The night of trials is over.
Day has dawned. The chief priests and the elders have decided to move forward with The Plan to put Jesus to death.
The tricky thing with The Plan, though, was that life and death of so-called criminals was not theirs to decide under Roman law. So they knew they’d have to manipulate, to lie, to cheat Rome and their own people somehow to get what they wanted. But that was alright with them, so long as they could get rid of this upstart who was taking away their power.
So they bind him and hand him over to a man slightly more powerful than they are, the one who could actually decide.
His name alone drips with infamy, cast alongside the other villains of the story like Herod and Judas. But in truth, Pontius Pilate really wasn’t all that important, not really. In fact, by this point, Pilate had really managed to put the “minor” in minor official. He’d been appointed governor of Judea by Roman rule and it wasn’t exactly a promotion. Judea was remote and known for being rebellious and Pilate probably found no shortage of petty religious brawls to oversee.
Pilate wasn’t known for being a great leader. In fact, just the opposite. Pilate had some black blots from Rome on his record already. He’d allowed his armies to kill innocent civilians. Once, he used temple money to build an aqueduct, a big “no no” in his circles. He was rumored to be anti-semitic, not too keen on actual justice if it didn’t serve his own agenda, and he’d earned a reputation for being simultaneously proud and insecure, as those of us who struggle with pride often really are.
He might have known his own reputation was on the line, just as the Jewish Elites handed him a hornet’s nest.
It seems clear that Pilate would have liked to save Jesus and wipe his hands of the matter; these smallish Jewish squabbles didn’t really seem to interest him. His only concern was whether or not Jesus had broken Roman law.
Pilate assumed Jesus would act like any other man walking in a prisoner’s sandals. Grovel. Beg. Get defensive. Plead for his life. Say all the charges were unfounded. Blame back.
Why don’t you defend yourself, Jesus?
He must have wondered as he peppered Jesus with question after question, only to get no response in return.
Why don’t you fight? Don’t you hear what they’re saying? They’re trying to kill you!
Jesus is silent before Pilate, just as he was before the Sanhedrin. His silence is deafening. It's not some pregnant pause, a hiccup as a desperate man untangles his words or musters up a coherent defense.
Jesus is not speechless. Indeed, he cannot be. This is the Word made flesh, the Proclaimer and the Proclaimed, the One who spoke worlds into being, whose voice commands the storms and seas, who heals the sick and raises the dead with a simple sentence.
Only a man supremely secure in his identity and mission would refuse to fight for his life. As afraid as he was in the garden, Jesus is confident in who he is and whose he is. And he knows what he must do. There's no reason for him to fight back, no tarnished dignity to untarnish. He was going to the cross no matter what. And the Bible says that Pilate was full of wonder at him.
The word for this wonder in Greek is thaumazo. There have been other times when those who met Jesus responded with thaumazo. Deep wonder. Awe. Amazement. Sometimes this word described intense surprise. Sometimes joy. Sometimes reverence, like when you are standing near someone great. Always, it describes your mouth agape.
And truly, it must have been a surprise for Pilate to meet a man like this one. So unjustly accused. Pitchforks pointed at him in anger. Hammer and nails cocked and ready. Pilate knew that Jesus didn't deserve to die. Maybe a little blacking and blueing would put him in his place. But was execution really necessary?
Speak out, for crying out loud, he must have thought. They'll put you to the death, you know. Don't you value your own life? Pilate must have wondered.
It's not that Jesus didn't value his life. He did. It's just that he knew what ours would cost and was willing to pay it.
The only word I can think of next is thaumazo.
Pastor Brynn Harrington
When was the last time you were amazed by Jesus? Where were you? What happened that left you in awe of His majesty and glory?
Lord Jesus. I am amazed that you were silent, when I would be defensive. That You were quiet, when I would be defiant. I am amazed at the presence of Your power; in wonder as I witness Your glory unfold. Grant me your courage. Your confidence. Your peace as I stand up to the Powers vying for control over my life. In the power of your Holy Spirit I pray. Amen.
It’s Friday again. Another day of fasting. Consider fasting today, but again, in a way that is medically and/or professionally responsible. If it’s safe and/or possible, consider fasting from two whole meals today. Set aside a ten hour block where you refrain from food entirely. If that sounds too extreme or dangerous, consider eating a diet of fresh fruit and nuts today.