Good Friday Ecumenical 2016
Fifth Station: Jesus Is Judged By Pilate
Mark 15:1-5, 15
March 25, 2016
Our Lady Star of the Sea Chapel, Manasquan, NJ
Other than theVirgin Mary and Jesus Christ, mine is the only name of a person who’s not-a-member-of-the-Trinity mentioned in the Creed. You’ve heard of guilt by association. I only wish there were absolution by association.
I served for 11 years as procurator of Judea; the mess with Jesus was in the middle of my tenure. Not that the whole time wasn’t messy. Dealing with those Jews was more than a full-time job and less than fulfilling. We Romans are the conquering nation, after all. We don’t require much of our subjects:
· Pay your taxes.
· Go ahead, keep your gods; but honor ours, too.
Is that so much to ask?? But no, the people of Israel have to be different. No busts of the divine Roman emperor in their temple; their god would feel squeezed out, after all! Not even any Roman coin in their temple, because of the emperor’s image engraved on it. ‘Drove me mad. ‘Couldn’t help myself one day. ‘Commanded my men to post the Roman standard in the temple. The outcry was so great I chose to remove it again -- but not before some heads rolled.
I disdained them all, but especially their religious leaders who struck me as more political than any politicians I’d ever known! Take that whole affair with Jesus. What threat was he to them?? Anyone who says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) clearly isn’t interested in a hostile takeover. Why should I care what he said or did?
He’d certainly managed to run afoul of the powers-that-be. When they dragged him before me, the chief priests themselves laid out cause after cause why I should condemn him. They’d obviously beaten him. He arrived black and blue and bloodied. I asked him obvious and only relevant question: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Thinking to myself, “Sorry excuse for a king….”) His brilliant answer? “You say so.” What was I supposed to do with that?? And then – silence.
The man would not speak on his own behalf. (These Jews just mystify me.) The chief priests and their buddies had something up their sleeve; the accused was no more guilty than I. Even beaten and silent, this man had an aura of authority. I don’t like being used for others’ purposes. I tried to derail their train of condemnation by signaling I was ready to release the prisoner. That only heightened the clamor. Finally I’d had enough. I judged the innocent guilty and sent him away to his death.
You know why. Don’t even try to tell me you’ve never expedited a situation to simplify your life. ‘Looked the other way when an inconvenient fact surfaced. ‘Left truth by the side of the road to travel lighter and get on with the journey. ‘Been “swayed by the crowd,” especially when it threatened to crush anyone or anything in its way. I did it. You’ve done it. We’re in good company. Cicero talked about the “highest object,” main objective, primary job of a governor. No, it wasn’t upholding justice. It wasn’t glorifying the truth. It wasn’t preserving peace or ensuring plenty. It was doing whatever it took to bring about “the greatest happiness of the governed.” My judgment left the crowd happy. Briefly.
I ruled with an iron fist. Rome should have been proud of my performance. But I was eventually relieved of my duties – and sent into exile – can you believe that?? I’m remembered, regardless, and often – “I believe in Jesus Christ our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate…” That’s what’s remembered of my service to Rome. Where’s justice when you count on it???
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham