~ Pontius Pilate in the Mirror ~
How many times have we read about how Pontius Pilate handled Jesus? He vacillated. He was torn between different options. Above all he wanted to protect his interests and administrative position of power. We may have viewed Pilate as a wimp with no backbone in disappointment or even disgust. But we can make a similar observation as James did with Elijah: Pilate was human, just like us. Jesus' admonishment has pertinence here: "Take the splinter out of your eye before taking the log out of another's eye."
Pilate was eventually exiled by the Roman emperor, stripped of all power and possessions. He believed Jesus was innocent of any crime. On the top of the cross where the crimes of the condemned were posted, Pilate ordered Jesus' to read, "This is Jesus, the king of the Jews." When Jewish leaders pressured him to change it to "He claimed to be king of the Jews," Pilate refused. He was so disgusted with his part in what he knew was total injustice, he tried to absolve his own guilt by symbolically washing his hands of the Christ's blood in front of the throng of people, saying may His blood be upon them. In exile, alone, all this above all else that ever happened in his life must have haunted Pilate over and over. Maybe, in the wilderness of his soul, Pilate repented of his sin of putting himself above the Christ. Just maybe, we will meet both Elijah and Pilate in the heavenly kingdom.
Let's eavesdrop on the rambling thoughts of one man talking to his friend, and ponder the parallel Scriptures interjected throughout.
He gazed again at his friend across the table. Looking pensively back down into his cup of black coffee, he said, more to himself then his friend, "I believe in God, but people throughout history did some evil things under the banner of Jesus."
SO PILATE CAME OUT TO THEM AND ASKED, "WHAT ACCUSATION ARE YOU MAKING AGAINST THIS MAN?"
THE JEWS ANSWERED PILATE, "IF HE WERE NOT A CRIMINAL, WE WOULDN'T HAVE HANDED HIM OVER TO YOU." (John 18:29-30)
As he purposelessly stirred his coffee, he mumbled, "I don't know. It's best to leave these questions about Jesus to the theologians. I'm no minister or priest and Jesus won't hold that against me."
PILATE TOLD THE JEWS, "TAKE HIM AND TRY HIM BY YOUR LAWS." (John 18: 31)
His friend just kept listening. He looked back up at him and continued. "This is unnerving. If Jesus was just a human teacher, He would be a cult leader, lying to the people about His divinity and mission to free them of their sins. He would be an evil person if that was the case. If it isn't the case, and He spoke the truth and did resurrect from the dead, then, well, I'm in trouble I guess."
PILATE WENT BACK INTO THE PALACE, CALLED FOR JESUS, AND ASKED HIM, "ARE YOU THE KING OF THE JEWS?"
JESUS REPLIED, "DID YOU THINK OF THAT YOURSELF, OR DID OTHERS TELL YOU ABOUT ME?" "AM I A JEW? YOUR OWN PEOPLE AND THE CHIEF PRIESTS HANDED YOU OVER TO ME. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" (John 18: 33-35)
PILATE'S WIFE WAS ROYALTY, THE GRANDDAUGHTER OF CAESAR AUGUSTUS. HER NAME WAS CLAUDIA PROCULA. SHE HAD SENT AN URGENT MESSAGE TO PILATE WARNING HIM TO HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH JESUS, BASED ON A DISTURBING DREAM SHE HAD ABOUT HIM. THIS ADDED TO PILATE' S GREAT FEAR OF JESUS. PILATE'S ABILITY TO GOVERN WAS ALREADY IN QUESTION BY ROME AS HE DESPERATELY WORKED TO KEEP A PEACEFUL BALANCE BETWEEN THE POWER OF ROME AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE JEWISH ESTABLISHMENT. OF COURSE HE KNEW OF JESUS. HIS SPIES HAD REPORTED JESUS' EVERY MOVEMENT AND ACTIVITY. BUT PILATE DETERMINED JESUS TO BE NO THREAT TO ROME, OR ELSE HE WOULD HAVE HAD HIM ARRESTED A LONG TIME AGO, AS HE DID THE MURDEROUS INSURRECTIONIST BARABBAS. MAKING A DECISION ABOUT WHAT TO DO WITH JESUS WAS RISKY NO MATTER WHICH WAY PILATE WENT. HIS FEAR GREW UNTIL, TO HIS GREAT RELIEF, HE LEARNED THAT JESUS WAS FROM GALILEE, OUT OF HIS JURISDICTION! THE MAN WHO DID HAVE JURISDICTION WAS HEROD, AND HE HAPPENED TO BE IN JERUSALEM. PILATE HAPPILY SENT JESUS TO HEROD, DELIGHTED IN HIS BELIEF HE WOULDN'T HAVE TO MAKE A DECISION.
His coffee was getting cold. He kept stirring it but not drinking, then suddenly let the spoon drop in the cup and looked into his friend's eyes, his chin resting in his hands. "If I was the committed follower of Christ like you are, you know what would happen? I would be risking everything. I'll lose my position at work, which is already shaky. Just about all my relationships would need changing, but I enjoy what I have going now. Look, I've got time, I'm gonna just send this Jesus question out of my mind."
HEROD AND HIS SOLDIERS TREATED JESUS WITH CONTEMPT AND MADE FUN OF HIM. THEY PUT A COLORFUL ROBE ON HIM AND SENT HIM BACK TO PILATE. (Luke 23: 11)
"Hey, I haven't seen a movie in a long time. I don't have anything planned tonight. You wanna go to a movie?" he asked his friend without looking up from his cold, black coffee.
"No, I am going to a special service at my church tonight. We have a great speaker I have been looking forward to hearing. Want to go?"
The man was hesitant to answer. "Jesus or Barabbas" he thought over and over. This question of Jesus kept coming back and haunting him. This was not routine afternoon of playing golf. For some reason, this question was life-intrusive today.
PILATE QUESTIONED JESUS AGAIN. HE WISHED JESUS WOULD JUST GO AWAY. HE WENT OUT TO THE JEWS AGAIN AND TOLD THEM, "I DON'T FIND THIS MAN GUILTY OF ANYTHING. YOU HAVE A CUSTOM THAT I SHOULD FREE ONE PERSON FOR YOU AT PASSOVER. WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO FREE THE KING OF THE JEWS TO YOU?"
THE JEWS SHOUTED AGAIN, "DON'T FREE THIS MAN. FREE BARABBAS!" (John 18:38-40)
"I think I'll head over to the library. I once glanced over a book by a guy who claimed to prove Jesus was a fake. Maybe I can find it again and read his side of the question."
The truth was he had more than glanced over the book. After reading it he was more convinced that the author was twisting and misrepresenting biblical and historical documentation. Unlike other ancient manuscripts, the New Testament accounts were copied almost immediately after being first written, and hundreds of consistently accurate copies were in circulation before first century came to a close. Today there are over 20,000 copies. Second to the manuscript authenticity of the New Testament is Homer's "Iliad," with only 643 copies from the originals in existence.
He mentioned his support of the Christian accounts to co-workers. They reminded him that a lot of his friends, co-workers, and particularly his boss, would not be happy with him if he turned into some kind of "Jesus freak."
WHEN PILATE HEARD WHAT JESUS SAID, HE WANTED TO FREE HIM. BUT THE JEWS SHOUTED, "IF YOU FREE THIS MAN, YOU ARE NOT A FRIEND OF EMPEROR." THEN PILATE HANDED JESUS OVER TO THEM TO BE CRUCIFIED. ( John 19:12, 16 )
The man was a P K, a "preacher's kid." Growing up, he was most knowledgeable in Sunday School classes. But his climb up the secular corporate ladder required he just forget about Jesus. There would be a lot of tension between his wife and him if he let a passion for Christ grow. Being a Christian meant sacrificing. He thought to himself, "Best I let this Jesus question die."
PEOPLE CAN KNOW OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST AND ESCAPE THE WORLD'S FILTH. BUT IF THEY GET INVOLVED IN THIS AND GIVE IN TO IT, THEY ARE WORSE OFF THEN THEY WERE BEFORE. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR THEM TO HAVE NEVER KNOWN THE WAY OF LIFE THAT GOD APPROVES OF THEN TO KNOW IT AND TURN THEIR BACKS ON THE HOLY LIFE GOD TOLD THEM TO LIVE. THESE PROVERBS HAVE COME TRUE FOR THEM: "A DOG GOES BACK TO HIS VOMIT," AND "A SOW THAT HAS BEEN WASHED GOES BACK TO ROLL IN THE MUD." ( 2 Peter 2:20-22) THEY ARE CRUCIFYING THE SON OF GOD AGAIN... ( Hebrews, 6:6b).
The man felt pressured to set Christ free to work in his life, but was afraid of his standing in his corporate world. A year later he lost his job and his wife anyway. In his heart Jesus was dead.
SEVEN YEARS LATER AFTER PILATE'S DECISION TO ORDER CHRIST'S CRUCIFIXION OUT OF FEAR OF HIS POSITION IN THE ROMAN GOVERNMENT BEING LOST, CAESAR FIRED GOVERNOR PILATE FROM ALL DUTIES AND EXILED HIM IN DISGRACE. BUT PILATE STILL LIVES ON, REFLECTED IN THE LIVES OF MILLIONS. IF YOU EVER SEE HIS FACE IN YOUR MIRROR, BREAK THE MIRROR. THAT WON'T BRING YOU SEVEN YEARS OF BAD LUCK. IT WILL BRING YOU AN ETERNITY OF GRACE.
THE LORD IS A FORGIVING GOD AND HOLDS AN INFINITE LOVE FOR US. WHEN JESUS WARNED THE APOSTLE PETER THAT PETER WOULD DENY HIM, HE SAID, "BUT I HAVE PRAYED FOR YOU, SIMON PETER, THAT YOUR FAITH WILL NOT FAIL." JESUS KNEW PETER WOULD BE TRAUMATIZED BY HIS TURNING HIS BACK ON THE REDEEMER, SO JESUS COMPASSIONATELY ADDED, "SO WHEN YOU RECOVER, STRENGTHEN THE OTHER DISCIPLES." (John 22:32)
THE LOVE YOU HAD AT FIRST IS GONE. REMEMBER HOW FAR YOU HAVE FALLEN. RETURN TO ME... (Rev. 2:4b-5a)
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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Weekly Reflections © July 21, 2001
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