Mar. 14, 2012
So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a change against this man.” But they insisted. “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
Have you ever stood before a judge and had to defend yourself? If so, how did that feel? My experience with this is being present with other people. I’ve been moral support and provided transportation for those who have had to go before a judge. I believe it is intimidating to go before a person who will make decisions affecting your life. Every day a judge sits behind the bench, he or she makes any number of decisions which have potentially significant impact. Judges can either get a head trip from this or they can see this as a calling. Hopefully, they view their role as one that will make a difference in people’s lives.
I think of my pastor/friend whose son is a judge in the Minnesota Court System. At various times, my friend has shared bits and pieces of correspondence from her son, articles from the local newspaper or TV stories. From my perspective, this judge takes his calling very seriously. He ponders how the decisions he makes definitely affect people. I think of the young child who asked him to put him with a “forever family”; how he works diligently to help rehabilitate folks. This is not easy or light work.
Pilate’s position gave him the power to make disciplinary decisions. The Roman government did not have a three branch system, separating the governing role from the disciplinary role. Pilate’s power included both. It seems that Pilate had sympathy for Jesus; he does not find him guilty. But the crowd has grown. It has become much larger than just the 71 Sanhedrin members. Jerusalem was busy this week. Many, many Jewish people are in town because of the Passover. Some of these people are curious. Some have gotten caught up in the hype. Some are wondering what is going to happen to this man named Jesus they’ve heard about.
It’s time for Pilate to make his decision. The tension is palatable. Pilate ponders his decision. He can’t appear weak. Who will take him seriously if he bails on this decision? But he really has no specific reason to keep Jesus. What is he to do? Then a new piece of information: this man as been active in the Galilee region. Herod is the governor from that area and just happens to be in Jerusalem. Pilate uses a technicality and momentarily avoids ruling about Jesus. He sends him to Herod.
Pilate is a man people today often love to hate. He seems almost wishy-washy, unwilling to take a stand either way. He doesn’t want to irritate too many people. Doing so would threaten his governorship. So he defers.
I have never been a judge and will never be one. When I think of the challenging decisions my friend’s son makes every week, I’m thankful this judge is a person of God. I know he prayerfully discerns appropriate decisions. Are his decisions always popular? I don’t really know. Being in the judge’s seat takes guts, wisdom and hopefully divine guidance.
Had I been in Pilate’s judge’s seat, would have I been able to make a clear decision? Thank God I didn’t have to make that decision. It would not have been an easy seat to be in.
Let us pray: See, from his head, his hands, his feet. Sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet. Or thorns compose so rich a crown? Amen.