Mainly a Question of Power

My Rhode Island Catholic column for April takes up the interaction of Jesus and Pilate, with its lessons about power:

The striking thing, if Jesus told Pilate to label Him as he did, is that Caesar’s representatives clearly had the power to kill the corporeal King of the Jews. Moreover, the fact that Jesus did not, after His resurrection, take Jerusalem by storm and expunge the Romans suggests that secular power over the material is not a force that Christians should deny.
American writer H.L. Mencken once quipped that “the god in the sanctuary” was proven “a fraud” by “fellows who heaved dead cats into sanctuaries and then went roistering down the highways of the world.” They faced no Earthly repercussions for their sacrilege, the thinking goes, so clearly, a god who promises to punish such behavior has no real power over them or does not exist.
Christians must own up to the individual and collective error of repeatedly reverting to a before-Christ understanding of God as a guarantor of eventual success in this world. To such lapses, those others who are skeptical, or even hostile, have replied, “Well look how much power we have over your God and His people — to deny Him, to ensnare them in dependency and corruption, to crucify the Risen Lord again and again with disproof of His existence.” On that particular cross, they inscribe “Faith, the Theory of Believers.”

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OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

Justin, you only brushed the surface and ignored some crucial details. You said, Moreover, the fact that Jesus did not, after His resurrection, take Jerusalem by storm and expunge the Romans suggests that secular power over the material is not a force that Christians should deny.
Jesus understood, as Justin very apparently does not, that Rome alone was not responsible for Jesus’ death. The death sentence required a collusion of Rome, the political power of the day in Israel, and the leading members of the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of the day in Israel. The two church leaders, Caiaphas and Annas pressed Pilate for the death sentence. Pilate acquiesced. Not only were church and state involved, but the churchmen were wealthy and well connected. That’s how they got the position in the first place. The following quote is from http://www.livius.org:

Nothing is known about Caiaphas’ early career, but we can assume that he was a member of a wealthy family, because he married a daughter of the high priest who is called Annas, Ananus or Chanan (6-15 CE). Even when he was no longer in function, he was extremely influential. According to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, five of his sons were high priests (Jewish antiquities 20.198); we may add his son-in-law.
In 18, the Roman governor Valerius Gratus appointed Caiaphas as high priest. The two men must have had an excellent working relation, because Caiaphas remained in office exceptionally long. Gratus’ successor Pontius Pilate retained the high priest in office.

Look a little deeper, Justin, and take heart, at least you’re on the first step.
OldTimeLefty

Justin Katz
11 years ago

N.B.: The relevant distinction is between the type of messiah the Jews were hoping for and the type that they received. It has nothing to do with a question of revenge against the guilty parties in Jesus’ crucifixion.

OldTimeLefty
11 years ago

It’s not difficult to understand, secular and religious leaders got together to kill an innocent man. If you can’t see it, it’s because you don’t want to. The type of messiah the Jews were hoping for is irrelevant to the fact that Jesus was tried, sentenced and executed by a collaboration of state and church. While Pilate was washing his hands, Caiaphas was placing 30 pieces of silver in Judas’s.
OldTimeLefty

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