Summary: By not making a decision about Jesus Pilate allows His non-decision to set the agenda
Have you ever been in one of those situations where you don’t really make a decision – but by not making a decision you actually make a decision?
It might happen to a person who gets asked to join in on a Fun Run. You have to run 10km. You are not sure if you will, or won’t, but in the meantime you don’t do any training. Soon the event comes and you haven’t trained, so you will never make it.
Your non-decision is still a decision.
In our text we are going to find another example – this time it is Pilate.
He knows what the right decision is to make.
But he doesn’t follow-through on that decision … it was a non-decision which was still a decision.
Read John 19:1-16
In the previous section we saw that Pilate was faced with a whole heap of competing voices.
The voice of the Jewish authorities who are saying, “He is a criminal”.
The voice of Jesus which is saying, “I am King”.
The voice which causes him to ask, “What is truth?”
The voice of the crowd calling for Barabbas.
Pilate has been placed in a situation that he doesn’t want to be in.
Because, in the middle of all the mess, Pilate knows exactly what needs to be done.
Pilate knows the right decision is to set Jesus free.
You see it really clearly when you put all the decisions of Pilate from the different Gospels together
17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
Right from the beginning Pilate has this all sorted – he hasn’t just come down in the last shower. He has been the prefect of Judea for at least 4 years and he knows how the Jewish leaders operate. Even as he went to the door to answer them because they wouldn’t come into his house he would have been thinking, “Oh no. What do they want now?”
3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
Pilate makes it very clear – there is no reason why this man should have been arrested and charged. He makes the pronouncement to all – the religious leaders and the crowd. This is the decision. Jesus should have been released at that point.
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.”
Now we have the regional ruler, Herod, also proclaiming the innocence of Jesus. Between them Herod and Pilate represent the highest Roman authority at the time. And their decision is the same. He is innocent.
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.”
You see the situation Pilate is in. He knows, according to the law of the land, Jesus must be released. He keeps going back to the crowds and asking them to give him some sort of evidence that Jesus is worthy of death. They just keep shouting him down.
24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
I’m not going to let Him go, but I’m not going to take responsibility for what is happening either.
When you put all of this together it gives a powerful testimony of what is going on here.
Pilate knows and declares that Jesus is innocent.
Jesus should be set free. But Pilate does not want to make that decision.
But a non-decision is still a decision. In Australia we call this situation … sitting on the fence.
Pilate is sitting on the fence trying to avoid a difficult situation by not making a decision.