Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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Good Friday, April 3, 2015

Everyone has his or her version of truth. We all see things from different perspectives. Like the old story of three blind men touching the same elephant and claiming that the elephant is three different things, we can’t help but see the truth in our own context. Our backgrounds, our socioeconomic status, our race, our gender, our jobs and our faith all have an impact on what we see as our truth.

Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?”, but there is no answer, because Pilate is standing in front of the one who is the truth and that is Jesus. The truth presents himself honestly as the revelation of God’s self to the world, and as such, the judge all other points of view, proclaiming by word or action or silence where they are lacking. It is not Jesus who is on trial; it is the rest of the actors in the drama.

In John’s version of the passion, when the religious authorities and Pilate send men to arrest Jesus, Jesus comes out of the crowd and says, “I am he.” This is his hour, and he is in charge. He does not need someone to identify him for the hostile guards. He uses the familiar “I AM” identifier to tell those who would listen that he is God, and he shows his mercy and compassion by having the guards release his disciples, who take advantage of that word to leave quickly. Jesus judges the religious authorities for using violence to take him, when they could have taken him any day that he was teaching in the synagogue. He reprimands his own for using violence too in cutting off the slave of the high priest’s ear. God condemns violence as the answer to anything.

There is not much of a scene at the high priest’s house. The Sanhedrin had already discussed Jesus’ death, saying that it was the best thing for one man to die to save the nation from the problems Rome would have with this whole new movement within Judaism. They think they are speaking the truth, but they are not. Allegiance to a nation never saved anybody; only God can save the people (Guy D. Nave Jr.).

In Pilate’s headquarters, the Roman governor goes back and forth between Jesus and the Jews seven times. He is indecisive rather than the authority he claims to be. Jesus tells Pilate about his spiritual kingdom, once again judging violence as the wrong way to do anything, but as the way things are done in the world.

Jesus has said who he is and what he is the king of and now he speaks about why he came. He came to testify to the truth – the truth that God’s kingdom is the most important one, the truth that most people don’t seem to care about that, the truth that he is there to bring belief in the coming kingdom and in himself as Son of God. Truth is here on earth as it has never been and those that believe belong to the truth and hear Jesus’ voice.

Pilate does not have the power he claims to have. He is not the decisive one he is supposed to be. Jesus judges him, telling him he would have no power if God had not given it to him. Pilate is impotent. More than that, Pilate is afraid in the face of Jewish claims that anyone who says he is a king is against the emperor. Even though Pilate doesn’t find a case against him, he hands over Jesus to be crucified.

Jesus’ fulfilling of scripture show the truth of the religious authorities’ motivation too. They are not as worried about his blasphemy as they are about getting rid of him because he has so many followers. Pilate gets them to say, “We have no king but Caesar”, just hours before they will say in the Passover liturgy that God is their only king. They have betrayed themselves and their God by their words (Beverly Gaventa).

Through all of this, Jesus is in control. He says what he needs to say and does what he needs to do to live out his purpose. He allows himself to be flogged and mocked. It is just what needs to be done. Suffering is part of the Scriptures. We picture Jesus with head held high, running events as they need to be run.

Even at Golgotha, we see Jesus as king. He carries his own cross. The inscription above the cross says that he is King of the Jews, even though the Jewish authorities don’t want that.

Jesus has judged his arresters, Pilate and the Jewish authorities as violent, impotent and betrayers of God. He know he is the truth and the king and no judgment rendered by anyone else in the story can change that. He presides over his arrest and trial and likewise presides over his crucifixion. In John’s gospel, his mother Mary and the beloved disciple are present, watching the crucifixion with great grief. In an act of compassion, he commends them to each other’s care and in doing so creates a future for the kingdom. A community has begun to be formed around Jesus – a community that will take the good news of Jesus Christ to the world after he is risen and ascended. (ref)

Jesus is the truth and he knows the truth – that resurrection, ascension and glorification are part of his “hour”. It gives him the strength for his last act of compassion, offering God his spirit to save the world from sin and death.

Jesus is the truth. He is the revelation of God. And he is judge over everyone – religious authorities, political authorities and you and me. The truth about God is that God loves us passionately and Jesus judges with compassion and mercy when our perspectives on the truth veer toward our own self-interest and not the love of God and neighbor. His kingship at times is hard for us to understand because we are caught up in this world’s destructiveness, but we cannot avoid this world entirely because the people we are to help are here. The religious and political authorities lived completely in this world when it came to trying, sentencing and killing God’s Son. We try our best to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven while living in the earthly world. The way to do this with truth and integrity is to seek Jesus’ judgment, even if that’s the last thing we want to do. That is the way we find out the Truth with a capital T. And that is the way we grow into being part of the community that listens to Jesus’ voice and uses our baptismal ministries to share God’s love with the world.

AMEN.

     - Rev. Ann Barker

Works cited:
Guy D. Nave Jr., Feasting on the Word, Year B., vol. 2, Exegetical Perspective (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), p. 309.
Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching – Year B (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), p. 267.