St. Mary Nanoose Bay
April 14, 2019
Luke 23:1-49 Picture a busy day in court. You’re already behind and you haven’t had lunch, probably won’t. Irritation is running in the background as you deal with petty thieves and arguing landowners. Everyone wants you to solve their problems. What a bunch of whiners and swindlers! It’s particularly hot and dusty. And to boot, you had an argument with your wife that morning before heading to work. The day is one of the worst you’ve had in a long time.
You have to be a jack of all trades, you know a little about many things yet are not an expert in many… you’re risen through the ranks. You’ve paid your dues. You are far from Rome, your home. You are the prefect, or administrator of this god forsaken city, Jerusalem. Your wife hates it here and wants to return to Rome. You know trouble is fomenting and you are stuck here and the emperor is counting on you to keep control. Your head aches.
In comes a man who looks scruffy enough but has an odd presence about him. The crowd has brought him before you. They’re wound up. You need to nip this problem in the bud. The man is obviously a trouble-maker.
The defendant doesn’t answer your questions. In fact when you ask him, “Are you King of the Jews?” he challenges you, “You say so.” Well, what’s the problem here? You don’t want to play games. And you’re not interested in bowing to the crowd’s demands. “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they shout and press you.
You are both intrigued and irritated. It’s not going to be easy to get rid of this crowd. And this man is obviously intelligent. But he’s the worst kind of defendant, someone who is not intimidated and who is cryptic.
You hear the crowd’s accusations yet sense that by this man’s demeanour that he is not who they say he is. You want justice here; you don’t want to do the crowd’s dirty work for them. This man does not seem dangerous. Is he being framed?
You don’t want to condemn an innocent man, yet this crowd wants blood. Suddenly, you hear the word “Galilean,” to describe him and there’s the answer. Send him to the prefect for Galilee, who happens to be in town to be tried. Send him to Herod. But Herod obviously couldn’t find a way to appease the crowds because days later, the defendant is back.
You still can find no basis for the claims being made against this man. He seems to incite such emotion but that’s not enough to condemn him. So you decide to have him flogged and then release him. But the religious leaders won’t have it. They are demanding blood.
And the answer comes to you. It’s brilliant. You will release this man as part of the annual pardon. This way you side step the whole ludicrous situation. But the crowd won’t have it. They are determined. Instead they call for you to release a real barbarian, the man called Barabbas.
These people are crazy. Why do they hate this man so much? And what is it about him? He seems so calm, so self possessed, resigned somehow. Why doesn’t he fight back?
Well, if he won’t, if he doesn’t care, what can I do? I have to keep the peace.
They can have him then. “Your demand will be granted,” you say in exasperation. And you hand this man Jesus over to the military police to be crucified. It’s just one man, after all. No big deal. You tried your best. What else could you do?
Can we pin responsibility for the death of Jesus on this one man - Pilate? What if he had made a different decision and refused to hand Jesus over to be crucified? Where would we be today? If there was no crucifixion, there would be no resurrection. No resurrection? No Christianity. No understanding of Jesus beyond that of a great teacher.
We have the story. We all have a story. Of big and small decisions. Of faithful and convenient ones. Of events that seemed trivial and weren’t, and those that seemed pivotal and weren’t. We can’t know, we can’t even really plan. We can simply hone our ability to live faithfully and trust we will be used for God’s purposes.
We cannot know how our lives will play out; within our lifetime or over time. We can only do our best to listen to the Holy Spirit and respond with open hearts.
Today is the beginning of Holy Week; a week of profound mystery. If we journey faithfully, we will travel the depths and heights of the human experience with all the suffering and ultimately, the joy. A journey of the heart, not the head.
And if it’s not a journey we can fully understand, it’s one we can willingly participate in, following the one who shows us that the end is never the end, but the beginning of something profound. And ultimately all about LOVE.
Come, and journey with your Saviour. Amen.