Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Passion - judging Pilate?

I once conversed with Lydia, to whom may God grant peace and serenity, with regards to whether Pontus Pilate had the free will or choice to cruxify Christ. For many of you who have seen The Passion of the Christ, I can't remember for sure, but it's rather hard to tell from he himself what he was thinking. Indeed, from the scriptures themselves there is no mention of how Pilate felt.

Pilate of course was the governor of Rome, like most of us, fallen men who did not know God and worshipped idols or themselves.

However, in almost dramatic irony, he does in fact call Jesus the King of the Jews. Some may use this to point out that the Gentiles, yes, even his executor, acknowledged his authority. But then, as to whether Pilate actually knew the significance of that title, we won't know.

Pilate did stall and hesitate on sentencing Jesus to death. From Luke 23 we see he did send him to Herod, but perhaps on a technicality, Jesus is returned to him.

He also kept declaring that Jesus was found faultless and wanted to set him free, despite the fact that declaring oneself to be a King in a Roman province was tantamount to betrayal to Caesar, Pilate questioned him and found him faultless. Matthew Henry says that this is proof that even Pilate was humbled in the presence of the Lord and acknowledged somehow, his authority.

He even wanted to release Jesus at the passover. He could have reasoned: "Surely, the Jews would rather have this man back rather than a murderer."

In the movie this is dramatised by Pilate symbolically washing his hands and saying that he had no part in this.

Perhaps because the director couldn't find a way to express this in Pilate himself, or was worried the average cinema-goer might not realise it, perhaps he got Pilate's wife to be the dramatisation of perhaps the softer side of Pilate's raging conscience, including the compassion that was shown of Pilate's wife to Jesus's women followers who wept. Or dangerously this could be a subtle influence of the recent Mary Magdelene gospel that has resurfaced.


The movie seems to suggest that Pilate might have wanted to appease the Jewish crowd as he feared another rebellion, which would greatly affect his position and office in Rome, and people might say that he was being selfish and that he had a choice. This in a sense makes him a willing villian.

Others will point to his acknowledgement of Jesus's authority and that he was an unwilling accomplice, villifying the Jews instead, as is the tendency.

The fallen human faculty, alas, understands best only in opposites and people have a tendency to judge and find an object to hate.

The point here is not to be sympathetic to Pilate or anything, for we are not to here to judge anyone. However, what I want to do is to caution against the typical 'villifying' of people. After watching the movie, some people may villify Pilate. The typical tendency is to villify Jews or Pharisees.

Let it be clearly known that despite what seems to be taught and on the surface, Christianity is not about being angry with the Jews and Pharisees. No, Judge not and ye shall not be judged. Such divine revelation could be, I dare suggest meekly, to record the fulfilling of prophecy and maybe as a lesson that noone should overly fixated on power, pride such that God is left behind.

As it is in scripture, in spite of seeing the miracles Jesus performed right before their very eyes their pride led them instead to call Jesus a user of the powers Beezelbub - "Lord of the Files" or prince of devils. Praise God that we believe even without witness to such manifest miracles! Truly, with God nothing is impossible.

I think it is a wrong mindset to teach "Do not be like the Pharisees" or "Do not be like Pontus Pilate". That doesn't mean that what they do is to be condoned either! But then, judge not, and obey the commandments "love God", "love thy neighbour" first of all, and continually seek Him all the time. For to judge is not our prerogative, but to seek God.

Such, unfortunately, is the state of today. Our favoured medium of spreading ideas is the movies, reading (since now most of us are literate). We think we are smart since we're all literate now and can take in ideas and teachings easily.

On this basis do people argue that people of times past where illiteracy was the norm we couldn't blame them that access to scripture was denied them and consequently perverted. So then they blame the clergy. We are not in the business of judging remember?

But then, look at ourselves, we may all be literate, but do we still not pass unwarranted judgements? Stereotypes? Prejudices? Does not our fallen state still hamper us when we try, by and only on our own will, to have some semblence of knowing Christ?

There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
- Romans 3:11

Let not vanity and pride of intellect cloud us in our understanding, for to truly understand, we must have a heart that seeks God.

So back to my conversation with Lydia. Free will? Free choice? No choice? Unwilling? Driven by circumstances? Fulfilling prophecy? (May God forbid! That we do things that plague our conscience and go against God's commandment for the sake of fulfilling prophecy). I have my personal thoughts (all the predestination and Calvinism things seem to be bubbling up) on this but perhaps for another time.

But most importantly, we must judge not, for only God knows the hearts of men, but rest assured in Christ and seek Him continually. Amen!

May God be with you always Lydia

No comments: