Posts Tagged ‘Pilate’

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tissot: The False Witness

James Tissot: False Witness before Caiaphas

Luke 22 – The Plot to Kill Jesus

Over and over again we read frightening lines like this one: The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.   The leaders see that they will lose influence and power because to Jesus offers compassion and healing to those who suffer.  The leaders also worry that Jesus’ actions might attract the attention of the overlord Romans, and they do not want to encourage another Jewish rebellion.  They search for a way to do away with this troublesome rabbi who asks piercing questions.  Jesus – who presents a way of finding timeless peace and healing restoration – is eliminated by those who offer far less.  The paradox is that this cornerstone that is rejected becomes a salvific force which redeems not only friends but enemies – if only these adversaries might put down their weapons and return to the goodness to which they are called.

Today we continue with our theme of dark schemes and wicked conspirators, and we look at how events around Jesus’ last hours unwind . . .

While Jesus and his followers prepare for Passover, the shadowy plot of murder unwinds; these two activities coil around one another in a twisting dance of darkness and light.  This serves to remind us that in this world goodness and evil often walk side by side unremarked . . . almost accepted.  We fool ourselves into believing that all around us must be perfect.  Who is the reaper who knows to sort the grain from the chaff?

A foreshadowing of Peter’s denial sends a frisson of consciousness through us . . . we too have denied Christ when we are under pressure.  Jesus reminds us that we need nothing for our journey save his protection and guidance.  We fool ourselves into believing that we make our own way and earn our own bread. Who is the source of our talents?

Jesus prays.  Judas betrays.  The faithful scatter.  The powerful take over.  The odd dance of inversion continues as those with arms believe themselves to be the strongest.  We fool ourselves into believing that we can exert pressure to win arguments by overwhelming knowledge when overwhelming goodness is the true strength.  Who allows himself to be made weak so that he might be strong in the creator?

Arrest, denial, rejection.  Jesus stands innocent before Pilate and Herod.  He is beaten and sentenced to death.  He carries his cross, he is crucified and dies . . . and he awaits the resurrection he has been promised by the Father.  We fool ourselves into believing that this story was lived once by a man two thousand years ago.  Who suffers each day with each of his billions of sisters and brother?

There is no plot Jesus does not comprehend.  There is no darkness he has not experienced.  There is no pain he has not suffered.  There is no mockery, no betrayal, no rebuffing, no murder he has not survived.  Jesus experiences all, and Jesus wants to save and restore all . . . if we only rely on him.

When the situation is bleakest, when the plot is thickest, when the hour is darkest . . . this is where Christ stands.  This is where he waits . . . for he knows that we will need him because we take nothing else with us on this journey – no purse, no bag, no sword.  We take only Christ, for he is all we need against any evil, against any plot . . . against even murder.

Adapted from a Noontime written on November 18, 2009. 

Image from: http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/tis-trial-caiaphas/

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Van der Weyden: Descent from the Cross

Van der Weyden: Descent from the Cross

Monday, March 30, 2013

John 19:38-42: Sepulcher

Today we reflect on our world, its intercultural connections, and the stress that a pandemic can bring to us. In this re-post from Holy Saturday 2013, we have an opportunity to rest in Christ as he moves from the cross to the tomb. We have the opportunity to allow God to enter the holy space of our being.

Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it.  So he came and took his bodyNicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds.  They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with spices, according to the Jewish burial custom.  Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden there was a tomb, in which no one had yet been buried.  So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by. (John 19:38-42)

Our lives are fast-moving, quick marching toward an invisible completion; and in the busyness of our days and nights we forget that the tomb is always close at hand.

Our calendars are full of commitments or appointments, comings or goings, chores and tasks; and in our hurriedness we put aside the gentle reminders that the tomb is always nearby.

Our work life, our play life, and our prayer life call us constantly to disparate messages that inevitably weave into one another; and in the complexity of our days and nights we muddle the message that the tomb is always a short step away.

Our lives are but a quick-spiraling wisp in God’s time and space; yet we are eternal and ever-present in the promise of Christ’s risen, mystical body.  Our conflicts and breaches are all healed with Christ’s descent into death and his rebirth into life; each of us will traverse this same road with Christ by our side.

Our modern world shuns death and eulogizes longevity, doubting the miracle offered to us by Jesus’ willingness to take us with him on his resurrection journey as his sisters and brothers. Rather than reject the nearness of the sepulcher, let us welcome the presence of the tomb that is always close at hand. Let us allow our Good Friday sorrow to rise with Christ in Easter joy. Let us celebrate the presence of the sepulcher, the only road to eternal life. And let us always remember that the tomb is at all times near at hand; the tomb is forever . . . quite close by.

To spend some time with the painting by Van de Weyden, click on the image above or go to: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/323.html or http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/descent-from-the-cross-weyden.htm or http://music-and-art-45.hubpages.com/hub/Rogier-Van-Der-Weyden-Descent-From-The-Cross

This image is from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Descent_from_the_Cross_(van_der_Weyden)

Many of Christ’s faithful believe that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City of Jerusalem is built over the places where Jesus was crucified and buried. As we open our hearts and minds to Christ’s presence, we lay ourselves in the tomb. We may want to visit sites that tells us interesting information about this church and these stories, go to: http://www.churchoftheholysepulchre.net/ and http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-church-that-never-sleeps/

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Third Sunday of Lent, March 15, 2020

Luke 23:6-16: Herod

Andrea Schiavone: Christ with Herod

Andrea Schiavone: Christ with Herod

Herod was very glad to see Jesus . . .

He had been waiting to see him for a long time . . .

He had heard about him . . .

He had been hoping to see him perform some sign . . .

We are so eager to know Christ; we bring our small and big worries to his feet.  We have heard so much about him.  We are hoping that he will cure our woes and still our anxiety.  We have some specific tasks for him to complete for us; we hold a short but good list of wrongs for him to right.

Herod questioned Jesus at length . . .

But Jesus gave him no answer . . .

Herod treated Jesus contemptuously and mocked him . . .

Herod and the guards clothed Jesus in resplendent garb and sent him back to Pilate . . .

We have a lot of questions for Jesus and we present our daily list of petitions faithfully; but – strangely – it seems that Jesus is not listening.  There are no answered requests for us to tick off our list.  We feel disappointed and even let down.  We wonder if the naysayers are correct . . . perhaps there is no resurrection.  Perhaps we believe in folly.

Herod decides to have Jesus flogged and released.  Pilate washes his hands of the man. 

We have passed the half-way mark in our Lenten journey and so we take an accounting.  We have given alms.  We have fasted.  We have attended morning and evening prayer.  We have participated in the sacrament of reconciliation.  We have checked off our chores like small children pleasing our parents and still our little lists of favors, pleas and signs appear to be left unanswered.  We wonder if Jesus is listening and we continue to look for a sign.

Herod was very glad to see Jesus . . .

He had been waiting to see him for a long time . . .

He had heard about him . . .

He had been hoping to see him perform some sign . . .

We arise each morning to fresh water, food and clothing for the day, transportation, information, friendships.  We travel through the day experiencing little miracles all along the way, little signs of God’s love.  And we somehow miss them.

Evening falls and we count our accomplishments and disappointments.  We enter them into a mental balance sheet and come up with a balance.  We take credit for all that goes well and we assign blame to ourselves or others for all that seems to fail.  And we again miss the miracle that we have wandered through another day in the company of a God who loves us so much that we are never left alone for an instant.

Herod sits and speaks with Jesus and does not understand the miracle of the gift of God’s love.  We too might speak with Jesus each day and open ourselves to the wonder of God’s care.

Herod looks for a momentous sign so that he might have full confidence in Jesus’ power to save and while he is scanning his surroundings he looks past the obvious sign that sits before him . . . the embodiment of God’s protection and promise in the person of Jesus.  We too might look past the obvious today . . . or we might choose to believe.

Herod wants a sign that he already has.  Let us take each small miracle as it comes to us.  And let us remember that the sign of God’s love is always with us.  Jesus never leaves our side.

Image from: http://www.kunst-fuer-alle.de/english/fine-art/artist/image/andrea-schiavone/8293/4/111915/christ-before-herod/index.htm

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Mark 14:53-65: The Sanhedrin

Munkacsy: Christ Before Pilate

Mihály Munkacsy: Christ Before Pilate

In an era awash with stagecraft, deception, and false news, We pause today with Mark’s Gospel to ask ourselves: How much have we humans progressed in the discernment of truth? 

We have been reflecting this week on vignettes from the last of Jesus’ days in Jerusalem and today we pause for a time in the Gospel of Mark:

The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none.

So what and who are the Sanhedrin?  How and why did they hold power over Jesus?  When and where do we become members of this body?

Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.

We have found ourselves drawn in to petty arguments at work and home.  What is the witness we bear to others?  Does it enlighten or obscure?

Some took the stand and testified falsely against him.

We are asked to stand with those who lie in order to defend a structure or system that is corrupt.  Do we join the rabble?  Do we witness honestly?

The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus.

We are often asked to follow leaders who have private agendas and secret goals.  Do we preserve the community at all costs?  Do we speak truth with mercy and without rancor?

But Jesus was silent and answered nothing.

We may find ourselves hoping for swift and total retribution from God.  Are we lusting after our own outcomes?  Are we seeing conflict through our own prejudices?

The high priest tore his garments.

We will see leaders manipulate and cajole us.  Do we placate the out-of-control tyrant?  Do we make ourselves small so as to go unnoticed?

They all condemned him as deserving to die.

We hear rumors and whispers about a loved one or a perceived enemy.  Do we align ourselves with those who have our same goals in order to tip the balance of an argument in our favor?

Some began to spit on him.

We see others allowing consumed by hatred and greed.  Do we join them in a headlong rush to condemn?

They blindfolded him and struck him.

We watch as the innocent are brutalized and marginalized.  Do we join in the fray in order to protect ourselves?

The guards greeted him with blows.

We see bullies gather force as they sweep the small-minded and self-preserving into a tsunami of cowardice against the guiltless.  Do we stand up to oppression? Do we speak from truth or hide in fear?

Do we consider where we stand in the chorus of the Sanhedrin?

Image from: http://madamepickwickartblog.com/2012/08/the-temple-affair-politics-and-religion-dont-mix/

A re-post from March 12, 2013.

For information that will enlighten and inform our reflection, go to The Jewish Virtual Library at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Sanhedrin.html and the Sanhedrin page of the Famous Trials website we have cited earlier this week http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/jesus/sanhedrin.html


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Mark 15:6-15“What evil has he done?”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The scene of the crowd crying out to save Barabbas rather than Jesus has always been a difficult one for me to hear.  Troy Anthony Davis lost his life this week while crowds called for commutation of the sentence and others called for death.  Have we changed much in two millennia?

I remained baffled by human nature that calls for the sanctity of human before birth . . . while at the same time insisting on early death once life has begun.  We are a strange species.


The Davis case is one of many that continue to confuse us.  We can eliminate this confusion if we remember the scene that Mark paints for us today.


“What evil has he done?” asked Pilate.  But the crowd only shouted louder . . . and so Pilate washes his hands . . . and hands him over to be crucified.  We do not know if Davis was the person who murdered MacPhail, a Georgia policeman.  What we do know is that there is doubt . . . and still the crowds clamor.

The words of Isaiah are comforting in the face of rabid anger that insists on death without proof beyond doubt.  They are consoling when we are up against obtuse intransigence.  They are a balm that soothes the deep and ugly wounds left by those who insist on eradicating all that does not conform to their specific and particular ideas.

He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him.  He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.  Yet it is our suffering that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.  But he was pierced by our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we are healed. 

It is not too difficult or too late to allow ourselves to be healed by Christ’s own death at the hands of those who wished to silence him.  We see by his example that the very action meant to end his influence only increased it many-fold.  As Laura Moye of Amnesty International is quoted in the Post link above, the execution of Davis may be “the best argument for abolishing the death penalty”.

And so we pray . . .

Good and Gentle God, you cure us of our smallest and greatest wounds . . . repair our emotional and physical scars and grant us the gift of healing that we may in turn heal others as you do.

Patient and Compassionate God, you soften hearts that are hardened in fear . . . make our hearts yielding and call them together to make them as great as yours.

Merciful and Clement God, you unbend necks that are stiffened in rage . . . unbend our necks and open our eyes that we may see as you do.

We ask this in the name of the one who was crucified for all, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

A re-post from September 24, 2011. 

Find information about Troy Anthony Davis at: http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/US/davis1269.htm

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