Augustine writes regarding the statement, “the two were left alone,” that this is mercy left alone with misery. It’s also the absolute perfectly imperfect picture of Jesus and Pilate. Jesus turning up the mercy and grace, and Pilate is simmering in the misery and need of his life.
For the first time in Pilate’s life, he is exactly where he was created to be, communicating with his creator. It’s what Jesus does as the Passion is lived out in these scenes. We’re confronted with the reality of His mercy and grace as it is directed toward us in the purest form of love. Innocent blood is spilled for the guilty.
Back to the woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8. She is guilty as we’re so guilty of so many things, and she refers to Jesus as Lord, so she knows who He is. She is alone standing before the Lord of the Universe, but she also knows the religious leaders are hypocrites, so they have no right to throw a stone. At that moment, she realizes that the one she is left alone with possesses all rights to judge her and execute her if He deems appropriate. Jesus looks at her, sighs, and says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” She will never be perfect, but a moment with mercy changes you for a lifetime. It’s what we’re created for, to do life with the Christ.
Now, back to Pilate. Pilate stands before his creator, and again mercy is left alone with misery. Pilate is frustrated with his assignment even his wife is tormented in her dreams regarding Jesus.
When Pilate says that He has the power to release Jesus or crucify Him up to this point, Jesus has been silent since the beatings, then Jesus speaks to Pilate and says, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given from above.” The Gospel of John tells us that from that moment, Pilate sought to release Jesus. Here is the point, and we should take this to heart. Something happens with Pilate after this statement, is there a possibility that Pilate realizes he’s not controlling all as he would like? Pilate also asks Jesus, “where are you from? Pilate knows he is Jesus of Nazareth, so is he really asking Jesus, “are you of this world?
In the midst of the pain, Jesus still responds with mercy. Jesus controls everything, even how He is to die; he is a savior that would die for those that are His opponents.
When I place myself next to Him, when I stand alone with Him as the woman caught in adultery and as Pilate the Governor, I am found needing, and that’s the point. When mercy is left alone with misery, I realize my need for Him. It’s the cross that stands in contrast to our brokenness, and it propels us to Him because He is greater than all of our brokenness. It’s why we struggle with forgiveness. It is difficult for us to believe that He would want to forgive us, or can He forgive us?
The pain of the cross helps us to understand how much God hates the things that harm us, and He loves us with such intensity that the entire Roman Empire can’t stand in the way of His love. The cross was the ultimate moment when mercy was left alone with misery. The cross is the most public picture of the love of Jesus for broken and, at times, miserable people like us.
Mercy has been left alone with misery, and the result is the good news that we are forgiven and loved by God.