letting go of cynicism: meet Pilate
So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” John 18:33-38| ESV
1. A person who believes that all people are motivated by selfishness.
2. A person whose outlook is scornfully negative.
The Pilate we meet in Scripture fits that.
And we fit it pretty well ourselves.
Many reject the Gospels’ telling of Jesus’ trials and judgment at the hands of Pilate because he comes off as having a heart – a cynic’s heart maybe, but a heart nevertheless. History otherwise tells us he was a sheer, calculating, political brute who wouldn’t have hesitated for a moment at the thought of crucifying such a Galilean peasant as Jesus.
Clearly, Pilate was no saint.
Like all those given authority in the realm of humanity, he was there to “give justice to the weak and maintain the right of the afflicted.” It’s clear Pilate was responding to different political DNA.
Yes, these were there in spades.
But his heart was the heart of a cynic.
He saw a religious council moved by envy, an ignorant crowd manipulated, a fellow politician (Herod) that can be played to his own immediate and long-term advantage, and a peasant that defied the cynic’s categories, a peasant that seemed to change all the rules. A peasant that aggravated him to the point that the cynic’s heart cried out the quintessential question of every cynic, “What is truth???”
We can try washing our hands and posturing ourselves all we would like, but in our pragmatic “show me the money” culture, we are all cynics.
Everyone has an angle.
Everyone wants to play me.
Everyone has an agenda.
We live in the shadows of suspicion of any and everyone – especially if they have power.
I learned it as a mantra through my childhood from a cynic father: trust no one.
Fewer dungeons are more dank, dark, and deadly. Such a self-imprisoning cell will ultimately consume us, as it evidently did Pilate. Perhaps that day with Christ before the manipulated throngs was merely a footnote in his personal memory, but it was the moment that ultimately defined him – but not in the way it could or should have. There was no happy ending in Pilate’s life. And even if there had been, his cynic heart wouldn’t have been able to accept and embrace it.
How good and beautiful to drop our heavy burden of cynicism before the wonder of God in Christ
as we take a mustard seed of faith in its place…
To what extent do you recognize cynicism as a dominating factor in your life? Where do you see it most evident in you? How can it give way to faith in us?
Lord, free me from my cynic prison, my fortress of doubt and skepticism that sees little good in anyone or anything. Give me reborn eyes of wonder to see your beauty in the worst of people and the darkest of circumstances. Through Jesus.