Holy Week – Part 5
“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!’” (Matthew 27:24 NIV)
Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. He was a clever guy and could tell from Jesus’ demeanor and the accusations being hurled against him that the religious leaders had handed him over out of self-interest. Besides, Pilate’s own wife had sent a message urging him to leave Jesus alone, because of a dream she had had. What more proof did Pilate need?
Oh, but Pilate was in a tough spot. He had been put in charge as governor to keep order. He didn’t care about the chief priests and their laws, but here was the mob threatening to get unruly if he didn’t give Jesus up to be crucified. The religious leaders might even accuse him to Rome, saying that he was harboring an insurrectionist. Pilate then gave the people a choice: Should he release Barabbas, an actual troublemaker, or Jesus? And, of course, we know that the crowds yelled, “Release to us Barabbas!” When Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus, they chanted, “Crucify him!”
What should Pilate do? Should he listen to his inner voice and the pleadings of his wife, or should he listen to the cacophony of voices surrounding him? He couldn’t make up his mind. Then he had what he thought was a brilliant idea: he would give Jesus up to be crucified, but he would wash his hands in a basin in the sight of the people, declaring that he was washing his hands of the matter and was therefore absolved of the guilt of Jesus’ death.
But that didn’t change anything, did it? Pilate was indeed guilty; and to this day, the infamous order to have Jesus crucified is attributed to him. Tradition tells us that Pilate lived a tormented life after that. He reportedly lost his job as governor, and some accounts indicate that he ended up committing suicide. In the end, Pilate lost out on the opportunity to have his own life changed by the power of Jesus.
If he could speak to us today, do you know what Pilate would tell us? He would say, “There’s no such thing as trying to be neutral with Jesus.” In other words, you can’t play the middle ground or sit on the fence; you’re either with Jesus or not with Jesus.
Sadly, sometimes the pressure of the crowd makes people turn away from the Lord, just as Pilate did. Oh sure; some don’t mind thinking of Jesus on Good Friday or going to church on Easter. And when the baby is being dedicated, they don’t mind attending a service; or asking for prayer if their child is sick. But to turn to Jesus and serve him with all their heart? “No,” many think, “I may lose some friends that way.”
Trust me, it is better to lose friends than to lose out on having a real relationship with Jesus. His desire is to meet our every need, give us peace and joy and forgiveness of sin, along with a guarantee that when we die, we will be with him in heaven.
On this Saturday before Easter, let’s remember the words of the time hymn, “What Will You Do with Jesus?”
What will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be;
One day your heart will be asking,
“What will he do with me?”
Read Matthew 27:11-26.