Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” (Luke 23:13-16)
Pontius Pilate comes off in Luke’s gospel as a hesitating and halting executioner, someone who has to be coaxed to pull the trigger on Jesus, as it were. According to Luke, Jesus acknowledges—even if obliquely—the titles Messiah, Son of Man, and Son of God before the Sanhedrin, but then is basically silent before Pilate and Herod. It is as if Jesus is refusing even to play their political game, to dignify their trial with a defense. Whether Pilate was, historically, as hesitant as Luke portrays him is a difficult question to answer. What’s clear is that Pilate wasn’t exactly a nice guy. (He died after standing trial in Rome for exceptional, extra-legal cruelty to those he ruled. He was convicted and sentenced to suicide.) What’s also clear is that Pilate was a man whose moral compass was dead. Whether he caved to the demands of the crowds or made quiet advantage of their bloodlust to put down another, Pilate didn’t have the wherewithal to do what was right—either because he was ignorant of what was right, or because he didn’t have the courage to do what he knew to be right, or both.
Let us pray: O God, you have given us the good news of your abounding love in your Son Jesus Christ: So fill our hearts with thankfulness that we may rejoice to proclaim the good tidings we have received; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Go: We all know people who, on the day of decision, did what was right even though it came at great personal cost to them. Reach out today to whoever that person is in your life. Ask them, if you can, to share with you why they did so. Reflect on what you learn with someone you love, if appropriate.