Vanilla has chocolate. Ups have downs. And kings have jesters. Jesus had Pilate. When kings ruled, most of them had a jester, who was a man whose sole job in life was to make the king laugh, and consequently the people in the king’s court. The latter were mostly ambitious sycophants who took their cue from the king’s reactions to the show.
Christ our King, void of a throne or a court, had no joker either. But history presented him with this pitiable Roman local official, the very exemplar of a soul trapped by peer pressure. Pilate was never a laugh-getter as far as we know. Perhaps he drew a chuckle or two from underlings at a wine party. But this weekend we see him again in that eternally dramatic scene drawn by John’s gospel that we read each Good Friday, standing right in front of Truth itself. All that Pilate can muster in response to Jesus is his hollow query “What is truth?” That sad day the procurator unintentionally links himself with the Jews he obviously despises. Both could not really hear Jesus’ voice. So Pilate becomes his own jester.
Of course, we know better. We do hear the prophet Daniel’s voice in that First Reading describing the future Savior’s kingdom as one that is destined to be everlasting. If only Pilate had read and believed the Old Testament prophets! We also learn from the Book of Revelation that Jesus is truly the “Alpha and the Omega,” the First and the Last, the Almighty. If only Pilate could have read this remarkable New Testament dreamer!
Now, if you and I are really honest with ourselves we could draw up a near endless list of realities in our lives that spark our gratitude. On this coming Thursday, we have our annual civic chance to recognize all that we have been given as a nation and as an individual.
But I believe we sell ourselves short if we do not thank God also for the existence of the Bible. It is our library of God’s word and a true source of connection with Him. We find within its pages and books of all kinds all we need to know about the truest, kindest and most loving King of them all.
We can add in humble thanks for the very gift of Faith that will not let us become another Pilate before Jesus. That awakens in us our truest best selves. And in turn we become something like the little boy I read about whose honesty can make us laugh.
It seems there was a little boy who was asked by his father to say grace at the table. Now it wasn’t for Thanksgiving Day with all its special goodies you must realize. Just an ordinary day. So, while the rest of the family waited, the little guy eyed every dish of food his mother had prepared. After the examination, he bowed his head and honestly prayed, ”Lord, I don’t like the looks of it, but I thank you for it, and I’ll eat it anyway. Amen.”
Reading I: Daniel 7: 13-14
The one in human form, which is what is meant by the term “son of man,” is not a real person in this context, but a symbol. His kingdom is to be everlasting.
Reading II: Revelation 1: 5-8
Jesus, the firstborn of the dead, deserves “glory and praise forever.”
The Gospel: John 18: 33b-37
Scholars call this section of John “Scene two” of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. It is high drama, as Jesus not only assures Pilate that His kingdom “does not belong to this world”, but also that He came to testify to the truth.