Summary: We'll be diving into Mark 15:1-20 as we put ourselves in Pilate’s sandals in order to feel his dilemma, wrestle with his deliberations, and learn from his decision.
Have you ever thought about the power of one person?
A dry goods salesman shared the gospel with a shoe salesman named Edward Kimball, who was then converted. Kimball went on to teach Sunday School and developed an intentional plan to share the gospel with every boy in his class. He was particularly burdened for a young man named Dwight, who often fell asleep while he was teaching. Here’s how he explained what happened when he shared the gospel with the boy, “I put my hand on his shoulder, and as I leaned over I placed my foot upon a shoebox. I asked him to come to Christ.” Kimball left thinking he had blown his opportunity, but D.L. Moody left the store that day a new person and eventually became the most prominent evangelist in America at that time.
Under Moody’s ministry, a man named Wilbur Chapman was saved. Billy Sunday, a professional baseball player, had a day off and attended one of Wilbur Chapman’s evangelistic meetings and was converted to Christ (BTW, former Major League Baseball player Darryl Strawberry is one of the speakers at the Men’s Iron Sharpens Iron Conference in three weeks). Through Sunday’s preaching, a man named Mordecai Ham was saved.
And it was at a Mordecai Ham crusade in 1934 that a high school student named Billy Frank embraced the gospel and was born again! Billy had told people he would never go to this crusade but when he heard some students were going to interrupt the speaker, he went to see what would happen. Here’s how Mordecai Ham recalls what happened: “Two young high school boys attended our meeting. They thought that everything I said was directed their way, so they decided to take seats in the choir, where I couldn’t point my finger at them. They didn’t pretend to be singers, but they wanted to be behind me.” Billy later wrote: “I got out as soon as I could and said, ‘I am through.’” But he was miserable all night and all the next day and recalled, “I couldn’t get there soon enough the next night!” And that was the night that Billy Graham was saved.
God used Billy Graham to preach the gospel in person to over 215 million people in 185 countries! The gospel was preached again on Friday when his funeral was picked up by 458 media outlets. Buried in a plywood casket made by prisoners from Louisiana, his funeral was his final crusade.
I watched the live stream of the service and loved that these words scrolled at the bottom of the screen: “Go to stepstopeace.org to learn more about salvation.” I celebrate what will be on his grave marker: “Billy Graham: Preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” And the reference John 14:6 will appear at the bottom: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I’m reminded of what is on his wife Ruth’s marker. After driving through a construction zone some time before she died, she saw a sign that she wanted on her gravestone: “End of construction. Thanks for your patience.”
A salesman who shared the gospel shows us the power of one person! I’m reminded of the saying, “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”
The Perplexed Politician
As we begin, let’s focus on the impact of another man. His name is Pilate. He served as the governor of the southern half of Palestine and was directly responsible to Rome. His job description listed two primary responsibilities: collect taxes and keep the peace. He struggled with the second one because there were constant revolutions and threats, much like the turmoil in the Middle East today. Incidentally, archaeology has confirmed that what the Bible says about Pilate actually happened. Here’s a picture of an inscription on a stone tablet found at Caesarea, which was where he resided.
When Pilate first came to power, he marched his armies through the city of Jerusalem. His troops carried the Roman banner, complete with an image of Caesar. The Jewish people objected to this graven image and protested for five days. Pilate agreed to meet but then surrounded them with soldiers and threatened to kill them. The Jews were so angry that they bared their necks, daring him to do so. Pilate backed down and the graven images were reluctantly removed.
Some time later, Pilate built an aqueduct and financed it by stealing from the temple treasury! The people were angry and started rioting in the streets. Pilate had his soldiers dress as civilians and as they mingled with the mob, they clubbed many to death. Luke 13:1 describes one of the brutal atrocities committed by Pilate: “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” Caesar received a number of written complaints and Pilate was on the hot seat. He couldn’t afford another Jewish uprising.