Summary: What was Pilate to do with the Christ? That really was his dilemma. What was he to do with this man? In the end, Pilate made his decision to condemn an innocent man to death and allow the crowds and the chief priests to have their ways.
READ MARK 15:1-15
I. THE PRIESTS (verses 1-11)
We find that in the dilemma of Pilate he had the chief priests and elders and the teachers of the law pulling at him in certain directions. Pilate correctly percieved that these religious leaders handed Jesus over because of "envy" (verse 10). The leaders hated the spiritual teaching of Jesus and the way that it exposed how far they had drifted from God. The leaders envied the influence that Jesus was having on the people in the north of Galilee and now in the south in Judea. The leaders tried to trap Him on many occasions with ingenious questions that would make Him look guilty... but each time Jesus was too wise and shrewd and outwitted them each time.
Verse 1 tells us why this was such a dilemma for Pilate. The verse tells us that the whole Sanhedrin reached a decision and handed Jesus over to Pilate. To understand verse 1, we have to understand that the Sanhedrin were the Jewish ruling body that ruled in areas that Rome allowed. Pilate had to work closely with the Sanhedrin to make sure Jerusalem and all of Israel was governed properly and smoothly. Rome wanted Galilee and Judea and all the parts that Pilate oversaw to run smoothly... and Pilate needed the Sanhedrin to do that.
I do not know if you realize it or not, but in January of 2005, it was reported that a new Sanhedrin has been organized in Israel for the first time in 1600 years. "Those behind the revival of the Sanhedrin stress that the revival of the legal body is not optional, but mandated by the Torah. "We don’t have a choice," says Rabbi Richman. "It is a religious mandate for us to establish a Sanhedrin.’" For some Jews in Israel today, this body is important and they are seeking to revive it and make it an important part of civil and religious life in Israel. It certainly was important during the days of Jesus and Pilate.
So, the Sanhedrin hands this man Jesus over to Him after they had reached a decision. They wanted Him dead. Since the Sanhedrin was forbidden under Roman Law to carry out such sentences, they passed Jesus along to Pilate... who could carry out the sentence. What would Pilate do? Would he help these leaders get rid of this man? He had to work with them and wanted to do his best not to anger them. What would he do?
II. THE MASSES (verses 6-15)
We find that in the dilemma of Pilate he also had the crowds watching him. The mob of people gathering on this day seemed to have its wishes as well. It was the time of the Feast and Jews from all over were gathering in Jerusalem. Verse 6 tells us that Pilate was to release a prisoner at this time. This was a way to show goodwill from the governing Romans to the subjected Jews. It was a way for Pilate to try and ingratiate himself to the masses of people as they watched. Public opinion was important to Pilate. Pilate thought his way out of his dilemma with Jesus was to release Jesus to the people and then he would be off the hook, but he was not. The people chanted that they wanted Barabbas instead and that they wanted Jesus crucified (verse 13).
Why was the crowd acting this way?
ILLUSTRATION... Crowd Psychology, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowd_psychology
An early explanation of collective behavior was formulated by French sociologist Gustave Le Bon. According to Le Bon’s contagion theory, crowds exert a hypnotic influence over their members. Shielded by the anonymity of a crowd, people abandon personal responsibility and surrender to the contagious emotions of the crowd. A crowd thus assumes a life of its own, stirring up emotions and driving people toward irrational, perhaps violent, action. Another theory about crowds is the convergence theory. It says that crowd behavior is not a product of the crowd itself, but is carried into the crowd by particular individuals. Thus, crowds amount to a gathering of like-minded individuals. In other words, while contagion theory states that crowds cause people to act in a certain way, convergence theory says the opposite: that people who wish to act in a certain way come together to form crowds.
I do not think that this crowd of people were caught up in some frenzy, but I do think that this crowd of people was gethered on purpose to have Jesus crucified. I think it is more likely that the chief priests and teachers of the law gathered people they knew they could control and influence and stirred them up as verse 11 tells us.
Verse 11 tells us that the chief priests had already stirred up the crowd and the opinion of the crowds there in front of Pilate was that Jesus should die. The masses wanted the ciminal Barabbas released instrad of the innocent Jesus. What would Pilate do? Public opinion was a powerful force in his day as it is in our day as well. Would he help the masses get what they wanted? What would he do?