Today we read Mark’s account of Jesus trail and conviction. He says something particularly interesting about why Pilate sends Jesus to be crucified.
First, take a look back to Day 52 for a reminder about why the name of the person being chosen by the crowd to be freed, Barabbas, is so telling.
We know that Pilate did not think Jesus was guilty of any crime. In fact, Mark says that Pilate knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests were seeking to have Jesus executed. Having advanced to be the Roman governor of Judea there is no doubt that Pilate is a shrewd politician. Why then does he allow himself to be manipulated by the Jewish priests? We are told by Mark that
15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
So Pilate executed Jesus because he “wished to satisfy the crowd”. I always find myself strangely sympathizing with Pilate, who I think is in some way history’s most tragic villain. How many of us have gone along with a crowd? For most of us, that’s a daily occurrence to one degree or another. How many of our modern day politicians do the same thing yet we continuously vote for them. How many times have we ostracized a person from a group because others don’t like them? Don’t get me wrong, history records Pilate as ruthless and brutal governor, quick to punish and to use force. But when confronted with the person of Jesus, Pilate acts out of character and this time seems reluctant. The person of Jesus breaks through even the rock hard exterior of Pilate the Roman soldier and governor of Judea. This hard man hesitates to bring violence upon Jesus. Pilate’s decision to give in to the crowd is something that we all do and it is something that we must be wary against. It is at that moment, when the crowd is saying “go this way” and we perceive that some injustice, great or minor, will happen that we must pull ourselves out of the world and away from the crowd and walk the harder path.
Pilate’s decision also teaches us something else that is extremely important. It is a window into the nature of sin. Sending a man to be scourged and crucified to death is a momentous decision but ultimately Pilate makes the decision lightly. Pilate has gotten used to violence, brutality and killing. There is no reason to crucify Jesus except for the chants of the crowd. To kill a man because the crowd calls for it takes a conscience that has been deadened by years of bad acts. Isn’t this so often the way of our society today? One doesn’t have to look any farther than the abortion industry to see that. Sin grows, it leaves a mark on the soul, until even when confronted with a situation where you know the right thing to do and you can’t do it because you’ve become habitualized to doing the wrong thing. Was it too late for Pilate when he encountered Jesus? Of course, in one sense it is never too late for God, who could have knocked Pilate off his proverbial horse and converted him instantly. In one sense, God didn’t choose that path in order to fulfill his plan. But in other sense it really was too late for Pilate. Dramatic encounters with God leading to dramatic conversion happened but tend to be the exception not the rule. By the time Pilate met Jesus he had already made his choice in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days. Each day, each choice you make forms you conscience, so that big days when important choices come you can make the right choice. This is the role of works, start making the right little choices know so that you can recognize and correctly make the big ones.