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Pilate's Dilemma - and Ours
by Elaine Pierce
Pilate really doesn't want to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion. Look at how many times in John 18 and 19 he tries to find a way out of casting judgment:
-John 18:29: "What charges are you bringing against this man?"
-John 18:31: "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law."
-John 18:38: "I find no basis for a charge against him."
-John 19:4: "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him."
-John 19:6: "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him."
-John 19:12: "From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free...."
-John 19:15: "Shall I crucify your king? Pilate asked."
But in the end, as we all know, he gives in to the mob, and Jesus is crucified. I was struck by the fact that Pilate, the Governor of Judea, was conflicted about how to handle Jesus. As Rome's representative, he had great power over the affairs of the Jews, and yet, he was afraid. Look at John 19:8:
"When Pilate heard this [that the Jews had a law that said that Jesus must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God - blasphemy] he was even more afraid...."
Pilate, with false bravado, says to Jesus "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" (v. 10) Jesus replies "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above." (v. 11)
God's Kingdom is not the same as our earthly kingdoms. Jesus came to save us; he didn't come to give us earthly power. We watch Pilate, a powerful man in charge of a conquered people, and we know that his power is temporal. Yes, Jesus will be crucified, but he will not be conquered. We know that the tomb is empty. We know the end of the story, and we know that his kingdom is forever.
Pilate met Jesus, but he refused to give Jesus his heart. He bowed to the mob, and saved his job and his standing in Rome. It was a hollow victory. When we're tempted to go along with the crowd, and we will be, let us stop and thank Jesus for the gift of eternal life, and thank him for what he has done for us. When we fall, and we will, ask him for forgiveness and he will be there to pick us up and set us on the right path. Thanks be to God.
Lord, way too often I'm more like Pilate than I want to admit. I cling to power, and I'm afraid of trusting you. Thank you for the gift of forgiveness and grace, and send your Holy Spirit to guide me and protect me, in Jesus' name, Amen.