Pontius Pilate (2) – Discernment *

Pontius Pilate had a problem.

Please read Matthew 27:24-26 & John 19:16-22

For all his gesture  and protestation, Pilate was still obliged to have the final word, and he did so in a probably characteristically sadistic way: he had this innocent man flogged and crucified. Often used as a preliminary to crucifixion, flogging or scourging was no token beating but as Josephus described the process, meant someone was ‘flayed to the bone’ and it was sometimes fatal in itself.

All the same, despite his misgivings – his self-betrayal perhaps – Pilate did have the very final word. Above the cross, as was common at the time, a plaque is placed stating the person’s misdemeanour. Pilate had written the words: ‘The King of the Jews’. And to further emphasise the point, John’s Gospel tells us it was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. Just to make it absolutely clear to all who were present. People of every language.

Challenged by the Chief Priests to change it. This time Pilate stays firm: ‘What I have written I have written.’

For most of my employment career I was a public servant, working for the civil service and then the NHS. A long time ago, I was looking for another job in a totally different field of work and at one interview I was asked how I would cope with a situation where I was asked to represent the prospective employer in a way with which I personally disagreed. Possibly somewhat to their astonishment I told them that as a public servant one faces such dilemmas a lot of the time (I didn’t get the job!).

In the same way that most of us have faced dilemmas, we have probably all had to do something that, deep down, we disagreed with or knew was not right. Such untenable situations are often times when we need to discern what our response is and what God is saying through them.

When we are discerning what we believe to be God’s will, we may find ourselves experiencing a range of emotions and thoughts. We might write a list of pros and cons of each aspect of the dilemma. We might talk to other people and gain their opinion and insight. We might take the ‘Gideon’s Fleece’ approach – laying out the options before God and asking for specific guidance. And all those approaches may well be beneficial in discerning the way forward. Some situations may ultimately lead us to ‘wash our hands’ of it. To stick with what we personally believe. To maintain our own integrity. To say ‘what I have written I have written’.

Bring to mind an occasion when you were trying to discern God’s will about a specific situation.

What feelings did you have?

What or who was helpful in discerning the way forward?