(watch here: https://youtu.be/4k655i9EOsI)
1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. 3They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ 6When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’ 7The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’
8Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. 10Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ 11Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ 12From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’
13When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ 15They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ 16Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus.
Perhaps you’ve heard the cute one about the 4-year-old girl named Jane who, when asked her name, would reply, “I’m Mr. Sugarbrown’s daughter.” Her mother told her this was wrong, she must say, “I’m Jane Sugarbrown.” The pastor spoke to her in Sunday school the following week and said, “Aren’t you Mr. Sugarbrown’s daughter?” She replied, “I thought I was, but mother says I’m not.”
Who among hasn’t wrestled with who you are at some point in your life? Certainly in our younger years we have no idea who we are, let alone where we are or why we’re even here. We’re just cruising through life trying to keep from hurting ourselves or those around us. If we’re lucky, we have parents who protect us and provide for our needs. If we’re really lucky, they even love us from time to time. Sure, we challenge their patience and their love at times but for the most part we’re less concerned about figuring out who we are than with simply surviving. We don’t need to know who we are to survive. Other people don’t need to know who we are to survive. We’re just survivin’!
Eventually we hit those teenage years and everything changes. Our bodies redefine who we are and we become more and more self-aware. Suddenly we can’t get enough of figuring out who we are and how we affect others. WE become our greatest mystery! Some of us stay fixated on figuring out who we are the rest of our lives. Some of us have children and become fixated on molding who they are the rest of our lives. Some of us refuse to move beyond our pre-adolescent understandings of ourselves and the world around us and stay stuck in survival mode the rest of our lives. Some of us are quicker at figuring out who we are and what we need than others. Some of us are quicker at figuring out who others are than others. Regardless of where we fall in these categories, developing an identity is just a part of life. We all gradually develop some type of understanding of who we are and who others are as well.
At the start of this season of Lent, I reflected on how this is a season of the church year during which we are encouraged to dig deeper into figuring out ourselves. The practice of fasting and denying ourselves are great ways of teaching us how to live humbly and more aware of our needs. We can’t help fixating on ourselves when we’re suffering. But is the season only about us? What about Jesus? What about reflecting deeper on who Jesus was and what he did for us on the cross? What about reflecting deeper on what he endured before the cross? In some ways, the cross was the release and the glory of Christ. No more suffering, no more humiliation, no more agony, only sweet release and return to our heavenly Father. Jesus died and took our sins into death with him. But the hours leading up to the cross also help define who Jesus is. I’ve appreciated how our readings in this new lectionary have deliberately kept us in these hours before his crucifixion. They’ve helped us to get out of ourselves and into who Jesus is. So who is Jesus?
This is a question at the root of Pilate’s interrogation. “Who are you, Jesus?” He so desperately wants to know who Jesus is. He so desperately wants to release Jesus too. Over and over, he asks Jesus, “Who are you and why are you standing before me?” In the middle of our passage for today, he took a different approach and asks Jesus, “Where are you from?” and Jesus gave him no answer. Naturally this frustrated Pilate and he lashed out, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus reminded Pilate that his power was a gift from someone more powerful than him. But Jesus never answered Pilate’s question. And that was no small part of the interrogation. Did Jesus know who he was and where he was from? Had Jesus developed an identity as we are all called to do in this life? Of course he did! So why not share his identity with Pilate? Because knowing who Jesus is requires faith. We can read about what he did and where he went, who he served with and why, but without faith we can’t know who Jesus is. Jesus is more than a name or a place or a situation. Jesus is more than what others say he is. Jesus is a one-on-one experience. Jesus is a deeply personal and ongoing awareness and relationship. We can’t know him by who he was with other people. We know him by standing in front of him, looking him in the eyes, pleading with him to reveal himself to us as Pilate had done. We know him by asking him to come into our hearts and our minds. If only Pilate had asked him into his heart and mind, then he would have known and wouldn’t have been so anxious for an answer. But Pilate didn’t really want to know. He simply wanted to maintain peace and order, the highest of Roman standards.
Figuring out who Jesus is is just as important as figuring out who we are during this season of Lent. As we heard last week, Jesus is love and eternal life. Jesus is a living, intimate relationship. Jesus endured great suffering so that we remain in right relationship with the Father. As we continue through the season, let us reflect on who Jesus is, not just who we are. Contrary to his interactions with Pilate, he knows who he is and he wants us to know him too. So let us simply open our hearts and minds to him.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.