Friday 03 April 2015

Bible Book:

“When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’” (v. 6)

John 19:1-37 Friday 3 April 2015

Psalm: Psalm 22


Pilate is one of the few people apartfrom Jesus, his family and the 12 to be named not only in all 4Gospels but also in Acts and 1 Timothy. More intriguingly, Pilatehas the distinction of being one of only three names in thehistoric creeds: Jesus, Mary, and Pilate.

In contemporary historical accounts,Pilate emerges as a brutal ruthless Roman prefect who is reportedfor his cruelty and whose hard-line approach incited both Jews andSamaritans to civil disobedience. Indeed it is thought thatPilate's governorship of Judea ended in AD36 when he was sent toRome to answer charges of brutality.

Jewish historian and philosopher Philodescribes Pilate as "a man of inflexible, stubborn, and crueldisposition". We get some insight into this face of Pilate in Luke13:1: "There were some present at that very time who told Jesusabout the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with theirsacrifices."

Alongside the face of Pilate whichemerges from contemporary historical record, is the Pilate of theGospels, a Pilate who is convinced of Jesus' innocence. As Johntells the story, privately and personally Pilate is convinced ofJesus' innocence. Three times Pilate is recorded saying he finds nocase against Jesus, and a total of five times he rejects the callsof Jesus' accusers for a guilty verdict.

A third face of Pilate is the publicface of Pilate. This is the governor who makes his ruling, theprefect who gives orders to soldiers, the politician who makes adifficult political decision, the keeper of the peace who handsJesus over to be crucified. It is this face of Pilate that ismemorialised in our creeds.

Why does Pilate get a mention in thehistoric creeds? I imagine it is because the creeds are careful tolocate the crucifixion in our history. They assert that thecrucifixion of Jesus is not mere myth, not a legend, not an originstory but rather it is rooted in a particular time and place, inour world and our history.

So who was Pilate? Was he the brutalRoman described by Philo? Was he the man depicted as privately onthe side of Jesus in the Gospels? Was he the governor who orderedthe crucifixion of Jesus on the cross of public order and politicalexpediency? Pilate is a man of many faces.

The Gospel writers do us a greatservice in revealing to us something of the paradox of Pilate'sprivate and public life. But I think they do more than that. Ithink what we see in Pilate is the potential for what he can be asthe consequence of his interaction with Jesus. Something appears tohappen to Pilate when he is inside the building engaging with Jesusthat he is ultimately unable to translate to his engagement withthe crowds outside the building

Pilate is not alone: people who gatherinside a building to engage with Jesus often have troubletranslating that into their encounter with the wider public oncethey leave the building.

To Ponder

  • How do you make your private faith known in the publicsquare?
  • Are there any elements of your private faith that you havedifficulty acknowledging in public? If so, what are these?

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