Monday, April 2, 2007

Suffered under Pontius Pilate

Why does the creed say that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate"? It seems an odd historical detail to sit in the middle such a lofty theological statement. Yes, of course, we believe that Jesus suffered. He even suffered for our sins! But why mention Pontius Pilate? How does old Pilate stand in credal company with Mary and Jesus?

Pilate wasn't particularly interested in crucifying Jesus. He didn't go out of his way to track him down. He didn't see any particular fault in him. He didn't really want to get his finger nails dirty. But he was the highest authority in the land. He represented all the Roman power needed to keep the peace in Palestine. It really was not a big matter for him to squash a couple of would-be Messiahs, even the harmless, witless type, who pose no real threat to anybody in power. Jesus just sort of popped up in front of him, and he swept him away. He could do this several times a day and sleep just fine at night.

Jesus was a nobody. Pilate was the highest authority. All the power circles about him lusted after his authority. They worshiped the weighty, even to grab a little for themselves or at least to secure a little safety. Pilate was but projection or product of the clamor for power. Cut off the head of Pilate and another head would pop up in its place.

But Jesus was the nobody. Those with power, those with authority, those with dignity or wealth, none of those could even see Jesus, such a worthless bug was he. Die, little bug. Squish, squish. Don't leave a mess.

Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate. And yet the church clamors for his authority, any shread of authority.

Dear Jesus, watch over all the little bugs tonight, and bring to shame the mighty in your morning light! Amen.