(32) suffered under Pontius Pilate

This man Pilate was not merely a private individual. He was the representative of the vast system of Roman law and power. Insofar as law is a restraint upon reckless evildoers it reduces human suffering considerably. Jesus recognized Pilate’s office as one of God’s gifts to the world and submitted to his judgment. But on the other hand, the Roman system, like all human systems, could cause a great deal of suffering. Power can always be abused and laws can always be made to work for the unscrupulous. Pontius Pilate was interested mostly in his own future in the system. The Jewish enemies of Jesus’ truth and love could cause Pilate a lot of trouble, so he gave in to their pressure. He sent the best of us to our worst kind of death. Some judge! Pontius Pilate therefore stands for the inherent weaknesses and dreadful possibilities that lie within all human organizations. None of them is worthy of ultimate worship and absolute loyalty. If human systems are to fulfill the place God intended for them in history, they must always be open to the Word of God in Christ. In Pontius Pilate the Roman and Jewish systems rejected Christ. They were therefore rejected by God. All systems that reject his truth and compassion are doomed. They have no future. Pilate thought that he was condemning Jesus, but he had only succeeded in condemning himself and his system. All efforts to do away with Jesus came to nothing, for he rose from the dead forever.

The Spirit of the Lord is still at work in his world. He uses the words and lives of his servants to change others so that they become more like Jesus. He can transform the Pontius Pilates. He can create new systems which are nearer to what he has ever hoped for. Whatever my post in society may be, if Christ’s Spirit shines out from me, the Lord works among my associates. Some will be won to his truth and love and become fellow workers with me for God’s kingdom of peace. Others may turn on me as they turned in fury upon Jesus. Then I, too, shall learn what it is to “suffer under Pontius Pilate.” But I must be willing, for the sake of suffering men and my suffering God, to suffer with and for Christ. There is a fellowship of Christ’s suffering.

The world which God loves cannot come to the end of its suffering unless people begin to live in Christ’s truth and love. Somebody’s got to live the Christ-life in the midst of men if they’re going to get caught up by him. Somebody’s got to put himself out for others. Somebody’s got to absorb the world’s violence and halt the blow-for-blow retaliation that leads only to destruction. When he calls me to suffer in his name, to return good for evil, he has called me to the highest possible privilege—the opportunity of having my life really count in making something come true of God’s dream of peace for his suffering world. He who undertakes to suffer willingly for the Lord has tasted the joy of life’s ultimate victory.