Julie Lyles Carr: Sunday Selah

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunday Selah

"You are a king, then!" said Pilate. 
      Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

 38"What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him.
John 18:36-37

Ah, Pilate.

I feel for the guy.

Stuck in a dusty outpost in the service of Rome, trying to get his head around the uniques customs and petulance of his subjects.  Trying to co-rule the region with a maniac named Herod.  Different culture, different geography, different.

He probably entered the Roman legion hoping to make history.  A historic win on a battlefield, the glory of Rome lifted for all to see.   A skilled ruler over a pivotal Roman territory, momentous leadership the mark of his legacy.

But he is sent to Judea.

To oversee a people feuding over various sects, spouting about Jewish dominance and rights and kingships and traditions.

It must have felt like the furthest thing in the world from history making.

I wonder if he wearied over the endless religious festivals, the calendar the orthodox stuck so closely to.  Every couple of months, he would have been overseeing keeping the peace for the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast of Booths, and all the rest.  Keeping the peace while the Jews prayed and partied and prophesied.

And now this.

This Jesus is brought to him.  From the gospels texts, Pilate seems confused as to why Jesus has been brought to him.  For a man who has sworn allegiance to Caesar, it would be a kids' sandbox fight that Jesus is accused of being called a king over a conquered people.  What difference would it make to the reality of Roman rule?

Pilate is about to become a history maker.  But it is far from what he may have imagined as the apex of his career.

As he asks Jesus about the accusations being made, Pilate and this Jewish carpenter engage in a philosophic polemic that remains at the center of belief in Christ and unbelief today.

Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king.  And Jesus replies that He is a king, a king of truth.

And Pilate then asks the question that will echo in the hearts of men even up to this day.

He asks, "What is truth?"

What is truth?  Was Jesus sent here as a picture of the immortal God, His sacrifice the cost of the kingship of the Kingdom of Heaven?

Or was He simply a good but misguided man, a man whose life grew in legend after His crucifixion, His memory enlarged by His grieving followers?  Was He a man of truth who didn't tell the truth about Himself?  Was He a teacher in wisdom who unwisely exaggerated His purpose here on earth?

What is truth?

Pilate was haunted by the question.

On the fence.  Wrestling with himself.

This truth he was able to discern.  He found no fault in this man called Jesus.  And then he let the crowd have its way.  To preserve the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome.

History does not record Pilate's life after the cross.  Various legends claim this or that, but no historical document has been found to tell us of his end of days.

But I can picture him, reflecting, thinking, turning the question over and over in his mind, the memory of the eyes of a peaceful rabbi looking intently into his.

What is truth?

Is Jesus the King?


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