by Paul Goodman
"Then there is another member of the cast. Pilate – who, were he a saint (and some traditions claim he was), would surely be the patron saint of politicians. He finds Christ not guilty but none the less proposes to flog him: “I…have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him…I will therefore chastise him, and release him.” What this decision lacks in logic, let alone humanity, it makes up for in pragmatism. Pilate is under pressure. He has the chief priests and the elders at his door – the equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his bishops or the Chief Executive of the Equality Commission and its members or whoever most packs a punch in modern Britain.
It is the Passover – a time when tensions in Jerusalem run high. He wants rid of the problem. He needs to make a snap decision. His accusers say that Jesus should die “because he made himself the Son of God”. Such a religious claim has nothing much to do with Pilate, so they try a different tack instead: “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.” It is this suggestion of disloyalty to Caesar, according to St John’s Gospel, that swings his verdict. But even then Pilate does not condemn Jesus to death. Instead, he does what any professional politician would do: he consults a focus group.
This takes the form of a crowd, which is given the choice of a man called Jesus, son of the Father, or another man called Jesus, son of the father (at least, according to some early manuscripts of St Matthew’s Gospel, for “Barabbas” means “son of the father”, and these versions put “Jesus” before that name). It is a kind of bloody version of Britain’s Got Talent. One man gets released. The other gets crucified."