Monday, January 30, 2017
The Long Encounter
As we read the encounter stories in the gospel of John, none seem to be any longer than the one Pilate had with Jesus. Not only does it encompass a large number of verses, there is the awareness of time passing as Pilate talks to Jesus and goes back and forth to re-visit the demands of those Jewish religious authorities who brought Him for judgment. Pilate keeps running into a truth he wants to avoid. He realizes Jesus is innocent and one certainly not worthy of death on the cross. But, there is this enormous pressure pushing against his conscience and it finally becomes too much as he relents to a thing he knows in his heart is a wrong choice. The voices of those around him finally become more important and more pressing than the voice of Jesus.
We are so quick to judge Pilate. Hindsight tells us he should have done differently. But, then Pilate knew this without having to move into hindsight territory. We read the story and see him as one not willing to take a stand, one who made the personally expedient choice, and one who tried desperately to shift the blame for what he was doing onto the heads of others. In some ways it sounds like we are describing the person we know as the one who looks at us from the mirror. Could it possibly be true that we have made the same choices Pilate made? Could it be that we run into a truth in our encounters with Jesus that sends us running toward an easier way?
Surely, Pilate thought about what he had done long after the washing water had dried on his blood stained hands. If he did, then he truly was like us. Most of us have made Pilate like choices and lived for a long time wondering about what we did. The only thing which delivers us from always looking over our shoulder with deep sorrow and regret is the death of the Holy One. The very death Pilate finally authorized was the very thing which had the power to release him from his guilt, but he likely never realized it. It still has that power for us.