This Sunday was the last in the Church year before the cycle begins again next Sunday with Advent, when we prepare for Christ’s coming as a baby and his second coming at the end of time. Despite Jesus’ humble beginnings as a human baby, despite spreading God’s word as a travelling rabbi without a home of his own, it was still possible for those who really looked at him to appreciate his kingship. Some found that more than they could cope with and so missed the wonderful opportunity of getting to know the King of kings. It’s the same for us today.
The reflection at both Sunday services in the Cathedral looked at Jesus through the eyes of Pontius Pilate. It should be read after reading the gospel for the day, John 18:33-37. The other readings were Psalm 93 and Revelation 1:4b-8.
All I hear from my troops are reports of the difficulties these Jews are causing. I suppose there’s no wonder. Jerusalem is busy enough normally but now with two, maybe three times its population, trouble is sure to be the result. Quarter of a million people thronging this city have to make an impact.
What was it yesterday? Fruit and vegetables crushed underfoot by a careless passer-by, my soldiers urged to intervene and press a claim for compensation. Don’t these people know that my men have more important things to do than that? And every day reports of lost children come in. Can’t families arrange to care for them better? Those who know this place better than I, say it’s happened every year at Passover, for as long as anyone can remember, probably for decades or more. You’d think they’d learn, you really would.
It’s odd how the people turn to us despised Romans to sort out their petty problems yet they would so happily see the back of us. It’s no secret that they want us out of here, that they’re waiting for a golden age to return. Why can’t they see that they already have a golden age – excellent roads, a stable currency, defence against bandits, strong government? What more do they need? There’s always the risk of revolt, of some self-styled leader gathering a group of followers and causing trouble. It’s not possible to relax for a minute, certainly not at times like this.
It was touch and go a few years ago, that business with the flags with Caesar’s face on being raised by the Temple. I don’t see what the issue was but the angry mob nearly made martyrs of themselves, fools that they were. What a way for me to start in a job! At least I sorted it out, although I would have liked the flags to have stayed.
Caiaphas is no fool. He knows his power depends on being just as alert for trouble as we are. He knows the people better than I do, has his ear to the ground, and he certainly seems sure that trouble is brewing. Passover tends to really get the people so fervent with national pride. Remembering a previous escape from being ruled by another nation, I suppose it’s natural that talk of overthrowing our rule will get out of hand if we’re not careful.
It feels like there’s no time to rest. Dealing with trouble at the crack of dawn is bad enough. Having to go outside to meet with the Jews is a bit much. It’s hardly very dignified for a man in my position to go trotting out of my headquarters at the beck and call of a foreign priest. And what a tale the Jews had to tell! The man they’ve delivered to me has been ‘doing evil’, claiming to be their king, a threat to Caesar’s authority in the region. Accusation after accusation.
They seem convinced that he’s not a madman and are determined he should die. They certainly don’t appear interested in having him as their king. I suppose I had better have him sent in to me and see what he has to say. It really is too early in the day to be dealing with this.
I wonder who he thinks he’s fooling, this Jesus from Nazareth. Just look at him! It looks like the Temple guards have had a bit of sport with him and who can blame them. You’ve got to take the opportunities when they present themselves. Bruised cheek, nice colours beginning; bit of a cut over his eye; a dried blood trail at the corner of his mouth; looks like spittle in his beard and hair. All in all, not an imposing figure. No rich clothing, no crown, no followers. What kind of king is this?
‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ I feel a fool just asking the question of such an unlikely candidate. Has there ever been such a king? He looks more like a beggar than a ruler.
Maybe he’s the fool. Why risk such a flash of defiance when he knows what power I have? I’ve never had a prisoner question me before, never. How dare he? Time to take back control of this interrogation.
‘Your own people have handed you over. What have you done?’
What does he mean? How can anyone have a kingdom not from this world? What other worlds are there? What is he talking about? Perhaps he really is insane. Of course, if he were a real king his followers would be fighting to free him. They’d have no chance against my soldiers of course, but I don’t suppose that would stop them trying. I can’t see this Jesus having any followers to fight for him. Not a chance.
‘So you are a king?’ Surely his own words condemn him.
But look, look in his eyes. It’s like looking into the depths of the universe. I’m the one with the power here and he is the powerless one. That’s how it is, yes, that’s how it is! But it doesn’t feel that way at all. The power is all his.
This bound and beaten prisoner has taken one look at me and I feel naked before him. He’s seen my thoughts, my hopes, my fears. Nothing seems to be hidden from him. And yet he doesn’t seem to condemn me; he seems to love me.
Maybe I’m the one who’s insane!
I didn’t say he was a king did I? I asked if he was a king. It was he who was talking about kingdoms.
Now what is he saying?
He knows the purpose for which he was born? How can that be? Who can know that? You live, you strive, you work your way to the top as best you can. There’s nothing else you can do. Who can know if where they end up is where they were supposed to be? It’s in the lap of the gods.
Truth, truth? How much truth is there in this world? If he’s witnessing to the truth it must be a lonely job.
What is wrong with me? Why am I still listening to this stuff? I should send him away.
Why can’t I shake myself free from the spell of his words? Do I want to be free of them?
If only he was right …
If only he could show me the truth …
If only he were my king …
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor