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And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate

September 21, 2013

pontius_pilate-794615Every phrase, every clause in the Creed has its own significance, contains its own depth, and offers us guidance in how we are to live our lives. When we recite the Nicene Creed, we may be tempted to gloss over the words “under Pontius Pilate” or “according to the Scriptures,” yet they say something important about time, about history, about providence, and even about us. The apostolic fathers such as Saint Justin Martyr often referred to the Acts of Pontius Pilate, the official record of his duties as procurator, a manuscript that was sent on March 28th to the Emperor Tiberius. There are a number of ancient manuscripts that go by this title and are considered apocryphal writings. They do not add much to the Gospel accounts, but they do proclaim that Christ’s crucifixion was not a private affair or something that only concerned the Jews, but rather something that was and is of great concern for all of humanity. They also affirm, as the fathers repeatedly emphasize, that Jesus Christ of Nazareth truly suffered, died, and was risen, not just in appearance, but in the flesh, in a particular place, in a particular time, in a particular culture, under a particular government, under Pontius Pilate.

The name of the infamous Roman governor anchors the saving acts of Christ in this infamous world, not outside it, and in our infamous world as well. In a world of corruption, violence, diabolical influences, envy, hatred, and cruelty, the Godman decisively enters, willingly endures, and is gloriously victorious. Sometimes when we hear of violence, of shootings, of wars, of violations of human rights, of corrupt politicians, small people in important positions, we can feel powerless, helpless, and lost. At such times, the words “under Pontius Pilate” have added meaning in our lives. For we all live under many Pontii Pilates, but Christ lives there with us, is crucified and rises again. And if Christ is with us, we are not powerless, helpless, and lost, but strengthened, able, and found by the Savior of our souls.

The words “Pontius Pilate” also intimate that we are to meet Christ in our own time, in our own place, in our own existence in the flesh. Being now, not then, here, not there, is by its nature limiting and sometimes even stifling, but Christ’s presence in our here and our now opens it up, beyond the town we call home, beyond the president or prime-minister that we are under, beyond the age in which we live. Christ opens up our here unto endless expanses and our time into a living eternity. Pontius Pilate is long since dead, his authority vanished, his bones but dust. Yet, Christ lives forever and those who live in Christ live with Him forever as well. And no Pontius Pilate can change that.

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