Cross Walk Devotional: God Used Pilate

The chief priests, elders, teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin had made their plans.  They bought the assistance of Judas in bringing down Jesus, the man who threatens everything they hold dear.  While these groups have very different beliefs, they are united by their desire to rid themselves of a man who has become their enemy.  They know that they want Jesus killed, but they do not have the authority to do so. Only a Roman governor can carry out a death sentence, so following a “mock trial” by the Jews, Jesus is bound and led away to Pilate very early in the morning.  The working day of a Roman official began at daylight, and since the Sabbath is approaching, the Jews know they must bring Jesus to Pilate at this early hour if his sentence is to be passed that day.

Mark doesn’t tell us what conversation transpired between the Jewish leaders and Pilate, but we know that Pilate would not be involved over charges of blasphemy.  Pilate’s question, “Are you the king of the Jews?”, makes it clear that Jesus has been charged with the treasonous act of proclaiming himself king. Jesus’ response, “You have said so,” is non-committal.  He doesn’t say yes, and he doesn’t say no. He is a king, but not of an earthly kingdom. Even when prompted by Pilate because of the number of accusations made against him, Jesus does not reply. Not exactly what Pilate expected.  Most men would be pleading for their lives. Jesus fulfills the prophecy about him recorded in Isaiah 57: 3 – “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (NIV)

The crowd begins to ask for Pilate to release a prisoner as was the custom for the festival.  Knowing that the chief priests have their own agenda in handing over Jesus, Pilate sarcastically asks the crowd if they want him to release the “king of the Jews.”  It seems that he anticipates their agreement. When the crowd asks for the release of Barabbas, a zealot who had participated in treasonous acts against Rome, Pilate asks what the people want him to do with Jesus.  Perhaps he thinks they will ask for Jesus to be beaten and released, but twice they ask for his crucifixion. Pilate is in a tough place. He questions what crime Jesus has committed. He seems to be reluctant to crucify Jesus, but at the same time he has brought soldiers to Jerusalem to keep peace during the festival, and now he has a mob on his hands that is almost at riot level.  The last thing he wants is for the crowd to get out of hand now. Pilate is unwilling to oppose both the people and the Jewish leaders, so he orders the flogging and crucifixion of Jesus.

What were Pilate’s private thoughts in these moments?  Did he have some internal struggle between doing the right thing and pacifying the people?  Was he only thinking about himself and how his career would be affected by his decision? Had he conspired with the Jewish leaders to be rid of Jesus once and for all?  There is no way to answer these questions, but of one thing I am sure. God used Pilate to carry out His plan for salvation. God did not force Pilate to make the decision to hand Jesus over for crucifixion.  Fearing a revolt if he spared the life of Jesus, Pilate surrendered to political expediency and refused to set an innocent man free. He cared more about his own political ambition and safety than justice and truth.  He is a stark contrast to Jesus. Jesus wanted to bear witness to the truth, and knowing the desire of the Father, he willingly allowed himself to be handed over to the authorities. He would not deny the reason he came to earth even though he understood the pain and suffering that he would endure for our sakes.  He submitted to God’s will and surrendered himself to crucifixion to take on our sin as God’s final sacrificial lamb. He bore the pain so we wouldn’t have to. He bought us with his blood, ransomed us, and redeemed us so we could be in a right relationship with God. May we always be conscious of his sacrifice and its ability to release us from the bondage of sin and the power of death.  May we always remember that Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

You are loved!

Melissa Holland