In this First Station of the Cross, Jesus stands before Pilate. His face is bloody. He is cross-eyed dizzy with the pain of the last night’s beating. He reels back and forth finding it hard to stand. And Pilate, sitting upon his throne looks down at the prisoner for a second time. The Governor leans forward and asks the prisoner, “Are you the King of the Jews?” “Is this what they say,” Jesus responds, “or is it what you say?” Furious now, Pilate bristles, “Am I a Jew? Your own people have handed you over to me. Tell me what you have done.” Jesus replies, “You don’t understand. Neither do my own leaders. My kingdom is not of this world.” And Pilate responds, “So you are a King.”
After all these years we still ask the question. Who is this Jesus? Oh we think we know. We have whispered his name a zillion times over the strangest of issues. We’ve made him white and brown and Southern and Tea Party and racist and liberal and defender of whatever status quo makes us comfortable. The Nazis painted him blue-eyed with blonde curls and of course Anglo-Saxon. They are not the only culprits. We’ve tried to drag him into whatever it is we wish or want or dream.
Some time ago an artist named Barosin painted a “Head of Christ” with a blue background. People complained that the background did not go well with strong colors in their educational buildings. So one Press obliged the complainers by offering Barosin’s “powerful” portrait in a neutral background. Christ was made to fit the environment around him. They said that he was whoever they thought he was.
Not so says this first station of the Cross. Look carefully. He was a man. A man like us and yet different. The leaders if Judaism and Pilate and most of us have tried to force him into our molds. But it doesn’t work. Jesus is the sufferer. He bled like us. He was despised and rejected more times than not. He was love personified and yet the world then or now doesn’t understand this other Kingdom. “In Christ there is no north nor south, there is no east or west. But one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide world.” Whatever happened to that idea?”
Carlyle Marney used to tell preachers, “ Boys if they ever find out that Jesus was a Jew we’re going to be in deep trouble.” And he was right. We want him to be like us. And he calls us to be like him. And so standing by this first Station of the Cross—Pilate washes his hands as the prisoner Jesus takes his first step toward the cross. Ponder the question as you look at this rendering. Who is He? Who is this Jesus?