Summary: Pilate is not the only one who has played the game of "almost." Most of us have played that game, too. (PowerPoint available - #163)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(PowerPoint used with this message available for free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request #163.)
ILL. On the southern border of the empire of Cyrus, there lived a great chieftain named Cagular who tore to shreds & completely defeated the various detachments of Cyrus’ army sent to subdue him.
Finally the emperor, amassing his whole army, marched down, surrounded & overwhelmed Cagular's forces, captured him & his wife, & brought them to the capital for execution.
On the scheduled day for their execution, he & his wife were brought to the judgment chamber - Cagular, a fine looking man of more than 6 feet, with a noble manner about him - a magnificent specimen of a man.
So impressed was Cyrus with his appearance, that he said to Cagular: "What would you do should I spare your life?"
"Your Majesty, if you spared my life, I would return to my home & remain your obedient servant as long as I lived."
"What would you do if I spared the life of your wife?"
"Your Majesty, if you spared the life of my wife, I would die for you."
So moved was the emperor by Cagular's words & attitude that he freed them both & returned Cagular to his homeland to serve as its governor.
Upon arriving home, Cagular reminisced about the trip with his wife. "Did you notice the marble at the entrance of the palace? Did you see the tapestry on the walls as we went down the corridor into the throne room? And did you see the throne on which the emperor sat? It must have been carved from one lump of pure gold."
His wife replied: "I really don’t remember any of that."
"Well," said Cagular in amazement, "What do you remember?"
His wife looked at him & said, "I remember only the face of the man who said he would die for me."
(Adapted from the sermon "The Love of God" by John Redpath, Abingdon Press, 1979)
And this morning, folks, I want to talk to you about the one who did die for us.
A. As you know, today is a day celebrated throughout Christianity as "Palm Sunday," the day of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It was a spectacular day, a day of celebration for many.
His arrival was so much a celebration by the people that the leading Pharisees of Jerusalem exclaimed, "Look how the whole world has gone after him!" (John 11:19)
And for the next few days the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, & the chief priests tried again & again to trap Jesus with trick questions in an effort to turn the people against Him. But in that they failed miserably.
Well, you know about some of the events of that week: the people wanting to crown Jesus as their king, the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus washing the disciple's feet, the Last Supper & their partaking of the Passover meal together.
Following that meal they went to the Garden at Gethsemane where Jesus spent time in prayer, & where Judas, the betrayer, brought the Temple Guards to arrest Him. For the rest of that night Jesus had to endure the scorn & abuse heaped upon Him during the illegal night-time trials before the Jewish Sanhedrin.
The witnesses couldn't get their lies straight, but the priests were so filled with hatred that their verdict was that He was certainly worthy of death because He called himself the Son of God.
But since only Roman authorities could order the death penalty, just as soon as it was daybreak they took Him to the Roman governor, Pilate, accusing Jesus of sedition, seeking to incite the people to rebellion.
All of that is already familiar to most of you here. So this morning I want us to turn to the Gospel of Luke & view that scene where Gov. Pilate tries to release Jesus. It is found in Luke 23:13 24.
"Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers & the people, & said to them, 'You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined Him in your presence & have found no basis for your charges against Him.
“Neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; as you can see, He has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish Him & then release Him.'
"With one voice they cried out, 'Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!' (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, & for murder.)
"Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, 'Crucify Him! Crucify Him!'
"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 & then release Him.'