|photo by jimforest / flickr|
We pilgrims arrive at the first Station of the Cross. Here we begin. Where, exactly? With Jesus and Pilate. Fourteen Stations, in most churches, why begin here? Pilate, representative of the powerful Rome, faces Jesus the powerless prisoner.
My old teacher, James Sanders used to say if we are to understand the Scriptures we have to identify with the bad guys. The Church has often made the mistake of siding with the good guy—maybe to let us off the hook. Maybe we are Pilate—with our Fine cars, comfortable homes—and impressive resumes. And before us there stands one who had no place to lay his head. Powerless. Caught up in a system which surely would crush him. What do we Pilate’s see here? John’s long passages in his Gospel give us almost two whole chapters on Jesus and the Roman prelate.
Over and over this name, Pilate keeps cropping up. Pilate himself tried to get off the hook. He tried to send this Jesus back to the Religious officials, to Herod, his boss, and finally to the soldiers and the ugly crowd.
We still wish that we could somehow let someone else deal with this Jesus, really. Oh we sing the songs and we stare at the gorgeous stained glass windows and even read from the black book—not to speak of all the endless sermons. Ands most of them, I am afraid, never get close to the Jesus who stands before Pilate.
Not only did not plaintive, “Sweet little Jesus boy, we didn’t know who you wuz” make a good Christmas Eve solo. But we really don’t know who this Jesus is. Like Pilate we keep asking: Are you a King? Jesus hardly answers. King Jesus. That’s who stands before us. Powerless. Vulnerable. Quiet. He wouldn’t strand a chance on our Facebook or our dramatic headlines.
But like that other Pilate this Jesus still disturbs. What if Jesus is right? That we really are to turn the other cheek, forgive and walk yet another tedious mile. What if we really are to be the Good Samaritan and stop and stoop and help? We are not to judge—seriously? What if our government—or any government does not really have all the answers. What if, standing here—this Jesus really is the King? Could he be the King of Kings?
If so—he turns everything upside down. Like he did that day in the temple when he drove out the moneychangers. If he came into our church or even our little lives—wouldn’t he still do what he did then—turn things bottom side upwards.