Summary: Sermon preached Easter weekend in the first person - pastor dressed in period costume as Pontius Pilate - and members of the congregation interacting as characters in the Easter story.
Allow me to introduce myself to you. My name is Pontius Pilate. You probably know me as the Roman official who presided over the trial that ended with the sentence of crucifixion for Jesus the Christ.
Being the governor of an out-of-the-way and insignificant Roman province like Judea was not something for which I had an appetite. I was sent by Tiberius Caesar as discipline for my less than stellar performance in previous charges. No one from Rome aspired to the job of ruling Judea. For the most part we Romans looked down our noses at the Jews.
Clearly, I had no expectation of gaining any valuable experience or knowledge while I was in Judea...but I was utterly mistaken. The greatest lessons came that day when Jesus stood before me at a trial initiated by His own countrymen.
I did not do the right thing concerning Jesus that day. I should have risked my position as Roman governor...but I was so afraid of being called an enemy of Caesar.
If I had it to do over again I would try to be more like Jesus and less the bloodthirsty man I was.
He was brought before me so that I could pronounce judgment upon Him - yet,in reality, I was the one on trial. In a way, every one of us is on trial when it comes to Jesus. How will we respond to Him? That’s the greatest question of life?
So I’m here today to ask you not to make the same mistake I made. I’m here today to talk to you about Christ’s great example that day when He was placed on trial.
What can we learn from Jesus about handling trials?
First of all, on that fateful da when He was put on trial...
1. Jesus taught us to respond to our enemies with love instead of hate.
When the Jewish leaders and their mob brought this teacher and healer to me - the first thing I noticed was their intense hatred for the man.
CHIEF PRIEST: We have come before you today to have this man Jesus crucified. He has broken the laws of our people and he is a traitor to Rome as well.
PILATE: You find Him "guilty" even though you haven’t produced one shred of credible evidence againtst Him. "I dont’ find Him guilty of anything." (Lk 23:4 CEV) I am inclined to set Him free.
MOB MEMBER 1: "If you set this man free, you are no friend of the Emperor! Anyone who claims to be a king is an enemy of the Emperor!" (Jn. 19:12 CEV)
PILATE: Why are you so intent on taking the life of this just man?
CHIEF PRIEST: "First, he has broken the law of the Sabbath. But even worse, he said that God was his Father, which makes him equal with God." (Jn. 5:18 CEV)
So this was the real reason they wanted Him dead - He claimed to be the Son of God. But they knew that if they dared assault Jesus - the people would hold them accountable. So they exploited the power of my office for their own agenda.
I knew they despised me also. But now they were behaving as if I were their friend. It surely must have injured their pride to turn to me - another sign of how much they hated this man.
Normally, I wouldn’t have hesitated to oblige them in taking this man’s life. I had taken lives before. My ruthless nature was very well known.
MOB MEMBER 2: Why is Pilate hesitating to sentence Jesus to death? Everyone knows he cares nothing about taking innocent lives!
MOB MEMBER 3: "...he killed some people from Galilee while they were worshipping. He mixed their blood with the blood of the animals they were sacrificing to God." (Lk. 13:1 NCV)
MOB MEMBER 2: Surely a man like this isn’t concerned about the life of one more man.
I couldn’t stand being in the midst of these people who worshipped only one God. In Rome we were used to hundreds of deities. I hated these Jews for their narrow-minded fanaticism. I hated these religious leaders for putting me on the spot. I even wanted to hate Jesus for creating this controversy by His claims to be the Son of God. But as much as I wanted to hate Him, there was something so radically different about Him! Instead of the hate the rest of us exhibited that day - this man radiated only love!
There were other reasons I knew this man to be a man of love. Take, for instance, the Jewish tax collectors we Romans employed to collect tribute money for us. This was indeed one of my most important tasks as governor of Judea - making sure Rome received her money.