Tag Archives: Pilate

14 April,Good Friday: Pilate’s Politics.

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John Masefield wrote a play in verse about Good Friday. In an exchange after Jesus was condemned, we hear Pilate and and his wife Procula, who famously warned him ‘Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.‘ (Matthew 27:19)

Pilate:

Another charge was brought some hours ago,

That he was claiming to be that great King

foretold by prophets, who shall free the Jews.

This he persisted in. I could not choose

But end a zealot claiming such a thing.

Procula:

It is a desecration of our power.

A rude poor man who pitted his pure sense

Against what holds the world its little hour,

Blind force and fraud, priests’ mummery and pretence.

Could you not see that this is what he did?

Pilate:

Most clearly, wife. But Roman laws forbid

That I should weigh, like God, the worth of souls.

I act for Rome, and Rome is better rid

Of those rare spirits whom no law controls.

He broke a statute, knowing from the first

Whither his act would lead, he was not blind.

‘Good Friday’ in John Masefield, ‘Collected Poems’, London, Heinemann, 1925, pp449-507.

Procula’s speech is as good an examination of conscience as any for today, but if you can find the text, the whole play is worth reading and pondering.

Tissot: The Message of Pilate’s Wife, Brooklyn Museum

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22 March: Keeping the Peace of the World.

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Prosippio was one of the Centurion’s guard waiting in the courtyard outside Pontius Pilate the Governor of Judea’s palace. They had been waiting, all 100 of them, for over an hour and they could hear the angry buzz of the crowd outside the gates. They were experienced men and they knew that this buzz could easily turn into a riot and there were not many of them to suppress a riot of angry Jews. At this time of year, ‘the Feast of the Passover’, a lot of the Jews seemed to be rather angry.

Down in the cells, as Prosippio well knew, was Barabbas, who was little better than a terrorist although he would prefer the term ‘freedom fighter’. He could mobilise thousands of supporters. These ‘wild ones’ wanted to kill Jesus of Nazareth who was going to be tried by the Roman Governor as a ‘heretic’ who had offended the Jewish priests and the elite among the scribes and Pharisees because he had claimed to be ‘The Son of God’. This seemed a bit of an exaggeration in the eyes of Prosippio and most of his mates. Possibly he was a ‘nut case’ who deserved a flogging before being released.

There was a blast on a trumpet, and the guard was called to attention as Pontius Pilate, Jesus Christ and a small guard came on to the balcony. Prosippio was thinking, ‘He doesn’t look guilty.’ In fact Jesus was a mild, pleasant-looking man who had clearly been roughed up by his guards. Pilate did not seem to want to find Jesus guilty of anything, indeed he seemed sympathetic to the prisoner and repeated several times ‘I find no fault in him’. But when he asked the crowd whether they would prefer Jesus or Barabbas to be released, the shout for ‘Barabbas’ was deafening. So, although Pilate would have preferred to release Jesus he was clearly moved by the crowd’s implication that freeing Jesus might be considered a threat to Caesar and so a threat to Pontius Pilate.

Pilate sentenced Jesus to be crucified as the crowd had demanded.

DBP

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20 March: Palm Sunday

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In this panel from Strasbourg Cathedral, Jesus himself seems to be carrying a palm branch – symbol, as we know, of martyrdom.

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And here we see the martyrs’ palm engraved on the War Memorial in Boffles, Picardy, France. These  men might have paraded through crowds in Amiens on their way to the front, and are counted as ‘morts pour la Patrie’ – dead for France.

1914-18 did much to tear the heart from Christian Europe: too many clergy supported their own country’s War. Too many people died and suffered.

How do we face that? We remember that Christ rode into Jerusalem as Prince of Peace; that he would not let his disciples fight; that he told Pilate his Kingdom was not of this world.

Holy Week sees the would-be Messiah and liberator snuffed out by High Priest and Roman Governor, his followers broken, betraying themselves as well as him.

We too betray him and his Kingdom: that is, if he was who he said he was: the Prince of Peace, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

If his claim is true:

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

John Betjeman, Christmas.

stbartspalm (364x309)If true, it changes everything. God lived a human life in Palestine, unto the bitter cup of disappointment and death.

 

We will never understand human wickedness and sin, however much suffering we see. But let us not despair: the palm was awarded to the martyrs because it was the symbol of victory in the ancient world.

Your redeemer comes, riding on a donkey, go out to meet him! Matthew 21:5; Zechariah 9:9.

The disciples’ courage after Easter testifies to the truth of what they learned about Jesus. Tradition says that Bartholomew was martyred by being flayed alive. This panel from his church in Chichester, shows his initials either side of the skinner’s knife, surrounded by palms. Picture: NAIB.

 

 

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