During Lent, we pause and reflect and much of the focus is on Jesus, the cross, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and we rejoice with Easter. But, Pontius Pilate is a compelling character who played a pivotal role in the most significant 24 hours of world history. We know Pilate was governor of Judea. He was strong, powerful and merciless. Yet, when he encountered Jesus, he struggled with ordering Jesus’ execution. He was troubled. We see this in all of the Gospels and Pilate seemed to know that putting Jesus to death was wrong. We read in Mark, Pilate wanted to release Jesus. In Matthew, we see Pilate’s wife pleading for Pilate to have nothing to do with Jesus’ death. Pilate ‘washed his hands’ of Jesus and sent him off to Herod. We see several times in the accounts, Pilate looked for ways to avoid crucifying Jesus, but the crowd would have none of it.
And then we come across one of the saddest verses in the Bible:
‘So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.’ (Mark 15:15)
Wishing to satisfy the crowd.
Pilate knew it was wrong. He could have stopped it. But the pull of the crowd was too much. Pilate sent Jesus to the cross to satisfy the fickle crowd in front of him.
If I’m honest with myself, I can relate to Pontius Pilate. Since we were little children, we have all experienced the pull of the crowd. As adults, we still feel it. Driven by fear of rejection or fear of ridicule…whatever the motivation, we can find ourselves supporting or tolerating things we know are wrong. Even being complicit is satisfying the crowd. Staying silent when we should speak is satisfying the crowd.
Our culture is moving in one direction and we can feel the pull. As I shepherd middle and high school students and my own 3 children, I am constantly challenging them to live a life of excellence. Keep the bar high. Live and lead like Jesus. But, the pull is there. There are moments that tempt them to satisfy the crowd. I challenge my students to be a fish that swims against the current. And to surround themselves with the right crowd.
Who is your crowd?
Are you surrounding yourself and your family with a crowd desiring to follow Jesus? Who are you walking through life with, drawing strength from one another to keep walking the right path? We can’t go at it alone. Jesus even had a small group whom He trusted and treasured time with. Surrounding yourself with a school, a church and friends who share the same values, convictions and faith can sway us… for good. When my students and children look back at their decisions in life, I pray they stand firm in their convictions and do not compromise to ‘satisfy the crowd’.
Pilate’s one decision had lasting consequences. We know how the story ends and praise God for Jesus’s Resurrection and Rescue plan.
But, an encouragement to all of us, keep swimming against the current.
Written by: Lynn Marcoux