Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus is now brought before Pilate by the Sanhedrin.
Following the conclusion of Jesus’ Jewish trial, Mark is careful to emphasise how the chief priests, the elders, the teachers of the Law and indeed the whole Sanhedrin are involved in the decision making process of bringing Jesus before Pilate. They are also present and actively involved in the second ‘trial’ as Pilate meets the prisoner. The objective here is a death sentence, something that lay only in the gift of the Roman Procurator.
The only charge that will gain any traction with the Romans is a political one; connecting Jesus with a potential revolutionary movement that could destabilise Roman control of Palestine.
Rome was ruthless with such threats, especially because they were very real. Israel’s history of revolt against pagan overlords and the regular appearance of messianic figures and revolutionary movements (think for example of the Macabbean revolt, the later Jewish war of 66-70AD and the successful but short-lived establishment of an independenst state led by the messianic figure of Simon bar Kochba in 132-36AD) meant that being identified as a leader of such a movement usually equalled rapid execution.
Mark’s account could hardly be more sparse: the critical political question is highlighted (Are you the king of the Jews?). Jesus’ throws the question back at Pilate. What do you think? By doing so, is he pointing out both the illegitimacy of the charges and how Pilate’s understanding of Jewish kingship is of a completely different order to his (Jesus’) teaching on the kingdom of God?
Like many before him, Pilate is amazed by Jesus. Mark does not tell us exactly why. By his charisma, courage and dignity, mocked, beaten and whipped, facing death and yet refusing to compromise or seek to save himself? Or do you see other reasons here?
One thing stands out to me here – Jesus perfectly walks an astonishingly fine line of both rejecting the injustice of the whole trial process while simultaneously accepting his fate as the climax to his God-given mission to Israel.
Jesus Before Pilate
1Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.