The Apostles’ Creed, the I Believe in God, has twelve articles. The first article is, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” The fourth article is an expression of believe in Jesus Christ, who “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.”

            Today is Palm Sunday. Another name for this Sunday is Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday derives its name from the Palms we use at Mass today to commemorate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, when the crowds waved palm fronds to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem on the first day of the last week of his earthly life. The name Passion Sunday comes from the Passion Narrative we read at this Sunday Mass. That is the long story of the Passion of Christ. And the word Passion is from the Latin passio, which means, “suffering.” So, the Passion Narrative tells us what Jesus suffered at the end of his public ministry. And to tell us that this Passion of Christ is not a made-up story, the Church has kept the name of the Pagan Governor who supervised the suffering and death of Christ. The Church has preserved this memory in her fourth article of faith where we express belief in Jesus Christ, who “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.”

            Who was Pontius Pilate? He was a Roman Procurator. He was employed by the Roman Emperor to manage finances and taxes in Judea. He was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judaea, and he served under Emperor Tiberius. He presided over the trial of Jesus Christ and ordered his crucifixion. As Governor, he had a lot of earthly power. Because of the Incarnation, Pontius Pilate had the temporary power over his God, Jesus Christ. He had the power to set him free, but he missed this wonderful opportunity.

            Pontius Pilate had to choose between Jesus Christ and Barabbas. Jesus Christ was innocent, but Barabbas was publicly known as a hardened criminal. Yet, Pontius Pilate pretended the difference was not clear to him. He placed both of them on the same scale. What a missed opportunity to stand for the truth! He passed the power on to the crowds to choose who deserved freedom between the innocent Jesus Christ and the guilty Barabbas, and the people chose Barabbas.

            The name Barabbas means “Son of the father.” But we have only one Father in the real sense, He is God, and He has only One Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. So, standing before Pilate were the real Son of the Father, Jesus Christ, and Barabbas the counterfeit, yet, Pilate could not choose wisely. What a missed opportunity!

            Pontius Pilate even had the audacity to ask Jesus, “What is truth?” Jesus answered him with a loud silence. This is my interpretation of Jesus’ silence: “Pilate, you ask me what truth is? Did you not hear when I said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life? If you cannot recognize me as the truth, there is nothing I say that will make sense to you. All you deserve now is my silence. What a missed opportunity!

            Poor Pilate! As governor, he had a rare opportunity to judge his God; an opportunity he could have converted into worship; he decided to be politically correct, he wanted to please the temporary crowd against his eternal God; he wanted to keep his temporary position against his eternal life. Poor Pilate! Imagine how many times a day people mention his name all over the world every second, not for good but for bad; we mention his name as the one under whose authority, Jesus, the true Son of the Father, suffered, was killed, and buried. Oh, infamous Pilate!

            How many more Pilates do we have among us today? We find ourselves in positions of authority, we make decisions about people, we know the truth but for temporary convenience, we side with the guilty against the innocent. We are modern day Pontius Pilates when at a conversation about a person who is absent, we know someone is misrepresenting the fact, but we support them or remain silent because we want to please the liar.

            Also, as electorates, we are modern day Pontius Pilates when we know the candidate who will work for the people, but we decide to campaign and vote for a criminal because he/she belongs to our political party, tribe, race, etc. We are actually modern day Pontius Pilates when we know the truth but still ask, “What is the truth?” Remember, posterity is real. Remember, posterity is real. It may be convenient now to tell a lie, but the truth will never die.  

My dearly beloved in Christ, now that you have the power of Pontius Pilate, what will you do with it? Will you vote for Jesus or will you vote for Barabbas? The choice is yours.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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