(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16.5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42)
The Gospel of John features encounters with Jesus. It tells of characters like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and Mary Magdalena revealing to Jesus the depths of their hearts and receiving from him unconditional acceptance. But not everyone who encounters Jesus responds with faith. The paralytic whom Jesus heals at the pool of Bethesda, for example, never enters into a relationship with him. In the passage we just read it is Pilate’s turn to encounter Jesus. The drama of their meeting is intense. First-time listeners to this passion account may be asking themselves whether Pilate will say “yes” to him.
The scene opens as a typical day in the life of a Roman governor. Jesus is escorted within Pilate’s residence for a judicial hearing. Meanwhile Pilate steps outside for the Jews’ accusation against Jesus. He comes back to ask Jesus whether it is true: “Are you,” he says, “the king of the Jews?” Jesus' reply, “Do you say this on your own…” gives Pilate opportunity to declare himself for Jesus, but Pilate sneers at it. Then Jesus explains that indeed he is a king whose dominion is over those who recognize the truth of his being sent from God. Pilate cynically responds, “What is truth?” Aware that Jesus is innocent, Pilate goes outside to negotiate with the Jews, but they demand his crucifixion. Their comment that Jesus “made himself Son of God” frightens Pilate thinking that Jesus may be who he says he is. Jesus wins Pilate’s admiration, but when he repeats to the Jews his intention to release Jesus, they bully him by saying that such an act would make him no friend of the emperor. Pilate capitulates to expediency and decides to have Jesus crucified.
God calls everyone to a personal relationship with Him through Jesus. Contemporary times incline many to cynically reject the possibility. They bully others into fearing that having such a relationship will deprive them of pleasure, prestige, or power. We must rise up against these prejudices with the realization that a positive relationship with Jesus enables us to be all that we can be. His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead give us an insight into eternal life. That life – which the Greek of John’s describes as zoe, not the ordinary bios, is the love of the Trinity, a community of radical self-giving and receiving.