Summary: This account of the decision that Pilate made concerning Jesus has much to that it may be saying to us about decision making.

A Study of the Book of Luke

Sermon # 64

“The Importance of Making a Decision”

Luke 23:1-25

Jesus had just emerged at dawn from his religious trial before the Sanhedrin in which his admission that he was the Son of God had enraged the members to call for his death. But they lacked the power to carry out this sentence and therefore had to present him to the Roman authorities and ask that the sentence be carried out. The Jewish leaders had arrested Jesus on theological grounds – blasphemy (that he had dared to call himself the son of God) – but because this charge would be thrown out of a Roman court, they had to come up with a political reason for executing Jesus. Their strategy was to present him as a rebel who told the people not to pay their taxes and who claimed to be a king and thus was a threat to Caesar. This was all lies of course but then charges don’t have to be true.

In verse one of Chapter twenty-three we read, “Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. (2) And they began to accuse Him saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He himself is Christ, a king.” (3) Then Pilate asked Him, saying, Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him and said, “It is as you say.”

So Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you really the king of the Jews?” (v. 3). This question is included in all four of the gospel accounts and in all four the word “you” is emphatic. Luke as is his custom abbreviates the story. According to John (18:33-38) Jesus explained to Pilate in what sense he was indeed a king, not a political sense but in a real spiritual sense, he was and is king over all those who claim Him as the shepherd of their souls.

Acceptance or rejection of Jesus as your king is still the real dividing line even today. You can walk into virtually any room in America and ask, “Do you believe in God?” and expect to get an answer in the affirmative. But if you push it a bit and go on to ask, “And do believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the Only means of going to heaven?” then you will quickly sense an altogether different atmosphere.

But the religious leaders would not let it go and they responded in verse four, “So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this Man.” (5) But they were the more fierce, saying, “He stirs up the people teaching throughout all Judea, beginning in Galilee to this place.”

Tonight I want to examine this account of the decision that Pilate made concerning Jesus to see what it may be saying to us about decision making.

First, Passing off a problem for some one else to handle is not handling a problem. (vv. 6-7) “When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. (7) As soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, He sent Him to Herod, who was in Jerusalem at the time.”

Then acting as we often do, Pilate attempted to avoid making a decision. When he heard that Jesus was a Galilean that was all he needed to hear, he said in effect, “Oh! So He is a Galilean?” That made Jesus Herod’s responsibility, so let him hear the case. So Jesus is sent to Herod’s palace.

One can almost see Pilate congratulating himself for getting rid of this thorny problem so easily. Not only had he managed to pawn the problem off on someone else, in this case Herod, it was someone he did not particularly like anyway.

How fortunate it was that Herod was also in Jerusalem at this season, so let Herod handle the worries about what to do with this Jesus fellow.

Passing off a problem for some one else to handle is not handling a problem and …

Secondly, Invariably the problem we refuse to deal will come back to haunt us.

In verses (vv. 8-10) is an account of Jesus’ time before Herod. It seems that Herod has had all the chance he is ever going to have to hear the truth. Jesus had nothing to say in answer to Herod’s questions nor does he perform any miracles to amuse him. So we are told in verse eleven, “Then Herod, with all his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate.”

It would seem from reading verse thirteen as well as the parallel accounts that when Jesus is returned to Pilate, that Pilate took Jesus aside to determine his guilt or innocence. “Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, (14) said to them, “You have brought this man to me, as one who mislead the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; (15) no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him, (16) I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” (17) (for it was necessary for him to release one of them at the feast). (18) And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas” – (19) who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder.”

When he came out from that meeting Pilate called the chief priests and rulers of the people and told them that as far as he was concerned he could not see that Jesus was guilty of any of the charges that they had brought against Him.

Pilate offers as a compromise to have Jesus beaten and released. And from the record of the parallel accounts I believe that Pilate offered them a second proposal. In Mark 15:8-11 we read, “Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. (9) But Pilate answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?" (10) For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. (11) But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them.”

Based on the tradition of releasing one prisoner to the people as a recognition of the Passover, Pilate offers to them Barabbas. I believe that the offer of Barabbas was meant to be a offer that no sensible Israelite could accept; the offer of Jesus’ was one that no sensible Israelite could turn down. Boy was Pilate wrong. The crowds incited by the chief priest and scribes, called for Jesus’ death and the release of Barabbas.

And even though Pilate pronounces Jesus innocent of any crime the Jewish religious leaders respond by even more vigorously declaring his guilt and demanding nothing less than the death penalty. Their demands for the death of Jesus fail even the simple test of logic. Their accusation against Jesus was the he was instigating a rebellion, yet they chose a man for release who had done those very things. Their actions followed no logic whatsoever.

Again in verse twenty we are told, “Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them.” I really believe that Pilate wanted to release Jesus but he lacked the courage to follow his convictions. Matthew recorded that even Pilate’s wife had experienced a dream about Jesus and had urged Pilate to let Jesus go (Matthew 27:19).

Invariably the problem we refuse to deal will come back to haunt us and …

Third, When you have a difficult decision to make, do not discount the effects of outside pressure. (vv. 21-22) You need to realize before hand that making the right decision could have unpleasant consequences; rejection by your peers, career derailment, even public ridicule.

Now in verse twenty one we read, “But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (22) Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found no reason for death in Him, I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” (23) But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.”

According to John’s gospel, “during Pilate’s first encounter with Jesus, he had responded to Christ’s assertion of truth by saying, ”What is truth?” (John 18:38) …unwittingly anticipating the words of modern skeptics …who say in effect, “What is truth?” when they insist that truth is a matter of subjective opinion. Postmodernist say … “What is Truth?” because he or she does not believe that truth exists.” [R. Kent Hughes p. 371]. Our society has a difficult time deciding what is truth, but the reason is that we have cast aside the only means of knowing the truth, God’s word.

When you have a difficult decision to make, do not discount the effects of outside pressure And …

Fourth, Sometimes we know the right thing to do but we do the wrong thing because we are unwilling to pay the cost of doing the right thing. (v. 24)

“So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested.”

This may seem to be a particularly odd statement in a democratic country but “truth is seldom determined by popular opinion.” Three times during the trial, Pilate cleared affirmed the innocence of Jesus (vv. 4, 14, 22). He had carefully questioned Jesus and even trembled at the answers, but the truth of the Word made no difference in his decisions. (That sounds oddly modern).

Sometimes we know the right thing to do but we do the wrong thing because we are unwilling to pay the cost of doing the right thing and…

Fifth & Finally, Personal Responsibility

Can not be Avoided for the Decisions that we make.

Matthew’s Gospel explains that at this point Pilate took water and washed his hands in the front of the crowd to symbolize his innocence in condemning Jesus (Matthew 27:24). Oh, but don’t we wish that it was that easy to avoid our personal responsibility?

Had he been a man of real courage he would have done what was right, and taken the consequences, but his past made him a coward. Pilate had already made two grave mistakes in his governing of Judea. First, he had brought the people to the point of rebellion by carrying standards bearing the image Caesar through the city of Jerusalem in defiance of Old Testament law forbidding any graven image. The end result was that the people threw themselves before him winning to be killed rather than allow this affront to God’s authority to continue. Pilate finally backed down. Pilate soon followed this fiasco with another. He built an aqueduct to bring a new water supply to the city, which was a good thing but he financed it by taking money from the temple treasury. John in his account (19:12) tells us that the religious leader make an ominous veiled threat when Pilate sought to release Jesus they said, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend.” (William Barclay. The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956) pp. 292-294)

Sometimes the Devil will use our past failures and mistakes to keep us from doing the right thing in the present.


I do not know what your response to Jesus Christ has been, but if it is anything less than receiving Him as the Son of God and your personal Savior, it is not enough, it is rejection. Your rejection may be polite; in fact it may appear that you have not rejected Him at all. It may be that you have simply ignored Him. But if you have not accepted Him, then you have rejected Him. Just as Pilate could not avoid making a decision about Jesus, so you and I must make a decision as well. When make a decision by ignoring Him and refusing to make a decision, let me simply remind you that this too is a decision, a decision to reject Him.

Once to Every Man

Once to every man and nation

Comes the moment to decide

In the strife of truth or falsehood

For the good or evil side.

But to every man there openeth

A high way and a low

And every man decideth

Which way his soul shall go.

James Russell Lowell

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