And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more,
“Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas,
and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Mark 15:14-15 (ESV)
Last week, as we were prepping as a staff for Easter weekend, I spent some time reading the events immediately preceding Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. Even though I’ve read the story countless times, I was struck again by the contrast between Pontius Pilate’s thoughts and actions. The war that raged in his heart and mind during Jesus’s “trial” and sentencing is fascinating, and one from which we can learn much about the human condition and ourselves.
After Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested, He was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea, and presented as a criminal worthy of the death penalty. According to the Jewish leaders, Jesus was guilty of all manner of wrong-doing, and it was up to Pilate to justly punish His treachery. Pilate, doubtful from the beginning about the guilt of Jesus, begins to question Him regarding the charges being leveled. Multiple times, Pilate came back to the Jewish leaders stating he saw no guilt in Jesus, but they kept crying out to crucify Him. Pilate knew the truth. He made multiple attempts to appease the crowd without condemning Jesus to death, yet in the end we read Mark 15:14-15.
We’ve all been Pilate at different points in our lives, but we can use the case study of this decision as a way to analyze our own actions. We see Pilate trading his conscience for gain in this world. He knew, probably from the very beginning, that Jesus was innocent, yet he slowly compromised his beliefs to gain favor with the Jewish people. We must be careful not to pander to those around us at the expense of what we know to be truth. It’s the age-old example of a teenager succumbing to peer pressure at their first party...I want to “fit in,” so I will sacrifice all I know is right to gain that status.
We can avoid succumbing to the temptation to compromise by creating godly goals in our lives, instead of goals based on what the world would tell us is important. Clearly, worldly goals dominated Pilate’s thoughts. He was determined to keep the peace at all costs so he could keep his job, wealth, power, influence, and chances at an even higher station in the future. He knew the truth of Christ, yet turned his back to pursue the world. How often can we find in our past that exact mistake? We come to church, we know the truth of Christ, we go to Connect Group, we pray, but when presented with a chance to obtain what the world would deem success, we chase it…regardless of the plan God has for our lives, and the damage it may bring to our family, selves, or relationship with God. We must prioritize the influence of God in our lives so we can confidently pursue His plan without compromise or fear.
I pray this week that the power of Jesus’s death and resurrection will instill in our hearts the willingness to pursue truth over the temporary indulgences this world offers.