Friday, April 15, 2022

Tragedy Amongst Triumph

Please be sure to see the previous post on Good Friday. Thanks.

A guest post from Mustang:   

Human history is beset with tragedy.  There is a tragedy, for example, even in God’s greatest gift, which is a two-edged sword.  He gave us the gift of free will, which allows us to determine our own ultimate destiny.  This means that some of us, perhaps even most of us, will never find our way into His presence.  To never have a relationship with the Almighty is, I believe, the definition of hell.  Heaven is not a place where there are streets of gold and magnificent feasts (a silly concept, if you ask me) — hell is our refusal to establish and maintain a close relationship with our Father.

Good Friday and Easter remind us of the greatest story ever told — which is also illuminates human tragedy.  Two tragic figures stand out, but there were than just a few.  I think of Pontius Pilate, whose role on Good Friday was pre-ordained.  Here we have a man who was raised within his society to be a good Roman.  Because of this, he could no more help who he was at middle age than any of us can help who we are ... except that most of us have been raised in an enlightened household, within which we have some understanding that ultimately, our destiny is entirely up to us.  Romans were raised to believe that their mythical gods determined their fate.
Pontius was a career Roman soldier.  To him, Good Friday may have been just another miserable day in a wretched land.  At some time during the day, he was quite unexpectedly faced with having to make a fateful decision.  Pontius, I believe, did his duty as a Roman soldier.  He didn’t know about the Old Testament prophecies — and, like most of us today, he didn’t know what he didn’t know.  Pontius didn’t know who this Jesus of Nazareth fellow was and could not have believed it even had he known.
I think Christian history treats Pontius unfairly.  From a young age, we are taught to revile this Roman officer — which is completely unfair because Pontius was unknowingly fulfilling the prophecy.  Shall we denounce a man who was doing God’s will?  I believe that while standing before Pontius Pilot, Jesus felt great compassion for this man who knew not.
We similarly revile Judas — the traitor.  But without Judas there would have been no arrest; without Judas, the prophecy could not have been fulfilled.  His treachery was foretold; it was already out of Judas’ hands.  Was this not also a great tragedy?
Pontius tried not to crucify the man called Jesus; he left it up to the Jewish leadership to decide our Lord’s fate.  In the orthodox tradition, with absolutely no record available to us suggesting that it is true, Pontius is believed to have become a Christian; he is viewed by some in the orthodox faith as a martyr for Christ.  If this is true, then it reinforces our Christian belief that there is redemption for us all.  Therefore, even at the end of these tragedies, we are offered hope.
I mention this only because — even in the greatest story ever told — whose ultimate lesson is that there will be a resurrection and an accounting for all of us, if we but love God with all our heart, and if we can find a way to forgive those who trespass against us — we find examples of the tragedy of human life.  Isn’t it strange that we Christians somehow find it possible to forgive Peter for his denial of Christ, but withhold our forgiveness from Pontius for “washing his hands of the matter?”

 I will tell you that these reminders of life’s tragedies prompt me to realize my unworthiness of God’s love.  Like Pontius, who was a dutiful man, I simply don’t know what I don’t know ... and I understand even less.

Mustang posts at 

Old West Tales and Fix Bayonets


  1. Interesting take on Pilate. I mostly agree. We criticize him for allowing Jesus to be executed because he knew it was wrong. He knew the Jews wanted to get rid of Jesus out of jealousy. We wouldn't expect a high Roman official, and one who held the Jews in great contempt at that, to be subject to such persuasions.

    But there’s a back story. Not long before, a plot against Caesar was discovered. Its leaders were tortured and executed in a public fashion designed to dissuade anyone else. Then they went after the men those men had mentored. Then they went after the 3rd level, the ones those guys mentored. This 3rd level was told "we're watching you for any sign of disloyalty." Pilate was in that situation. Rome was not going to wholesale destroy their whole colonial administration, but it was essential to have NO whiff of disloyalty at this time.

    John 19:12 reveals who was really on trial here: From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

    This was no schoolboy's taunt. It was a serious death threat. This whole business was very public. It would be impossible to imagine that the Jewish leadership did not know Pilate's tricky position. BTW, this was a brief window in time. I have forgotten the years, but very short. Had the Jews tried this maybe even 2 years before, or 2 years later he likely would have told them to eff off.

    The window of history that allowed Jesus to legally die by the malice of others only opened briefly. Pilate’s will at the time fit in the plan of God, but I believe Pilate always had a choice. I have no doubt had he refused the Jews would have found a way. Yes, it was God’s will for Jesus to die and rise from the dead, but woe to the ones who have the black heart to do it without repentance.


    1. I didn't know that. You always teach me something.
      Amazingly small window in time. What a coincidence.
      Almost like it was designed that way.

    2. Yeah, one might get that impression. Almost a kind of "remez" of God being in control. :)


  2. BTW, Pilate did get his digs in at the Jewish leaders. He wrote the sign placed at Jesus' cross identifying his crime. As one bible teacher I had once said "whenever we might just pass by something without recognizing its importance the Pharisees come to our rescue and make such a fuss we are alerted to something more in the text."

    Jesus' execution is one of those times. The Jews complain to Pilate that the sign says Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews. They want him to re-write it to say "He said" he was king of the Jews. Pilate answers cryptically "what I have written, I have written."

    What's the difference? Well, the Jews were into word plays like acrostics. Many have been found, including on tombstones. The whole of Psalm 119 is a type of acrostic! Pilate would likely have known this.

    What he wrote is also read as an acrostic: Yaweh

    Yikers!! No wonder the Jews were so angry. Did he believe it? I doubt it. But he knew it would piss off the Jews to see it. And it worked!


  3. Awesome post, Mister Mustang sir! Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” Was he sincerely inquiring or mocking? Who are the truth seekers today, and where do they go for "their truth"? Twitter? CNN? FOX? The CDC? I know where I look.

    Happy Easter all. He is Risen!

    1. He should have asked Who is Truth. He was looking Him right in the face.

  4. The age old question of Free Will.... Is there free will if in fact the actions are necessary to fulfill prophecy...
    The Calvinists have their point of view.