Thursday, April 21, 2011

In Pilate's Shoes

Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.

Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”

When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” “Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”

The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”

Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.' Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”

When they said this, Pilate brought Jesus out to them again. Then Pilate sat down on the judgment seat on the platform that is called the Stone Pavement. It was now about noon on the day of preparation for the Passover. And Pilate said to the people, “Look, here is your king!”

“Away with him,” they yelled. “Away with him! Crucify him!”

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.

Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified.
- John 19:1-16 (NLT)

Whenever I've read or heard these verses, I have wondered what it must have been like to be Pilate. To see before him this man who claimed to be the Son of God. To feel that pull to believe Him. To look into the face of Jesus and know that it would be your hand to seal His fate.

Somewhere, deep down, a sinking feeling in his stomach. His position meant that he needed to remain loyal to Caesar and to release Jesus would have compromised his authority and loyalty. To know that he had no choice - that Jesus, this beaten, worn man at his feet who seemed resigned to his fate - had to be crucified.

I imagine what it must have been like to be Pilate. In that sort of conflicted place - knowing in his soul that Jesus was without guilt. Never had a more innocent, clean man been at his feet to have their sentence determined. That He had done nothing wrong, yet was about to be condemned to the worst possible death in the history of human existence. And knowing deep down there was little he could do about it... the laws of the day had bound him to his decision.

Not wanting to do it himself, he released Jesus to the crowd that surrounded him and allowed them to make the final call. I just picture Pilate collapsing in his chair, defeated, deflated, a feeling of guilt on his shoulders that he condemned an innocent man. I picture him not sleeping for days.

Pilate - please know that you did the right thing. You followed the will of God. Had you saved Jesus, the rest of us would not be saved. I thank you... I do not envy the position that you had, but I thank you. I hope that you were privy to the events of the days after Jesus' death... I hope you heard of His Resurrection, the days that he walked alongside his disciples after that, and His Ascension to the throne.

I hope, Pilate, that the sinking feeling you had in that moment as the crowds chanted for Jesus' condemnation... I hope that in the days that followed it dissipated. I hope that you were able to feel what countless others have felt since - the freedom of the cross that Jesus' sacrifice has afforded us. It was for you too. You, too, Pilate, were forgiven.

Note: Upon further thought and discussion, I flushed this thought process out a bit more and retracted my thank-you to Pilate. See that entry here:

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Interesting commentary. However, I'm not sure we can thank Pilate, his frail human condition was used by God to both accomplish his will and to use Pilate's corrupt character to reveal the heart of man.

If you can thank Pilate, you should also thank Judas, too, I guess.