We often scurry around in life attempting to avoid truth and the painstaking decisions it asks us to make. We dodge the truth of our past, truth of our present, and maybe even the truth of where we’re headed. We run from the potential of having to face telling the truth, living in the truth, and walking in truth. Somehow we’ve bought the lie that truth is something that is best kept hidden or removed, or worse yet; is subject to each person’s interpretation. I can remember many years of not walking in truth, living in denial while the truth was never far behind me. Even today, I continue to learn what it means to be willing to stand for truth…even if it means I stand alone, and without the approval of others.
There’s a man whose compromise of the truth was well recorded in God’s Word, due to his effort to keep his political career intact. This man sought to appease an aggressive mob of enraged Jews and their religious leaders, who failed to recognize their long-awaited Messiah. This man of compromise was the infamous Roman governor, Pontius Pilate of Judea, who was under the Emperor Tiberius in the New Testament (see the Gospels…Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). He had a title that afforded him authority over maintaining Roman law and order, as well as executing punishments for not abiding under it. This authority should have provoked a need for discerning wisdom, but sadly; he lacked that ability. The privileged power he held, gave him the complete freedom to end the life of someone; even if that ‘someone’ was innocent; like Jesus.
As believers we know that all things in this life, have to pass through the sovereign hands of God. (see John 19:11) He decides ultimately what He will allow and for the reasons He permits. Jesus was in the Father’s will, and as such, His death had always been a part of God’s ultimate plan of redemption for mankind. (see 2 Thessalonians 2:13) From the cradle to the cross, to a resurrecting comeback; all of it would go as the Father had ordained according to the scriptures.
The governor, Pilate, had a misfortunate need to secure his immediate political future with Rome by manufacturing political peace. The peace Pilate sought was much different than the eternal peace that God was in the business of bringing through His promised Messiah. So the inability Pilate had to stand firmly for truth, played directly into the Father’s hand. His need for approval among people led to Pilate’s name becoming attached to the most publicized ‘wrongful death sentence’ ever to go down in history.
You may remember in the book of John, how Jesus was dragged before Pilate to receive Roman ridicule and retribution. The crowds and religious leaders stood in Pilate’s courtyard, demanding death for Jesus. Not the typical death-by-stoning that was associated with Jewish law, but something more sinister that, unbeknownst to them, would further fulfill prophecy. Because of the times in which they were living, they sought death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. In order to obtain this gruesome act, it would require the Jewish leaders to meticulously twist their Messiah’s words to fit this sought out prophesied punishment. Though the Persians had creatively come up with this sadistic form of death, it was the Romans who had perfected the art of making the process as painful and humiliating as possible (not that death by crucifixion wouldn’t hurt in the first place!)
Pilate had hoped that by legally declaring that he saw no merit to this case against Jesus, it would rid him of any further responsibility, and he could go about his day. He sought to discourage the religious leaders from dumping this matter in his courtyard; yet the leaders wouldn’t forgo their demands. In search of a reprieve from this precarious situation, Pilate attempted to defer this very sticky legal matter onto others in authority, yet all his attempts failed. No matter how far Pilate threw this explosive case in another direction, it boomeranged right back to him. Having to render a verdict of who Jesus is, is something we too must decide, but on that day, Pilate would be called to render one. There was simply no escaping his pre-planned appointment with the Creator that had been in the works since the beginning of time.
Pilate didn’t solicit this particular trial into his life, and he had no desire to be thrown into the specifics of a religion he didn’t understand, nor have any interest in. His true interest was self-preservation through political acceptance. He was a man sandwiched between two groups of people; political Roman big-wigs that reigned over him, and the people he was forced to govern that he detested. Both sides carried a voice and influence in his political well-being and livelihood.
But nestled deep inside of Pilate, buried back behind his political need to keep the peace, was a man who grew increasingly torn between doing what was right for himself, and what was legally and morally right. Pilate was at a fork-in-the-road like many of us find ourselves, and he made a wrong turn due to his inability to distinguish the truth and properly stand for it. Pilate wavered back and forth like debri blowing along a highway on a blustery day, eventually giving way to him flippantly questioning Jesus as to what truth even was. (see John 18:38)
His dilemma had him in search of pleasing many masters. There was the need to appease his conscience, the earthly authority above him, and adequately sooth the rage of religious Jewish leaders and their people. He knew if he could just somehow smooth out this tumultuous tension that transpired from a radical religious group, then he could go about his real Roman business! He then wouldn’t have to fear the negative repercussions pertaining to his performance as a governor, making its way back to Rome.
This internal turmoil that battled within, lent itself to the misfortune of an onslaught of physical brutality (flogging) to be inflicted bitterly upon Jesus. Pilate simply miscalculated that a disfigured beaten body would somehow satisfy the insatiable appetite of the religious leaders, as well as the crowd. He hoped to persuade the enraged audience to accept disfiguration, over death. But Pilate soon learned that his search for the ‘easy way out’ from dealing with truth, would prove harder than he expected.
The crowd hurled their angry insults at the top of their lungs, shouting that nothing other than Jesus’ gruesome death would satisfy their bloodlust. And sadly, because Pilate spent so long trying to save his own skin politically; Jesus’ literal skin was allowed to be deeply gouged, pierced, sliced, and ripped apart like pulled pork. All this incessant torment, led to prolonged agony for Jesus; far more so than if the Lord had been originally handed over for immediate crucifixion. Pilate’s heart wanted to keep himself in good standing with the people, even if it meant looking at Truth directly in the face, and denying it as such. (see John 14:6)
Pilate eventually saw that his attempts to avoid crucifixion were futile, giving way to his final decision that cost Jesus His life, and that gave way to our freedom from the penalty of sin. He proceeded to literally wash his hands of the responsibility of Jesus’ death, (see Matt 27:24) all the while giving into the Jews’ twisted demands for crucifixion. This led to an excruciating death for the Lord. By washing his hands of this affair, Pilate believed the lie that he would somehow be off-the-hook of any responsibility for the shedding of innocent blood. Pilate stood outside his palace that fateful day, believing he held the ultimate authority that rendered judgement and a verdict over the Living God. Yet one day that scene will be turned around, and Pilate will be the one standing outside the Lord’s palace, receiving judgement and a rightful verdict.
The death of Jesus would be due and through the sin of all mankind. The Jews weren’t solely responsible for the death of the world’s Savior, nor would that responsibility lay at the hands of the Roman’s brutality (the Gentiles). It would be a non-deserved death, in which the sin and sinful hearts of both Jews and Gentiles alike, (all of man-kind) would facilitate, just like the Father had prepared for in advance.
Uncomfortable situations that call for us to stand for truth can be found anywhere, and can be exceedingly hard to run from. We often try just like Pilate did, to escape having to make the tough choices in life, by running from those things we don’t want to face, or maybe understand. We treat truth as if it is abstract, or even ambiguous. Something which can’t really be… ‘nailed down’.
Yet it was.
Truth was nailed down to a rugged cross many, many years ago. It walked and talked among its people. It declared itself among the crowds, and taught them how to live in the Truth, and how It would set them free (see John 8:32; John 14:6))
Drawing a line in the sand about truth, can mean risking a marriage, friendships, or our careers. But some things in life require a line to be drawn, such as which side of the dusty road we choose to stand on when it comes to God’s Son; Jesus Christ.
How many times have we attempted to claim we’re innocent in a situation by quickly ‘washing our hands of it’? Or look to run from those tough choices in life; the ones that test our character, and reveal who we really are, and what we stand for? Like Pilate, we may know what the right thing to do is, yet the fear of standing up for truth falls to the wayside in our attempt to gain accolades from the voices of others, or our attempt to silence our own.
Jesus stands at the courtyard of our hearts waiting for our verdict. He longs to see us stand as His proud supporters when insults are casually made of Him at the workplace, or when elected officials of this earth cast Him aside and wash their hands of Him, and His laws.
We can live victoriously in the peace and freedom that comes from facing the truth, and not letting ourselves carry around the shame and regret of denying Jesus when He’s the One that died for us…and those we are tempted to appease.