Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Heart of the Matter

Killing men was all in a day’s work. Like all Romans of his class he had done his stint in the army and worked his way up the political ladder. He had been ending men’s lives either with his own sword, or by commanding the swords of those under him, all his adult life. By definition, the glory of Rome was what he was there to promote, and any life that did not contribute to Rome’s glory was worthless by definition, and to be disposed of with no more thought than you would give to killing a hen that no longer laid. Why should this time, this man, be any different?

Alright, he didn’t like the hole and corner business of midnight trials and early morning summons. He was a suspicious man by nature, and this aroused all his suspicions. What were the Jewish leaders up to? And the prisoner, now he looked at him squarely, looked nothing like the typical insurrectionist. In fact, he had probably never been in a real fight in his life. So what was going on?

There was something he wasn’t being told, and he was in no mood to be played with, or treated as just a rubber stamp for their internal problems. Had they forgotten who was in charge? And there was something about this man, neither cringing nor defiant, but simply standing there, as if he were not the one on trial at all, that intrigued him. He wasn’t going to sign off on this one without learning more. He tried sending the prisoner to Herod when he learned the man was a Galilean, but Herod sent him back. He sent him off to be flogged, hoping this would settle the matter, but even though the prisoner returned besmeared with blood and with a crown of thorns on his head (oddly unsettling to look at, even for an old soldier), the mob from the temple still weren’t appeased.  They told him that the man was an enemy of Rome, who had declared himself to be a king, yet, when he questioned the man further, all he would say was that his ki8ngdom was not of this world (whatever that meant!). Further the man would not respond to him, and who in such straits would resist either desperately defending themselves our shouting out their last desperate defiance? This man was different. In fact, he believed this man was innocent, which normally wouldn’t have worried him too much any way. But this time, inexplicably, it did.

But the rabble-rousers of Jerusalem were having none of it. They wanted this man killed, and they threatened to report him to Rome if he didn’t comply. How could the life of one man, however innocent, however different, compare to his own career and his family honour? So he gave the order to have Jesus of Nazareth crucified. But first her ordered a basin of water to be brought to him, and publically washed his hands of the man’s blood. But whether he gave him further thought, or whether he ever came to understand the magnitude of what happened, history does not tell us.

But what history does tell us is that, at that Passover in Jerusalem, the world was changed forever, and the name of Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea, is remembered with infamy as long as the world endures. He had gone through the forms, but completely missed the heart of the matter. The man he condemned to death was God Himself, and the blood he shed that day was, ironically, the only thing that could have cleansed him from the blood-guilt that no symbolic basin of water could remove. Pilate died in his time and his burial place is unknown save to the vaguest of legends, but the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is empty, and he lives and reigns for evermore.