Summary: Pilate was a classic people-pleaser, who found that his behavior produced popularity that masked contempt, pessimism, and powerlessness.
The story has it that during creation, as God was sitting up in heaven turning out all these creatures, some of the angels asked if they could help. It looked like fun, making plants and animals, birds and beasts. And so God, who had just finished fashioning something, said, "All right. Come ahead. This is what I had in mind for a horse. But let’s see what you can do with it.” The committee of angels debated and discussed; a thousand and one good ideas were tossed around. Nobody wanted to say "no" to any of these good ideas, for, after all, these were angelic beings, and exceedingly polite. And so they agreed to use everybody’s idea, no matter how nutty. They brought their finished product to God, who sighed, wept a Iittle, but finally laughed, "It’s the craziest looking creature ever to come out of my heaven, but all right, let there be camels.’’ Take one look at camel, and you will see that it is true: that a camel is nothing more than a horse designed by a committee!
If it is necessary to satisfy everybody, you can expect some peculiar results! If your strategy is nothing more than pleasing people, you can anticipate something strange.
I read once of a house in Tennessee, built by a husband and wife who could not agree on what they wanted. He wanted rustic western, she wanted ultramodern. He wanted something woodsy, country, retro; she wanted something urban, sophisticated, up to the minute.
So they compromised. They built a house with a half for him and a half for her. On his end of the house there were exposed logs, a rugged stone fireplace, antlers over the doors, and a bearskin rug on the floor. His end of the house was furnished with leather easy chairs and decorated with antique cast iron.
Her end of the house, by contrast, was sleek and stainless. Art deco, glass and steel everywhere; concrete, all rounded and smooth. Plastic angular chairs that only fashion models would dare to sit in. Pastel colors and abstract art.
A house to please everybody. Except, of course, in its strangeness it pleased nobody. It was the laughingstock of the community. It was completely ridiculous. It was testimony to what you get if you get stuck in people-pleasing.
Of all the stuck behaviors we have thought about this Lenten season, none seems more harmless than people-pleasing. What harm can it do to try to satisfy everyone? What could possibly be wrong with attempting to make people happy? But I tell you that people-pleasing has serious spiritual consequences. Its payoff is enormous. If we are people-pleasers we will be deaf to the voice of God, we will be blind to the guidance of God, and we will never find the strength to obey God. People-pleasers are always in open season for sin. And that’s serious.
So I give you this morning the pitiful politician Pontius Pilate, the primary people-pleaser. A petty plutocrat, pitted in a popularity power contest. Pontius Pilate, stuck in people-pleasing. The issues are popularity, pessimism, and powerlessness.
And I’ll wager I couldn’t repeat that last p-filled paragraph if you paid me plenty! The issues are popularity, pessimism, and powerlessness.