[forthright] Differences Between Two Men

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2007 20:50:54 -0300
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Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: FINAL PHASE

Differences Between Two Men
by J. Randal Matheny, editor

Jesus appeared before Pilate, ostensibly to be 
judged by him. Actually, it was Pilate who wound 
up being judged by Jesus. The encounter between 
the two showed the great difference between them. 

See the differences between these two men in three 
areas, from John 18 and 19.

1. Responsibility.

Pilate runs from his responsibility. Before 
knowing the charge (granted, the Jews responded 
mean-spirited to his question), he told the Jews 
to go judge the issue for themselves (8:31). He 
tries political maneuvers to free Jesus, rather 
than using his authority to simply announce that 
he was releasing a wronged man.

Jesus, on the other hand, is not a chess piece 
being thrown between Pilate and the Jews in a 
political game. He is not there by accident, but 
choice. For he has taken upon himself the 
responsibility of the world's sins. 

Pilate can't assume his responsibility, but Jesus 
takes on even ours. 

Many today are like Pilate. They don't want to 
take responsibility for their eternal destiny. Men 
run from assuming responsibility for their wives' 
and children's spiritual welfare. Elders sit in 
closed rooms making deacon's decisions instead of 
caring for the spiritual needs of the church. 
Preachers enjoy public attention behind a pulpit 
instead of getting in homes to teach the gospel. 
"Members of the church" (what a horrid, 
non-biblical phrase!) like to be passive members, 
without function, and let Elders, Deacons, 
Preachers and Teachers take charge of the work. 

Some realize that it's everybody's job to teach 
the lost, strengthen the weak, admonish the 
erring, distinguish between truth and falsehood. 
Some are like Jesus. 

2. Purpose

It appears Pilate had little purpose in Israel 
besides keeping things quiet until he could scoot 
back to Rome. Something like how, one day last 
week, a Brazilian described Americans who came to 
Brazil with multinational companies. They stay a 
while, do their job, all the while thinking of the 
day they can go home. Pilate was a reed blowing in 
the wind. The Jews managed to manipulate him. The 
head authority, Rome's supreme representative, 
failed at politics. 

Jesus declared his purpose clearly: "For this 
reason I was born, and for this reason I came into 
the world -- to testify to the truth" (37b). Our 
Lord never wavered from his purpose. It was 
established pre-incarnation, in heaven; 
pre-creation, before the world began. He followed 
it true, never looking back, never questioning 
whether he was doing the right thing. Though in 
the last moment he cried for options, in his heart 
he wanted above all to please his Father and do 
his will. Even when he didn't feel like it. 

Some are like Pilate. They're clueless about 
church. Entertainment center? Babysitting service? 
Social club? That's why they like to be 
"members." Come-and-go, pay your dues. Less than 
zealots, more than visitors. No obligation to work 
but every right to criticize. 

Some have caught the vision. Single-minded, their 
one, abiding reason for being called to the 
kingdom is the King's own battle cry: saving 
souls for eternal salvation. Carry forward the 
mission of Jesus, redeeming people from sin, 
wresting them from Satan's control, putting them 
under the Savior's wing, securing them in the 
knowledge and mercy and power of God. Every moment 
contributes to the cause. No effort wasted on 
unnecessary frills. These are like Jesus, because 
they pursue his purpose. 

3. Truth

Times there are when I'd love to hear the tone of 
voice in a Biblical phrase. John 18:38 is one of 
those phrases, where Pilate mutters, "What is 
truth?" But we have a good clue as to his 
attitude. And it's not wistful, wishful, hopeful 
of finding truth. Pilate has spent his life 
avoiding the truth. He's cynical -- after all, 
he's a politician and knows everybody is in it 
for the money or power. 

Jesus is a witness to truth. The witness 
extraordinaire. Truth in the flesh. The Word. The 
expression of the very mind of God. Revealer of 
what no man could discover on his own. Jesus' 
declarations are stark, simple, breath-taking, 
mind-reeling. "I am he," and the multitude falls 
to the ground. 

But Pilate insists on holding on to his cynicism. 
He's the political slider who will give up an 
innocent man to a lynch mob just to keep his 
superiors happy. In his judgment of Jesus, he's 
not the Authority. Instead of fiat judgments, all 
he can do from John 18:28-19:15 is ask questions: 

- What accusation do you bring against this man?
- Are you the king of the Jews?
- What have you done?
- What is truth?
- So do you want me to release for you the king of 
  the Jews? 
- Where do you come from?
- Do you refuse to speak to me? Don't you know I
   have the authority to release you, and to crucify 
  you? 
- Shall I crucify your king?

Pilate is the man of questions, not the man of 
truth and certainty. He had few pillars to sink 
into a shifting scenario and keep him grounded. He 
was all over the place. 

Many are like Pilate. Truth is what gets them out 
of a bind. What serves the purpose for the moment. 
What keeps the peace. What makes the crowd happy. 
Whatever gets them through the day. 

Some are like Jesus. Truth is inflexible, 
resolute, gives steel to the spine, able to speak 
fearlessly and flawlessly even to those who hold 
the sword over their heads. Truth can speak from a 
cross as well as from a throne. From a burning 
stake, as well as backyard steak. From the sandy, 
bloody ground of a coliseum surrounded by lions as 
well from the smooth surface of a pulpit facing 
smiles and yawns. These truth-tellers are like 
Jesus, because time and place does not change 
their story. 

Pilate didn't judge Jesus. He was judged by 
Jesus. That encounter was the ruin of the governor 
who washed his hands and the salvation of the 
damned who dared not look toward Heaven. 

Who will we be like: Pilate or Jesus?

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