Is He Your King? The Trial Before Pilate

GOOD FRIDAY – All through the night Jesus has been locked in the dungeon of the high priest’s house. Early this morning he was bought before a Pilate who transferred his case to Herod. Herod sent him back to Pilate who, sometime in the mid-morning, bowed to the pressure of the Temple leadership and the crowds, and condemned Jesus to a horrible death by crucifixion. In the late morning Jesus was taken by the soldiers through the city and up the hillside of Golgotha. By noon he is nailed to the cross where he hangs in agony for some three hours. He dies around three in the afternoon. He is taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb hastily before sundown. Today is a day of prayer, fasting and abstinence. Whenever possible, Christians are urged to keep today free of work, of social engagements, of entertainment, and to devote themselves to communal prayer and worship. At noon many parishes gather for stations of the cross for recollections of the seven last words of Jesus. Many parishes also offer stations of the cross at 3pm the hour of Jesus death. In the evening, we gather quietly in our parish Churches to enter into time of prayer as we reflect on Jesus death on the cross. We also pray for the needs of the world. To acknowledge the power of the cross in our lives today, we one by one come forward to venerate the cross with a kiss. Our hunger from this day of fasting is satisfied with Holy Communion distributed at the end of this liturgy. Consider too how the apostles might have gathered that night together in fear and prayer reflecting on all that happened.

The following videos depicts Jesus and Pilate. The First is from The Passion of the Christ. What is remarkable about this clip is that when Pilate addresses Jesus in Aramaic, Jesus answers him in Latin. This is not a biblical fact, but a technique that the producer, Mel Gibson (pray for him) uses. It is something that startles Pilate and the bystanders, for it was unlikely that a Galilean would know enough Latin to hold a conversation, let alone about philosophy and theology! But it would seem to be Gibson’s (pray for him) way of illustrating that this conversation is personal, between Pilate and Jesus, for Jesus uses Pilate’s mother-tongue. Jesus speaks to Pilate in a very personal and serious way: Who do YOU think I am and what will YOU do about it?

The Second clip is from the movie The Gospel of John. It follows the Gospel of John exactly. Notice how Jesus turns the tables on Pilate. Although Jesus is on trial, he ends up putting Pilate on trial! Notice too how many times Pilate goes in and out of Praetorium (Governor’s Palace). At least four times! He is vacillating. He knows Jesus is innocent of the charges. But in the end, out of fear, he suppresses his conscience and hands Jesus over. Pilate had wanted to avoid committing to Jesus one way or the other. But he, like you and me had to make a decision. You might say he goes from vacillation to assassination!

Notice particularly the question Pilate wrestles with over Jesus’ Kingship. He asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?” But Jesus will not answer. This is a question Pilate must answer. It is a question you and I must answer. And so Jesus says, “Are you saying this on your own or have others been saying this to you?” In other words am I a King because you say so or are you just saying what others say? Only Pilate can answer if Jesus is a king. Only you and I can answer for ourselves. Is he your King?