Pastor Chuck DeVane
Special to The Sentinel-Record
Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?"
-- John 18:33
The first trial of Christ ended in a conviction. However, the kangaroo court of the high priest lacked the control to exercise the desired death penalty. So, Jesus' case was passed on to a second trial, the political trial.
The judge and jury is a virtual household name in the house of God, but he was by no means a man of God. Pontius Pilate had been literal knight in shining armor for the Roman Empire, whose military exploits earned him this post in Israel. He was technically the "Praetorius" over Judea, more of a military commander than what we think of as a "governor." Pilate's job was to exercise Roman rule, command Roman troops, keep the Roman peace and punish anyone who broke Roman law.
Pilate seemed to care not for God nor man, the kind of man who does the most harm to God and man. Brought before him was a man who claimed to be God, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Jewish high priests and Pharisees had convicted Jesus of "doing evil," so much so that He deserved death. Pilate had the power of the sword, or in this case the power of the cross.
In the end, Pilate pronounced Jesus "innocent," but led Christ to His cross anyway. We find here in Jesus' second trial that those who separate themselves from Christianity, those who feel Christianity is simply one of many voices of the gods, those who do not believe in Christ and Christianity but mean us no harm, are actually the ones who will be found guilty for the killing of Christ.
Pontius Pilate tried to separate himself from religious concerns and concentrate only on secular matters. If only it were so easy. Most people, even the majority I think who call themselves Christians, actually try to separate themselves from Christ. They do not know the gospel, do not read the Bible, and are not active in the church. They mean Jesus no harm, like Pontius Pilate, but do not what Jesus to be Lord over their lives, they had rather live separately from Him.
Pilate did want Jesus to be free to promote His religion, but with limits. This stuff about being a "king" had to stop. In the Roman world, there was no king but Caesar, Pilate's boss. Jesus tried to reassure Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world." It is not. It is above this world, over this world, but it presses into this world, and will one day overcome the world. Pilate and every person must choose, in the words of Jim Elliot, to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he can never lose, or live for the powers of this present world and get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.
The text makes it plain that Pontius Pilate is responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. Christianity's oldest and most revered creed spells it out in no uncertain terms: Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried."
But the creed continues, "On the third day He rose again." Pilate did not ultimately kill Jesus, for Jesus lives. Pilate only ultimately executed his own life. His governorship began to crumble after the Jesus affair. In a few short years, Pilate was deposed by the Emperor Caligula and ordered to go kill himself, which he did, with the same hands he tried to wash at the religious trial of Christ. Pilate, not Jesus, was guilty.
Pilate made his choice. Now, you must choose. Follow Christ, in repentance and faith, be forgiven of all your sins and inherit eternal life. Or, be like Pilate, separate from Jesus, refuse to believe the truth, and be your own eternal executioner. It is not Jesus, but it is all of us are all on trial today.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]