Christ And Pilate
by Rev. Robert J. Hermley

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In the last Sunday of November we celebrate the beautiful feast of Christ the King.  It is a day set apart by Holy Mother church to remind us that Christ should be the King and Center of our hearts, and hopefully the King and Center of our homes.

Let us go back for a moment to that fateful Good Friday when Christ told Pontius Pilate and the world that indeed He was a King; not an earthly King, but one whose kingdom is not of this world.

Remember Pilate's wife had warned him, "Have nothing to do with this just man; I have suffered much in a dream."  Pilate, then, as an obedient husband, was looking for a way to release Christ.  He didn't have the courage to do it outright, however, so he questioned Jesus further, "What have you done?"  Jesus replied, "My kingdom is not of this world.  It it were, my followers surely would defend me, but as it is, my kingdom is not from here."  Pilate replied, "Art thou then a King?"  Jesus replied, "I am a king; for this I came into the world.  He who hears My voice hears truth."  Pilate the skeptic, the fence-sitter, replied "What is truth?"  and walked away before Christ had a chance to explain truth.  Perhaps he was afraid that if he listened to truth, he would have to take a stand.

Pilate then went before the crowd and said, "I find no guilt in Him; I chastise Him and release Him."  Listen to Pilate - listen to his words.  I am personally against punishment of the just man, but I will not force my personal opinion upon you.  So will have Him flogged to please you, but I will release Him because He is innocent.  Pilate was much like the present-day politicians who say, "I am personally against abortion, but I won't force my opinion upon you."  Later, when Pilate was questioned about his writing of the sign "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," he would stiffen and summon the courage to say that he would not change it: "What I have written, I have written," he said.

Pilate then had Christ beaten, hopefully to elicit pity from the crowd.  He had Him brought out upon the balcony and said those immortal words, "Behold the man; behold your King."  He could hardly believe his ears when the crowd retorted, "We have no king but Caesar."  Pilate the vacillator played his last card.  He remembered a tradition whereby he could release one prisoner to the people on this particular day.  In an effort to force the people to release Christ, rather than take a stand and use his authority to do it, Pilate chose a notorious murderer and seditionist named Barabbas, and cried out, "Whom do you wish I release to you, Barabbas or Christ the King?"  Pilate was astonished when the crowd shouted "Barabbas."  "Then what should I do with Christ the King?"  Pilate asked.  "Crucify him, crucify him!" was the answer.  So Christ was led off to execution while Pilate washed his hands of the matter, as if he really could wash off the blood of the innocent Christ.

As we read this sad episode in the life of Christ, we probably say with a great deal of confidence, "If only I had been there, I would have cried out 'Save Christ; throw the murderer Barabbas back into jail,' I know I never would have been part of that motley crowd who called for the death of Christ.  Pilate should have had the courage to know right from wrong, and to act regardless of the crowd."

Isn't it true, however, that every time one commits a sin, he or she is acting exactly like that crowd?  Sin is a choice between God and one's own selfish nature.  Every sin contains the statement, "Give me my will, my pleasure; give me myself and away with Christ."  Sin is a clear choice between us and God - Christ and Barabbas.  When you have a chance read that beautiful but sad story from the thirty-second Sunday of the seven brothers in the second book of Maccabees, who were tortured with whips and scourges because they would not eat pork in violation of God's Old Testament Law.  One by one the brothers died for their faith; as they mother watched.  As the last brother was about to be executed, the mother whispered words of encouragement not to give in and sin.

Do not be afraid of the executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death so that in the time of mercy, I may receive you again with them (2 Maccabees 7:29)

So he, too, died rather than sin.

Let us then be imitators of those brave brothers, and of their valiant mother, who chose even death to sin.  Let us talk to Christ in these or similar words.

"Dear Christ the King, come into our hearts and homes.  Make our homes sacred, make our children love You.  Let us remember that sin offends You, and You know that our family does not want any part in hurting You ever.  We repent of all sins ever committed, and on the beautiful feast of Christ the King, we dedicate to You our hearts, our children, our homes, our lives.  Come be part of all we do and say and think.  We enthrone You today as the King and Center of our lives.  Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.  Help us to realize the suffering sin has caused You."