Think of him as 'middle management.'
Judea was a strategically important border province, giving the empire access to Egypt's agricultural resources, and a measure of protection from the Parthian Empire.
I'm inclined to sympathize with Pilate. There he was, responsible for a strategically-important border province: without the authority a Patrician would have had.
Small wonder that he pounced on the third charge cited in Luke 23:2: that Jesus claimed kingship. That would have been a clear challenge to Roman authority. So was opposing Roman taxes, one of the charges in Luke 23:2, but the Empire didn't get much from Judea.
On the other hand, in Mark 2:14, Luke 19:1-8 I read that Jesus told Levi to leave his custom post, influenced Zaccheus: and I'm drifting off-topic.
Pilate's interview with our Lord isn't as random as it may seem. Remembering that nobody in the Praetorium was American helps. Circuitous and ambiguous aren't quite synonyms, and that's another topic.
"So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, 'Are you the King of the Jews?'
"Jesus answered, 'Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?'
"Pilate answered, 'I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?'
"Jesus answered, 'My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants (would) be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.' "
"Are you the King of the Jews?" was a reasonable question. So was our Lord's response, although Pilate may not have seen it that way.
The Sanhedrin were, I think, seeing Jesus as a political threat: someone who wanted their political, social, and economic status. Pilate would reasonably be concerned about that, too.
I've wondered if our Lord's question, "do you say this on your own?" was giving Pilate an opportunity to see what was really going on. Maybe Pilate saw, maybe not.
What Pilate did was state the obvious: that he wasn't a Jew, and that Jesus had been handed over to Imperial authority by "your own nation and the chief priests."
I don't know how reality looks from the Second Person of the Trinity's viewpoint, but I 'hear' a trace of exasperation in our Lord's response: "My kingdom does not belong to this world...." (John 18:36)
Think about it: Jesus had been accused of trying to be king of a smallish nation between two empires. It's a bit like someone asking the American president if he's some sort of shift supervisor.
Anyway, here's the last part of this morning's Gospel reading, John 18:33b-37.
"So Pilate said to him, 'Then you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say I am a king. 16 For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.' "Jesus is a king, but not a political leader. Our Lord's kingship is what Pope St. John Paul II called "another kind of kingship, a divine and spiritual kingship."1
Our Lord's kingdom is everybody "who belongs to the truth:" in Palestine; in the Roman, Parthian, Kushan, and Han empires: and beyond.
We've been learning that there's a whole lot of "beyond," and that's yet another topic.
Today's feast, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is quite new: started by Pope Pius XI in 1926. I put a few 'background' links at the end of this post.2
(From Piero della Francesca, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
I've been over this before. (October 18, 2015; April 5, 2015)
Jesus was tortured, executed, buried: and a few days later, stopped being dead. It took some convincing, but the 11 surviving apostles eventually realized that they weren't seeing a ghost. (John 20:26-27; Luke 24:30-31, (41-43)
Then our Lord had a final meeting with the 11, described in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:10-11, and left. I've been over that before, too. (October 5, 2014)
In a way, the Resurrection wasn't the most remarkable part of those events. It's what the apostles realized, after they looked at what our Lord had said and done: God loves us, and wants to adopt us. All of us. (Ephesians 1:3-5; John 3:17; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 52, 1825)
That's the best news humanity's ever had. I've been over that, too: a lot. (October 4, 2015; September 6, 2015; August 30, 2015)
I've often repeated this, too: as adopted children, acting like part of the family makes sense. It's pretty simple: I should love God, love my neighbors, see everybody as my neighbor, and treat others as I want to be treated. (Matthew 5:43-44, 7:12, 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31 10:25-27, 29-37)
I said simple: not easy. (October 12, 2014)
(From NASA/ISS, used w/o permission.)
"Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss.Our Lord's mission was "to testify to the truth" — which brings me to Pilate's question in John 18:28: "What is truth?"
"Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven."
"Teach me, LORD, your way that I may walk in your truth, single-hearted and revering your name."
God is love, but God is also truth. (1 John 4:8-16, 14:6; Catechism, 144, 214-217, 218-221, 1814)
Faith is personal loyalty to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: three persons, one God. It is "a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed." (Catechism, 150), 233, 238-248)
Okay, so I believe in God, and decide to follow our Lord. So what?
In the short run, the outlook is pretty close to Churchill's "blood, toil, tears and sweat." Matthew 16:24 makes that clear.
In the long run, though, the outlook's pretty good for those of us who take God seriously. (Matthew 16:25-27; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 22:1-5)
That bit in Revelation 22:4, about having a name written on our foreheads, puts me in mind of an over-the-top college party: and that's yet again another topic.
I'm looking forward to no more tears, death, mourning, wailing, or pain.
"1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2Meanwhile, like I've said before, we have work to do. Lots of work.
"I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, 3 coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
"I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people 4 and God himself will always be with them (as their God).
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away.' "
Part of our job involves truly respecting the "transcendent dignity" of humanity, and each person. That is not easy: but it's something we must do. So is building a better world for future generations. The job starts within each of us, with an ongoing "inner conversion." (Catechism, 1888, 1928-1942)
We've made some progress over the last two millennia: and we have a very great deal left to do.
My guess is that we'll still be watching and working when the 8.2 kiloyear event, Y2K, and Y10K are seen as roughly contemporary. (December 28, 2014; November 23, 2014; October 26, 2014)
On the 'up' side, we're already in "the last hour," and have been for two thousand years. The war is over. We won. This world's renewal is in progress, and nothing can stop it. (Matthew 16:18; Mark 16:6; Catechism, 638, 670)
More of my take on life, love, and light:
- "New Evangelization: Fire and Light"
(October 25, 2015)
- " 'Have No Anxiety At All' "
(October 18, 2015)
- "Victory and Standing Orders"
(November 23, 2014)
- "Talents, and the Best News Ever"
(November 16, 2014)
- "Humility: Accepting Reality"
(August 10, 2014)
1 Homilies for this solemnity:
- "Holy Mass for the conclusion of the Year of Faith on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe"
Francis (November 24, 2013)
(From w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20131124_conclusione-annus-fidei.pdf (November 21, 2015))
- "Feast of Christ the King"
Pope St. John Paul II (November 23, 1997)
(From w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1997/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_23111997.pdf (Nov. 31, 2015))
- Feast of Christ the King
- "Quas Primas"
Pius XI (December 11, 1925)
(From w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_11121925_quas-primas.pdf (November 21, 2015)