Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pontius Robert

I've always had something of a soft spot for Pontius Pilate. He didn't seem to want to execute Jesus Christ, yet finally succumbed to the pressure around him to do so. I've heard varying accounts of his rule, describing him as anything from a provocative despot to good man who collapsed at the wrong moment, but he always struck me as being human. I'm not sure of the exact terminology, but my understanding was that he wasn't an aristocrat but at best a member of the minor genry: a career military officer occupying a post typically held by a statesman in one of Rome's most rebellious provinces. He only had a minor force in Jerusalem; the nearest legion was in Syria and wasn't readily available. As such, Pilate had to balance the demands of administering a province while also staving off full-scale revolution without the resources one would need for such a daunting task.

He tried every way he could think of to avoid having to make the decision that lay before him. Starting by arguing that it wasn't his jurisdiction, he tried to foist Jesus off on Herod. When Herod balked and it fell back to him, Pilate then tried to offer the people the choice of either a menace to society in Barabbas or the man who said He was a king: Jesus Christ. Finally, faced with the choice of doing the right thing or of sacrificing the peace, his position, and possibly his life and those of his family, Pilate gave in and ordered Jesus to be crucified.

I think the reason I'm sympathetic is because I see myself in Pilate. One current idea is to compare us to Judas or Peter when he denied Christ at the Temple, and that certainly has its truth, but in the West many of us have privilege and even power. Certainly, nearly anyone who ever lived at any point in history would consider just about any American as being rich. If I were in a position where I had to choose between doing the right thing and losing everything, which would I choose? Sad to say, I can't say for sure that I'd chose to do the right thing. I've sinned in smaller things, and so it would be easy to come up with some kind of justification for ducking this issue as well.

All of us in America, especially if we wield real power, need to be on guard as to what we say and do. As with athletics, doing the right thing doesn't just come from nowhere but requires training and discipline. I pray that should the time come, I can do the right thing.

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