Pilate on the Beach

by Benjamin Domenech on 7:14 pm August 14, 2007

Vieques

One thing that I’ve learned over the past few years is the importance of the choices we make — not just in terms of career, of our life goals, of our partner. But the decisions we make about The Choice in life can ultimately make the difference in the way we act in all contexts and situations. The Choice about what we believe — whether we are all alone, whether there is no one to count on but ourselves — or whether there truly is one who watches over us — does more to determine your reaction to the world around you than any other factor or belief. Our faith, in God or in man, ultimately defines us to the world and to ourselves.

There is an apochryphal story that tells us of Pontius Pilate’s actions after he made the most fateful decision of his life. Pilate was a good politician, but he had never been a very wise man. Ever the apotheosis of existensialism, Pilate had in jest thrown out a philosophical question to an accused blasphemer that still lingers through time: “What is truth?” He had not stayed for the implicit answer from the accused Christ: “I am.”

Pilate had washed his hands — in a purposefully ritualistic manner, the symbolic cleansing of guilt and blood, of verdict and responsibility. He had ordered a mocking sign bolted over the cross. He had done his job.

The story goes that, after Christ had shown that the tomb is conquered through Him and by Him, Pilate took to wandering the beach near Caesarea, where he was stationed until 36 AD. He walked in the sand dunes, his robes snagging on the grass and the Mediterranean wind, his eyes turned toward the ocean. The sand was warm against his sandals.

No one knows what Pilate thought while he walked along the beach — if he walked. Perhaps the crashing waves reminded him of the Passover crowds in Jerusalem, roaring in his ears. But I think that as he gazed out at the waves, he must have wondered. Wondered whether the waves were enough to wash away his guilt — whether the whole ocean was enough to wash the blood that sticks to his hands.

We don’t know if Pilate chose baptism. But we do know the decision before us today, and we cannot underestimate its ramifications. This decision, more than any other, will change the way you live your life. Don’t ignore it.

Like Pilate, we stand on the shore, wondering whether our sin can be forgiven, whether a whole ocean can cover our spiritual imperfections. You can wade in, admit your complicity, acknowledge the fact that there was a sacrifice made for you — or stand on the shore, looking out, seeing nothing but gray skies and crashing waves.

The choice is yours to make.

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