Editor’s Note: This post continues from an earlier post. Want to read that one? Click here.
After Jesus made his satirical commentary on the Roman Triumph and the “peace of Rome”, word got to Pilate. This did not sit well with him. People in power know that satire is a potent weapon that exposes and calls people to action. Satire can raise consciousness to issues that the “powers that be” would otherwise work to keep hidden. (You see this in America anytime President Trump comments about Saturday Night Live. One would think that the president of the U.S.A would have more to do then offer constant comments on a silly late night television show, but satire is powerful).
To stop Jesus’ satire from continuing, Pilate hatches a plot. Specifically, he schemes a fake or mock trial for the satirical Jesus. In Matthew 27:15-23 we read:
Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
First off, just two notes here about Pilate:
- Pilate had the reputation of being too cruel (even for Roman standards)
- Pilate was so cruel that he was recalled from his post in 36 A.D.
I remind us of this because the story is often told that Pilate is a helpless victim who is caught up in the master-mind work of the Jewish authorities (note the anti semitism in this interpretation). To be sure, Pilate was a puppet of Rome but not of the Jewish authorities. He was their ruler. Pilate is very much in charge of this situation and wanted to prove to Rome that he can keep this area under control.
Notice the mocking trial that Pilate puts on:
- He gives the crowd the “decision” as to whom to release
- He offers up a known enemy of the state as an alternate (We don’t know if this Barabas was caught again and killed at a later date.)
- He puts a robe on Jesus
- He puts a crown of thorns on his head
- He identifies him as “King of the Jews”
Pilate’s mock trial of Jesus was not so much about how Pilate felt about Jesus but more about how he felt about the crowd who participated in the satirical triumph parade just days before.
In Pilate’s trial, he is saying, “You think your little show here in the streets is going to make a difference? I am still in charge and, by the power of the sword, torture and fear I will have peace in this region!”
The execution of Jesus is not funny. It is not funny at all when someone is tortured or killed. It is not funny at all when innocent people are killed for any reason. Be in in the streets of Syria, the cells of death row, police doing their job, people of color obeying the law, or Jesus on the cross.
When innocent people are killed, it is tragic. And in the tragic we often wonder why God did not act to keep the action from happening. Which leads to the final post in this little series – the Ironic God.