By Roger Campbell Ministries
The trial of Christ was, without a doubt, the court confrontation of the ages: a calm and quiet prisoner standing before a cringing, cowering judge. Most Bible commentators refer to this historic courtroom drama as “Christ before Pilate,” but the late respected writer, H.A. Ironside, called it “Pilate before Christ.” He saw Pilate as only an earthly judge standing before the One who would someday judge him.
The presiding judge that day desperately wanted to discover a reason to find this peaceful prisoner guilty of some crime so he wouldn’t offend his constituency. Pilate was already in deep trouble for decisions that had caused unrest in the area and had been reprimanded by Tiberius, the Roman Emperor, for offending local leaders on two previous occasions. He couldn’t afford another incident. Now he risked the wrath of the accusers of this prisoner, as well as his superiors in Rome, if he couldn’t come up with some good reason to declare this prisoner guilty.
Give this indecisive judge credit for honesty. After examining the innocent prisoner standing before him and considering the false charges being brought against Him, Pilate announced his decision: “I find no fault in him” (John 19:4).” Millions have since come to the same conclusion.
Now the trial took a strange turn: the decision of the judge was contested. The crowd demanded a guilty verdict and crucifixion of the prisoner. Pilate’s order from Rome had been to keep order and though he was more concerned about politics than principles, he decided to make one last effort to free the one he believed to be innocent of the charges brought against him. Custom called for the release of a prisoner at that time of the year and Pilate had one named Barabbas who was known for his violent crimes. He would offer the crowd a choice: the release of Jesus or Barabbas.
Pilate wanted others to make this tough choice for him. Many, like him, allow public opinion to influence their most important decisions…even those where the wrong choice may have life changing or even eternal consequences.
The crowd chose freedom for Barabbas, preferring violence over gentleness, lawlessness over love, rage over doing right.
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Now, having received the mob’s message, Pilate was faced with another question. “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ (Matthew 27:22)?” It was a personal question, one that called for a decision, but the crowd seized their opportunity to decide for the weak-willed judge, demanding the crucifixion of Christ.
Again, Pilate gave in to their wishes, but thought of a way to quiet his conscience. With all hope of justice gone, since he had abdicated his authority to the accusers of his prisoner, Pilate washed his hands before the crowd and claimed to be free of any part in this coming execution.
Pilate didn’t want to decide for or against Jesus; he just wanted to be neutral. But in not deciding for this One who would soon be crucified, he decided against Him.
So do we.