The fifth Station of the Cross is the judgment of Jesus by Pontius Pilate. The Message says:
At dawn’s first light, the high priests, with the religious leaders and scholars, arranged a conference with the entire Jewish Council. After tying Jesus securely, they took him out and presented him to Pilate.
Pilate asked him, “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?”
He answered, “If you say so.” The high priests let loose a barrage of accusations.
Pilate asked again, “Aren’t you going to answer anything? That’s quite a list of accusations.” Still, he said nothing. Pilate was impressed, really impressed.
Pilate gave the crowd what it wanted, set Barabbas free and turned Jesus over for whipping and crucifixion.
And the New Revised Standard Version has:
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed. So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
This account from Mark’s gospel doesn’t have the very dramatic touch where Pilate refuses to take responsibility for this, saying that Jesus’ blood will be on the hands of everyone in the mob. Pilate washes his hands and wipes them dry in front of everyone, which gives us the expression, washing my hands of the entire matter. This gospel also leaves out the dream of catastrophe that Pilate’s wife has, after which she begs him not to pass judgment on Jesus.
And just like in the third Station, the behavior Jesus presents in front of the people judging him baffles me completely. I mean, doesn’t he know had bad this looks for him? He’s acting like a defiant, sullen teenager, You’ve already made up your mind, so anything I say makes no difference anyway. Just punish me, already, so you can shut up. But then, maybe this is the point.
See, Jesus teaches us that the things of this world aren’t the things that are true or eternally real. In this world, everything changes, everything goes away, everything transforms, everything dies. But in God’s world, everything dances eternally together in light and love. It sounds awfully boring to us, so used to the changing nature of this world, for everything to remain the same forever. But so many of the descriptions of the kingdom of God involve movement: the river of life, the tree of life, the eternal dance of the Trinity. I don’t believe we’ll be bored in God’s realm, but that we will be awed and glorified and eternally loving and thankful. See, those are the things that are real.
So Pilate’s judgment, like the judgment of the Sanhedrin, can only affect Jesus for a short time. Once his body dies, Jesus finds a new body, a resurrected body, and a place in God’s kingdom… and Jesus promises us the same. Jesus promises us deliverance from this ever-changing world, freedom from sin and conflict and death. Jesus promises us life and light and love. But he can only give us these gifts once he has been freed from his earthly body. The judgment of human authorities has only one meaning to Jesus: that he will complete his ministry in this world by dying.
I wonder, sometimes, whether Jesus wanted to die. It sure seems to me that he acts like it, in these confrontations. By his demeanor and refusal to defend himself, Jesus may be delivering a message: you don’t hold any real authority over me, only over this body. There are times in the gospel accounts when it sounds like Jesus had become weary, when he tries to escape for some downtime, for some quiet prayer time, for some peace from everybody. As an introvert, I have great sympathy for Jesus in these moments; I’ve known the desperation to just get away from everybody and have quiet. Jesus seemed to know who needed healing. Could he sense this, in everyone around him? Could he feel the brokenness of each individual in the crowds? Could he feel the pain, physical and emotional, in every person he encountered? We know there was squabbling amongst the disciples — the mother of John and James demanded that Jesus tell her which of her sons would sit at his right hand, probably daring the other disciples and their mothers to challenge her — and I wonder whether Jesus winced and squirmed at the things that were spoken, and at the things his friends kept hidden within their minds and hearts. Jesus was 33 years old when he died. He was an incredible prophet and teacher. He healed so many people. Was he weary? Was he doubting that he was making any difference at all? Was he afraid to face decades more of this?
I don’t know. We can’t know, not in this world. But sometimes, especially when I’m feeling weary or doubting or afraid, I wonder.
What do you wonder about Jesus?