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Archive for March 10th, 2020


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Matthew 27:11-14: In Secret

Preti: Pilate Washing His Hands

Mattia Preti: Pilate Washing His Hands

Last December we spent time with a portion of John’s Gospel hoping to understand Pontius Pilate as he struggled to unlock the mystery of the man who stood before him . . . accused by his own people.  Jesus’ reputation announced his enemies’ accusation yet today we still wonder why Pilate washed his hands of this internal Jewish affair; multiple versions of what took place give us little – very little – insight.  “Christian accounts of the trial of Jesus suggest either that Pilate played no direct role in the decision to execute Jesus (Peter), or that he ordered the crucifixion of Jesus with some reluctance (Mark) or with great reluctance (Luke, John). Many historians attribute these accounts to efforts by early Christians to make their message more palatable to Roman audiences. It is clear that prefects had a variety of options available for dealing with a potential source of trouble such as Jesus. These options included flogging, sending the matter back to the Sanhedrin, or referring the case to Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee”.  (Linder)  We are left to ponder and conclude on our own.  What was Pilate thinking as he washed his hands?  What did he believe?  What did he fear?  What was he holding in secret?

We might peer more closely at the details of this encounter.  What does Pilate do when he is put to the test?  It is up to us to forage for details, to pray for clarification, to ask for instruction from the Spirit, and to witness as Paul does to the extraordinary gift of Jesus and how his presence challenges the dark corners of human society.  Today’s second Mass reading is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that become visible is light. (5:11-14)

Paul’s words may inform us about why Caiaphas and Pilate fear the worst from this king who has no apparent army or courtiers but whose radiant truth pierces the smallest dark corners to convert all that is barren and tainted to an overwhelming abundance of light and goodness.  Pilate perhaps fears that he is losing control . . . a control he suspects he never really had.  Pilate is unwilling to step out of the shadow world.  Do we follow his lead . . . or do we stride forward out of all that is secret and hidden . . . into the radiant goodness of the Christ?


If you have time, read through the details of Jesus’ trial today as gathered by Linder at: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/jesus/jesusaccount.html

For last December’s Noontime, use the blog search bar and enter Standing Before Pilate and “What Evil Has he Done?” and explore.

Linder, Douglas. “The Trial of Jesus: Key Figures.” Famous Trials. University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, n.d. Web. 9 Mar 2013. <http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/jesus/jesuskeyfigures.html&gt;.

Image from: http://www.aug.edu/augusta/iconography/pilate.html

A re-post from March 10, 2013. 

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