Episode:Jesus Faces Death—Brought to Trial (Part 10)

From Symmetry of Soul

Pilate addressed himself to the solution of the problem which confronted him, by asking the assembly of Jewish rulers and the pardon-seeking crowd, "What shall I do with him who is called the king of the Jews?" And they all shouted with one accord, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" The unanimity of this demand from the mixed multitude startled and alarmed Pilate, the unjust and fear-ridden judge.

Listen to the broadcast

Keywords: Urantia, Jesus, Pilate's Predicament, Claudia's Dream, Barabbas's Favor

Note: Ann Garner was our guest co-host this week, while Kermit Anderson was away.

Summary by Brad

Commentary After Review

When it comes to high philosophical words like faith, love, and truth, try to not set the bar too low as you ponder their meanings. We often mention this on SoS: how many words in the 5th ER have a far, far richer meaning than commonly used today. We might even say these words are corrupted in today's common usage. Today:

  • faith is a synonym for credulous belief;
  • love is just a feeling; and
  • truth is often at best only an intense and feeling-full fact.

Though we can't hope to know much of these high meanings in this short mortal life—“what is truth” as they say—we decided we can work in this life toward a personal framework that is receptive to someday understanding these concepts. We can separate one concept from another. We can abstract them into distinct elements. We can construct a framework that, while for the time being devoid of direct experience, someday will allow more ready recognition of these high concepts when they come our way. Build this framework and then be patient, humble, etc.

Speaking of mental frameworks, we discussed the inevitability of lenses through which we see concepts, writing, even daily living. Just as your eye cannot focus photos without a lens, it is impossible to focus ideas in your mind without a lens. What is your lens when studying the 5th ER? Consider:

  • The Bible. Some confess their primary lens is the Bible—a rich text, yes, but one filled with old wineskins, ghost cults, an aura of sacred infallibility, and other baggage. If this is your primary lens, don’t be surprised if you blithely dismiss something like this evening’s section about Pilate saying, “Yes, yes, I know this story already, I’ve heard it all before.”
  • Unconscious osmosis from secular society. Do you study The Urantia Book while unconsciously affected by, say, positivism, quantum mechanics, or other secular philosophies that masquerade as religions? Well, ask yourself: Do you doubt that the Most Highs really rule in the kingdoms of men? Do you doubt there is ultimate purpose to our existence? Do you casually agree that our planet will be swallowed up by our sun in a few billion years? If you answer "yes or maybe" to questions like this, you ought to consider reevaluating your lens.
  • The Urantia Book. What if you assert you’ve always made The Urantia Book your primary lens through which all other worldly matters are seen? Well, simply declaring the 5th ER as your primary lens doesn’t guarantee your lens is the one true, objective lens. It takes careful study, blunders, refutation, tribulation, and a lifetime of living before you might begin to finally craft that objective lens. Don’t be so satisfied, here and now, that you’ve surely already found your objective lens.

There are an infinite number of subjective lenses. Even before you search for the one true objective lens, see if you can even abandon one subjective lens in favor of another subjective lens. All too often the stubborn animal-origin parts of us prefer the indolence of doubling down on our preconceived opinions, settled ideas, and long-standing prejudices.

185:5. Jesus Returns to Pilate

We studied only one section, but it was illuminating and helped make it relevant to our lives today. Not dry theology, but a living story with characters we can reflect on and whose shoes we can attempt to put ourselves into.

The scene unfolds with not one, but two mobs approaching Pilate. One calls for the death of Jesus. The other calls for the release of Barabbas, a condemned seditionmonger. As events unfold, the two mobs become of one animal-mob mind—not a human mind—in calling for Jesus to be crucified. The mob is full of malice, hatred, and envy.

Reflecting on this mob and Pilate’s interaction, in summary we discussed two major topics: (1) Pilate’s failure to demonstrate true leadership, and (2) the flawed worldview the Jewish people held at this time.

Concerning Pilate’s false leadership, we summed it up pithily: “Behold the weasel!” How much does Pilate resemble today’s typical politician! We see him here taking a straw poll of a mob to consider how he might rule. Then we see him opportunistically shift his tactics when another mob arrives with another agenda. He seeks any opportunity to extricate himself from this situation so he can retain his power and fortune, without drawing the critical eye of his boss, the emperor. We briefly considered the often-peddled idea that “a leader reflects the will of the people and is correct to conduct a poll for policy.” But we quickly declared this a sophistry. That not leadership, that is is affirmation. From history and the art of war we know that humans need to be led. A true leader has the courage of their convictions to act based on their best wisdom, insight, and foresight. A true leader engages the evolutionary process definitively, and does not fear failure—for even in failure there is potential wisdom to be gained. We also reminded ourselves that this pattern is set on high: a system of 1,000 inhabited worlds is led by one ruler, with a title of no less than sovereign. These are not easy things to discuss in times like ours, where the plain man often chafes at the slightest hint of being ruled or led.

Yet, we concluded Pilate’s failed leadership was not the root problem on display here. So what was the root problem here?

We suggested the root problem was the lens the Jewish people were seeing their world through at this time. They were materially minded, resented Rome’s rule over them, and were constantly looking for a material messiah who would overthrow the Roman empire and free them from this foreign power. Therefore, the Jewish people were looking for a Son of God who would smite their enemies, much as a ghost-cult volcano god might. They were interested in displays of power, not displays of personality and love. Therefore, it really is not that surprising that the mob conspired to free Barabbas, a known insurrectionist who called for rebellion against Rome, even as they missed the quiet majesty of the Son of God right in their midst. But don’t be too quick to ridicule the mob. We asked, “How much do I resemble an unwitting member of this mob?” Do I want the personality and love of Jesus, or am I still materially minded and mostly enthralled by stories of Jesus displaying his power and so-called miracles? Can you discard the old wineskin of Christianity’s obsession with Jesus' power, and focus on his personality and love? Can you do better than resembling a member of this mob?

We ended with further consideration of Pilate. Instead of a “just and courageous” judge, in Pilate we beheld increasingly an “unjust and fear-ridden” judge—the polar opposite. We reminded ourselves that civilization relies on judges and leaders who are capable of standing apart from the transient emotions of the masses and the mob. Without leaders who are above all this animal-origin froth, all we have are folkways. And folkways can neither found nor sustain a civilization. The scene with Pilate becomes so pathetic that he actually asks the mob, “What shall I do with Jesus?” Why, what a judge is this!

Yet, as we ended our study we reminded ourselves to give Pilate some credit; we see him trying to slow down the mob’s rush to judgment. He remains a civilized man. Furthermore, he takes Jesus aside privately for one more attempt to save him from the mob and appease the mob. That’s where we’ll go next.

Notes by Brad

  • "Behold the man," not the mere facts of the text.
    • Read this as the story of a man and those who associated with him.
    • Don't read this as dry, dusty theology. That won't make it relevant or living for us today.
    • Put yourself in the shoes of these people. How would you act? Would you do better? Really?
      • This author reports that "What would I have done in Pilate's shoes?" he concluded, "I would have failed on Day One. I am not that caliber of a mortal. Despite Pilate's flaws, he still was a 'great man' in Plutarch's sense of the word."

  • Don't set the bar too low. Don't short-circuit yourself.
    • Set high concepts as remotely as possible, so you may go in quest of the great prize.
    • Faith. Love. Truth. Don't be sure you've found these things. You won't find the definitions in a dictionary
      • Faith is not credulous belief. Reverencing some divine falsehood is not faith.
      • Love is not just a feeling.
      • Genuine love exists within a context—a context of truth.
      • Jesus said "through faith, by love..." If we don't even understand faith, how can be know the true meaning of love?
    • Today, any word suggestive of spirit or eternity tends to just be watered-down feelings.
      • For example, a very intense feeling-filled fact, today, often is referred to as "a truth." No. It's just a strong feeling.
      • Before the 5th ER, most discussion of spirit affairs has not gone past the second level of meaning.
    • Is there a possible shadow cast into the feelings from the true spirit essence of concepts like faith, love, and truth?
      • Possibly. Possibly not. Maybe it's better to set all that aside and start from the 5th ER's principles.
    • This will be a many-lives-long process for us—the point where truth is a definitive experiential possession is a long way off.
      • But you can start today. Long before you grasp them experientially and directly, you can work out some framework for these. Separate one word from another. Abstract them into distinct elements.
      • So then may recognize the experience when it comes upon you.

  • Concerning frames of reference and lenses
    • Many people start with, say, the Bible, and then read The Urantia Book in light of it.
    • Can you try starting with The Urantia Book?
      • Through this, can you find more tolerance for other belief systems? Instead of becoming self-righteous and hardened against them?
      • Though don't end with only reading The Urantia Book (it's not a sacred text)! It should make you hungry for much more study.
    • Not everyone can start with The Urantia Book
      • Some people started their lives with The Bible, and confess they seem unable to remove it as their foundational premise.
      • So be it.
    • Even if The Urantia Book were your principal text for approaching life philosophically, you still have some lens you're reading it through!
      • To bring anything to a focus in your mind, you need a lens. A frame. You will have one lens or another.
    • Given that you, today, have a subjective lens, can you go in quest of the objective lens?
      • People sharing the one true objective lens is what yields kindred minds and brotherhood of man.
      • Careful! False philosophies like positivism assert there is no objective lens. They admit there are lenses, but nihilistically give up on objectivity.
      • We're swimming in false philosophies like this these days. Don't unwittingly let them poison you. You need courageous and independent cosmic thinking.
    • If you can't find the one objective frame immediately (who can?), can you at least change from one subjective frame to another?
      • Don't be so sure. This author notes how even in the sciences people cling to their old frame (paradigms) long after direct observation falsifies them. Because you can rationalize anything.
    • Do you think you already know the story of Pilate, Jesus, and Barabbas from the Bible?
      • If you think so, you'll breeze through these sections and it will be all affirmation, no revelation.

  • Don't be so sure recent Bible translations (e.g. Revised Standard Version) are superior to the King James Version
    • "the substance of things hoped for" (KJV) is a truer translation, because spirit is a substance.
    • Don't be so sure "people of faith" know how to translate the Bible properly.

  • Pilate's false leadership: here he's trying to lead by following here.
    • "Behold the weasel!"
      • Taking a straw poll of the mob, as it were? And making a decision based on that to appease them? That's not leadership.
      • Pilate is supposed to be so much more than this. He literally has a judgment seat: a symbol of his strength and objectivity. He should be wholly just.
      • "I can find no fault in him worthy of punishment. But I can punish him if you like." Not the thoughts of a just leader.
      • "How should I vote so that you'll reelect me?" "What does 51% of the population want?" That's not true leadership.
      • He even gets swayed in an ad hoc fashion, moment to moment, by one mob and then another mob. Purely opportunistic to preserve his power.
    • We are so accustomed to such behavior in politicians today, we might miss how improper and false it is!
    • Sophistry!: "Our elected officials are supposed to reflect the people, so polling the crowd is appropriate."
    • Concerning true leadership, a true leader:
      • should believe they possess more wisdom, insight, and foresight than the plain man.
      • Should have courage of their convictions to act. "This wisdom, insight, and foresight I possess should be the basis of our actions."
      • Engages the evolutionary process definitively.
      • Should not be afraid to fail. Maybe you will. If so, it's OK: tribulation can lead to wisdom.
      • Acts definitively and deals with the consequences.
      • Makes a decision definitively, and then deals with the consequences.
    • We need to be led.
      • We figured this out, long ago, via war. If we forget this, we'll have to go back to war.
      • People need a leader, not an affirmer.
      • A system of 1,000 inhabited worlds have one leader: a sovereign, no less.
      • just because there always exist those who will rebel at any leadership, it does not invalidate leadership.
    • Yet, Pilate is not the deeper, real problem here...

  • The deeper problem at play here: a rebellion being fomented against the Roman empire
    • The 5th ER reveals a different color to this event. This mob already had schemed to have Barabbas pardoned. The mob isn't even concerned about Jesus!
    • Barabbas' was a treasonist against the Roman empire, and the mob was demanding his release.
    • If you were a rebellious leader and knew you'd be pardoned no matter how outrageous you are, are there any limits to what you'd do?
    • This presages the eventual fall of Jerusalem.
    • Be careful when applying mercy to a collective phenomenon. Mercy is for individuals. Justice is needed for impersonal control of the group, to avoid anarchy.
      • A merciful policy of pardoning (intended to appease the masses) is having major unintended consequences!
      • Rome is allowing rebellion leaders to be set free each year, via the mob's scheming.
    • The chief priests, like Pilate, saw this mob opportunistically.
      • They joined the cry to pardon Barabbas (they did not start it, as the Bible seems to imply).
      • So the chief priests, here, joined in essentially a scheme for rebellion against Rome.
      • And don't miss that Barabbas was the "son of a priest." The priests are joining in to pardon a rebellious one of their own, so to speak. Quite problematic.
    • The still deeper problem remains...

  • The Jewish people and their flawed frame and worldview (their own preconceived opinions, settled ideas, and long-standing prejudices)
    • They were materially minded, wanted a material uplifter and material savior.
      • They rejected the rule of Rome. And, in turn, rejected the "Most Highs" who "rule in the Kingdoms of men" (i.e., the Most High Observer).
      • Their rejection of Jesus is not as problematic, as regards their people, than their rejection of the Most High Observer (by way of Rome)
    • They had one thing on their mind: "We want a leader, the Son of God, to rain down awesome fire and brimstone upon Rome, our oppressors."
      • Is it any wonder the materially-minded mob didn't recognize Jesus as the Son of God? He wasn't going to be the son of "the volcano god"
      • They don't recognize the majesty of Jesus in this moment (as our authors do). They see the opposite: a material weakling who's been arrested.
      • This mob thought Barabbas was closer to a rainer-of-fire-and-brimstone than Jesus could possibly be.
      • They'd rather pardon an insurrectionist, a potential material messiah who might overthrow Rome for them.
    • These people were drawn to Jesus when imagining him manifesting power. They had no interest in him manifesting personality.
    • Their narrative of Jesus wasn't even accurate. "Jesus drove the moneychangers form the temple on Monday!" Ah... no he didn't.
      • How much do you, too, identify with a narrative and figment of Jesus instead of the real Jesus?
      • Christians today also identify with this powerful Jesus whipping people and flipping over tables. The fictitious Jesus.
      • Christians today mostly want power and glory. Not personality and love.
    • Your animal nature wants the same thing this mob wanted: to use Jesus for you own material better ends.
    • Can you be a true human and want Jesus for his personality and love instead? Even his apostles struggled with this (they, too, often wanted power and glory)
    • Yikes: If you love the fictitious Jesus, you love a figment of your mind. So, in a real way, you only love yourself, not Jesus.

  • Concerning this mob
    • This mob has only avowed enemies of Jesus, and people who barely cared about Jesus and only wanted Barabbas released
      • None of Jesus' friends (they were in hiding hiding) or those loyal to Jesus, because Pilate didn't call them.
    • This mob is purely animal and emotional.
      • So Pilate's appeals to civilizational logic ("what evil has Jesus done?") utterly fail.
      • Pilate tries to slow things down, reclaim some control, but there are no humans here, only fancy animals.
    • A multitude of fancy animals shouting in unison.
      • This is uniformity, aka poor man's unity. Human's crave unity, but fancy animals only can achieve uniformity.
      • And there's a zealous spirit-like charge on unison chants. It can feel pleasant and make it all feed on itself.
      • This author reports being in a mob once that chanted "This is what democracy looks like" in unison. And it was terrifying upon reflection. Democracy in the form of mob rule can be terrifying.

  • Civilization needs judges and leaders who stand apart from transient animal-origin emotions.
    • It's sad to record... how not-like-a-judge Pilate is here, playing off the emotions of the mob (malice, hatred, envy).
      • To be a judge that is law-abiding and just, they must stand apart from the emotions of the mob.
      • Those who are set apart from the emotions of the moment are the ones who are supposed to lead civilization through troubled, emotional times.
      • Instead, Pilate is being led around by the nose-ring here, as it were, by the mob and his own fear and insecurity.
    • Without laws and justice, all you have are folkways. A civilization cannot be founded or maintained on folkways.
    • A judge should be "just and courageous" (earlier in the text)
      • But Pilate here is "unjust and fear-ridden"
      • He asks the mob, "What should I do?" Why what a judge is this!
    • But let's give Pilate a little credit here.
      • Repeatedly, he tries to save Jesus from the semi-civilized mob. He was a civilized man, and no plain man at that.
      • Yet, he's not merely fearful now, but actually terrorized. Not a high state for a judge to be in.