THE LESSER SIN OF CIVIL AUTHORITIES
“…He (Pilate) entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’” (Jn 19: 9-11)
Pilate was in a position of civil “power,” which is given to him “from above,” as our Lord reminds him. More surprisingly, perhaps, Jesus mercifully adds that “therefore” Pilate’s sin is lesser than that of Judas, who was not burdened with any position of public authority. While Pilate is still “guilty of a sin,” as a public servant he finds himself pushed to carry out not only the good desires of his public, but also the bad ones, as in this case.
I tend to forget Christ’s merciful comment to Pilate, amidst the brutal political climate of today. We treat those in public office as scapegoats, I think, for everything and anything that is “wrong” with our own selves, like our failure properly to raise and educate our children, or our spending habits. But today let me be reminded to pray for those holding public office, and indeed those running for it, because... somebody has to do it! As St. Paul urges me: “First of all…I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.” (1 Tim 2: 1-2)