Anglican Catholic Church

Holy Week Meditation from the Bishop

Bishop Damien writes:

During Holy Week one of my favourite meditations focuses upon Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Christ to the people - Ecce homo! (Behold the man!), 1871.

Have you ever noticed that only two people beside Our Lord, are mentioned in the Nicene Creed? The Blessed Virgin Mary - who was there at the beginning:

Jesus answered (Pilate), ... To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice (John 18: 37)

and Pontius Pilate, who was there at the end. Both were presented with a choice - both encountered Truth - Mary was ?of the truth? and responded with an unconditional yes. Pilate responded with What is truth? (John 18:38)

There are lots of legends and traditions in Western and Eastern Christianity about Pontius Pilate and his fate. Some condemn him, especially in the Western Church, whereas in the East there seems to be perhaps a more merciful response - some Christians even venerate him as a Saint for what, legend has it, occurred later in his life as a result of the part he played in the Passion story.

In my meditation on this picture, I do not think about Pilates future, I focus on the moment.

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; and went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar?s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Cæsar.
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Cæsar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified.? (John 19: 1-16)

Professor Kevin Butcher, Classics and Ancient History professor at Warwick University writes: ... the man who cross-examined and crucified Jesus remains an enigma, a shadowy metaphor for opposites: equivocation and stubbornness, cowardice and heroism, cruelty and clemency. His dilemma? Do the right thing or do the popular thing? ... Perhaps that is why people can sympathise with Pilate: at some point in our lives we all face that kind of choice; though, fortunately for us, its consequences are usually much less momentous.

But is the choice truly less momentous at this moment? Ecce homo! Behold the man! - Is our response an unconditional Yes!? or do we ask What is truth? ?