Lent Reflection 2

Pontius Pilate‘To the picture of the free but divinely ordained determination of the existence of Jesus to this outcome there must also be added everything that is said in the Gospels about the world around, in which the “wicked husbandmen” are given particular prominence as the decisive agents. We are not set at an indeterminate point in world history. The passion of the Son of Man is, of course, the work of the Gentiles, of Pilate and his race, but only secondarily and indirectly. Pilate has to be there, In more than one respect, especially as the responsible (although not really responsible) representative of government, he is one of the central figures in the Gospel story. Unwillingly and unwittingly he is the executor Novi Testamenti (Bengel). For by delivering Jesus to him, Israel unwittingly accomplishes-“they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34)-His handing over to humanity outside Israel, and the Messiah of Israel becomes the Saviour of the world. Again, as Pilate delivers him to his men for execution, he is the man by whose will and work the divine act of redemption is accomplished. It is not the case however, as in some schematic presentations, that Israel and the Gentiles, Church and state, co-operated equally in accusing and condemning Jesus and destroying Him as a criminal. It is not for nothing that the one who initiates this action is the apostle Judas, and in his person the elect tribe of Judah to which Christ Himself also belonged, and in Judah (the Jews, as they are summarily described in John) the chosen and called people of Israel. It is in this sphere that we find ourselves in the passion story. We are not really in the main theatre of world history, but in the vineyard of the Lord. It is Israel, represented by its spiritual and ecclesiastical and theological leaders, but also by its vox populi, that refuses and rejects and condemns Jesus and finally delivers Him up as a blasphemer to the Gentiles, to be executed by them as a political criminal, although Pilate is quite unable and unwilling to pronounce Him guilty as such, and only causes Him to be put to death unjustly and against His better judgment. It was to this delivering up by this Israel which rejected and condemned Him, to death at the hands of this people, to this conclusion of His history that Jesus gave up Himself, and was given up by God. This is what we must always keep before us in our understanding of His passion’. – Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV.2 (ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance; trans. G.W. Bromiley; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1958), 260.

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