The Politician’s Dilemma

Good Friday. This morning I conducted a communion service at Morning Star Assisted Living. I then enjoyed a men’s ministry planning lunch with Jim Szakmeister and Kent Haggard. We have some good speakers for our monthly breakfast lined out for coming months. This afternoon was a medical appointment. Not for me, but for our dog. He has been experiencing some pain for the past couple of weeks so are trying to figure out what is going on.

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… Pilate then told the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no grounds for charging this man.” Luke 23:4 HCSB    From that moment Pilate made every effort to release Him. But the Jews shouted, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Anyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar!” John 19:12 HCSB   Then, willing to gratify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. And after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified. Mark 15:15 HCSB   When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was starting instead, he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd, and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves!” Matthew 27:24 HCSB

Pilate as a Roman official was no push over. He was known for his ruthless behavior and the power of Rome was exercised swiftly and without mercy. But he also knew when we was “being played.” As a political leader he found himself in a challenging environment. Roman citizens, Jewish leaders, zealots who constantly challenged and presented a threat to peace, all had to be kept in line.

When the Chief Priest and his men brought Jesus to Pilate, Pilate soon found himself caught between his conscious and the crowd. He had no special affection for Jesus and less for the Jewish leaders. Still, Pilate tried to give himself and the religious leaders an out, Pilate said to them, “Who is it you want me to release for you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Messiah?” For he knew they had handed Him over because of envy. (Matthew 27:17-18 HCSB)

Even Pilate didn’t believe the religious leaders would allow their hatred for Jesus out of envy to allow them to condemn, the innocent Rabbi from Galilee over a notorious terrorist. But the religious leaders were so threatened they, were not only willing to release Barabbas, but to threaten Pilate’s security with Rome. Pilate wasn’t in fear of being “voted out of office” but he was concerned about the wrath of Rome on anyone who was viewed as a traitor.

Pilate’s main duty was to maintain peace and order. So when he saw the crowds out of control, he made a decision that he felt forced into, releasing Barabbas, condemning Jesus. Even a dream from his wife couldn’t dissuade him from standing his ground in the face of the power play by the religious leaders.

To their credit the religious leaders knew how to manipulate the situation to their advantage. They stirred up the crowds, taking advantage of the misinformed and gullible. They knew exactly the right words and strategy to gain Pilate’s favor. They would be very effect “activists” in today’s political climate and system.

Pilate had to make a decision, what was at stake was straightforward,Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.” “What is truth?” said Pilate.” (John 18:37-38 HCSB)

Pilate sounds like a “post-modern” thinker, uncertain if anyone can really know the truth. But he didn’t realize that truth personified was standing in front of him. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)

We certainly see in all of this it was God’s will that was being fulfilled. Not the will of the religious leaders or the conflict within Pilate’s mind. Jesus made it clear when He said, “No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18 ESV)

We can all relate to Pilate’s dilemma of being caught between what his conscious told him and what the crowd or circumstances demanded. We all face times when beliefs and values are challenged. It is easy to criticize those in public office who are under the microscope, but how often are people in business, in their personal life and in the church faced with compromise and conflict between right and wrong, truth and principle versus business-as-usual and outside pressures.

We can trust the Lord to help us be “strong and courageous.” Sometimes the conflict is not so much from the forces without, but the forces within. We can’t fail when we side with “the truth.” Being true to ourselves, biblical principles and the example of Christ.