When was the last time you had to make a life-changing decision? Decision making is sometimes arduous and requires thinking beyond what we know at the time. What path does your mind walk in deciding between options and solutions? Some of us “shoot from the hip”, meaning that we make quick judgements, not thinking through the consequences our decisions might have on those around us.
Some of us think through EVERY possible option with meticulous care, weighing all the possibilities, considering all the ramifications of our final decision. Some avoid making decisions altogether by looking to others to make the decision for them. This is called “passing the buck”. Then there are those who do nothing at all. Doing nothing is also a decision. Finally, there are those who turn decision-making over to popular opinion. Then the decision becomes a “political statement” that provides no viable, helpful solution.
Pilate has been given a monumental decision to make. What do I do with Jesus?
Jesus Before Pilate
11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
THINK ABOUT IT…
Jesus, who knew no sin, was punished for the sins of those who shouted “Crucify Him”. Let that sink in. This crowd includes some of the same people who shouted “Hosanna”, (God save us), a few days earlier.
Political Pilate turned to a politically coerced crowd to make the decision for him.
“I am innocent of this man’s blood,” Pilate said. But was he? Pontius Pilate was the sixth Roman procurator to serve in Judea. He was not liked by the Jews because he did things that deliberately violated their law and provoked them. He was not above killing people to accomplish his purposes (Luke 13:1).
The Jewish leaders accused Jesus of three crimes. They claimed that He was guilty of misleading the nation, forbidding the paying of taxes, and claiming to be a king (Luke 23:2). These were definitely political charges, the kind that a Roman governor could handle. Pilate focused on the third charge—that Jesus claimed to be a king—because this was a definite threat to Rome. If he could deal with this “revolutionary” properly, Pilate could please the Jews and impress the emperor at the same time.
Pilate wanted to solve the problem but not make any definite decision about Jesus. As a Roman governor, he was pledged to uphold the law. But as a politician, he knew he had to get along with the people. Every decision Pilate made forced him to make another decision, until he was the prisoner of his own evasions. He questioned Jesus further, but He made no reply.
Pilate had one more scheme: He would follow the tradition of releasing a prisoner. Instead of selecting some unknown prisoner, Pilate deliberately chose the most notorious prisoner he had, Barabbas. This man was a robber (John 18:40) and a murderer (Mark 15:7). Pilate reasoned that the crowd would reject Barabbas and ask for Jesus to be released, for who wants a convicted murderer and robber turned loose into society?
But Pilate was wrong. In spite of the fact that Jesus had ministered by healing the sick and even raising the dead, the people rejected Him and chose a murderer to be released. Pilate realized that a riot was in the making, and he could not afford to let this happen. The very thing the rulers wanted to prevent—a riot at Passover season (Matt. 26:5)—they engineered themselves in order to force Pilate to act. The governor did act, purely out of expediency and not on the basis of integrity. He released a guilty man and condemned an innocent Man, and that innocent Man is the Son of God.
Pilate took three steps in an attempt to exonerate himself. First, he washed his hands and declared that he was innocent of any guilt. Second, he stated clearly that Jesus was a just person, that is, not worthy of death. Third, he offered to punish Jesus and then release Him, but the rulers would accept no compromise. Finally, the religious rulers used the one weapon against which Pilate had no defense: “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar” (John 19:12 nasb). At this, Pilate capitulated, had Jesus scourged, and delivered Him to be crucified.
Since the Jews could not execute criminals, it was necessary for the Roman officials to assist, and Pilate issued the order. Of course, all of this was in fulfillment of prophecy. The Jews did not crucify; they used stoning to execute criminals. Psalm 22, written by a Jew, is a vivid picture of crucifixion. “They pierced my hands and my feet” (Ps. 22:16). Jesus was made a curse for us, for “cursed is every one that hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13; Deut. 21:23). But still God was at work in fulfilling His divine purposes. GOD was and is still in control. Not the Jewish leaders, not the crowd, and not Pilate. God.
Pilate knew what was right, but refused to do anything about it. He was “willing to please the people” (Mark 15:15). Judas yielded to the devil in his great sin (John 13:2, 27); Peter yielded to the flesh when he denied his Lord; but Pilate yielded to the world and listened to the crowd. Pilate looked for the easy way, not the right way. He has gone down in history as the man who condemned Jesus.
We are forced into making a decision for whom we will follow daily.
What will we do with Jesus today?
Is Jesus our Savior?
Is Jesus our LORD of lords?
Is Jesus the One and Only Son of God we follow?
Are we allowing the crowd to make this lifechanging decision for us?
Dear Heavenly Father,
You had a plan from the beginning to save us. The Plan was Jesus, Your Son. Thank you for loving us, while we were yet sinners, so much that you gave your life for ours. This is amazing love indeed. Help me to increasingly love like you love with each passing day on earth. Help us all to look to you for wisdom in decision making that is holy, just, merciful and true. Help us to avoid the senseless, lawless, political crowds of the world. Help us to think like you think for your thoughts and ways are higher than ours.
In Jesus Name, Amen