New Testament Reading for Good Friday

Pilate came out of the palace again and said to the Jewish leaders, “Look! I’m bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no grounds for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here’s the man.”

When the chief priests and their deputies saw him, they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify!”

Pilate told them, “You take him and crucify him. I don’t find any grounds for a charge against him.”

The Jewish leaders replied, “We have a Law, and according to this Law he ought to die because he made himself out to be God’s Son.”

When Pilate heard this word, he was even more afraid. He went back into the residence and spoke to Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus didn’t answer. So Pilate said, “You won’t speak to me? Don’t you know that I have authority to release you and also to crucify you?”

Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me if it had not been given to you from above. That’s why the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” From that moment on, Pilate wanted to release Jesus.

However, the Jewish leaders cried out, saying, “If you release this man, you aren’t a friend of the emperor! Anyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes the emperor!” When Pilate heard these words, he led Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench at the place called Stone Pavement (in Aramaic, Gabbatha). It was about noon on the Preparation Day for the Passover. Pilate said to the Jewish leaders, “Here’s your king.”

The Jewish leaders cried out, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

Pilate responded, “What? Do you want me to crucify your king?”

“We have no king except the emperor,” the chief priests answered. Then Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.
John 19:4-16 (CEB)

'GM3_9685.JPG' photo (c) 2013, George Martell - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Pilate is not often known for his inspirational words. I can honestly say I do not believe I have ever heard anyone say that Pilate inspired them to think about their faith in a new way. Usually, we give Pilate the cold shoulder as the ineffectual and indecisive judge at Jesus’ trial. Pilate seems to want to let Jesus go, but he also does not want to start a riot or stoke the flames of the one he sees developing before him. So, instead of doing the right thing, he does the easy thing and sends Jesus to be crucified. Washing his hands of the matter he goes back to his business. But, as I read over this passage again this year I was struck by a simple statement of Pilate.

“Here’s your king.”

Now, it is not simply the words that started to rattle around in my head, but images. By this point, Jesus has been awake for at least a day straight and during that time has been beaten, flogged, stripped and the crown of thorns placed on his head. Needless to say, Jesus is not looking at his best. He is looking ragged, bloody, tired and bruised. I am not sure what was going through Pilate’s head when he made the statement. I typically imagine a bit of derision in his voice as he shouts…

“Here’s your king.”

Look, you crazy Judeans with your bizarre holidays and misplaced hopes of an “anointed one”.

“Here’s your king.”

A beaten, bloody, useless mess. If you want a king other than Rome, here is what you get.

“Here’s your king.”

The crowd before Pilate, not too pleased with his pronouncement and worked up like a mindless, rabid dog repeats their demand to, “Crucify him!”. Which, after Pilate prods them even more they respond with the very surprising phrase of, “We have no king except the emperor.” Now, if you are familiar with Jewish culture at all, that statement is about as blasphemous as what they are accusing Jesus of. God is supposed to be Israel’s king and here they pronounce the Emperor, Caesar Augustus, as their only true king. There is a little piece inside of me that cannot blame them though. Choosing Jesus as king over Caesar Augustus would have been a no brainer for many people. Do I go with the bloodied and defeated rabbi, or the decorated Roman leader who has given the known world relative peace and security?

“Here’s your king.”

Today, as I sit here and think about this passage. The images of that scene haunt me. I am forced to ask myself the questions.

Who do I choose as my king today?

What or who have I crucified for the sake of my chosen king?

When Pilate says, “Here’s your king.” Am I able to accept the beaten, bruised, crucified, servant Messiah? Or, am I busy trying to create and defend my own kingdom here on earth? Do I desire a king in my own image? Honestly, I probably choose Caesar more often that I would like to admit. Instead, what I should be saying is…

“Here’s my king.”

That bloodied, beaten, torn, trembling shadow of a man

“Here’s my king.”

We’re not at Easter yet folks, Jesus has not been glorified. Do not jump to the end of the story yet. Jesus is standing before the crowd, weakened, shamed and dying. Am I able to accept that this Jesus standing before the crowd as the full example of what true, godly kingship looks like? Can I accept a king who looks like that? Can I serve a humiliated king?

“Here’s my king.”

Can I be a citizen of that kingdom? Instead of looking for a king in my image, can I bow down before the true king who created us in his image? Can we worship and serve the source of true life, even as he stands, and will eventually hang, before us giving up his own life? As blood and water pour from his limp, lifeless side, am I able to look up and say…

“Here’s my king.”

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One thought on “New Testament Reading for Good Friday

  1. Pingback: Lenten Lectio: Reflection for Holy Saturday | Fascinating Mystery

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