The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
Sometimes negotiations seem to be done with all the finesse of a sledge hammer. My apologies to those who can actually hit something accurately with a sledge hammer. I can’t do it. John skips over what happened in front of Caiaphas. He moves straight to Jesus’ appearance in front of Pilate, the governor. It was typical to bring cases before the governor, or any other influential Roman, for that matter, in the first two hours of the morning. Coming at the first hour, as they do, indicates urgency. Pilate is called out to meet the Jewish leaders. They are insistent. They will not come into the palace because it would defile them to enter a Gentile property.
What is the charge? It must be important. It’s happening before Pilate’s morning briefing from his advisors. It’s happening before he has had a chance to swallow his hot coffee or eat a bite of his doughnut. Pilate asks an entirely reasonable question. He wants to know the charge against this person. The chief priests are evasive. “We would not have brought him to you if he were not doing evil.” John portrays Pilate in a relatively good light here. Pilate tells them that they need to deal with him according to their law. If they aren’t going to bring actual charges, they have a court system.
The interaction escalates when the chief priests say that they are not allowed to impose the death penalty. This certainly got the attention of Pilate. Doubtless he would rather they didn’t break Roman law and impose a death penalty on someone while he was there in Jerusalem. If he were away he might be able to ignore it, but when he was in the city he would have to take action. Why does this happen? The evangelist points out in verse 32 that Jesus had already told the way he would die, and it required Roman hands. This was also foretold in the Old Testament. The Romans, of course, were unaware of the prophecies. We will want to watch that as we continue reading.
How do we react when people bring charges against us? Or when people bring charges against Jesus? Often the accusations I hear are thrown out in such a way that there is no answering. Why is he guilty? Because he’s a criminal and if you don’t realize it you are a bigot! Well. Not easy to answer. In fact, no answer will prove effective. What, then, is a good answer to such rhetoric? Pilate’s next move is a very likely choice. You try to calm the situation down until it’s possible to have a reasonable discussion. Often that will never happen. But we try anyway.
Difficult philosophical and religious discussions are important. But they will not be resolved using bumper stickers or memes. The 140 characters of a tweet or 160 characters of a text message will not do it. It takes patience and dialog. Maybe it’s time to start taking that time and getting down to business.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.