Wednesday in Holy Week,
March 28, 2018
“Jesus and Pilate”
Come morning, the religious leaders hand Jesus over to the Roman authorities – to Pilate. Before they go, Mark makes sure to implicate the whole batch, chief priests, scribes, elders and the whole council. Nobody can blame a renegade, as politicians still blame a rogue aide, dismissing them by Twitter now. They all bind and deliver him.
Pilate asks, as the chief priest had, for confession: Are you King of the Jews? This time, Jesus is more ambiguous: ‘You say so’ –
The religious leaders pile up charges, not specified, Pilate invites a defence, and Jesus stays silent – so Pilate is ‘amazed’ – that word again. If we don’t know the expected norm, can we appreciate the response of amazement?
Barabbas is introduced as the other prisoner, the insurrectionist. The crowd (how big a crowd, how unanimous, in your minds-eye movie?) asks for a holiday pardon – like Gerald Ford gave to Nixon, and Bush to Iraq war miscreants. Pilate offers them ‘King of the Jews’ Jesus.
Mark credits Pilate with recognizing, not respecting, the motives of the religious leaders threatened by Jesus’ religious popularity. Like Herod who hesitated to kill the Baptizer, or the redeemable scribe, there is a hint of hope for Roman converts to Mark’s community that they may yet be saved. Mark accuses the religious leaders of stirring up a crowd to ask for Barabbas instead.
Pilate asks the mob what to do with Jesus - whom they call – (or rather Pilate calls) ‘King of the Jews’.
The crowd shouts ‘crucify him’.
Pilate asks what harm he has done.
The lynch mob just repeats their demand.
Pilate has him flogged, and hands him over for crucifixion.
What’s missing in this version of the story, that you know from other gospels? Pilate’s wife? Herod? If you only had this one gospel, what might you conclude about culpability among us all?
Where do you identify most in the story – who are we invited to feel empathy for and identification with?
As soon as it was morning,
the chief priests held a consultation
with the elders and scribes and the whole council.
They bound Jesus,
led him away,
and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate asked him,
‘Are you the King of the Jews?’
He answered him,
‘You say so.’
Then the chief priests accused him of many things.
Pilate asked him again,
‘Have you no answer?
See how many charges they bring against you.’
But Jesus made no further reply,
so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival
he used to release a prisoner for them,
anyone for whom they asked.
Now a man called Barabbas was in prison
with the rebels who had committed murder
during the insurrection.
So the crowd came
and began to ask Pilate
to do for them according to his custom.
Then he answered them,
‘Do you want me to release for you
the King of the Jews?’
For he realized
that it was out of jealousy
that the chief priests
had handed him over.
But the chief priests
stirred up the crowd
to have him release Barabbas for them
Pilate spoke to them again,
‘Then what do you wish me to do
with the man you call
the King of the Jews?’
They shouted back,
Pilate asked them,
‘Why, what evil has he done?’
But they shouted all the more,
wishing to satisfy the crowd,
released Barabbas for them;
and after flogging Jesus,
he handed him over
to be crucified.