Pilate: What is truth? in "The Passion of the Christ"OUR FAITH IN ACTION
The Pontius Pilate of "The Passion of the Christ" is a more multi-dimensional man than traditionally portrayed in film.
Not just a mean-spirited bureaucrat, he is an all-too-human proxy for modern man. Sadly, we may see a little of Pilate in ourselves.
A product of the Roman military, Pilate is a "results-oriented" ruler who finds himself in a most uncomfortable situation; he must determine Christ's fate.
Should he give the enemies of Christ the blood they desire? Should he stand up for the rights of an innocent man? A pragmatic man to whom everything is relative, he simply does not know. His political skills face a moral dilemma and come up wanting.
For Pilate, the ends justify the means. He wants to keep peace, to prevent civil unrest. In his final analysis, the death of an innocent man is an acceptable price to achieve his goal.
Are there Pilates in our own time?
The film compels us to ask whether there are Pilates in our world today. We have all seen and heard politicians say and do just about anything in the hope of getting votes. In the 2004 election cycle, some candidates have openly stated that their views will reflect the wishes of the majority, even if those wishes run counter to their personal moral or religious beliefs. Like Pilate, they hope to give the people what they want.
Corporate executives face the pressure of meeting shareholder expectations, and face the personal temptation of throwing out ethics to maximize personal financial gain. Some have given into these pressures and temptations by misstating financial statements, and in some cases eliminating jobs with little consideration for the value and dignity every person deserves.
A little Pilate in all of us?
In the movie, Pilate is torn. He thinks Jesus is innocent. His wife, Claudia, tells him that Jesus is a holy man and should not be punished. Jesus has many supporters, who will be angry if he is harmed. On the other hand, the church leaders want Jesus to be crucified; if they are not placated, Pilate might have a revolt on his hands. And a revolt would displease Pilate's boss, Tiberius. How often in our lives do we place strategic objectives such as power, money, or even the desire to be popular ahead of truth and doing what is morally correct?
The Roman Governor doesn't turn to the law or a moral code of right or wrong to help him. He sits and hangs his head, asking "what is truth?" He hasn't a clue.
Pilate truly is between a rock and a hard place. And without a sense of truth, he tries everything he can think of to weasel out of a decision. He sends Christ to Herod; Herod sends him back. He scourges him; the crowd asks for more. He offers to release him; the crowd wants Barabbas freed. In our lives do we at times place too much importance on pleasing others, instead of focusing on the truth and doing what is morally correct?
Pilate washes his hands, literally, of the affair. But he looks to be a broken man. Deep within, he knows that he cannot escape his part in Jesus' fate. Washing his hands will not bring him peace, will not erase the pain he feels, will not bring him closer to the definition of truth.
He feels the emptiness we all feel when we make a decision without relying on the truth, without determining what is right and sticking with it. Like Pilate, we can decide to make a decision that seems to maintain the peace. But if it isn't based on the truth, can it really give us peace in the long run?
Truth- John 18: 37 "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice."
THE SPLENDOR OF TRUTH shines forth in the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: "Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord" (Ps 4:6). Veritatis Splendor
Facilitator's Guide: Pilate: What is truth? "The Passion of the Christ"
The purpose of this unit is to:
Prayer: Lord, gives us the strength that Pilate lacked, the strength to seek Your truth and act in harmony with it. May we have the courage to do the right thing, even when it is not the popular thing.
For biographical information about Pontius Pilate www.newadvent.org/cathen/12083c.htm
Business Ethics magazine's site has numerous articles: www.business-ethics.com/
Loyola Marymount University's Center for Ethics and Business has a wealth of information about business ethics: www.ethicsandbusiness.org/
For the history and text of the Nicene Creed: www.newadvent.org/cathen/11049a.htm
Our Faith in Action Study Guides to The Passion of Christ
in Action: About the program
Faith in Action. "Pilate: What is truth?The Passion of the Christ." Our Faith in Action (February, 2004).
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