What so we do with power?
What a contrast we have between Pharaoh and Pilate. Both have power over people, they had the power of life and death over those that fell into their hands and we know from scripture and other historical accounts that they were not shy at exercising it.
Lord Acton (1834-1902) said “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” he was by the way writing to a bishop! It is a surprising thing to watch happening - this tending towards corruption - more than once I have witnessed previously quite pleasant people when promoted to the top chair even in small contexts become unrecognisably tyrannical. World history abounds with despots and dictators who more often than not are far from benign and do bad things not good. Frequently they do so in an attempt to hang on to the trappings of being a head of state.
Pilate is in this mode; we know that he wanted at all costs to avoid a riot on the day of the Passover when the eyes of the world were in Jerusalem and which if it came to the attention of the authorities would have been damaging if not fatal to his position. We see that he wanted to please the crowd, he wanted to be right in popular esteem and so instead of exercising justice, for he knows, he knows that Jesus is innocent of the charges. Instead of that he accedes to the mob, leaving me with the impression that he just wanted to be rid of the issue, to get it all over with and return to his palace for tea.
There is everything wrong with this and the release of the murderer, the nationalist who really might have been a threat to the state Barabas remains deeply shocking.
Pharaoh has even more power than Pilate who was just a provincial procurator, he is the king of Egypt, a deity in their culture. He does not know Joseph’s brothers but “when the report was heard Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. He makes an offer to Joseph’s siblings and his father “take your father and your households and come to me so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt and you may enjoy the fat of the land.” (remember that Joseph’s brothers had come from their famine to to beg food.) Pharaoh is not mean or stingy nor against these Hebrew refugees but offers them the best that he can and more than they could have possibly imagined. Pharoah’s generosity shows us how we ought to behave while Pilate’s insouciance and self concern how not.
Which if these is the model for our Mothering Sunday reflections?
Today we give thanks for those who cared for us when we could not care for ourselves, for those who nurtured and taught us. We are all indebted to our families. For some the memories are joyous for others painful yet there was a moment when we were born, when a miracle happened and we were born of a woman. It remains despite all our science a mystery, yes we understand the medicine, much more than Laurence Sterne who I spoke about this morning;
We can talk about the cell structures, the DNA, Mitochondria, and so on but it is still extraordinary that our mothers somehow make us who we are.
Father in heaven we thank you for the miracle of birth and of character. Teach us to value those who care for us.