us the calm and peace and gentleness that comes from being firmly rooted in the truth - like a tree planted near flowing waters - not caring whether it be drought or flood.
So where do you stand? There is no middle ground! We align ourselves either with Pilate or with Jesus. So where do you stand, and - tell me - what difference does this make in your life?