Summary: This sermon reflects on what motivated Pilate to do what he did, and how it affected what happened to Jesus.
March 9, 2005 Pilate’s Politics
When you put people into your car to ride with you, you are putting their lives into your hands. One wrong turn or one moment of indecision could lead you into a quick and fiery death of the most painful kind. Imagine, for instance, that as you were driving home on the Interstate you had a flat tire. In a split moment of time you would need to make the decision how far you can go and where you should go. If you could not make it to the edge of the road, your very life could very easily be lost. You would need to not only make smart decisions, but also quick decisions. This is the way life goes.
Imagine the responsibility that comes with some vocations of life - that of a general, judge, or politician. One wrong decision may cause the death of hundreds or even thousands of people. The decision to send a nuclear bomb by President Harry Truman against Japan caused the death of over 50,000 people in the blink of an eye. Because of this, some people do their best to stay out of such situations where their decisions have so much clout. They flee from marriage, friendship, and parenting because of their fear of failure and their fear of responsibility. Yet there are some who are not so wise. In thinking about the perks of some places of responsibility, they seek the office. However, when they also find out the negative sides of the office, they wish they had never sought such a place.
What is worse than this are those who seek positions of authority, but then, when they are given such positions, do not have the stomach to make the tough decisions. Instead of saying yea or nay, they hem and haw and alternate between both opinions - trying to please both sides and pleasing neither. These kinds of leaders - because of their fear to anger anyone - often cost more lives than those who hap-hazardly make a quick but wrong decision. Sometimes there can be no compromise.
With this in mind, it brings us to tonight’s topic - Pilate’s Politics. Here is another person who - in a position of authority - did not want to make the tough decision. Pilate did more damage to himself and justice than he could have ever realized. Yet in the end we’ll see how -
Pilate’s Politics Served a Good Purpose
I. The difficult situation
It becomes obvious in reading the history of the Gospels that Pilate was a politician of the worst type. Although he was able to live in a seeming palace with servants and soldiers at his side, he also was put in charge of keeping peace among the Jews. I imagine what it would be like to be named the governor of Baghdad. Nobody in their right mind would want such a job. It was put under his charge to try and keep control over some seemingly fanatical people who only understood the whip. On top of this, when the Jews wished to fulfill the punishment of the law on their people, they had to go to Pilate prior to doing so. Pilate had a tremendous reponsibility as governor, as he had to answer to the Emperor if things were to get out of hand. Pilate didn’t seem to want this responsibility. Notice what he did when Jesus was first brought to him.
Luke 23:1-7 The whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.” So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.
Pilate wanted nothing to do with Jesus. However, since Herod had no real authority to put Jesus to death, Jesus was sent rather quickly back to Pilate.
Time and again Pilate cross examined Jesus to find what exactly he had done wrong. Time and again he found nothing. He didn’t want to even make such a decision. Pilate’s indecision - his failure to make a firm decision on the side of justice - led him down a path of injustice. Notice how it progresses.