We are all faced with a choice at some point in our lives- to follow the crowd or to follow the Lord?
Luke 23:13 – 25
13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.’ [a]
18 But the whole crowd shouted, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’ 19 (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’
22 For the third time he spoke to them: ‘Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.’
23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
What stands out to me in this passage was how this was a moment for Pilate to really stand for something and show some real leadership. Instead, he was passive and caved into the people’s demands, succumbing to peer pressure. He was like a sheep, just following the crowd. He showed no authority, despite being in a position of leadership and influence. It’s easy for a dead dog to swim with the tide. It takes a live dog to swim against it.
Pilate probably hoped that the people would side with him in resisting the verdict and releasing Jesus. After all, it was Jesus, the most blameless person in history up against a mercenary, a murderer and a thief in Barabbas. It should have been a no contest. But the crowds were swayed by the priests and they shouted for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus. Pilate was unwilling to release a dangerous man as well as condemn an innocent one. He had a choice- stand by his convictions and do the right thing or follow the crowd. He chose the latter and yielded to the intensity of the demonstration. Pilate showed no mercy, let alone justice, to an innocent man.
Whilst we don’t have to make decisions as big as Pilate’s, it can be very hard to be salt and light to the world if there are forces pulling us away from Jesus. And those forces are out there because as Jesus said, “If anyone hates you, just remember they hated me first.” Jesus knew that he would be subjected to incredible hardship and torture. He would be betrayed by his friends (Judas), denied by his friends (Peter) and subjected to death on the cross. No one would blame him for running as far away from his fate as possible. But as he sat there praying in the garden of Gethsemane, he said, “Lord, take this cup away from me if possible. But I want your will to be done, not mine.” Jesus lived the only perfect life in human history yet the people who were alive to witness it wanted to put it on a cross. Yet he rose from the dead to become our Lord, King and Saviour. We now have a choice. We can be like Pilate and follow the crowd, knowing that their views may clash with ours. Or we could follow Jesus who did exactly what the Lord asked of him, knowing that God will one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Head: Looking at Pilate’s behavior, how solid do you think his faith was?
Heart: Jesus says that the only way to be made right is to belong to him who has made us right with God. What does it look and feel like to belong with Jesus?
Hands: We lose courage in speaking up for Jesus and the gospel when we lose sight of the goodness of God in the cross. How can we encourage each other in the message of the cross?
Prayer: Father God thank you for sending your son to the cross to die for our sins. We’re sorry for the times when we are like Pilate. The times when we fail to stand for you and just go with what other people want. Please forgive us when this happens and help us to encourage each other to stand firm when we struggle and lose focus. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A song to listen to: Your Name is power
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