Pilate and Resistance
At Slatespeak this week (a great community on Twitter, hashtag Slatespeak every Thursday night at 9pm eastern) we were talking about resistance.
Where do we see it in the Bible, who is doing it, etc.? Perhaps a strange example, but what about Pontius Pilate?
What about Pontius Pilate. He isn’t a large character in the Bible, in fact, his part is rather small. He is the governor at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion, the one who will decide who is to die and who will be released, according to custom. He is the one who stands in judgment on Jesus’s trial, and this is where we see his resistance.
Pilate knew that this “King of the Jews” had done nothing wrong in the eyes of the law, but he also knew that the mob wanted blood. So he offers a choice between a criminal- Barrabas- and an innocent man- Jesus. Who do you want released, of these two men? The crowd responds ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’
And Pilate’s wife warns him that he should have nothing to do with this Jesus, even though he is innocent, because if he does something terrible will happen, because she has suffered much in a dream on account of Him.
But we still see Pilate’s resistance: he asks if they are sure. But this man has done no wrong, he insists, this man is innocent, why would you want to crucify him?
The crowd responds with the same call: crucify Jesus of Nazareth. And,
“When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude…” (NKJV)
And when Pilate saw that to keep resisting the crowd would cause consequences for him, he backed down. He stepped out, he washed his hands of the cause of the innocent man because to do otherwise would put his power, his position, his own life in jeopardy.
The going got tough, and Pilate got going.
So what about us?
When the consequences are not precisely an angry mob but something that feels like it, can we resist? Can we resist the urge to fall silent when we see that the mob wants the blood of an innocent refugee, stranger, prophet, person of color, minority, revolutionary, homeless person, etc…?
Can we resist despair? Can we resist silence, and all the -isms, and the fight or flight instinct of self-preservation, of washing our hands of a cause when it gets too real or it gets too rough? Those of us who can wash our hands of it anyway…
Pilate could wash his hands of Jesus because he was governor. Because he was not Jesus, nor a prophet or a refugee or a revolutionary. Pilate had the power to wash his hands of the whole affair, and people would let him.
When the going gets tough, can we resist the urge to get going?
When our reputations, our positions, our own lives, our privileges or our power are at risk, can we resist our own resistance? Can we resist ourselves? Our church, our family, our neighbors, our friends? And can we do it in the Name of love?
We resist because of our faith, not in spite of it. Because at the end of the day, even when we are being told our resistance is wrong, we will have to look in the mirror and know we are square with God. We resist because of this Jesus. Not in spite of Him.
“ and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NKJV)
We root our resistance in love and Love and we dig down deep into that well because Love will protect us. (Valarie Kaur) We form resistance in our communities, united and diversified, both in faith. We get strength from relationship. With God, with each other, with strangers who become friends, and we let that love fill us and revive us when the walk gets too hard.
We keep going. We use love as our shield and we stand when the powerful go after the marginalized. We walk humbly. That means behind, if we are the privileged ones. We allow those we would silence to lead, and we do not declare ourselves allies, because we do not get to claim any titles but those given to us by God. To love is to keep going. To hope. To help. To stand between the mighty and the broken. To link arms, to go out.
“We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand…” (Link)
We make magic in words and stories. (see J K Rowling and Valarie Kaur)
We carry a candle and our cross and we go where there is injustice, or pain, or despair. We give of our hope and we give of love. Sometimes that means resistance to the oppressor, sometimes rejecting despair, sometimes dancing or celebration, sometimes grieving, comforting, or giving aid.
Resistance can be as simple as breathing, existing. As saying “I am alive! I am here. I have a voice, and I have a story.” Even if that story is still only a whisper.
(For more on this topic from people smarter than me, see the Slatespeak chat and forthcoming Storify.)