The Narrative Lectionary reading for the fifth Sunday in Lent is John 19:1-16a. Working Preacher commentary is here. Jesus’ trial before Pilate continues, and progresses from heated conversation to violence. Pilate has Jesus flogged. Pilate has Jesus dressed with a crown of thorns and purple robe, to be mocked as “King of the Jews”.
Even though it is Pilate’s soldiers who do the dirty work, they do it at his behest. And his later claim of “I find no case against him” rings a little hollow. If it were true, wouldn’t he have said that before he set his goons on Jesus?
Pilate starts to fear and tries to argue with Jesus, which leads to Pilate speaking, not very powerfully, about how much power he has. “Do you not know I have the power to release you and power to crucify you?!”
With our bird’s eye view, we know Pilate is a bit actor in this drama. His ranting, his theatrics, in contrast with Jesus’ steady message of a kingdom that is not of this world, reveals that Pilate is not the one in control. Jesus is heading to the cross with intention, to be lifted up, to reveal the depth of God’s love for the world.
This week on Facebook, I saw this:
As the chief priests at the end of this story tell Pilate “we have no king but the emperor”, they deny a fundamental tenet of their faith, and mock their own Passover liturgy, where they say “we have no king but YHWH”.
They finish handing the Lamb of God over to death as Passover begins. It gives some truth to the idea that the cross shows God’s response to our penchant for violence, not God’s. (A number of people have said that the quote I shared above is basically a retread of Abelard. I’ll leave that to the theologians. And Abelard didn’t put his quotes over a nice picture of a chalice, so he missed a chance….)
This is supposedly the “trial” of Jesus. In truth, Pilate is judged as powerless. The chief priests are judged as faithless. Their allegiance is to power, not to God. In chapter 18, Jesus says “for this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth”. Jesus is the Truth and Jesus reveals the Truth about us all.
RevGal Katy Stenta has liturgical resources for this week here.
Where is the Spirit taking you this week?
Please share your thoughts here. Sermon illustrations, Time with the Children, other ideas.
Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood and the Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).
RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.