Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday Meditation 2/4: Jesus Reigns at Gabbatha

What do you think it would be like to stare into the face of the one who created everything - including you?

It would be many things, but one thing it wouldn't be is boring or uneventful. Pilate may have begun the conversation calm and collected, assuming Jesus to be just another traveling rabbi that had got the religious establishment in Jerusalem hot under the collar (Mt.27:18), but by the end of the encounter he is a nervous wreck. (John 18:28-19:16)

When you look at the face of God there are only two possible outcomes, you either humble yourself and say my LORD and my God, or you go mad, utterly sinfully mad (Ps.14:1, Ec.9:3, Rev.14:8). You never simply remain the same.

The religious leaders, after many encounters with Jesus over the years, are a long way down that road of madness. Pilate, now stands at the entrance to it.

When Pilate was before Jesus, even if he was in the position of authority, it was clear Jesus - the alpha male of alpha males, was in charge (Jn.19:8). Pilate realises that Jesus is guilty of no crime, but the wheels of this kangaroo judicial procedure have already been set in motion by the Jews and whilst Pilate has the authority to acquit Jesus, doing so would have thrown Jerusalem into uproar and a riot would not have looked good on his CV - ruining his chances of getting the next promotion. So rather than confront the Jews, he aims to get Jesus off the hook through a Passover tradition where he can acquit Jesus without losing face.

So he gets a guy who nobody likes, everybody hates, an utter no hoper called Barabbas, up next to Jesus. Phew! thinks Pilate, surely they'd never pick a loser like Barabbas over Jesus! But to Pilate's utter astonishment, they choose to acquit Barabbas, and so he hands Jesus over to be flogged.

The soldiers aren't particularly intelligent in their mockery of Jesus. They mock him in the same way they mock all the people handed over to them, lampooning their attempts to do x, y or z. For example, if Jesus had been accused of stealing a joint of beef from the local Kosher butchery, his flogging would have been accompanied by the soldiers stuffing their faces with ginormous hamburgers, just to rub it in that he had failed in his attempted thievery. In dressing Jesus up as a king, they are patronising (as they see it) his deluded and failed attempt to lay hold of his kingdom.

What happens next is fascinating...

Pilate realizes he should do everything he can to get this man off the hook, because he doesn't want the blood of this man (God?) on his hands, or the wrath of his wife for that matter (Matt.27:19) and so he does something curious.

They get assembled at Gabbatha and apparently, (I'm no Greek expert so I don't know), an equally fair translation of Jn.19:13 would read Pilate brought Jesus out and sat him down on the judgement seat... If this is true, then Pilate is saying to the Jews - Jews, THIS IS YOUR KING!! He is the one who should sit in judgement reigning over you, but the Jews declare they have no king, other than Caesar and in so doing they make their apostasy complete. Not only have they rejected their Messiah, they have embraced the Beast.

Pilate washes his hands of the situation and hands Jesus over to be crucified.

Jesus remains composed and in control throughout despite the lunacy going on around him, the mission is continuing as planned. He continues to reign.


MattArt said...

Richard, looking at my Bible I see the phrase from John 19:13 written differently - it says "Pilate brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgement seat...", and not "sat HIM down" which offers an alternative interpretation, does it not? Sincerely yours, Matt Lawrence

Richard Walker said...

Hi Matt,

Thanks for dropping by. Apparently, Greek rendered "he sat down" could also be rendered he sat him down. See here:

English doesn't allow for that ambiguity. The Jerusalem Bible has this other translation:

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