Monday 30th March
1st Station Jesus is condemned by Pilate
Surrender Sieger Koeder
St Matthew 26: 57. 27: 24
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered….So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’
This episode in its entirety has had repercussions to the present day. A priestly-inspired mob elected to send the pesky preacher Jesus to his death. The later narrative that Jews in general were responsible became a reason – or excuse – for extensive persecution over many centuries. The anti-semitic line has now been picked up by other interests in the Western world. As I write, Jewish properties in London have been daubed with graffiti reminiscent of the kind seen in the lead up to the Holocaust.
Pilate too has been castigated. Washing his hands to appease his conscience over issuing the death sentence to a man whom he believed innocent of a capital crime is seen as abject surrender.
Am I alone in feeling some sympathy for Pilate? Governor of a tricky territory widely regarded by his contemporaries as the armpit of the Roman empire, he had already (according to such history to be found outside the scriptures) endured several run-ins with Jewish leaders, leading to reprimands from Rome. Faced with a potential riot and the likelihood of another bloodbath, he caved in to what probably felt like the best of two bad jobs.
We may think that we would have had more moral courage. Maybe – or maybe not. We live in an age when the voice of the angry mob is louder than it has ever been in history. Through both old and new media we are subjected to lies and “fake news”, hate politics and threats. Sorting out the truth from the lies takes effort.
“What is truth?” Pilate is said to have asked Jesus (John 18: 38). As followers of Jesus, we are called to seek out the truth, and to speak and act for what is right and not just what is expedient – and maybe to stand up to the crowd.
When we face crises of conscience,
let us remember the words of the hymn:
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour.