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Pilate-Why the Sudden Change? (John 19)

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

In John 18 Jesus is arrested, in chapter 19 he is crucified.

The part of chapter 19 that intrigues me is the shift in Pilate’s thinking and behavior.

In chapter 18 Pilate is at a loss to figure out who Jesus is, and why the Jews are so bent out of shape over him. He asked the Jews, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” – and they have no answer (18:30).

Then in chapter 19 Pilate twice states “I find no guilt in him” (19:4, 6), and he even tried to release Jesus – since there was no charge against him.

But then the Jews cried out “If you release this man you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar” (19:12).

That was it. Immediately after hearing those words, Pilate does a 180 and turned Jesus over to the Jews to be crucified, even though there were no charged brought against him. Why the shift in Pilates thinking and actions?

Given the circumstances, to not condemn Jesus would have been political suicide for Pilate. On the one hand if he succumbed to the Jewish wishes and condemned Jesus, who was an innocent man, he would bear the weight and guilt of that decision. On the other hand, if he released Jesus, who claimed to be a king, he would certainly get in trouble with Caesar. The very reason Caesar has placed Pilate in control was to prevent political rivals and political trouble. He was in a no-win situation, between a rock and a hard place.

As you know, Pilate chose to condemn Jesus and protect his job. He was more concerned about his job security and financial stability than about doing the right thing.

What would you have done? I know – that’s not a fair question. Can we fault Pilate for being concerned about his job security and financial stability? Those are real things that we all need to think about and protect. So, would you do the right thing if it cost you your job? Here are a couple reasons why we should.

1. Love. Our obedience, even sacrificial obedience, is our response of love to the unconditional and sacrificial love that Jesus has demonstrated to us. When facing a hard choice, lean into the love of Jesus. Ask yourself which choice will bring you closer to Jesus. We love because he first loved us. His love cost him a great deal! Deny immediate gratification choose to respond in love and integrity.

2. Rewards. All that we see is not all that there is. The eternal realm is real – arguably more real that the world we inhabit now. And God has promised there will be rewards, eternal rewards for obedience and service. That’s a tough sell in an age of immediate gratification – but it’s true.

Enjoy Walking with the Savior Today,

Pastor John


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