We are in the midst of Jesus’ trial before Pilate.  To get the flow of this encounter with Pilate … go back into chapter 18 and read John 18: 28 – 19:16.  Our focus today will be on the verses in chapter 19.

I am intrigued by Pilate.  William Barclay, in his commentary on John, explains the role held  by Pilate.  He says,

“Smaller provinces in the Roman Empire, provinces of the second class, were governed by a procurator.  The procurator was in full control of the military and judicial administration of the province.  He visited every part of the province at least once a year, and heard cases and complaints.  He superintended the ingathering of taxes but had no authority to increase them.  He was paid a salary from the treasury and was strictly forbidden to accept either presents or bribes; and, if he exceeded his duties, the people of his province had power to report him to the Emperor.”

Pilate’s track record with the Jews and with Jerusalem was not good.  He had been reported to the Emperor, Tiberius, on a previous occasion and the emperor supported the people, not Pilate.  He was not a popular procurator.  The Jewish leaders who carried some authority within Jerusalem knew the system well … and they were about to work the system.

Pilate knew that Jesus had committed no crime.  He wants to release Him … he had the power to release Him … but rather than exercising the courage to act on what he knew to be … he tries to manipulate the situation and the Jewish people clamoring at his gate.

1.  First … he tries to pass the buck … place the responsibility on someone else.  (18:31)  Ever been there?  Ever tried to get someone else to make a decision for you because you just didn’t want to make it?  You didn’t want the responsibility? 

2.  Second … he tried to escape the decision by using the custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover time.  (18:39)  This is pure avoidance.  It is hiding from one issue by focusing on another.  It is cowardice.  Ever been there? 

3.  Third … he tried compromise.  Scourge the man … make mockery of Him … surely that twisted form of humor will diffuse the hatred and volatility of the scene.  (19:1 – 5)  Appeal to the emotions of the Jews … surely when they see the beaten, pathetic figure before them … they will be moved by some latent pity.

All the attempts of Pilate to free himself of this decision failed.  So Pilate admits defeat and turns Jesus over.  I think he is afraid that the Jews will report the whole scene to the emperor.  He is afraid that they will report to Tiberius that Pilate is no friend of Caesar or of Rome.  Can’t have that … so what’s the life of one poor, Jewish rabbi. 

Does the “fear of your fellow man” or the “fear of those in authority” ever lead you to abdicate decisions that you know to be right?  I want to learn from Pilate.  I want to observe him so that I NEVER follow his example.

The prophet Isaiah, centuries before Pilate, addressed this very issue.  Listen …

Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have my law in your hearts:  Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults.  For the moth will eat them up like a garment; the worm will devour them like wool.  But my righteousness will last forever, my salvation through all generations.   Isaiah 51: 7 – 8

I pray for the strength of character to stand for what is right – to make decisions based firmly on the Word of God and not on what my culture says is smart or expedient.    Let’s close our reflective time together with words from Jesus …     

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do’t be afriad; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.      Matthew 10: 28 – 32