Today’s reading is Mark 15:1-15:
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Pilate was amazed. The chief priests had accused Jesus of many things, terrible things, lies, half-truths, slanders, cruelties, but Jesus had no answer. What kind of person gives no defense, has nothing at all to say for himself? A guilty man who has nothing to say? Pilate had seen that before, but he knew that Jesus was innocent. Or perhaps a broken man who has nothing left? Pilate had seen that before too, but this one wasn’t like that. His eyes were too clear, his head too erect, his voice too sure. What was this? Why not say something on your behalf—didn’t he know his fate? But of course he did. He wasn’t a madman. Pilate had seen them, too.
Who was this man?
Whoever he was, he was not the man the crowd had been looking for. “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Hadn’t that been their cry not a week before? But now they had changed their tune. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” They preferred Barabbas. At least he had done something against Pilate and the Caesar he stood for, spilled some blood, made someone pay. Jesus was not that kind of king. He was not the kind of man who would do what it takes to get results. He was a despicable pretender. “Give us Barabbas!”
Pilate wished to satisfy the crowd. It was not his fault, so he said to himself. What can one do? This bloodthirsty rabble, these hoi polloi, the pax Romana was too good for them. He washed his hands of this. He was not responsible, not really. The people want floggings, blood, and revenge—so let them have it. Better that one man die to keep the peace than we have a revolution on our hands.
It is their fault, not mine.
It is Caesar’s fault, not ours.
It is Jesus’s fault. It is all his fault. It must be his fault.
It is not my fault. It is NOT… MY… FAULT!
But Jesus made no further reply.
The Rev’d Jordan Hylden ’06 is a doctoral candidate in theology and ethics at Duke University Divinity School. He is the founding editor of the Ichthus.