Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. John 19:8-16
There is a lot of killing in this world.
“Battlefield” seems a nostalgic memory as we read about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Burma, Thailand, and Nigeria. The old rules intended to keep some semblance of sanity to armed conflicts have fallen by the wayside. “Unarmed non-combatants” is no longer a category.
A movie theater. An elementary school. A university campus. A political speech. A street. A playground. A home.
What are we doing? What are we hoping to accomplish?
What is it that rages inside of us that eventually erupts, spewing forth our desperation down to our clenched fist or trigger finger?
How can people, even, especially, religious people, not see the incongruity in ignoring God’s “You shall not kill” behind whatever the latest version of “We have no king but the emperor” happens to be?
Were we to pluck Jesus out of history and put him back in any age, the story wouldn’t change. Our desire to be our own little gods with our own little kingdoms would be the same. People with power, legally sanctioned or not, would be there to do the bidding of the crowd. Politicians with one wet finger in the air would still settle for peace and quiet rather than peace and justice. Jesus’ way of being in the world would still be rejected.
Make room in your life today to sit before the cross. Do it in a house of worship. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving to Grandma’s house for Easter…you will pass by many churches with a blacked out cross on your way. Don’t let this day pass you by.
Sit before the cross today and listen to what it tells you.
You’ll hear the groaning of creation. Every cry that has pierced the night. You’ll see every tear that has fallen in pain. Every misguided attempt to wrest control over life. Every twisted path of destruction.
At the heart of it, you will see God’s heart of love. And just perhaps a new-found willingness to walk Jesus’ way of being in the world despite its costs.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may we see today that your surrender to the cross is the victory of your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.