Tortured under Pontius Pilate

Reading: Tortured under Pontius Pilate (Apostles’ Creed)

Reflection: As I write this, the thought comes to mind that the story of the Old Bridge in Mostar and its creation can serve as an illustration for what I want to say. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but I’ll tell the story anyway. It was long believed that the bridge took nine years to build, but today the prevailing opinion is that it was built in one season. This quick construction project was preceded by eight long years of thinking, preparation, and failed attempts by Mimar Hajrudin, who according to legend did not even attend the opening and launch of the bridge for fear of failure. Without understanding these previous eight years, all its beauty, historical significance, and cultural symbolism would not have their full meaning. From this point of view, the bridge was indeed built for nine long years. And if we had time to delve into all the details of Hajrudin’s building genius, the beauty of this gem of our cultural and historical heritage would shine even more. I leave this for you to explore on your own.

When we read the Apostles’ Creed and in a blink of an eye jump from Christ’s birth to His final moments on earth, we can rightfully ask what value there is in what happened in between in His mission of Redemption. Some reformers (Calvin) believed that the creed deals only with what is essential for our Redemption, especially His death and resurrection. Others, delving deeper into this question, quickly corrected this view of Jesus’ life in Article 37 of the Heidelberg Catechism, where in answering the question of what we confess when we say He suffered, they wrote: The whole time He lived on earth, but especially at the end, Christ in body and soul bore the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race. Thus by His suffering, as the only atoning sacrifice, He redeemed our body and soul from eternal damnation and won for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.

Jesus’ suffering, about which the creed speaks, is not just the suffering of the last seven days, but of His entire earthly life. The Eternal and Infinite, stepping into history, imprisoned Himself in time and space and subjected Himself to the laws that He Himself not only devised but also set in motion to govern the universe. He who sees a thousand years as one day, taking on flesh, began to count the days and years, becoming subject to mortality and decay, “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them.” (Isaiah 40:6-7) He experienced rejection, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11). They threatened Him with death, “They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.” (Luke 4:29). He felt alienated, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20). He was lonely at crucial moments, “Could you not stay awake with me one hour?” (Mt 26:40).

His life is best summed up by the prophetic words of the prophet Isaiah, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:3) It would be so wrong to associate suffering only with the last week of Jesus’ life. In that week, the suffering reached its climax, and it happened at a historical moment when Pontius Pilate was the governor of the Roman province of Judea.

The word of God teaches us that suffering is a big part of our life experience on earth. It’s not surprising when we feel it on our own skin. Pain, sadness, rejection, and misunderstanding are integral parts of our existence. But isn’t that what makes life worthwhile? Isn’t that what gives it a specific weight? People who have gone through suffering and who continue on despite all the challenges that life has put before them are precisely the people whose example you will follow and from whom you will seek advice. Every painful moment of our earthly life that we experience without losing heart, without succumbing to pressure, without making compromises, will add to the splendor of the magnificent moment when the Bride, the Church, pure and without blemish, will meet her Bridegroom. Two hands, His and Hers, scarred with wounds that testify to suffering, will join in eternity.

Prayer: Father, we pray that you open our eyes to gain a proper view of the suffering we go through in this life. Give us the strength to accept it as an integral part of our path and to carry it out to Your glory. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day, He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there, He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

Posted in Daily devotionals.