18:38 ...Pilate went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.
39 “But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”
40 Then they all cried again, saying, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
The tendency for any person who interacts with the public, be they a pastor or a politician, is to please the people. This is not done for their benefit of course but rather for the benefit of the person doing the pleasing. Pilate likes to be liked. He knows his career depends on it. He must walk the tricky tight rope of keeping both thr Jewish populace and his Roman bosses happy. In this endeavour Jesus presents both a delicious opportunity and a gut wrenching dilemma. Politically this is a slam dunk. Killing Jesus pleases the Jews and will be seen favourably by his superiors. Better to deal with a potential threat decisively when the opportunity presents itself rather than wait and waffle and wish later that you had acted when you had the chance. Politically and selfishly Pilate's decision is an easy one. He can boost his professional status with one decisive blow. However there is one hitch. Pilate has fragments of a conscience left and he knows Jesus is not only innocent but more that just a man. Ordinary men don't stare death in the face with the calmness and dignified presence that Jesus has. Pilate has never met anyone like Him. His words are heavy with significance. Each one feels like a hammer blow to his mid section. The look in His eyes is like an MRI machine for his soul. If He is a king, it is of a kingdom which Pilate has neither seen nor considered. To kill this innocent Man would be to murder One entirely different and obviously above himself...
What do we do when faced with such a 'dilemma'?
On the one hand the decision is easy. It's a win win. It is at once easy and beneficial. Jesus dies, everyone goes home happy and Pilate is seen as a strong and decisive ruler by Rome. He may even be promoted. Jesus has no influential backers. He has no high profile family to contend with after. He's from Nazareth for crying out loud and his poor illegitimate father is dead. Pilate has never had an easier political decision to make. Please everyone and call it a day.
Excuse me? What?! Pilate is going to let Him go? He's going to stand for the right?!! He isn't going to play the role of the people pleasing politician?
Not so fast...
But. Boy that tiny word sure can change things. Pilate is anything but stupid. He didn't rise to where he is by being a fool in the human sense of the word. He's going to put this murder on them.
Every Passover a criminal chosen by the Jewish people was released from death row. It was a fitting custom for the occasion, a celebration of death passing over. On this particular Passover three men were scheduled to be executed. Jesus would make it four. Pilate presented Jesus to them (a completely innocent Man by his analysis) and asked "Would you like me to free the King of the Jews?"
The question was formulated to get a negative response. Calling Him the 'King of the Jews' was bound to illicit a murderous reaction and he knew it. He wanted Jesus dead because it was personally, professionally, and politically expedient but he wanted the blood on their hands.
Guess what? When it comes to deciding what we're going to do with Jesus there is no shifting the decision to others. When He looks in your eyes it's between you and Him alone.
Pilate chose politics but politics loves no one. Jesus would have loved him for eternity. In fact Jesus will love him for eternity. While those who have chosen Jesus from Abel on down celebrate with Him in the earth made new, Pilate will occupy an empty chair in the heart of Jesus.
We all get to choose. I pray we make a better choice than Pilate did...