Summary: As Pontius Pilate did, every man faces a decision about what he will do with Jesus Christ who claimed to be the Son of God. What will you do with Jesus? Principles for making critical spiritual decisions based on Pilate's dilemma in deciding what to do
Pastor James Dana Wallace
Risen King Community Church
March 11, 2012
When the Buck Stops with You
(Deciding about Jesus)
We come to the fateful moment of decision for the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-Man, in his earthly sojourn—that moment when the judges among men are about to finally decide the fate of the One who will ultimately be their Judge for eternity. And we know of course it is going to be a fatal verdict in so many respects. It is going to the greatest mistake in human history, the greatest injustice ever done, the greatest crime ever committed, the greatest proof of mankind’s innate wicked nature and demonstration of the need for judgment of the human race.
And at the same time, ironically, in the same moment and by the same action, only because of God’s sovereign grace and mercy, this horrific decision will be turned into the most stupendous and hopeful, life-giving series of events in the history of the cosmos. For it all happened as the Apostle Peter would later claim that Jesus Christ would be delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God to be nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men to be put to death. A death that at the same time it was a horrendous crime also became the salvation of all who would come to faith in Christ as their savior, a death which would result in Christ’s resurrection from the dead and will yet result in the resurrection from the dead of all who believe.
And this morning we’re going to focus on the actions of one man, a mere man, upon whom the Judgment of the Ages fell, one Pontius Pilate who in his own right entered into a very bizarre and unexpected set of circumstances. He was an ambitious and corrupt Roman political and social climber who had been given an assignment as governor of a seemingly insignificant, distant province of Rome which went by the name of Judea,—a province infamous for its zealous followers of a strange monotheistic religion who had repeatedly bucked authority and been the site of frequent insurrections against Roman authority. For it was this man, Pontius Pilate, who in the midst of his governorship over Judea would now encounter Someone he would never forget, Someone who had come from another world, another time, another place, whose very existence was a matter of legendary speculation, whose responsibility it was for Pilate to judge and at which point, in a sense, enter his own personal twilight zone of confusion, fear, vacillation and a fatal and fateful verdict.
What we learn from this morning is how not to decide about Jesus, how not to respond when faced with critical spiritual decisions which will affect our future as well as those of many others.
For what we’re talking about this morning is what to do, and what not to do, when the buck, the spiritual stops with you.
Now last week we left off at the end of John 18. Pilate has already interviewed Jesus very early in the morning, somewhere between 3 and 6 a.m., at the behest of the Chief Priests of the Jews who have already condemned Jesus to death for his blasphemy of claiming to be the Son of God. But they have abandoned that charge for other trumped up charges that would be a violation of Roman Law. Pilate has concluded that he can find no guilt in Jesus and seeks to release him as part of a traditional favor of releasing a condemned Jewish Prisoner for the Jews at the Passover. But the Jewish crowd outside his palace would have none of it, cry out for Jesus’ crucifixion and choose to receive a robber, murderer and insurrectionist, Barabbas, instead of Jesus.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that at this point Pilate attempts to shift responsibility to someone else, namely Herod Antipas, the tetrarch who has responsibility over Galilee, which is where he now hears Jesus is from. But Herod sends Jesus back, so it’s back to the drawing board for Pilate, who is seeking to somehow rid himself of Jesus’ case without riling up the Jews, who want him executed. Having listened to the crowd’s rejection of Jesus, and knowing that Jesus is not guilty, he now embarks upon another strategy to placate the Jews and still release Jesus. It’s found in John 19:1: Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him.” What this means is that Pilate sent him to be punished, by flogging or whipping. He was hoping by inflicting some kind of punishment upon Jesus, even a severe judgment, the Jews would be satisfied and he could avoid crucifying an innocent man.
Now, as many of you know, scourging or flogging a man, was a very serious punishment. The whip consisted of many cords to which glass, lead and bone fragments were attached with the intent of creating severe lacerations or stripes on the victim’s body with every lashing. And this is what Isaiah’s prophetic phrase, “by his stripes we are healed” refers to. By Christ’s suffering for our sins, we are healed of our sins. Jewish law limited such floggings to 39 lashes; Roman law did not set a limit upon the number of lashings—they could go on as long as the soldier responsible for the flogging did not grow tired. Each lash could remove much skin and flesh, cause great bleeding, and at times the bones and the visceral parts of victims were exposed in the process, and victims often died as a result of the scourging itself. However Jesus survived it, only then to be mocked, punched, brutalized by a group of Roman soldiers, who, while probably bored with their assignment in a foreign land had nothing better to do than to entertain themselves by mutilating and verbally abusing Jesus, as they had no doubt done to other prisoners.