Have you ever been caught in the middle of an argument? Has anyone cornered you at work or have family members put you in the middle of indifference? How do you feel? Uncomfortable? All you want is peace and another cup of coffee, but the opposing sides are in your face wanting you to decide to come over to their way of thinking so they can get their way—not to better you. They fight hard to manipulate you while seeking your conviction. Wow. Is that who Pilate is—the one caught in the middle?
The fact that Herod had found nothing worthy of death in Jesus encouraged Pilate to confront the Jewish leaders and seek to release the prisoner. He summoned the chief priests and rulers and told them that he found no guilt in Jesus, that Herod had found no guilt in Jesus, and that the next step would be to punish Jesus and release Him. The Jews had already made it clear that they wanted Jesus to die (John 18:31), but Pilate was feebly trying to do the noble thing.
Hoping to strengthen this suggestion, Pilate offered to bargain with the Jewish leaders. It was a custom at Passover for the governor to release a prisoner and please the Jews; so, why not release Jesus? Or, he could release Barabbas, but why would the Jews want Barabbas set free? After all, he was a robber, a notorious prisoner, an insurrectionist, and a murderer.
Who would want that kind of a prisoner turned loose? Incredible as it seems, the crowd asked for Barabbas! The people were persuaded by the chief priests and elders (Matt. 27:20), whose religious convictions did not motivate them toward justice and equity. National feelings always increased during Passover, and a vote for Barabbas was a vote against Rome. Even though Jesus had been a popular figure among the people, many of them no doubt were disappointed that He had not led a popular uprising to overthrow Rome. Perhaps they had even hoped that His “triumphal entry” a few days before would be the start of Jewish liberation.
But Jesus came in peace, seeking and saving the lost who did not know God. Pilot, caught in the middle, did not understand and what he did not understand frightened him greatly. So, Pilate caved in the shouters of “Crucify Him”, not the meek and humble who was destined to save the world of all sin.
John 19:1-19, The Message
The Thorn Crown of the King
1-3 So Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers, having braided a crown from thorns, set it on his head, threw a purple robe over him, and approached him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they greeted him with slaps in the face.
4-5 Pilate went back out again and said to them, “I present him to you, but I want you to know that I do not find him guilty of any crime.” Just then Jesus came out wearing the thorn crown and purple robe.
Pilate announced, “Here he is: the Man.”
6 When the high priests and police saw him, they shouted in a frenzy, “Crucify! Crucify!”
Pilate told them, “You take him. You crucify him. I find nothing wrong with him.”
7 The Jews answered, “We have a law, and by that law he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
8-9 When Pilate heard this, he became even more scared. He went back into the palace and said to Jesus, “Where did you come from?”
Jesus gave no answer.
10 Pilate said, “You won’t talk? Don’t you know that I have the authority to pardon you, and the authority to—crucify you?”
11 Jesus said, “You haven’t a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven. That’s why the one who betrayed me to you has committed a far greater fault.”
12 At this, Pilate tried his best to pardon him, but the Jews shouted him down: “If you pardon this man, you’re no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone setting himself up as ‘king’ defies Caesar.”
13-14 When Pilate heard those words, he led Jesus outside. He sat down at the judgment seat in the area designated Stone Court (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was the preparation day for Passover. The hour was noon. Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.”
15 They shouted back, “Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!”
Pilate said, “I am to crucify your king?”
The high priests answered, “We have no king except Caesar.”
16-19 Pilate caved in to their demand. He turned him over to be crucified.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT…From Commentator, Warren Wiersbe
Pilate tried to play on the sympathy of the crowd after beating one of their own. “The failure of Pilate’s plan teaches us an important lesson: it takes more than human sentiment to bring the lost sinner to salvation. There is a view of the Atonement called “the moral influence theory” that would fit right into the governor’s approach. It states that the realization of our Lord’s sufferings moves the heart of the sinner so that he turns from sin and begins to love God.”
“It is purely subjective and has no bearing on the holiness of God or the importance of satisfying divine justice. If any crowd should have been moved by pity, it was the Jewish crowd that waited on Pilate. What nation has suffered more than the Jews? Here was one of their own, a Jewish prophet, suffering unjustly at the hands of the Romans, and the Jews did not repent or even show any touch of pity! If sinners who actually saw Christ in His suffering did not repent, what hope is there for people twenty centuries later who only read about His agonies?”
“The cross involves much more than an exhibition of innocent suffering. On that cross, the Son of God paid the price for the sins of the world and thereby declared the love of God and defended the holiness and justice of God. We are not saved by feeling pity for Jesus. We are saved by repenting of our sins and trusting Jesus, the sinless substitute.”
“If Christ was not actually doing something by His death,” wrote Dr. Leon Morris, “then we are confronted with a piece of showmanship, nothing more.”
“This does not mean that it is wrong for the believer to contemplate the cross and meditate on Christ’s sufferings. The familiar hymn “When I Survey the Wond’rous Cross” helps us realize the price that Jesus paid for us, but we must not confuse sentimentality with true spiritual emotion. It is one thing to shed tears during a church service and quite something else to sacrifice, suffer, and serve after the meeting has ended. We do not simply contemplate the cross; we carry it.” –(Wiersbe)
Jesus, caught in the middle, between God and our sin, died for so that we may be reconciled to God and live forever with Him.
I believe. I’m humbled by what you did for me. So, I humble seek your will for all of life because you are my life. Transform me. Change me. Help me to hear your voice above the shouting crowds of this world and follow you.
In Jesus Name, Amen