Friday, March 26, 2010

Luke 23.1-49 Reflections on Passion Sunday text

Almost everyone was accusing Jesus of things he didn’t do and things he didn’t say. The Roman soldiers, the Jewish officials, the chief priests and scribes, even the people who only days before gathered to hear him teach and to be healed – they were all in a frenzy accusing Jesus. Only Pilate and King Herod did not accuse him. They found Jesus innocent, actually three times. But in the end they too were implicated in the wrongful death of an innocent man because both Herod and Pilate failed to use their authority to oppose the crowds that were swept away in an emotional fervor. The two men in authority failed to execute truth and justice. An innocent man was crucified and died.

When I ask myself, “Who are the bad guys?” I have to answer, “Everyone.” That makes me nervous. I wonder what I would have done if I was in that crowd? I wonder what I would have done if I was one of the priests, or King Herod or Pilate? When have I stood by and let an innocent person be slandered or wrongfully accused? When have I watched and done nothing when innocent people have been mistreated? Misunderstood? Judged? Condemned? Neglected? Forgotten? Abused? Too many times I haven’t slowed down to walk with an elderly person. Too many times I have not stopped, looked into a homeless person’s eyes and offered them a blessings. Too many times I’ve listened to hostile gossip. Too many times I have judged the people I say I love. Yes – I am one of the crowd, I am one of the officials who failed to exercise my authority and I have crucified an innocent man.

Still, that is not cause to despair. Then Jesus said, “”Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” In some bibles this verse appears in brackets because scholars cannot agree if it was in the original text and at some point was cut out, or if it was a later addition to the text. What matters to me is that it is there now, and I am grateful. Jesus’ words are an incredible affirmation of our human condition, “…they do not know what they are doing.” Isn’t that the truth! I cannot for a minute believe that the entire assembly of Roman soldiers, Jewish officials, chief priests, scribes and ordinary people were ill willed or evil. Nor can I believe that Herod and Pilate were inherently bad. I cannot believe that any more than I can believe I am ill willed or evil when I fail to seek and serve and save the suffering people in my world.

Who among us is innocent? Blameless? Pure and free of wrongdoing? Let me suggest that the answer is – not one of us is innocent. And the good news is we are forgiven because we are the beloveds of God, just the way we are. Does that mean we have license to be corrupt, self-serving or live without regard for the consequences of our behavior? Absolutely not. What it means is when we inevitably act and reveal that we “know not what we are doing,” we are already forgiven. Thanks be to God.


  1. As we engaged the text this Sunday in worship, I thought about the idea of authority long and hard. I would love to write a book about Pilate.He fascinates me both as a ruler and a man.

    What if...Pilate had made a Solomon-like decision to grant the mob Barabas ( not so much as giving in to the rabble rousers as to quell a potential riot) and at the same time assert his authority and grant Jesus pardon by exiling him ( getting him out of harm's way and at the same time thereby enacting executive authority of his office, after all he had the backing of Herod as well). Yes, it would have cost him his "job", but would have certainly cleared his conscience in enforcing justice.

    Then, I realized this would have been subverting a higher authority, namely God's...
    whose will must be done.

    Fascinating puzzle....I may someday write that book.

  2. What a call to action.... wrestling with the enigma of life through the character of Pilate!! I look forward to reading your book.