The presidential race is on, bringing politics again to the front page. We have a love-hate relationship with our political leaders. We tend to get all excited about their promises during campaigns, and then we crucify them when they fail to deliver. Working the crowd and giving in to their demands, feigning innocence when it’s clear that they are guilty as sin, and then apparently getting away with all the manipulation and deceit, it’s easy to get cynical about government today. But before we throw up our hands and say, “It’s never been this bad before!” take a look at Pilate sitting on his judgment seat with Jesus standing before him.
The Roman governor was blown away by Jesus’ self-controlled silence (Matt. 27:14). He tried to work the mob and get them to allow him to release Jesus instead of Barabbas, a known criminal (Matt. 27:15-17). He saw right through the jealousy of the religions leaders and knew that there were not grounds to convict Jesus (Matt. 27:18). To underscore the point, his own wife interrupted the proceedings and warned him. She had suffered a bad dream over Jesus and warned her husband that he should keep his hands off this condemnation (Matt. 27:19). If ever there was a judge who knew what he should do, Pilate was the man. Ideally a Roman court was supposed to be about justice, but what actually drove Pilate’s decision.
“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead he was fueling the mob’s frenzy, he took water, washed his hands before the crowd and said, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves!’” - Matthew 27:24
The youngest child hearing this story knows that Pilate could have washed his hands in bleach repeatedly, but the bloodstains would remain. The crowd shouted they would gladly accept responsibility for Jesus’ execution (Matt. 27:25). As Jesus is handed over to be flogged, it looks like the majority opinion of the crowd, a politician using phony symbolism to shirk responsibility, and another righteous, innocent victim handed over to the brutality of life as it is, carries the day. Before today’s politicians, judges, and majorities believe that this is just the way the real world of politics and government works, they might want to take a hard look at how it worked out for Pilate, Caiaphas, and the crowd. Vitellius, the Roman Governor of Syria, suspended Pilate from office in AD37 and Eusebius, an early church historian, reports that he committed suicide in AD39. Caiaphas sought to maintain a delicate balance between the Jews and Rome. In AD 67 when the priests in Jerusalem refused to offer a sacrifice for the Emperor, war erupted resulting in the sack of Jerusalem in AD 70.
LORD, use Matthew’s exposure of Pilate’s crowd-pleasing politics and false innocence to move my brothers and sisters involved in local, state, and national government to be warned. Help them not to give in to jealousy or majority opinions when they are morally wrong and unjust. Help me be warned against my own jealousy when others succeed, and the pressure to give in to the crowd when they threaten. Help me to be confident in Your Plan. If You could weave together all this human duplicity in Your redemptive story and place Your Son on the cross where all of our sins could be justly paid for then I can trust that You are still writing the story.
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