By Edward Thal /
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate provide a fascinating glimpse of the intersection between two forces that have been in conflict since Adam was driven from Eden: worldly wisdom, temporal power, and spiritual blindness on the one hand, and spiritual reality and authority on the other.
The stark contradictions at play in this conflict are not always readily apparent, but they hold profound implications for every human born into this world. Those who wish to be free from God’s rule become slaves to erratic circumstances, shallow emotions, destructive impulses, ruinous appetites, fears, doubts and confusion that diminish their humanity; those who become slaves to God experience a glorious soul liberty and clarity of thought and vision that empowers them to become fully human, regardless of temporal circumstances.
A careful reading of Matthew 27:1-31; Mark 15:1-20; Luke 1:1-25 and John 18:28-19:22 outlines the full scope of this conflict. The passage in John is particularly instructive as it focuses on the interplay between Pilate, the earthly authority, and Jesus, the King of Heaven.
In the masterful, economic style of Scripture the great dimension of the epic clash between frail, fallen man and eternal, unchanging God is summed up in just two verses, John 18:37-38. Here Jesus offers the possibility of knowing truth; Pilate, anxious and uncertain yet responding at least to the idea of the possibility asks the question that every thinking person will sooner or later ask: What is truth?
Alas for Pilate, he was unable in that moment to discern that Truth in all its glorious human embodiment was standing right in front of him. He turned away from Jesus.
But don’t be too hard on Pilate until you consider the question: does he represent you?