The Courtroom of Pilate

John 18:28-40

A Spirit Of Control

I’m a big fan of courtroom drama. I suppose it comes from all those episodes of Perry Mason I watched as a kid. It was a regular family event when Mr. Mason would get to the truth and with the truth reveal mysterious and often fascinating pieces of a criminal puzzle. And it was always a surprise. Stumped through the entire show, we waited anxiously for the moment of truth. I would sit captivated, even wanted to be a lawyer for a while.

And who could help but be intrigued in more recent history, dare I mention, by the O.J. Simpson trial? That trial really reconnected this nation to the drama involved in a public trial of a high profile defendant. But perhaps the most gripping trial of all of history was not O.J.’s, nor was it played out before us on the silver screen. No, this was a trial held long ago in a Roman courtroom, and truth – absolute truth and love – was  the defendant. It wasn’t a real trial through. I mean not a legitimate trial where you have the accused, proper legal representation, the presentation of evidence, a jury of the defendant’s peers and so on. No, this was a courtroom and a trial in the purest form. It was right verses wrong, good verses evil, hope verses despair. It was religion and power verses truth and love. But make no mistake about it, it was a trial filled with all the drama, suspense and emotion that even Hollywood with its immense creativity and technology could never have imagined or portrayed. This was not the trial of the century. It was the trial of history, one with universal and cosmic implications. It had been anticipated and expected since the beginning. It would be the trial when the Creator of the universe would stand in judgment by the creation and then be sentenced to die for committing the most unthinkable of crimes against society. He loved them enough to tell the truth.

Oh yes, truth can be a crime when a lie is the norm. It can be absolutely criminal when it represents the anti-thesis of society’s values. And love is as equally reprehensible when only love for one’s self is the law of the land. Yes, Jesus must have appeared quite the villain and revolutionary in contrast with the two streams of reality that flowed into the courtroom that day. These two great influences were there to stand in judgment as they have always been when truth and love are on trial. These two spiritual allies are always around seeking to maintain order, one motivated from one perspective and one from another – one religious, the other political. But their purpose is the same, control.

The figurehead of the proceeding was the newly appointed military governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. He had only been in power since around the time that John the Baptist had made his initial appearance. He was not such a bad man by contemporary standards. Cruelty and violence were simply tools to maintain order and control. And he used them like a master.  He had a job to do, and his performance was being evaluated by the Jews, as well as the political power brokers in Rome. He was a professional man, a career fellow, a man climbing the military ladder toward greatness. He was not religious, he was political. His idea of religion was that of a tool to pacify the people, not to be taken seriously except to the extent that it could be manipulated to suit his ends.

When he examined Jesus he found no fault in Him, no grounds to be concerned or even threatened by this King of a kingdom of love and truth. Pilate realized that Christ’s kingdom and philosophy was so far removed from the natural order of life and society as to be no threat at all, and consequently sought to dismiss the charges against Him. But he needed his partner in control – religion. He must pacify the religious establishment of Jerusalem if he was to maintain his political influence and power, so he looked for common ground, a place for compromise. Perhaps they could release a killer and then kill love and truth in his place, and by doing so have peace in the kingdom.

Compromise has a strange logic. It is always part of the lexicon of betrayal. It robes itself in nobility and the disguise of the greater good, and parades itself as right given the situation and circumstance. It is a favorite tool of politicians and diplomats.

If compromise does not work, religion will be ready and steps in demanding submission and satisfaction. They are familiar spirits, seeking the same end from different perspectives and are really simply disguises for the same spirit.

When Jesus stood before Pilate…

If you are a leader, you have or will find yourself in this courtroom. If you love Christ and others and follow truth, you will be indicted by one or both of these spirits. You might be charged with crimes against a perverse society, maybe branded a rebel, a seducer of the people, a conspirator against the existing kingdom. Be careful when you color outside the lines, when you march to the beat of a different drummer because if a spirit of control has its way, that drummer will be playing your death march. But as you march, look down, I’ll bet you can’t count the footprints in the sand. Many loving truth seekers have walked this road ahead of you as they turned their backs on what was politically correct and abandoned the confines of religion that is absent of relationship in an attempt to follow their leader, the King of love and truth, Jesus Christ.

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Jesus Christ

King Of Love And Truth

Matthew 16:24-25