Summary: 4th in 5 part Series using the popular TV show, CSI, to investigate the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ.
THE EVASION: Pilate’s Decision
CSI: Murder of God - Week 5
INTRODUCTION: (Intro mpeg to CSI:31)
So far in our investigation of the murder of Jesus Christ we’ve come across a number of suspects. We have looked at the religious leaders who, because of their envy, wanted to get rid of Jesus. Two weeks ago we looked at Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ inner circle, and discovered as Pastor Scott taught us that he betrayed Jesus out of selfish motives. Last week we looked at a key figure in this crime, a man named Caiaphas, the High Priest who we discovered was the catalyst behind the arrest and trial of Jesus. By this time, as investigators we realize that if we could, we would have multiple arrests for this crime. But we need to throw one more person into the suspect pool. His name is Pontias Pilate. Caiaphas and the religious leaders had put Jesus through an illegal inquisition. They had found Him guilty of blasphemy, of claiming to be the Son of God, and now they want the Roman governor Pilate, to issue a capital punishment decree, because they think Jesus deserves to die but they do not have execution powers. But as you investigate this time between Jesus and Pilate you begin to wonder who is really on trial.
As James Stewart, in his book, The Life and Teaching of Jesus Christ, wrote: "Everyone who studies this narrative has the strange feeling that the tables are being turned, before their very eyes. And that what they are seeing, is not Jesus on trial before the crowd, but Pilate, on trial before Jesus. In fact, as Pilate stands with the Son of God in those hours it is as if Jesus’ searchlight is probing his soul, revealing his true character for all the world to see. But every soul stands where Pilate stood at sometime in their life... Face to face with Jesus in the place of decision."
Today, as we look at Jesus before Pilate, I want us to see that this governor had a chance to show his commitment to the King of Kings but ended up vacillating, trying vainly to stay neutral toward Christ. I also want us to apply Pilate’s question to our lives: "What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" So, lets look at Pilate’s tragic role in the murder of God, and learn what it means to decide for Jesus.
I. PILATE’S DILEMMA:
In order to understand Pilate’s dilemma we need to understand a little bit of history. Pilate was appointed governor by Caesar Tiberius. He took over the governorship of Israel in 26 AD and ruled for about 10 years. During this time Palestine bristled with problems. Because of the stubborn resistance by the Jews toward their Roman captors, there was constant rebellion and unrest. And Pilate was not a very capable leader. He was stubborn, tactless and at times, ruthless. Pilate was determined to break this Jewish pride by tightening the screws of Roman rule, and in so doing made a number of unwise decisions. Let me give one gruesome illustration.
Pilate decided that Jerusalem needed a new water supply. In order to finance the new aqueduct Pilate took money from the temple treasury. That’s like taking money out of the offering baskets at church. The people were so incensed by what they considered Pilate’s thievery, that they rioted in the streets and came in mass to His quarters. Seeing the crowd, Pilate had his soldiers dress in plain clothes and mingle among the protesting people. He then came out and addressed the crowd acting like he was going to give an apology. But at a given signal, these undercover soldiers drew their swords and murdered several thousand people. It was a massacre of hideous proportions. That kind of treatment made the Jews very uncooperative and there were a number of public disturbances. That didn’t please Caesar, the King. He wanted a peaceful rule and the Jews, and some Romans who disagreed with Pilate, reported him. History tells us that upon several occasions Pilate was called to Rome and he received a tongue lashing from Caesar himself. So, at the time of this incident with Jesus, Pilate was on the political hot seat. And that’s why when the religious leaders bring Jesus to Pilate on that fateful Friday morning he really feels squeezed. They basically say, "Look, Pilate, your record here is not good. We’ve reported you before and we know Caesar has chastised you. And if you don’t do what we say, we’ll report you again." And Pilate was faced with a difficult choice. Either keep his job or free Jesus.. Hang on to his career or side with Christ. So, with that in mind it would be normal to wonder why Pilate didn’t just hand Jesus over to the crowd? Because instead of turning Jesus over to Caiaphas and the religious leaders he tried to free him. Why? I think there are a couple of reasons: