John 18:38-19:16; 2 Chronicles 29; Psalm 85
You’ve probably heard the story of the guy who saw someone hitting their head against a brick wall and ran over to stop him from doing that. After he stopped the guy, he asked, “Why were you beating your head against that brick wall?” The man responded, “Because it feels so good when I stop.” I know, that sounds crazy but as I understand it, there may be some scientific fact there because in such a situation, the body releases endorphins which fight the pain and provides feelings of pleasure. Perhaps that’s why people wage political wars on Facebook. They know nothing will be accomplished, but it feels so good to have their say. They may upset everyone around them, but who cares. They feel good because they were able to get it out.
Let’s face it, some arguments are unwinnable. Usually they aren’t that important. I know that my wife will never go out to eat at THAT place (no commercials here) because she doesn’t really like that kind of food…except in Chicago. Now I only mention THAT place as a joke. I still get THE look. It’s an unwinnable argument. Most political arguments are unwinnable. Pilate faced an unwinnable argument as he dealt with the Jewish leaders. They were bound to see Jesus crucified and were ready to do whatever it took. Pilate didn’t find a reason why…they yelled. He repeated that he couldn’t find a reason why…they yelled louder. When Pilate offered them a choice of freeing a murdering insurrectionist or Jesus, they cried out for the murderer. They even called for the blood of Jesus to be on their own hands, as Pilate washed his own hands of the responsibility. “Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.” (John 19:16)
Pilate faced an unwinnable argument with the Jewish leadership. They were bound and determined to see Jesus crucified. I think they wanted the Romans to take care of that issue so that the Romans would have to acknowledge that they were trying to prevent any would-be Messiahs from messing up their already tenuous relationship with Rome. They were the leaders who had decided that it was better for Israel that one man should die so that Israel could survive. Of course, they may have remembered the times they tried to execute Jesus in fits of anger only to see Him argue His way out of it, or mysteriously disappear. What neither the Jewish leaders nor Pilate realized was that ultimately, it was not the argument that decided whether Jesus would live or die. When Pilate turned to Jesus, desperate to find a way to prevent His crucifixion, Jesus pointed out that the power to order, or prevent, His crucifixion came from a source that was out of his league. Neither the Jewish leaders nor Pilate won this argument, although the leaders might think they did; God won this argument, because this was His plan.
Caiaphas rightly said that it was better for one man to die for the people. He didn’t realize that he was tapping into God’s plan because his concern was solely with his handle on power and control of Israel. But ultimately, the crucifixion of Jesus was God’s plan, carried out in God’s way. It was a terrible death. It was cruel beyond belief, but it was God’s plan to pay the penalty for our sins. So many people are willing to overlook some sins because they aren’t that big of a deal. In truth, though, every sin helped pound the nails into the hands and feet of Jesus. Our sins show our separation from God and were why Jesus died on the cross. Pilate and the Jewish leaders, guilty as they were, helped bring about God’s grace and forgiveness for all who will accept it. They did their job, unwittingly though it might have been; our job is to show people God’s grace and love through all we say and do.
O Lord, remind me that I am not called to win arguments; I’m called to share Your grace and forgiveness.