The trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate is a travesty of justice and surely a classic example of weak leadership crumbling before the popular vote.
It’s ironic that the very “peace” Pilate is so keen to preserve is threatened by the very chaos he causes in making Jesus into a “referendum” issue from his balcony.
Pilate is an intelligent man and seems to know Jesus is innocent of the charges made against him, yet in the end he wants to please those who brought the charges.
Maybe he owed them a favor or perhaps he just knew that staying in power always demands sleazy deals with truth the first casualty.
So, in the end, the choice between the two Jesuses, one Barabbas, the other of Nazareth, was always a done deal and never in doubt.
The crowd, for some reason easily stoked with hatred by the religious authorities, cry for the crucifixion of the Nazareth Jesus.
This is a rushed, ill-thought through affair and one deeply compromised by the lemming-like populism of “The Mob.”
When individuals gather, there is the potential for so much that is good. Yet that potential can so quickly become soured by misinformation, weak leadership and behind-the-scenes bullying.
And when that happens a cooperative community can change so quickly into a negative society.
Yet, I want to go on believing in, and working at, community.
Recently, I made a pastoral visit to one of our congregation’s members at a local hospital.
I walked past the Spinal Injuries Gym and saw patients put through their paces by committed staff. I inquired at reception as to the whereabouts of our church member and was met by such helpfulness. I went down to the ward and heard nurses chatting to patients offering advice and encouragement.
I talked to the lady I’d come to see. She told me how well she had been treated in being given a new hip after falling at home.
Again and again, I meet people who are indebted to the National Health Service and speak with such warmth about the sense of supportive community they experience while in hospital.
Yet in Pilate and the mob outside his balcony window, we see something very negative in the human condition – the collective bad judgment of an irrational and ill-informed mob. Yet it is a mob that wields power and influence.
By contrast, take a walk to your local hospital and nine times out of 10 you’ll experience some of the very best expressions of community.
Pilate washes his hands in an attempt to absolve himself of responsibility.
Doctors, nurses and surgeons wash theirs in order to show practical and down-to-earth compassion.
I think we all know the sort of washing that pleases God.
Ian Green is the minister at Amersham Free Church in the United Kingdom. He is a member of the BURG (Baptist Union Retreat Group) Committee, editor of the BURG Journal and collator of the BURG blog. A version of this article appeared on the BURG blog and in The Baptist Times of Great Britain. It is used with permission. His writings also appear on his personal blog.