This Lent, I’ve been taking the subject of my meditations from Alban Goodier’s THE CROWN OF SORROWS. Pilate truly saw the innocence of our Lord, and he did try on several occasions to have him released. Why didn’t he? Was it his pride in being Roman? I couldn’t help but reflect that there are people who place love of country over that of God.
Anyway, I present the reading as found in the book. This is just one reading of many on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. If you can find a copy of the book, I highly recommend it:
Goodier: “From thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him.” The sentence seems out of place. Had not Pilate been seeking to release Him from the very outset? He had twice said that he would do so. Yet St. John clearly means something very particular by this renewed statement. Evidently this new charge, of “making Himself the Son of God,” and the dignity with which Our Lord had received it, had had a deep effect. There was something more than human in one Who through all this could remain so calm and commanding, Who could with such firmness act as the Judge of His judges, and yet would not move a finger in His own defense. Everything had gone in Our Lord’s favor; this last charge of all, that He was the Son of God, was confirmed by all that had gone before. Pilate would save Him if he could.
Now was the critical moment; the Jews must play their last card, must surrender their all to gain their point. For a moment it looked as if at this last moment they were about to be baffled. But Pilate, like every Roman, like every Englishman [like every American, etc.] like every man who is proud of an ideal, had the weakness of his strength. Whatever else he was, he was a Roman; attack him there, and there was no knowing what he might not be induced to do. He did not realize that to be a true Roman it was first necessary to be a true man. “Thou art not Caesar’s friend.” This was a revelation. He had been shielding a “King”; might this be construed as un-Roman? Jesus was innocent; He was a doer of good; He was there “out of envy”; but He had some kind of title which He claimed; was not that enough? Whatever else Pilate was, no slur must be cast upon his Roman honor.
The ruse succeeded; but at what a cost! “The chief priests answered: “We have no king but Caesar!” Speaking for their whole people, in the presence of Jews, Gentiles, and Our Lord Himself, these chief priests made a formal renunciation of their inheritance. It was not merely that they rejected Our lord; they no longer said they would not have Him to reign over them; their renunciation is more sweeping; “We have no King but Caesar.” They renounce their independence as a nation; they tear up the promise of God, cherished through the centuries, of the King to Whom was promised the throne of David His father; they were no longer the chosen people of God; they would sacrifice their birthright that they might compass their design; the Kingdom was taken from them, as Our Lord had foretold, and given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof.