(With reference to John 18: 28 through John 19: 16)
“When two worlds collide”
On the battlefield two opposing forces collide, country against country and person against person and in either victory or defeat, all suffer and all lose. In victory or defeat-the task to both is great. To rebuild and carry on despite of the injustices each has suffered and to rebuild and carry on despite of the injustices that each has been a part off.
Earlier in the week a journalist wrote of a decorated soldier that had in the heat of battle showed valour almost beyond comprehension in drawing fire upon himself to save his colleagues. And she spoke of one of his character traits that is not championed in our world as it once was. Humility, and went on to say that in ancient Greece the stars of the day, the brave and the warriors were noted and admired for their unpretentiousness and meekness. Their humility: the knowledge of themselves yet the courage to stand and fight the fight they had been given.
Humility we see in others that despite suffering opinions and actions against them, don’t retaliate but carry on regardless. Humility that is required of us when we see the regard in which we are rightly or wrongly judged. Open hostility or even the side look to another or the uneasy pause. Significantly insignificant moment’s that you know are the mask of something going on, gossip, backstabbing and so forth. Moment’s that call on our courage and humility so that we don’t return fire, but carry on with our eyes focussed on the good in them.
In the Gospel today we heard five short verses, but five short verses that are formed from all humanity as it was then, all of humanity previous and all of humanity since, as Jesus the Son of God with great courage and humility stands before Pilate as two worlds collide. Like that sideways glance, behind these verses are a myriad of power plays, bending of the truths and when not getting things as wanted, character assignation and rumour in order to gets things as wanted and expected.
Although In the time of Jesus the Jews were subject to the Romans, the Romans still allowed them a good deal of self-government but not the right to carry out the death penalty and this is why Jesus ends up before Pilate. The Jews from start to finish knew they had to use Pilate for their purposes. This is the time of the Passover and everything was being carried out by the Jews according to ceremonial law with meticulous care: yet at the same time hounding to the Cross the Son of God. The Jews charge against Jesus was blasphemy but they knew that on this charge alone Pilate would dismiss their cries for the death penalty. So they brought Jesus to him on the trumped up charges of rebellion and political insurrection against Rome by accusing Jesus of claiming to be a king.
They knew they were lying by changing contexts but so being full of hatred they did not hesitate to twist the truth and in order to feed this lie they denied every principle they had. The most being their declaration before Pilate that “We have no king but Caesar”. This statement must have taken Pilates breath away as in previous history, when the Romans had insisted the Jews were liable to pay taxes to them, the Jews declaring “that God alone was their King” revolted in the most bloody of rebellions.
In the hatred that had overcome them, the Jews were prepared to abandon every principle they had in order to eliminate Jesus.
Then there’s Pilate who must have wished he’d stayed in bed that day. Throughout the whole trial it is abundantly clear that Pilate knew that the charges against Jesus were a series of lies. Knew that Jesus was innocent, was deeply impressed when meeting him and did not want to condemn him. But from early events the Jews owned Pilate, and he and they both knew it.
When Pilate was given charge of this part of the Roman Empire he was involved in a series of over the top, not understanding the culture heavy handed actions. Events that resulted in the Jewish authorities complaining to head office-Caesar, who in response disciplined Pilate.
Pilate was on “probation” so to speak and any more complaints would not be good for his career as he was well “reminded” by the Jews in the trial when they blackmailed him by saying “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend”.
Pilate had tried every avenue at his disposal: He had Jesus whipped and beaten hoping that it would bring some pity out in the Jews, for them to say O.K. enough is enough. Had brought Jesus before them under the Passover custom of releasing a prisoner. Debating with them, almost pleading Jesus’ innocence before them but to no avail as they sided for the release of a freedom fighter named Barabbas. Yet again we see two worlds’ collide: Barabbas fighting for freedom by force, and Jesus fighting for Freedom with love.
Pilate used all the tools he had at his disposal to stop an innocent man being killed, but could not display the courage to just do the right thing no matter what the consequence. Yet knowing our own short comings and self- serving, somehow one cannot help but feel sorry for Pilate. He wanted to do the right thing; but he had not the courage to defy the Jews and do it. Pilate crucified Jesus in order to keep his job.
All players involved are self-serving and lacking the courage to face up to or stand up for the truth. All except Jesus: The man who raised the dead, healed the unhealable and at any moment could have brought this sham of a situation to an end, in humility lets it take place that the he may bring the offer of salvation to those from whom he suffers.
Jesus in his humility, in the knowledge of himself, the Son of God, the sinless one who had done only good, in courage fought his fight by allowing himself to be ridiculed, spat on, terribly beaten and to die in the most feared manner.
You may ask where’s the Gospel in this sermon. Yes, that was a bit of a history lesson. But a lesson that though from the past, tells of our future. In Jesus, back then and as is now two worlds collide. Yet as this happens, Jesus at the end of his earthly walk and while looking over his tormentors, and now to us-speaks.
Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
And that is the Gospel of our Lord. Amen.