Friday, October 18, 2013

Den Of Lions (part 6)

Undoubtedly, Darius would have been surprised to hear accusations of subversion concerning Daniel, and would have been likely to respond with some measure of incredulity.  Similarly, if this were true of Jesus, Pilate, in his collusion with the temple authorities (particularly the Sadducees), would probably have heard something along these lines (a person claiming to be king, instructing people to not pay taxes to Rome) prior to this point.  So it could safely be said that Pilate regarded the accusation against Jesus with a measure of incredulity as well.  Things of this nature, which would require the attention of the governor, didn’t just happen overnight or occur under a rock.  They build over time and eventually reach a boiling point that would require some type of intervention by Rome. 

If this issue with Jesus was now at the point of Roman intervention, then it stands to reason that Pilate is going to have some familiarity with the charges that are being brought against Jesus.  Contrary to this expectation, the cumulative Gospel record paints a picture of a governor that is fully unaware of the man that is being placed before him, and the subversion of which He is being accused.  To this end, the Gospel of John has these men saying, about Jesus, in response to Pilate’s question of “What accusation to you bring against this man?” (18:29b), “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you” (18:30b). 

When it came to Daniel, “When the king heard about this, he was very upset and began thinking about how he might rescue Daniel.  Until late afternoon he was struggling to find a way to rescue him” (6:14).  This is a regular echo of the Gospel accounts.  In Matthew, it is reported that Pilate’s “wife sent a message to him: ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man…’” (27:19b)  In Luke, “Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no basis for an accusation against this man.’” (23:4b) 

Pilate, as he plays a Darius-like role, would even send Jesus to King Herod in order to see if Rome’s puppet-king would intervene on behalf of Jesus so as to spare Pilate from having to take further action.  The Gospels acquit Pilate to an extent, reporting that after Jesus returns from Herod, “Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people.  When I examined Him before you, I did not find this man guilty of anything you accused Him of doing.  Neither did Herod, for he sent Him back to us.  Look, He has done nothing deserving death.’” (23:13-15) 

Going on to the Gospel of John, Pilate’s actions are there also reported to be quite similar to those of King Darius, looking for a way to spare the accused, as he questions Jesus and eventually says “I find no basis for an accusation against Him” (18:38b).  He repeats these words (“I find no reason for an accusation against Him” – 19:4b) after having Jesus flogged, seemingly hoping that this will satisfy those who have brought Jesus before him.  Again, a third time, against the protests of the chief priests, as they stirred up the crowds, Pilate says “Certainly I find no reason for an accusation against Him” (19:6b). 

The Gospel writer appears to be emphatic (perhaps owing to the charges of overt sedition that were regularly leveled against Christians in the late first century when the Gospel of John is thought to have been composed), insisting on demonstrating that “Pilate tried to release Him” (19:12), exploring every possible option that was available to him, much like Darius struggled to find a way to rescue Daniel from the fate of the den of lions.  Their efforts, of course, were to no avail.     

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