The first station in the traditional "Via Dolorossa" was Jesus' condemnation by Pontius Pilate. The story as shared in the Gospel of John contains several "zinger" statements that intrigue me. The first comes from the lips of Pontius--the Roman governor or prefect of the Judean province from AD 26-36. He says to Jesus, his prisoner on trial for his life:
"What is it you have done?"
It must have seemed a natural question for a man of power. "You've aroused such hatred in your enemies, admiration among your followers. What exactly have you done? Pilate was a man of the world, a man of accomplishments and influence. We find Pilate in later Jewish sources locked in political struggles with Herod Agrippa. He was a mover and a shaker, and evaluated Jesus on those same terms. "What of substance have you accomplished teacher, that I might respect you?" He seems to ask.
"My kingdom is not of this world."
Jesus' response is crucial to understanding the Easter story. "My kingdom is not of this world." My accomplishments may not appear in your papers, or register on your power and influence scale. But make no mistake, I am a king, and my accomplishments make a difference, just beyond the geographic boundaries of your political map. The Via Dolorossa goes straight through the state of "powerlessness."
Easter undoes my political calculations. I too want to be significant. I want the things I'm working on to be considered important. When men meet other men, it is not uncommon for the first greeting to be "What's your name?" The second close on its heels, "What do you do?" To be a man is to accomplish, to do things of significance. Being a ministerial type often does not seem to match up in the unspoken "man math." What do you do? "I build things," a construction worker might say. "I fly super sonic airplanes," a pilot might answer. "I say prayers and lay hands on them that they might get well," Jesus might have stated. "I lay down my life that men might find the way to God." These accomplishments land one not on the "Who's Who" list--but on the list of "Who's he?"
As one who has longed to be on the "Who's Who" list of worldly accomplishment, the Via Dolorossa winds me through the station of powerlessness. It reminds me that we who walk in the steps of Jesus may not always be respected by those in power. Easter demonstrates faith that embraces political power as its supreme validation loosens its hold on the historical Jesus. This station of the cross encourages me to give up pursuit of "Who's Who?" and endure the scorn of "Who's He?" Jesus followers have a destination and a kingdom not of this world.
Have you stopped at the station of powerlessness? Can you endure the scorn of "Who's He?" from those powerful in your life?