When Jesus' Trial Becomes Our Trial
Sermon: When Jesus’ Trial Becomes Our Trial
April 1, 2007
A. Narrator: Today’s sermon is a monologue by Pilate, the man who tried Jesus. In The Acts of Pilate, one of the Pseudepigrapha tells of him as a Christian. The sermon today assumes that is true and what Pilate might have said if he could come talk to us today.
B. My name is Pilate.
C. I was prefect of Judea from 26-36 AD. I was appointed by the Emperor Tiberius to this post, and I lived in Jerusalem. It was a dream job, and I loved the power.
D. I used to be a terrible man, and I knew it. I remember loving power and the absolute authority I had over people.
E. I could do anything I wanted, and no one held me accountable, except for the Emperor.
a. Once I put up symbols of the Roman government right in the holiest place for Jews, the Temple. It incensed them and intoxicated me.
b. I was a pagan, by Jewish standards, yet I was the one that made the selection of High Priest for the Jews. What do I know about such matters? But this was about power not faith.
c. I kept the High Priest’s vestment and only released them at the time of religious festivals. Ironic, isn’t it? A pagan telling the High Priest when he could have his vestments.
F. My ruthlessness was most in evidence in the way I treated people who opposed me.
a. The Jews once demonstrated against me because I used their Temple money to build an aqueduct. They had a right to demonstrate, nevertheless I had a large number of them killed.
b. On another occasion I killed a number of Samaritans who misdirected my attempts to find sacred containers from Moses.
G. History doesn’t paint me in very good light.
a. Around 37 AD I was removed from office and called to trial because of the Samaritan massacre and the following complaint.
b. Philo the historian described me as rigid and stubbornly harsh’ and ‘of spiteful disposition and an exceeding wrathful man’.
c. Furthermore I am remembered for what Philo called, the bribes, the acts of pride, the acts of violence, the outrages, the cases of spiteful treatment, the constant murders without trial, the ceaseless and most grievous brutality.
d. The New Testament paints me as a weak man who ruled out of expediency in order to foster my political career.
e. I am most known for the trial of Jesus. How I wish I had never had THAT experience.
H. After my trial in the late 30’s I was forced to commit suicide. It was a pathetic end to a poorly lived life.
I. The only thing that redeemed my life was the fact that I eventually came to faith in the man I tried and put to death. I want to tell you what I learned.
During my trial in Rome, I had some time alone. Time for thinking and reflection. On one of those occasions I began to think about how I had been a “user.” I used people for my own advancement and ego.*
A. It happened with the Jews. I played with them and made life as difficult as possible. I was also hard on the Samaritans.
B. In my view at that time, my subjects existed to foster my own career.
a. Jesus was no different. I know I would have treated him differently if it would not have affected my public power and authority.
b. I knew that I could not ignore him. Doing so could result in an insurrection. I wanted to keep Jerusalem quiet at all costs. I could never allow a disturbance that might get Rome’s attention.
c. My wife warned me about him as well. But I ignored her.
C. What I did not know at the time was that Jesus had previously blessed those who would be willing to publicly acknowledge him.
a. He knew that not everyone would be willing or able to do that.
b. Personal ambition or fear of censure would prevent them from doing that. As it did me.
D. When people are used as a means to an end, you’re not willing to risk your reputation for them. Other things are more important, as they were for me.
During those years I learned to deny every noble impulse and intuition. If I had listened to what I knew to be true, I would be standing in a different place today.*
A. I remember my puzzlement over the fact that the Jews were so adamantly seeking the death of Jesus.
B. I had examined the case and I also knew what the reputation of this man was.
a. What was I going to accuse him of?
b. Healing sick people? Restoring people to full, wholesome lives? Doing good everywhere he went?
C. I did not listen to my heart though. I turned it off and listened to the crowds and my own ambition. This is deadly advice.
D. You can well imagine how thankful I was for the reassurance and healing that God gave me. “…an appeal to God for a clean/good conscience…” is what Peter called it.
E. My wife was troubled by her dreams before the crucifixion. But I was also troubled. I had walked roughshod over my conscience.
F. If I had listened to my conscience:
a. I would have released Jesus and told the Jewish rabble to go home.
b. I would have treated powerless people with respect.
c. I would have used my power and money as a means to help my people rather than to feather my own nest.
d. I would have given credence to the kingdom that Jesus said he had come to establish.
The clarity at the end of my life was blinding. I had never seen things so clearly. During my time in Rome, on trial, I met a disciple of the man I crucified, and it changed my life.
A. I was disillusioned with where my life had taken me to that point.
a. I looked at the destroyed lives I left in my wake. Not just lives killed, but relationships harmed by my selfishness and poverty created through my greed.
b. I looked at how quickly my “friends” left me when it was no longer advantageous for them to hang around.
c. I experienced what it was like to have the “system” turn against you and take away all your rights as a human being.
B. No one likes to be reminded of his/her worst moments. But my trial for the murder of the Samaritans caused the murder of Jesus to come back clearly to me.
a. I might as well have driven the nails in myself.
b. He was on the cross because of my cowardice, selfishness, brutality, and indifference.
c. As I laid in my cell, I could see his eyes looking at me.
C. I didn’t believe I could ever redeem my life. I was convinced I was bankrupt as a human being.
a. I didn’t think that anyone, including myself, could ever dig me out of the hole I was in.
b. I expected that I would die in a Roman jail and my life would be meaningless.
D. But another part of my clarity came from the disciple of Jesus I encountered.
a. He had his own version of selfishness and cowardice.
b. But he told me about the changes that were wrought in his life by the crucified and resurrected Jesus.
c. It was remarkable.
Conclusion: I believed that we had killed Jesus, once and for all. But this man told me one resurrection story after another. About people who made dramatic changes because they had seen Jesus alive.
A. By the time I got to Rome it was too late to save my life in an earthly sense. As you know by now, I was forced to commit suicide. It was a humiliating way to die.
B. But my life is redeemed in far more significant ways. I remember the walk I had to take to my “suicide” which was really my execution.
a. I thought about the contentment I felt because everything was set right in my life.
b. And I also remembered delighting in the belief that I would one day get to meet the person whose resurrection was far more powerful and victorious than the petty power I had in Jerusalem.
C. And it’s not too late for you to have that same joy.
 Matthew 12:8. I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.
 1 Peter 3:21. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.