Lent Reflections @ CEC (4/10/20)
“He who seeks not the Cross of Christ seeks not the glory of Christ.” – St. John of the Cross
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 15:1-20; focused on Mark 15:1-15
Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law, and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
Now it was a custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
"Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
“What shall I do then with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
“Why? What crime has be committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Lessons from the judgment seat
The biblical accounts of the days immediately preceding the crucifixion of Jesus are peopled with interesting characters whose actions and interactions can teach us much about human nature in opposition to the nature of faith. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, is one such personage. His is the story of someone who understood the difference between right and wrong, yet chose to do wrong. His administrative position gave him considerable power as the representative of Roman justice, and yet, in his human weakness, he condemned to death a man whom he knew to be innocent.
The story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate is present in all four gospels. In every account, it is clear that Pilate can find no grounds for sentencing Jesus to die. At least three times, Pilate announces to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Luke 23:4, 14, 22). The same is repeated in John 18:38 and John 19:4-6. (We find the following interesting aside in Matthew 27:19: While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘"Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him"). In Matthew 27:24, Pilate was so convinced of Jesus’ lack of guilt that he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. “It is your responsibility!”
Why, then, would Pilate hand Jesus over to be crucified, a decision he knew to be morally and ethically wrong? The historical record indicates that Pilate had a precarious relationship with the Jewish people under his authority and had offended their religious leaders on more than one occasion. His tenure had been marred by political turmoil, compromises, and mistakes. His job involved trying to control a subjugated people who had no respect for their Roman conquerors. The scripture tells us that an uprising had already take place; it was the reason Barabbas was in prison. When Pilate insisted publicly that he could not find Jesus guilty of any crime, “he saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting…” (Matthew 27:24). In condemning Jesus and releasing Barabbas, Pilate sought to pacify the crowds and to prevent any further disturbance of the peace. Fearing additional attempts at insurrection, Pilate gave in to public pressure, literally and figuratively “washing his hands” of the whole Jesus affair.
Like Pilate, we know the difference between right and wrong, yet, like him, we sometimes knowingly choose the wrong path. Our motivations may even be similar to his; we give in to fear, to the desire to please others, to the dictates of our culture, to the demands of a job, or just to keep the peace within our homes and friendships. Our human nature is inclined to bend under the pressures brought upon us by the events and circumstances of daily life. The nature of faith, however, means placing our confidence in God to help us find the courage to stand strong when faced with the temptation to choose what is easy instead of what is right. We see it played out in the scriptures again and again: the nature of divinity overcomes the nature of flawed humanity; faith conquers fear.
Lord, we pray that we would look to You, that we would love You with all of our heart, our soul, our minds, and strength. We pray that You would fill us with faith that conquers fear, because we know that it is Your perfect love that casts out fear. We are not meant to live in fear, but in faith. Give us courage when we feel weak, when we want to bend. Help us to receive Your strength to stand.