As we continue through this season of Lent, one of the most important moments in Biblical history will soon be talked about in churches and cathedrals across the world: the day Jesus is judged by Pontius Pilate.
Pilate was a man who in those day really had no desire to have Jesus executed. Rather, he did not find any solid evidence to have him killed upon the cross. What made him follow through with the execution was not with the way Pilate judged him, but rather his own Jewish people who were outside chanting "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate feared for both his reputation and his life, and proceeded along with what the crowd wanted, allowing their words and emotions to persuade his own thoughts and beliefs.
Below is an excerpt from John 18: 33-40 and John 19: 1-16 highlighting portions of Jesus' trial.
"Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”
Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
They shouted in reply, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a bandit.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.
Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.
Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.”
The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”
Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon.
He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!”
Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified."
While most of us aren't exactly placed into a position where we must execute a person due to popular opinion, one item that can be taken away from this situation is that Pilate was indeed heavily influenced by his people to sentence Jesus to death for a crime that even he did not believe was something severe. Fear, on many levels, crippled his heart because of the crowd whom he knew would despise him if he did not act in the way that they wanted.
Can you imagine a time when you felt like Pilate? A time when an act or a word was placed upon your heart by God, but you knew that if you acted upon it, many people would be unhappy with it?
It is normal for us as humans to desire to be liked for all that we do. Think back to when you were a teenager, or perhaps you have a few teenage children in your life. Acceptance is a natural human desire, and is also something that we must recognize as a non-essential human desire for ourselves. We all know that feeling of rejection and distance, but not everyone in this world will like what you have to say, or agree with what you feel needs to be done within a situation. Sometimes the one that makes the most difference within a situation, is the one that stands out in the crowd, voicing his or her own confidence in what they believe is the right thing to do. Following God's plan, and your own heart, can sometimes lead to social conflicts and consequences, but placing full trust within those entities builds both character and confidence.
A personal promise that I had made to myself many, many years ago was that I would never become a smoker. I cannot count the number of times I had been offered a cigarette over the years, and how many times I found myself immersed in an area where 90 to 100 percent of those around me were smoking. Sometimes those that tried to offer me cigarettes were annoyed when I refused the offer, but I stood my ground. Knowing full well of the health consequences, plus the fact that secondhand smoke was enough to make me gag, I was not about to give into the peer pressure and start a smoking habit simply to please my peers.
This is just one of many personal examples where I was faced with a decision on whether acceptance by my peers, family, or members of authority, was more important than what I believed in. I held onto my confidence, despite the feared backlash by others. Of course there were many more times where the wondrous feeling of acceptance seemed to glow with radiance and overshadowed my own confidence and my beliefs, but that is also why it is important to not necessarily desire acceptance, but to be the acceptor.
Think about a time that you did not necessarily agree with what someone believed in, said, or acted, but that someone seemed to stand alone. I won't be the first to admit that standing up for what you believe in within a crowd of those that do not agree with you can be pretty scary. Put yourself in that person's shoes, and instead of rejecting them, or even shrugging off their words, accept them. Love them. Say to that person "I may not agree with what you said or what you do, but that won't stop me from loving and appreciating you."
You may not accept the action, but you can still accept the person.
Remember this the next time you talk to someone you care about. If you are a Christian, remember this when you talk to someone who is not, and does not agree with your beliefs. The human desire of acceptance is natural, and the personal desire of acceptance may be non-essential, but the act of humans accepting other humans for who they are and loving them as much as Christ loves us is both natural, and essential.