March 27, 2012 Still Speaking Devotional: “Pilate & Trayvon Martin”

Posted on : Mar 28th, 2012 | By | Category: Still Speaking

Sunday in worship, our Lenten Focus was on Pilate – the Roman Governor of Judea and Trayvon Martin – the 17 yr. old African American teenager who was shot and killed in Sanford, FL. The two stories are remarkably similar. They’re both about accepting personal responsibility when people try to “wash their hands” of the very act they are involved in.

Pilate got co-opted into doing the religious leader’s “dirty work.” It was against Jewish law to kill someone, so they needed the Roman government to do that dirty deed for them. Pilate gets in “over his head.”  It doesn’t take him long to figure out the witnesses were lying, the charges were false and Jesus was an innocent man. But Pilate feared a riot was about to break out, so he calls for a basin of water to be brought to him and before the crowds he publicly proclaims he’s “washing his hands” of this whole situation. Only problem is, he can’t. He had already condemned Jesus to death.

The same thing has happened with the death of Trayvon Martin. A young Black (African American) male was shot dead under the most bizarre circumstances! Most officials didn’t care one bit, until the “Twitter” community said, “No way! You’re not washing your hands of this child’s death.” And finally we as a country are beginning that most uncomfortable conversation about race and violence against teenage and young adult African American boys and men and increasingly Latin American boys and men.

J. Barrie Shepherd in his book “Faces at the Cross” shows how relevant and contemporary the story of Jesus’ death is to our experience today. He writes,

The Scriptures tell us who was there.
Yet beneath the written testament,
reading between the lines, we can perceive,
if we are open, a far wider audience,
a much more all-encompassing throng
that stood about the cross on Calvary.

We see the officialdom of very age:
those bureaucrats who simply do their job
but in so doing consign the weak
and the unfortunate to death;
leaders ready to commit judicial murder
rather than risk their own position
of authority and power.
We see those ever-practical souls
who would invoke the theology of expediency,
claiming God’s endorsement
for their cunning plots and schemes.
We see those who, in the name of peace and quiet,
set aside the high demand of morality and law.
We see bigots there and butchers, brutes,
those who find a twisted satisfaction
in the witnessing of human suffering and pain;
we see cowards there and crooks and,
if we will look with fully opened eyes,
we see ourselves,
know this is wrong,
is evil, is perverse,
wanting go cry out,
to intervene,
to bring proceedings to a halt,
and yet afraid,
because we also know that if we do,
if we utter one brief murmur of mild protest,
we risk joining him up there,
we risk “taking up the cross to follow him.”
And what would that gain, after all,
just another senseless death?

So we keep quiet,
while we hate ourselves for doing so.

The lesson we learned through the HIV/AIDS epidemic was SILENCE = DEATH.  In other words, if you sit by quietly, silenced by fear, more and more people are going to die.

Now is the time to speak up. It is simply not acceptable in our city or anywhere else to witness the death of so many African and Latin American young men. Those of us who follow the crucified Christ must find our voices and shout “Enough!” We cannot keep sacrificing our young African American men.

As we approach Easter, we as a people of faith know we can “RISE UP” to this injustice. We can speak to our friends and colleagues, our neighbors and family members. We can influence public policy and in the loving spirit of Jesus, demand an end to this senseless killing of our own young African American men.

At this time, we do not need more violence. We need to fix an unjust, broken system. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus offers us a great paradigm of what needs to be done and how. In Luke 22:47 Jesus teaches us this:

“While Jesus was still speaking, there came a crowd, and Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them.   He drew near to Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray me with a kiss?” And when those who were with Jesus saw what would follow, they asked, “Shall we strike them with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.   But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And Jesus touched the man’s ear and healed him.” But to those who had come out against Jesus – the chief priests, the chiefs of the Temple Guard and the elders – Jesus said, “Why do you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a robber? I was with you in the Temple every day, and you could have laid hands on me anytime you wanted. But you have chosen this as your hour – the triumph of your darkness!”

Jesus said it best: “No more of this!” Let the violence be stopped and the healing begin.

Blessings and courage in this week as we journey through death trusting that even in death, God is raising us up into new life.


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