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Words of Faith 2-11-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019


Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Luke 23

    [13] Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, [14] and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. [15] Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. [16] Therefore, I will punish him and then release him." [17] 

    [18] With one voice they cried out, "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!" [19] (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

    [20] Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. [21] But they kept shouting, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"

    [22] For the third time he spoke to them: "Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him."

    [23] But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. [24] So Pilate decided to grant their demand. [25] He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.


       The final phase of the trial of Jesus found Jesus back in front of Pilate.  The idea of pitching Jesus to Herod had not worked.  Pilate now had a massive problem on his hands. The feast was about to begin.  Several hundred thousand Jews were pouring into town for the Passover, perhaps as many as 1 million.  If he did nothing, a growing mob would likely get out of hand.  If he executed Jesus, another mob might arise if he was viewed as the culprit. What was his out?

       While Roman culture lifted up justice as a value, Roman politicians were much more concerned with crowd control than with justice.  The Emperor himself regularly pacified the masses with shows in the arena and free grain.  History records that a Roman soldier who had burned a Torah scroll was executed, not because the Romans cared about burning a religious book, but to pacify Jewish outrage. This was the typical expedient nature of Roman rule.

        Jesus had done nothing to deserve execution. Pilate told the people there was really nothing he could do but scourge Jesus and release Him because he found no basis for the charges against Him. The scourging alone would actually kill Jesus eventually. But that was not the public execution which some sought.

        It was the Roman custom to release one prisoner at the time of the Feast, another form of appeasement.  In spite of the fact that Jesus had been proven to have done nothing deserving of death, a group yelled out that a known insurrectionist, Barabbas, should be released in place of Jesus. 

       Barabbas was probably viewed as something of a hero and "freedom fighter" even though he was a criminal.  As a clearly violent revolutionary, Barabbas would have been a much greater danger to Pilate.  But by releasing Barabbas Pilate would now be off the hook with both crowds.

       We might be tempted in our reading to view Pilate as earnestly desiring to plead on behalf of Jesus, but everything we know about Pilate from history paints a very different picture.  Historians record that Pilate hated the Jewish people and in times of irritation freely shed their blood.  They returned his hatred with cordiality and accused him of every crime, maladministration, cruelty, and robbery.  Pilate visited Jerusalem as seldom as possible because he much preferred the pleasures and decadence of Rome.  The religious nature of Jerusalem certainly did not suit him.

        Pilate provoked the Jews on many occasions.  One of the first conflicts occurred when he moved the headquarters of his army from Caesarea to Jerusalem. The soldiers, of course, took their “standards”-- which bore the image of the emperor-- with them into the holy city. The sight of the standards planted within view of the Temple enraged the people because of the law against graven images.  People declared themselves ready to submit to death rather than to this idolatrous innovation.  Pilate finally yielded to their demands and ordered the standards to be returned to Caesarea.  

         On another occasion, Pilate nearly drove the Jews to insurrection when he hung in his palace on Mt. Zion golden shields inscribed with the names of deities. The shields were removed only by an order from the emperor. Pilate also appropriated the revenue of the Temple offerings for the building of an aqueduct.

        In another confrontation, Pilate murdered about two thousand Jewish leaders who had marched to Caesarea to protest his offensive ways.  He also ordered the slaughter of certain Galileans while they were offering sacrifices in the Temple (Luke 13:1). The idea that Pilate was a nice guy who sought to free Jesus is not in keeping with what we know about him.  Pilate wanted an out, and when the crowds cried out for Barabbas, he had it.

           What do we gain from this?  We can see that Pilate was a man of expedience rather than principle.  He made decisions based upon political impact rather than justice.  Expedience means "serving one's interest."  It is the style of self-serving leaders.  Expedience does what is advisable, appropriate, advantageous, or profitable rather than what is right.  Expedience allows the end to justify the means. 

           Expedience makes a decision that is fit or suitable for the purpose rather than based on truth or what is simply right.  Expedience would rather appear "proper" under the circumstances than be right in eternity. Expedience will sacrifice the life of one, no matter how innocent, for the sake of "the peace."  Expedience is a terrible trap to be caught in on either side of power.


           Father God, protect me from a life of expedience.  Protect me from the political influences that would compromise my integrity and my values.  Help me to keep my eye on You and to trust wholly in Your ways.  Remind me of Your justice, and the hope of redemption found only in You.  In Jesus' name.