Pilate: Courage or Cowardice?
Where do you see courage? In those who bravely face a difficult illness? Or when a tough decision has to be made? We want our children to have the courage to resist peer pressure, in whatever form it takes when others are trying to push them to do the wrong things. We want our children and ourselves to have the strength and resilience to not succumb to pressure to behave in risky ways or make decisions with terrible consequences. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, in the face of difficult and dangerous decisions, do we protect ourselves rather than risk serving a higher truth or value?
In the Passion story, we repeatedly see the courage of Jesus. He faces difficult moments and challenges to his teaching and authority. In the worst of circumstances, Jesus experiences the betrayal of one disciple, Judas, followed quickly by Peter denying he even knows Jesus. As he is put on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, we see the contrast of Jesus’ courage and Pilate’s cowardice. Pilate realizes Jesus is not really guilty of any crime, but he accedes to the wishes of the crowd. He ignores the demands of conscience and Jesus pays the price of Pilate’s fear and faintheartedness with his very life.
We could all point to people we admire for their faithfulness and their courage, whether it is a vocal and visible stance or a quiet, inner conviction that successfully fights a personal battle. All of us have moments when we need to draw deeply from the reserve of our own courage and God’s help to face a tough personal situation. We look to Jesus and his deep trust in God. Jesus had confidence that God’s presence and faithfulness would not leave him during his trials. He trusted that God who had helped him through hard moments of conflict, temptation and pain in the past would certainly be present and working as he faced Roman justice and death. Jesus seemed to understand that even when God cannot change the current circumstances we face, God gives us everything we need to face the emotional, spiritual and physical demands put upon us, even when it appears overwhelming. Sunday we worship the God of life, who is with us in the most strenuous and torturous times, who does not leave us, but walks with us so we don’t have to back down or lose our courage.
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