This is a re-post of the Passion series from last year.
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha.
Jesus was on death row, and Pilate was very close to letting him walk free. He said a handful of times that he found no guilt in this Galilean pauper. But when the chips were down, Pilate had no courage. The Jews pushed a button. What button did they push? It was the praise of man button. Everyone has that button, and the Jews knew exactly where Pilate’s was and how hard to push it.
Pilate’s problem was that he considered his kingdom to be more significant than Jesus’ kingdom. His problem was that he loved the praise of the Jews, Caesar, and the hostile crowd more than God’s praise. Had Pilate released Jesus — whom the Jews were accusing of being a political rebel and spiritual blasphemer — he would have practically forfeited his governorship. Why? Jesus called himself a king, and “everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar” (v. 12). Just the threat of some Jews telling Caesar on him a made Pilate shrink back and say, “Okay, okay. You want your so-called King crucified? You can have it.”
Crucify a carpenter to start the weekend or risk losing your job and face treason charges? It was an easy choice for Pilate.
Hold on, though. What about me? Jesus wasn’t crucified because Pilate loved man’s praise and wanted to build his own kingdom, or because the Jews were blind and stiff-necked, or even because the disciples ran away. No, Jesus was crucified because I love man’s praise. Jesus was crucified because I love my kingdom. Jesus was crucified because I run away everyday. Of course, Jesus died for other people’s sin, too. But if I’m pointing fingers and shaking my head at Pilate, I’m missing the point.
Almighty Father, help me desire your praise and hate the praise of man. Help me feel how ugly my sin really is. Make me realize what it meant for you to be crucified for me. Help me grieve over my sins, great and small, and point me to that blessed Cross, where all my sins were washed away.