I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
“suffered under Pontius Pilate,”
This line of the Creed makes two statements that the apostle affirms.
First, the apostle is stating a fact of history. Christians are stating that Jesus was born, lived, taught, died, and was resurrected during a specific period of time. By connecting the time with a person in the annals of history, Jesus is placed on earth, in Judea, under the rule of Romans, during the decade that Pilate was Roman procurator (26-36 AD). This anchors the Christian faith in human history, and keeps Jesus real; Christ is not some ethereal spirit flitting in and out of time. God, in and through Jesus, met mankind where the sandal hit the road. He is a God Who says, “Do as I do”, not “Do as I say.”
The second statement that this line makes is much more theological: Jesus, the holy Son of God, suffered a cruel, agonizing death, even though, as God, He could have secured His safety and release with a word. The night before He was crucified, Jesus prayed to His Father to be spared this agony, if it were possible. But strengthened by God and by angels, He endured the crown of thorns, the whipping and beatings for one reason: the reconciliation of mankind to God.
I have a small confession to make. I’ve seen Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ only twice. I saw it the first time in the theater, and on VHS tape, a couple of years after it was released. The violence of the film shook me. It’s not that the violence was gratuitous; after all, the film is only two hours long, and Jesus was in the hands of the Temple guards and Romans for hours. No, it was that the violence that was shown was, of itself, so brutal, but not nearly all of what Jesus went through for you and me. I bawled in the theater, and I bawled in the privacy of my living room. It was overwhelming, devastating, to see just some of what He endured.
“He suffered under Pontius Pilate.”
Oh, how He suffered. But Hebrews 2:10 tells us that by His suffering, He brought “many sons and daughters to glory.”