Morning. I can feel its stillness. I can feel the energy of the crowd. I can taste the sweat streaming down my face. I can smell my own fear. I can hear my heart, its beating becoming pounding, gasping, wincing, sighing, trembling, raging, cowering, despairing, dropping, mourning.
My favorite person in the Bible is Pontius Pilate. Suffice to say: I can appreciate his situation, and I take comfort that there was a man named Pontius Pilate at the praetorium that Friday morning …because, if there hadn’t been, it could’ve, it should’ve, been a young lady named Paula Rondon.
I identify with Pontius Pilate because he’s human. He’s neither extraordinarily good nor despicably bad. He’s right there in the middle like most of us. He has the capacity in him for righteousness: he knows Jesus isn’t guilty and even prods the crowd to provide a good reason for His execution.
But we know how the story goes. Pilate is no hero. He failed, as I would have failed, to see that the answer to his question, the most human of all questions, “What is truth?”, was the Man staring right back at him.
Pilate caved into fear, and I would have, too. And I’m okay with admitting that I would’ve shirked responsibility and fallen into the temptation of the easy way out. My favorite characters in literature have, too: Ismene, the cowardly sister of Antigone in Sophocles’ tragedy, and Mary Warren, the fair-weather friend to truth and to falsehood in the Crucible. Both Ismene and Mary Warren are contrasted with the heroes of their respective tales and both women (girls, really) fall short …and so do I. I fall short all the time. I’m no hero, and I can’t relate to the heroes of stories, much as I may wish and do strive to be like them. No, I’m no hero. But I do need one. And maybe that’s the lesson of Pontius Pilate. Maybe that’s the lesson of every time I’ve fallen into temptation. Maybe that’s the earth-shaking, veil-tearing, heart-rending lesson of Good Friday: we all stand convicted of our imperfection and we need a hero. And not just any hero, but the One Who has taken our very conviction upon Himself even as He says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
“Tell me, what kind of Love is this?”
Jesus was crucified under Paula Rondon. That’s no mere hypothetical. Pontius Pilate isn’t some surrogate, some whipping boy. And if he is a substitute, then it’s in place of me: for I’m the one who deserves the whipping. But do you know on whom the whip fell instead? His name is Jesus, who is Christ the Lord, “for God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.”
With prayers for a joyful, blessed Easter,
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” …from the Gospel of Luke 23:34.
“Tell me, what kind of Love is this?” …from the song “Healed” by Nichole Nordeman.
“For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.” …from the hymn “The Advocate (Before the Throne of God Above)” by Charitie Lees Smith.