The story of the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth, which is recited, sung and often acted out in churches on Palm Sunday, speaks for itself. This is one reason why preachers are encouraged keep their homilies short that day. Or, as the pastor of the local Jesuit church told me, “short but not super-short.” The one thing I might add to Jesus’s story is another story, which may seem oddly lighthearted at first, but which also has a serious point.
My six-year-old nephew Matthew called me a few weeks ago. This was an event in itself, since six-year-olds generally don’t initiate phone calls. At least my nephew doesn’t. “Uncle Jim,” he said, “Guess what?” (This is his normal way of starting a conversation.)
“What?” I said.
“I’m in the Lenten pageant at church!” Despite 24 years of Jesuit training, I had no idea what that was. So I asked.
“It’s kind of like a Christmas pageant,” he said, “but it’s about the crucifixion.” Okay. “And guess who I play?”
“Jesus?” I ventured.
“No! Better than that!”
What’s better than Jesus?
“Pontius Pilate!” he said.