Peace be with you in the name of Pilate. AMEN. ;)
Peace be with you in the name of Rome, who keeps the world at peace. AMEN?
Peace be with you in the name of the United Nations, the name of the United States of America, peace be with you in the name of the great peacekeeping powers of “this world.” AMEN? ;)
No. Grace and peace be with you in Jesus’ name, the one who puts Pilate on trial — not the other way around. AMEN.
Because this is the Year of John, and the passion narrative takes up the entire second part of the book of John, we are spending weeks here on Good Friday. Started last week, while I was absent — you had the opportunity to reflect on Peter’s denial, that was Good Friday morning — continues today...
This year more than ever, because we’re spending a total of 4 weeks and 6 worship services on Good Friday, if we don’t come to understand why Good Friday is good (Christ’s absolute victory) in the Gospel of John, then I have failed you miserably. It’s “all good” in John’s Gospel, you hear me? Most years, we read through the entire chapters of John 18 & 19 just at the Good Friday evening service. This year, we’re spreading those verses out over 4 weeks and 6 services! So different, and so cool! And so GOOD!
Today, Jesus is standing before Pilate...rather Pilate is standing before Jesus. Jesus in John’s Gospel shows no fear, no pain, no signs of being intimidated in the least, and certainly no sorrow even and especially in Pilate’s souped-up military headquarters. He cries at the tomb of Lazarus; not here.
I go on base, North Island, just for a chapel service, and I get intimidated just going through the gates — heavily armed soldiers everywhere, ships in the harbor, war planes in the sky...Rome was the world’s superpower back then, you see…(there’s a reason I was reminded of Washington DC when I saw the architecture in Rome a few years ago). Intimidation. Pax Romana.
Jesus shows no fear. Peace be with you in Jesus’ name. Peace in the face of the greatest intimidation. Jesus puts the ways of the world on trial here today. Next week he’ll calmly say to Pilate, “You have no power over me.”
So Jesus is always offering truth, his way of light, eternal life in the Spirit, to both insiders and outsiders. That is, to both Jews and non-Jews. We’ve seen this all through the book of John, and it’s still happening in our text today. Sometimes insiders/Jews accept Jesus’ teaching. (The Jewish leaders are clearly rejecting it.) And sometimes outsiders accept Jesus’ teaching.
Remember the Samaritan woman at the well, way back in Chapter 4? Compare her to Pilate — both outsiders to the Jewish faith. She is open to Christ’s truth and believes. Pilate does not, and that’s cinched here when he shoots back arrogantly, in our text today, “What is truth?”
Jesus is offering his teaching even to Pilate. How ‘bout that?! God so loves the whole world, remember? Even this powerful heavily-armed Roman governor! But Pilate rejects Jesus. This scene is not that of a defeat for Jesus; it is unfortunately a defeat for Pilate, and the ways of the world that say that brute force, violence and intimidation win the day. Wrong.
The cross wins, friends in Christ. Doesn’t make sense to Rome.
Christ’s cross wins, and Jesus is on his way there. He’s been referring to that moment through this whole book of John as his moment ultimate glorification! Being lifted up on the cross! Doesn’t make sense to Rome!
Christ is our peace. Not Pilate, not Rome.
God’s love is our hope, our future and our security.
Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, not of Pilate’s world. Christ’s eternal life and light makes so little sense to the world that often it’s not even recognized.
There Jesus is, standing right in front of Pilate, and Pilate misses it...
When have we missed it? When have you missed it? When has Jesus’ truth been right in front of us, and yet we put our trust instead in the powers and the ways, the idols of this world? Brute military force, pax Romana, riches and fame...
You know what Jesus was doing, in this text? He was offering Pilate and an exorcism! And he’s offering us one too, this day.
Pray with me for an exorcism:
“Take hold of us, Lord Jesus! Take all the sinful, self-centered, violent, angry, jealous, hateful, fear-filled inclinations of our hearts and our bodies and our cultures and our minds...take all that rips us away from seeing you right before us. Exorcise the demons that dwell within us, the idolatry of which we are guilty. Tear out our selfishness and fear!
“And fill us instead with your deep and abiding peace. The assurance that your cross is never a loss but a victory. Your way of justice and peace leads us to hope. Saturate our hearts and our bodies and our whole lives with your love and grace, your joy and the assurance of your presence, this day and always. AMEN.”