Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
If you have ever attended church on a Palm Sunday or Easter morning, I am sure you have heard this story. Jesus is betrayed and captured, put on trial before Pilate and Herod. Utter tragedy. Inconceivable unfaithfulness. Jesus double-crossed by His very disciple, denied by His beloved Simon Peter, and sentenced to death by the very people who just days before were welcoming Him with celebration and adoration. And all to fulfill Scripture…and to save our souls!
This story is also depicted in Matthew 27:22-16, Luke 23:13-25, and John 18:38-19:16. The Gospels compliment each other, to paint a complete picture of this moment. Each time I read this story, my heart cries out at the injustice served to my King. Today, however, I want to take a closer look at the war raging within Pilates’ heart, as he ultimately dismissed Jesus to death.
Pilate, faced with a difficult decision, turns to the crowd. “What do you want me to do?” He found no evil or wrong-doing in Jesus. The Gospels tell us that Pilate found Jesus innocent, and even wanted to set Him free. He found no guilt in Jesus, for Him to deserve death. But, he was afraid. He was afraid that a riot would ensue if he did not do what would please the crowd. The crowd’s voices were loud and persistent. He washed his hands of all guilt and refused to take accountability for his own actions. Even though it went against what he knew was right, he gave Jesus over to the crowd’s wishes.
This story contains an important lesson for us concerning the motive behind the decisions we make. How many times have we based our decisions on what would please those around us? How many of us live in the bondage of the expectations and opinions of others, afraid to do what we know is right or what we know God is telling us to do? Oh, how our lives would change if we cared about the opinion of the Lord more than the opinions of the crowd! We are faced with a decision to make, or we stumble across a difficult season in our life, or we are unable to deny that the Lord is telling us to “go” or “do.” And the first thing that comes in our mind is, “what would they think?” We make a decision based on what we think would be most approved by those in our social circles. We cope with the difficult season by seeking out the opinion of others, never going before the Lord for counsel. We fight the Lord’s direction in our life because we fear that He is taking us somewhere those we love the most on this earth may not be willing to follow. And then we wonder why we have an emptiness in our soul and an uneasy sense that we are not really doing what we should do. We are not really living where and how we should live.
What was the last thing God told you to do? Did you do it? Or did you succumb to doing what pleased the crowd? Now, I do acknowledge that the Lord will put people in your life to speak truth and help guide your way. But, we must not first listen to man, then later see if God agrees and only listen to Him when we does. Rather, we must first go to God, and test man’s guidance according to what is congruent with the truth of Scripture.
The promise in 1 Corinthians 2:9 is for those who dare to follow the voice of God over the rioting voices of this world. Who do you live to please? Who is your master? Who do you love? “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”