March 30, 2018
The Quakers have a well known saying: Speak truth to power. As I pondered John’s version of the encounter between Pilate and Jesus, this saying kept coming to mind. Here is Jesus, facing the most powerful person in Jerusalem–a man known to be brutal in his dealings with the local population; a man who ordered executions on a daily basis. Here is Jesus facing this powerful man and refusing to be drawn into a debate. Instead, he answers Pilate’s first question with a question, like any good rabbi would do. As the interrogation goes on, Jesus continues to refuse to take the bait and argue with Pilate, tempting as it is. He doesn’t try to talk his way out of this very dangerous situation. Instead, Jesus speaks the truth–the truth that the untouchable reality of his life is not of this world of money changers and violence and domination. Rather, he tells Pilate that his “realm,” indeed his very being, is his relationship with God, and that he is here, in this world, to testify to that truth. This moment takes us back to the beginning of Lent: to the desert and the drama of Jesus and his confrontation with the Tempter. There, too, he refused to debate with this dark inner power. Instead, he replied with words of scripture to each of the temptations offered to him. Likewise for us here today, inside us and outside us, the powers are there, trying to draw us away from a life lived in God. The good and painful news today, and every day, is that we can and must speak the truth to those powers, in our words and in our actions, regardless of the consequences.