Will We Have the Courage?
Updated: Nov 25, 2021
Friends, the Bible is full of stories of God’s revelation of Himself in the lives of human beings. But they’re not stories filled with “good guys” and “bad guys.” Rather, they’re about complex people in real life circumstances, And we’re called to see a reflection of ourselves in them: Some are striving to know and serve God better, many are struggling to just survive, and a few are grasping to hang on to the power they’re convinced they have.
In the Gospel reading for the Feast of Christ the King [John 16:33b-37] we encounter again one of those “graspers,” certainly one of the most infamous men who ever lived. Yet, over the course of our lifetime, we will repeat that man’s name thousands of times as we recite the Creed – it’s Pontius Pilate. Why must we regularly remind ourselves of Pontius Pilate?
We don’t have anything in common with that man -- or do we?
Well, as I said, we’re called to see a reflection of ourselves in those we encounter in the Bible. In a number of ways, Pontius Pilate represents many of us. Of course, we don’t like that. We don’t want to be associated with the one who condemned Jesus to die on the cross. We don’t have anything in common with that man -- or do we?
Notice that our Gospel reading is not about the condemnation of Jesus; No, it’s about what led up to that condemnation. Pontius Pilate was a mid-level Roman bureaucrat trying to hold on to his power in the little-known province of Palestine. He certainly recognized that the person before him, this Jesus, was innocent, clearly a victim of intense jealousy from the religious leaders around him. He said so himself [cf. John 18:35]. But there was this claim that Jesus was a king [cf. John 18:36]; Pilate couldn’t let that claim stand; no, Caesar would have his head for that. And yet, Jesus did not try to defend himself; He didn’t deny that He was a king; rather He calmly spoke of truth. [cf. John 18:37]. Pilate was troubled, what was he to do?
Pilate’s position, his place in the community, his prestige
- they were all more important to him than “truth.”
We know that, in the end, Pilate walked away from truth [cf. John 18:38]. For him, it was too much of a risk to stand for truth. No, he turned his back on truth. Truth comes with a cost that Pilate was unwilling to pay. He caved-in to the pressures around him. Pilate’s position, his place in the community, his prestige - they were all more important to him than truth.
How often we have been confronted by challenges to truth,
and we didn’t respond?
How often we have been confronted by challenges to truth, and we didn’t respond? We don’t want to be ridiculed by those around us. There’s the preciousness of the life of the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, God-given gender identity, integrity in the workplace, fairness in dealings with others - the list goes on. Times when we should have spoken up for truth, but we faltered. We knew that we should have said, “No, this is what is true, this is what is right.” But we were halfhearted, even silent. It’s just too uncomfortable; and that whole cancel culture thing these days, don’t want to mess with them.
It’s really disturbing to realize
how much we have in common
with Pontius Pilate.
It’s really disturbing to realize how much we have in common with Pontius Pilate. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that we say his name, again and again, each time we claim what we believe. Yes, we’re called to know God better, but we’re also called to know ourselves better. We’re called to see ourselves in the people we encounter in Scripture – people facing the pressures of their times just as we face the pressures of our times. The details are different, of course, but human nature is very much the same.
So, the next time God nudges me to speak up, to defend truth, what will I do? What will you do? Jesus didn’t respond to Pilate in anger or resentment. He simply spoke kindly and calmly. It was with sincerity, not with sternness, that He spoke of truth. Will we have the courage to do the same; or will we, like Pontius Pilate, walk away from truth.
“Till next time.
Dcn Bob Evans
John 18:33b-37, John 18:38