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Read John 18:28 - 19:16.

So here’s Pilate on his way to work. It’s a day like any other for him. He’s a bit tired because his wife has been tormented by bad dreams lately and he is growing weary of her anxiety and religious superstition. Pilate and his wife are staying in Jerusalem during the Passover festival. Certainly not for religious reasons. No, it's what his job demands. It serves the empire for Pilate to maintain the government and military presence during this high religious festival. This is the time of year when the zealots get stirred up – Jerusalem is on high alert for terrorist activity. For Pilate, a return to his home in Caesarea cannot come soon enough.

Pilate begins the day in meetings dealing with administrative matters. As the governor of Judea he has the usual docket of mediating disputes, awarding contracts, and meeting with representatives of various interest groups.

First up this morning is a case involving the Chief Priest Caiaphas and an alleged zealot from Galilee. Pilate looks over the case and notices that the Chief Priest and his entourage aren’t even in the palace – it's their religious piety again, Pilate finds it so pretentious but it isn’t good form for him to say anything. Yet, there’s something about the case that doesn’t seem right to Pilate, so he approaches the Chief Priest and begins asking questions ...

What is Truth? -- I noticed something in the Apostles' Creed.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
        the Maker of heaven and earth,
        and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
        born of the virgin Mary,
        suffered under Pontius Pilate,
        was crucified, dead, and buried; ...

Why add this line? Is it a shorthand way of describing what happened? What does it mean to suffer under Pontius Pilate? Is this just a reference to his beating and punishment?
I suspect the writes affirm that Jesus is the suffering servant. He did suffer. He suffered at the hands of an empire that had ignored truth. He suffered at the hands of powers and principalities that were more interested in imposing their rights and dealing out death than the truth.

Pontius Pilate represents an empire of pretense and lies. As a representative of that empire, he cannot hear the truth.

When you consider how we say things like let’s be honest, and I’m going to tell you the truth. It’s interesting that we have to ask permission to tell the truth. I think that’s because we realize that we live in the empire of Pontius Pilate. An empire of pretense, denial, and self-censorship.

We suffer under Pontius Pilate. We suffer under the rule of denial and pretense that ruins lives and leads to death. The religious hypocrisy that kills the spirit and dilutes Christianity, tries to tame it, flattens it into a cardboard cutout, and makes it membership in a club of nice folk.

Let’s be honest ... truth is risky.

Let’s be honest ... truth hurts.

Let’s be honest ... the truth is life. Why is Pilate so concerned to get it right? Because Pilate is managing death. Someone is going to die on Pilate’s watch. It’s going to be Barabbas or Jesus. Or it’s going to be the crowd or himself and his empire. All Pilate and his empire can do is manage, distribute, and dispense death. Pilate cannot give life. Despite all of his symbols and position and power, he doesn’t have authority to give true life. The man in shackles, the man who was beaten and suffered. Jesus Christ has that authority.

That why the Kingdom of Christ is different. The truth brings life. People are looking for a way out of the empire of deception. They want to be a part of a truthful community. Want to get away to the country of truth. Children in a burn ward.

Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate so that we don't have to. May the truth set us free!

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 3 May 2009

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