Christ Before Pilate TINTORETTO (1566-1567)

by Father John Bartunek
From The Catholic Spiritual Direction

“Jesus responded to the questions of the Roman governor affirming that he was King, but not of this world. He did not come to dominate peoples and territories, but to free men from the slavery of sin and be reconciled with God.” – Pope Benedict XVI

John 18:28-40: They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves or they would be defiled and unable to eat. So Pilate came outside to them and said, ‘What charge do you bring against this man?’ They replied, ‘If he were not a criminal, we should not be handing him over to you’. Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law’. The Jews answered, ‘We are not allowed to put a man to death’. This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die. So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ he asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’ ‘Truth?’ said Pilate ‘What is that?’; and with that he went out again to the Jews and said, ‘I find no case against him. But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release the king of the Jews?’ At this they shouted: ‘Not this man,’ they said ‘but Barabbas’. Barabbas was a brigand.

Christ the Lord As the liturgical year reaches its conclusion with the Solemnity of Christ the King, by presenting us with this passage the Church shows us the stark contrast between Christ’s Kingdom and all other kingdoms. Pilate is the Roman Emperor’s representative in Palestine. His career as procurator had been marked by violence and political blunders, by which he alienated the Jews he was supposed to be ruling. Though he recognized Jesus’ innocence, he feared further conflict with the Jewish leaders, since that could cause them to denounce him to the emperor. Pilate is the typical earthly king, interested more in his personal career, prestige, and success than in what is true and right. Even when he finds himself face-to-face with the light of Truth itself, his own worldly ambitions blind him to it. We are sympathetic to him because we share his weakness.

Jesus, on the other hand, is fully identified with his Kingdom, the eternal Kingdom, established on the solid but hidden foundations of truth and divine love. His Kingdom is demanding but lasting. It involves obedience to the Father’s will, even at times to the point of sacrificing one’s earthly life. But it is the true Kingdom, the realm of meaning – deep, existential meaning – that abides. For the sake of this Kingdom, Jesus is willing to suffer rejection and injustice at the hands of an earthly king, because he knows that such a crime will only reveal more brilliantly the splendor of his Lordship. We are inspired by him because we know in our hearts that we are called to the same kind of nobility of spirit. We recognize that we cannot serve both Christ the King and the kings of this earth, and we are often torn between the two. Every such moment of decision (and there are plenty of them every day) presents us with a chance to renew our option for Christ, to confirm our citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

Christ the Teacher Pilate stands face-to-face with the Lord of the universe. They are having a conversation. No one can interrupt them. The cool morning air is refreshing. Pilate is agitated by the circumstances, but he is thinking clearly because it’s still early in the day. Jesus is exhausted from the first twelve hours of his Passion, but his eyes glow with the love and determination that had led him to this hour. His love for Pilate is no less because of his tiredness. He came to earth in order to save Pilate’s soul. Providence has brought them together. Jesus is eager to draw this Roman patrician close to his heart. All the conditions are right for Pilate to detect in Jesus the God for whom his heart longs. Yet he doesn’t. He is in the same room with Jesus, speaking with him, but he remains unmoved. Why?

“Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Here Jesus teaches us the secret to intimacy with God. Whoever lets himself be led by what is true will be drawn into communion with Christ and will hear and heed God’s ceaseless invitations to follow him more closely. But being led by truth requires humility. It requires recognizing a higher authority than oneself: if I am obliged to discover, accept, and conform to what is objectively true (morally, physically, historically), then I am not autonomous, I am not the master of my universe, I am not God. That act of humility, which frees us from the enervating bonds of selfishness, is hard to make. Our fallen human nature tends towards pride, towards self-sufficiency, control, and dominance. To resist that tendency requires courage. It takes courage to obey the truth and expose oneself to the burning love of God. May he grant it to us all in abundance.

Christ the Friend “Mine is not a Kingdom of this world.” If it were, our friendship with Christ would be a lot easier than it sometimes is. He wants to lead us along the journey of life in this world towards our eternal home in heaven. Therefore, he often urges us to get up and move along when we are tired. He often asks us to take steep, demanding paths that we would prefer to avoid. But he knows the way, and he knows the destination. Like a true friend, he will never rest until we have reached the fullness of life – even if he has to put up with our complaining along the way.

Pilate: Many things confused me that day, but nothing confused me more than the crowd’s choice to free Barabbas. Barabbas was a typical hotheaded revolutionary, a man who would kill or maim as easy as he would break a stick for the fire. But that Jesus was a noble man, a temperate man, a wise man. He had done nothing wrong. They were envious of him, that’s all. But why did the crowd choose Barabbas? How could they not see that Jesus was a worthy man? I can say this now, but the fact is that I acquiesced to their choice; I made the same horrible mistake. If I had been in Jesus’ place and he had been in my place, I know he never would have turned me over to that crowd. But he wasn’t in my place; I was in my place. Why did I give in? Why didn’t I stand my ground? I wish he hadn’t brought up all that talk about the truth. That disconcerted me. No one believes in truth anymore – that went out of fashion long ago. But when he said the word, it rang in my ears like the single clap of a small silver bell, clear and penetrating. It is still ringing. I can’t stop thinking about it. Why did I not listen to him? Why did I not trust him? Why did I not follow that voice that was speaking so clearly in me? Everything would be different if I had just done what I knew was right! Yet I know I can never undo what I did.

Christ in My Life Who is my king? Whom do I serve? I want to serve you, Lord, because you truly are the King. But I still tend so much to serve myself. I want people to do things my way – I want to have what I want, when I want it. I want my plans to work out exactly as I plan them. I guess all of this is natural, but you want to lead me to the supernatural realm. Renew my mind and heart, Lord; Thy will be done, not mine…

Every time I have followed your voice resounding in my conscience, I have experienced the peace and the satisfaction that comes from living in harmony with the truth. And every time I haven’t, I writhe and agonize. And yet I still haven’t learned, Lord. I still waffle. How do you put up with me? O Jesus, purify my heart, pour your love into my heart; with the courage of your heart, strengthen my heart…

Mary, I don’t want to be like Pilate. Why am I such a reluctant disciple? I know Jesus; I have been given a share in his mission – what greater privilege could I desire? And yet, sometimes I look at it as if it were a burden. The spirit of self-centeredness and fascination with the trinkets of this world still pulls at me. Mary, teach me to be his faithful friend, his brave soldier. Mother most pure, pray for me…

PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.

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32 Responses to TWO KINGS, TWO KINGDOMS (JOHN 18:28-40)

  1. toadspittle says:

    “Pilate is the Roman Emperor’s representative in Palestine. His career as procurator had been marked by violence and political blunders, by which he alienated the Jews he was supposed to be ruling. ”
    Do we know what these particular political blunders were?


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    On this stone in Caesarea can be seen the inscription “…us Pilatus.”

    Minor point, but I thought Pontius Pilate was Prefect, not Procurator, of Judea.


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    I ask this (my “Prefect/Procurator” query) because that limestone block, although badly damaged, has been deciphered by archeologists to read:
    . . . . . . S TIBERIEVM


  4. johnkonnor72 says:

    …The incident with barabas makes sense…as in this day and age our social constructs based on hedonism and consequentialism give us justification to set the brigands free( espouse bad laws) and hence we persecute truth(Jesus) …. Well i am missing Pastorius already 😦


  5. johnkonnor72 says:

    ….When we see Jesus as the better part this is a mystical allusion to the two modes of life a faithful christian can aspire to..the active and the contemplative…when Martha scolded Magdalene and Jesus rebuked her saying Martha was troubled with many things yet Magdalene had chosen the “best part” which never will be taken away…Martha symbolizes the active christian…while Magdalene symbolizes the contemplative…the best part is a référence to the Godhead which will never be takeb away from an ardent adherent to the contemplative life..since in heaven we will be anhiliated by the beauty…taken out of ourselves and totally immersed in the beloved….


  6. johnkonnor72 says:

    …Maybe we can view it from this perspective…Jesus always puts himself in certain situations to teach us..msince Jesus is God’s’wisdom incarnate…in my mind pilate represents the darkness that John in his gospel mentions..the light shone in the darkness…the darkness did not know the light…pilate asks what is truth…so basically Jesus submits himself to the darkness to prove to us he is the light….pilate represents the mind of men the opposite of faith…truth is perfected nature do this we need faith and grace…glory is perfected grace…anyway i guess there is more to say..but isnt there always…remeber the light of Christ does not illuminate the darkness instantaneously it shines despite of it…because faith is needed the light of Christ can only dispel the darkness with faith..mthe free gift…well that is my take. On it….


  7. johnhenrycn says:

    Sorry to go off topic, but just to brighten your Friday evening, if I can: Going to the office this morning, my car was slammed from behind, as I was waiting to make a left turn in the direction of my office, but also (coincidentally!) past the house of a married woman (not my wife), who I think is immensely attractive. I would never… (perish the thought!), but it was an impure thought, nonetheless. Anyway, major damage to both cars. The lady (natch?) driver behind me was hysterical – crying, but basically unhurt, as was I. She sobbed about how her husband had just died and she didn’t need another crisis right now. Going back for my belongings before my car was towed away, I retrieved my Rosary beads (not hanging from my rear view mirror) and also the St Christopher medal my mother-in-law once gave me; and it then struck me – what a sense of humour Our Heavenly Father has! Whilst sparing me and the other driver (through the intersession of St Christopher) from injury, I was forcefully reminded of what chastity is all about.


  8. johnhenrycn says:

    Sorry, again, for another off topic; but here’s a video my son sent me a few minutes ago from Japan about a “Black Friday” (post 22 Nov.Thanksgiving) sale in the States on mobile phones:

    And the atheist materialists say we don’t need religion? I’d rather be a Muslim than one of these people, although some in the crowd may be Muslims, or Catholics, or Proddies, for all I know.


  9. john konnor says:

    ….Ecclesiastes 2:11 – “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”……in reply to the video you posted…. there is nothing to say…”words like violence break the silence come crashing in into my little world”….


  10. johnhenrycn says:

    Appropriate, excellent, scriptural reference, in the first part, john konnor (no longer “johnkonnor72”, what?)
    As for:
    “…words like violence break the silence come crashing in into my little world…”

    …another clue would be appreciated. I am not Sherlock Holmes.


  11. john konnor says:

    …well as st. benedict did when he saw the debauchery and the morals of society around him indentured to the armies of darkness… he retreated to a cave… as elizabeth of the trinity mentions..we need to make a heaven in our heart.. a small place where God can dwell within… that depeche mode song feel the silence struck me as a reference to the silence of the heart… as elijah heard the voice of God in a small still voice.. not in the thunder or clamour of the world… when we see mad festivities such as this it is time to retreat into the still part of the soul and recollect the spirit… actually advent is a good time for that…to hear the voice of Jesus born in us at advent we need to gather our scattered intellects and move to be still…so we can hear what Jesus wants to tell


  12. johnhenrycn says:

    God bless, john konnor, but I don’t get it – your last comment, I mean – or the last half of the one before it.


  13. john konnor says:

    ..people who are so driven by the possesion of things are a red flag for us..God is speaking he is saying…look …dont end up like those people in the store…keep your heart you can hear my voice…because these people fighting over phones certainly dont hear Christ’s voice 🙂


  14. johnhenrycn says:

    Excuse me, john konnor, but I must press for a reference for:
    “…words like violence break the silence come crashing in into my little world…”

    The thing is, I don’t think that quote is all that “deep”, and I’d like to know the name of the person who first penned it. Can’t find it.


  15. john konnor says:

    “the inner man is the still hinge, the outer man is the swinging door”-meister eckhart…a recollected spirit full of virtue is resolute and patient and in control of the lower appetites allowing the intellect to make reasonable decisions…the outer man who is mercurial and prone to follow the prevailing attitudes of the present time and is a slave to his passions..which defile the intellect…also depeche mode roughly translates to fast fashion or fashion news …hope i elucidated my thoughts..i know i have a habit of running off on a tangent….


  16. johnhenrycn says:

    You used to be “johnkonnor72”, which, if that’s a reference to your birth year, explains a lot.

    I’d a insert a “smiley face” here if “Pastormious” hadn’t used them all. 😦


  17. johnhenrycn says:

    Excuse me, john konnor, is this ” Meister Eckhart” that you reference somebody that I, a Catholic, must be mindful of? Never heard of him, frankly. Yes, I’ve heard of Wikipedia. Tell me more.


  18. toadspittle says:

    “…what a sense of humour Our Heavenly Father has! Whilst sparing me and the other driver (through the intersession of St Christopher) from injury, I was forcefully reminded of what chastity is all about.

    Well, while JohnHen has trouble following JohnKon, Toad has trouble follwing either John.
    But he will limit himself in this instance to Hen.

    Yes, The Lord does enjoy a lively sense of ironic fun – how else can we explain tsunamis, earthquakes, leprosy, cancer, WordPress, and Mel Gibson movies?

    But what Toad would particularly appreciate hearing is how a simple shunt up Hen’s rear end managed to remind him what chastity is all about?

    Although He (God, that is, not JohnHen) is reputed to Work In Many Mysterious Ways. As we are frequently told…


  19. johnhenrycn says:

    Toadspittle, Moratinos, Whoever:

    (a) Do you really want to start off again by mangling each other’s names?

    (b) Regarding your penultimate paragraph: first of all, you do know what “penultimate” and “paragraph” mean, right? Good. Now, then – responding to the rude, sneering, pretend question in your penultimate paragraph – please lick your right index finger and then use it to closely and slowly trace each letter of the comment by your obedient servant to which you refer, and if you still don’t understand the gist of it, a tutorial will be provided, at my standard hourly rate.


  20. johnhenrycn says:

    You work on your repartee, Toady, and I’ll get back to you later today, if the mood strikes me.


  21. johnhenrycn says:

    …which I doubt.


  22. toadspittle says:

    Splendid to have “Johnhenryn” back with us, as we all agree – and in good time for Christmas, season of peace and goodwill to all men, too!
    Not to all Toads though, it seems.
    Time’s passing has not dulled John’s shafts of wit, we see.

    (a) Do you really want to start off again by mangling each other’s names?
    …Don’t see why not, Nojh.

    But seriously “Johnhenryn”, what are you looking for on CP&S? More trouble?
    More threats of head-punching? This is a peaceable blog. Or was, until recently.

    We on CP&S disagree frequently – in a civilised manner.
    (You pompous old twit, Toad! Who is left-handed, as it happens.)


  23. kathleen says:

    John Henry @ 00:24

    An interesting conclusion….. after a nasty shock! Yes, one sees God at work in our lives even in the most trivial and unsuspecting ways. Sorry to hear about your damaged car, but the fact that neither you nor the other driver were injured is what really matters.

    Toad doesn’t understand the connection, oh dear! And I thought Our Lord was referring to simple souls like Toad when He said: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matt. 11:25)

    Toad must be one of the ‘wise and learned’ then! 😉


  24. toadspittle says:

    “Toad must be one of the ‘wise and learned’ then!”

    Toad can reassuringly disabuse you of that fanciful notion, Kathleen. He knows nothing. And that’s all he knows he knows. And he’s not even altogether convinced of that, when he thinks about it.
    But he does at least suspect that if he and “Johnhenryn,” an old sparring-partner, have at it with a real knife and fork do on CP&S, it will be to its detriment.

    So, he will lay off the personal stuff. Ahora mismo. “Johnhenryn” will do as he pleases.


  25. Joe Feser says:


    John konnor’s quote is a line from the song ‘Enjoy the Silence’ by band Depeche Mode.

    Meister Eckhart is a famous Catholic Dominican preacher and scholar from the late 14th century.


  26. johnhenrycn says:

    Yes, it would be for the best that we not get too free and easy with our slings and arrows, toadspittle. For starters, I shall refrain from mangling your name, and suggest you reciprocate. As for all these flashbacks you seem to be having concerning threats of physical assault aimed at your person, sorry, but false memory syndrome seems to be rearing its ugly head, and so again, best to drop it for the sake of blog amity.


  27. toadspittle says:


    Very well said, Johnhenryn. We will agree, then, to concentrate on topics and issues.

    But you are welcome to simply call me “Toad,” as my other friends on here do.
    Toadspittle is my posh name, for calling cards, writs, decree nisis, threatening letters, and the like.

    “A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.”
    …says Meister Eckhart. Aldous Huxley thought highly of him in later life.
    The sentiment is not altogether dissimiliar to Voltaire’s “Cultivate your own garden.” Both courses Toad thinks pursuing, and is trying to do so.
    He cannot speak for Depeche Mode.


  28. johnhenrycn says:

    Joe @ 14:42… gracias. I think I’ll give the band a pass. Perhaps I shouldn’t. It seems to have been very influential, but I’m more of a jazz fan. As for Meister Eckhart, I had never heard of him before our john konnor mentioned him. Having now resorted to Wiki, he strikes me, at first blush, as having been rather dodgy in the dogma department. Could be wrong, though.


  29. johnhenrycn says:

    Toad, just an itsy bitsy quibble, if you don’t mind: please look carefully at my screen name. It is not “johnhenryn”. I answer to “johnhenry” or to JH. The “cn” [as in “Canadian”] suffix became necessary back in 2010 when I started commenting on this blog, because “johnhenry” was already in use by me on the Holy Smoke (RIP) blog and WordPress wouldn’t let me use it here, which I don’t understand, because, back then, Holy Smoke was also using the WordPress platform.


  30. Pastorious says:

    johnhen, for as long as I am permitted to shuffle along the oak panelled corridors of CP&S, you may continue to “mangle” my name if you wish. It’s a bit of harmless fun.:) and we can’t get enough of that, especially in the coming Festive season. I was quickly dubbed Pasto, in a chuckling reference to Italian food – perhaps. Pasto, pesto, pisto, all part of life’s rich etc….! Shorter too. 🙂

    Surprised that you hadn’t heard (a tad dismissively?) of ole Eckie; so you have immediately benefited from CP&S. Can’t complain, and introductory learning offer you can’t refuse. And there are some on here who are liturgical and dogma heavy hitters – you wait till Jabba gets back. But you know him from DT which he gave up on because of ‘trouble’.

    Re: johnboy on whose posts you asked for clarification. If you read carefully (as we all should with each other) you will understand. Don’t bother with Wikistuff. Just be open to how others express themselves. johnboy is just fine.

    If I could ask you for an “itsy bitsy” clarification, what is the connection between you being rear-ended and a tasty looking woman who is your neighbour? What would Siggy say?



  31. toadspittle says:

    JH it will be, then.

    Toad shamefacedly confesses he was the one who first christened Pastorious, “Pasto.”
    No reference to Italian cuisine was intended.
    It’s just that he couldn’t spell “Pastorious.” Still can’t.


  32. Pastorious says:

    Yes, it was he above who did the deed. P-p-p-pilloried. But the cap fitted, and Pasto I became.

    I have come to like ‘Pasto’ (tho’ others may not 🙂 ). I suggested Italian cuisine more in hope than expectation. Sigh. I look for the best but am open to disappointment. johnhe may agree.


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