One of the ways that we see that the world hasn’t changed much since the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, is the way that the behavior and obvious inward struggle of Pilate, a Roman official charged with the governance of Judea, reflects the way we feel torn between what we feel is right versus what others demand of us. It is not likely that Pilate was a particularly noble person (from the Bible and other historical sources, he seems to be quite the opposite actually, brutally efficient in his enforcement of Roman rule).
But as Jesus closes in on the culmination of His mission of dying on the cross, the account shared with us in Mark 15:1-15 shows a conflicted ruler. He seems to be a man who is wholeheartedly committed to the Roman understanding of law and order. He sees no law-breaking in Jesus and, indeed, recognizes that the accusations are motivated by the corruption of the chief priests who have given Jesus over to him for condemnation (Mark 15:10, 14).
In his heart, Pilate knows that what is afoot here is unjust. And he even initially takes a stand against the injustice of it. Yet in his all-too-human response of taking the path of least resistance, he yields to what is unjust because the crowds threaten to riot, and Pilate, who is thinking about his job security (and in Rome, this means his life is also on the line), becomes whether he likes it or not, complicit with what is evil here.
This raises an important question for us today. To be blunt, our society is waging war against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It rejects God’s holy law. It rejects the reality of judgement for lawbreakers. It rejects Jesus as God’s Son and the only way for the forgiveness of lawbreakers. It rejects and despises the implications of God’s law and grace in the values that Christians historically pursue.
As we think about how we’re going to respond to the pressure of the crowds around us to discard what we know is right and attempt to cancel Jesus from circulation, you and I are in the same spot as Pilate. What are we to do?
Pilate should never have asked the question of the crowds, “What shall I do with the… King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:12). That was an attempt to displace the responsibility of his personal response to Jesus onto those who were pressuring him. He should have asked the question, “What is the right thing to do here?” and then committed himself to do the right thing – no matter the outcome.
Jesus’ commitment to the “the right thing” (staying true to His heavenly Father by staying true to His mission) resulted in His being betrayed, falsely accused, beaten, mocked, and crucified. That is hardcore devotion. And there have been Christians throughout history who have followed His example and been committed similarly, even to the point of death.
Are we like that today? Are we committed to do what God has revealed as the “right thing” regardless of the cultural rejection of it? Or do we, like Pilate, quietly succumb, blame our choices on the pressure of an increasingly evil society, and retreat behind our attempt to displace our personal responsibility to do the right thing no matter what? Worse yet, do we yield up Jesus in our lives, surrendering our loyalty to Him because we fear the rejection and hostility of the world around us?
The truth is that the world IS hostile to Jesus and you can expect it to make you feel that somehow and in some way. But there is a great joy in holding fast to Him even if you are rejected for following Him.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…” (Matthew 5:11-12a ESV).
The world needs Jesus, even if it hates Him. The world needs you with Jesus’ light shining through you, even if it claims to not. God has chosen to place you in the here and now for you to be that person who will stand for Jesus even if no one else will.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV).
Let your light shine.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 25 years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed are the work of the author.