The Pilate assumption

The moment must have been tense, even dramatic. Christ Jesus didn't respond to his interrogator. Pilate pressed him: "Speakest thou not unto me?  knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" With unshaken confidence Jesus answered, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." John 19:10, 11.

One can hardly read of such episodes leading to the crucifixion without being deeply touched. Pilate's assumption that he could determine Jesus' fate; Jesus' certainty that God alone was controlling his destiny: these two views have implications way beyond that significant event when those two men faced each other.

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The Pilate assumption challenges us even today. And it threatened people long before Jesus' time. What Pilate said symbolized a basic mortal fallacy: the belief that people, places, events, can exercise final control over our lives. Moses, in preparing to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, must have felt the arrogance of the Pilate assumption in the confrontation with Pharaoh; Elijah felt it with Jezebel; the three young Hebrews with King Nebuchadnezzar and his fiery furnace.

And what about events in your own life? Is there a Pilate speaking to you, warning of its control over your destiny? Perhaps a medical verdict? Unemployment statistics? A domineering acquaintance? If so, surrender to the Christ just as Jesus did. Accepting our native Christliness, we will find the conviction welling up in us, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above."

This is a different kind of prayer from one in which we attempt to brush away the Pilate confronting us—or justify ourselves before him. Perhaps Jesus could have answered Pilate so convincingly that the governor would simply have released him. The resurrection would have been lost to the world. Some of our own challenges (modest in comparison) may impel a pleading to change the events; yet they may call more for a deep recognition that nothing in the development of our career is beyond God's authority.

Does this mean that we simply must accept whatever happens as God's will—suffering, limitation, inharmony? Surely not. It means rather that we so thoroughly deepen our conviction of God's reign in our affairs that all actions are drawn into conformity with His plan. Our destiny is never determined by other people, by places or events, when we surrender to the purpose divine Mind has designed for us. Of this omniscient Mind that is God, Mrs. Eddy writes, "He has mercy upon us, and guides every event of our careers." Unity of Good, pp. 3-4.

Let's take an example. Suppose a foreman on the job is obstructing our progress. Maybe he or she has been unfair, heavy-handed, even antagonistic. Perhaps we have prayed earnestly to be moved to another position—or better yet that the obnoxious foreman be moved! And still no solution. Could it be that in this case our answer just isn't in that kind of prayer? In Science we do not pray for humanly outlined solutions; we pray to know divine Mind's all power and intelligent government of man. Think of what it would mean to approach this challenge more from the standpoint, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above."

Such a perspective may seem at first almost untenable. "How could this person, who is doing something so wrong, be impelled by God?" you wonder. But that's not the point. Jesus wasn't marveling over some sort of spiritually inspired action on Pilate's part. He was challenging the assumption that anyone could stand in the way of his divinely impelled purpose. Jesus had an overriding conviction that nothing, absolutely nothing, could block the path that God was mapping out for him. And on that basis he saw that even those who thought they were thwarting his purpose could only contribute to his full demonstration of immortal Life.

Today the Pilate assumption would try to operate in a variety of ways. Our response is crucial. Most people accept the assumption. Then try to battle this supposed authority. Yet the Christly approach is to reject the assumption in the first place; and know God's omnipotence, His unimpaired command, with such conviction and clarity that the actions and attitudes of others actually push us forward rather than defeat or frustrate us.

The only way we can truly challenge the Pilate assumption, effectively and permanently, is through a discernment of where we are really going. If we are just wandering along through human experience, there will be plenty of times when various Pilates will claim power to crucify or release us.

But if we realize we're moving directly and specifically toward an understanding that man is God's perfect idea, unflawed by mortality, then we won't be held in the grip of a false assumption. Jesus knew where he was going. Pilate didn't stop him. The crucifixion didn't stop him. He perceived that all those events were speeding his resurrection—his emergence from the belief of substance and life in matter. Because Jesus saw God's controlling hand in every aspect of his life, the ascension itself awaited him.

We too can recognize God's presence leading our lives. And whatever would oppose our progress will be overturned; it will become a support. We will experience more of the resurrection; and eventually our ascension.

NATHAN A. TALBOT

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