Sunday Message for 25 November 2018: “Pilate’s Flight”

Today’s message from John 13: 33-37 is a story of how Jesus stood before Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea. Jesus had already been arrested and accused by the Jews. Next, Pilate decided if Jesus was worthy of death for treason.

In Roman times, anyone who declared themselves king against the authority of the Roman Caesar could be put to death as a traitor. Therefore, Pilate asked Jesus if he was a king, King of the Jews. Jesus responded in a roundabout way, using clever rhetoric, thus engaging Pilate in further conversation. Jesus said that “[m]y kingdom is not of this world . . .” (John 18:36a). Interesting that Jesus didn’t claim earthly authority, which was what Pilate could have used decisively against him.

By stating that his kingdom was not of this earth, Jesus changed the argument from politics to philosophy. If Jesus had claimed earthly kingship, then Pilate’s job would have been easier and condemnation could proceed without question. If Jesus had usurped the political, imperial authority of Caesar, then Pilate would not have hesitated in executing him. Yet at first Pilate didn’t see in Jesus anything deserving of capital punishment, or at least that’s the image the Bible reveals. It’s as if Pilate didn’t perceive Jesus a threat to Roman hegemony, and in this light Pilate seemed inclined to dismiss Jesus as some sort of misguided teacher who might be released.

The Bible portrays the Jews as trying to entrap Jesus by accusing him of challenging Rome’s power. Pilate had a dilemma, because he could either release Jesus and further anger the Jews– something that could have returned to haunt him—or he could do the safe thing, betray his own conscience, and execute Jesus. The Bible suggests that Pilate struggled about the choice, but he predictably decided in his self-interest and chose the politically safe action: he consented to have Jesus crucified to appease the angry mob.

Consider Jesus’ words about the other-worldly kingdom, the one to which you and I belong. As a person of faith, your virtual home is the same as your ultimate destination: heaven. On earth you are a temporary sojourner, as was Jesus. All of us are invited to avoid the folly of giving up everything for the sake of earthly affairs, especially when doing so undermines a relationship with God, who invites you to become spiritually awakened and live a life inspired by transformed priorities. Rejoice in that you are spiritually liberated to receive and share God’s love and truth.

There’s plenty to interfere with your heavenly journey. Managing life’s distractions is a full-time, never-ending job. This highlights the pivotal role of your personal relationship with God, free from priestly middlemen and their abusive bureaucracies. In the grand scheme of things, a mere outward participation in religion doesn’t achieve a life of holistic wellbeing. Performing rituals and going to church are helpful when they reflect an inward, spiritual vitality which you own and manage. God wants your heart and mind and not just scripted, conformist behavior. Living a life of spiritual authenticity involves more than hocus pocus chants. Your attitude and choices are critical, especially as they demonstrate the inner miracle of God’s presence. Without your redemption, even charitable acts are impoverished, incomplete.

My prayer is that we and those we inspire will embrace the transforming power of God’s love. Together we can engage a life revitalized by God’s indwelling. You can claim the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaim your divine, spiritual pedigree. Want the most out of life? Then own God’s promises because you are a redeemed soul. Think and act with the victorious power that is already yours. Then, if you stand before the modern equivalent of a Pilate your spirit will rise above unjust accusations. –Reverend Hoxey