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Archive for December 27th, 2019


John 19:1-7: Pontius Pilate

Friday, December 27, 2019

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Antonio Ciseri: Ecce Homo – Behold the Man

We revel in the arrival of a babe among us who saves each of us if we but ask.

We enter into Christmastide in joyful hope that the promise we have heard is indeed true.

We struggle with this mystery of a child who knowingly puts himself in danger for the good of all.

We lean forward in anticipation that if we might look closely enough we will better understand this mystery. 

Today we spend time with the Gospel of John and we watch as Pontius Pilate searches for a better understanding of who Jesus is.  We see him struggle to understand who and what stands before him.  We witness his attempt to satisfy his heart and his head.  And so we watch and learn . . .

Throughout this portion of John’s Gospel we observe Pontius Pilate as he tries to make sense of the mystery that Jesus presents to him.  He wants to make sense of a man who might save himself in an instant but who instead puts himself in the hands of an invisible force.  Pilate struggles to understand a man who allows himself to suffer for others – even others who despise him.  Pilate cannot use human logic to follow this thinking; and this is because salvific suffering is of the divine.

The mockery of something beautiful makes us cringe and each time we read this story we might try to imagine where we might be standing on this day: with the persecutors or the believers.  And then we must transfer that imagining to reality to look at our own life and actions.  What we believe we might do must connect somehow with what we actually do each day.  If we want to see if we would have been standing with the guards who persecuted Jesus or the followers who cried along the Way of the Cross, we need only look to how we treat the marginalized today.  What do we do for the poor and disenfranchised?  When do we speak up for those who have no voice?  How do we demonstrate our alliance with this one obeys an unseen God?  Where do we exert our influence?  Who matters most to us? When do we act on the part of those who have few possessions and little power?

From time to time in our lives we will be the Pontius Pilate figure, making decisions that will affect a life in a significant way.  In those times, it must be our intent to act in accord with the Law of Love which Jesus taught.  We hope to be successful.  Sometimes we are not.

We might allow ourselves to be saddened by today’s story or by our own failures, but I do not believe that this is what Jesus asks of us . . . our sadness.  I believe that Jesus asks that we act as a result of this story for he has come to save and not to condemn.  Jesus asks that we make known the Gospel to any and all who will listen.  Jesus asks that we remember who actually holds power and who actually merits glory.  He asks that we consider whose is the true kingdom . . . and I believe that Jesus watches us carefully as we make our own decisions sand take our own actions.

The marvelous irony is that Jesus comes to us not as a superior, not as a ruler, not as a priest.  He comes as a vulnerable child among us.  He comes to an average family.  He arrives in difficult circumstances in a difficult time.  He is barely noticed except by the lowly and by those who seek him.

This Advent, let us consider both ends of the human Christ’s story – his birth and his death – and then let us reflect on our own journey of faith, our life and its cumulative acts.


First written on Tuesday, May 11, 2010.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://collider.com/pontius-pilate-vera-blasi/190526/

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