The Balance

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” John 19:19-22

In the final time we’ll see Pilate before the crucifixion, Pilate begins to cover his bases. He wants desperately to let others know that he’s not responsible for the innocent man they will kill, and that he acknowledges that he was a king of some kind. He, perhaps like many of the religious leaders, viewed Jesus as someone not of this world, which was entirely correct. They didn’t know what to make of him so they set out to destroy him. At least Pilate recognized that if he were in fact a king of another world, then he might want to somehow get in his good graces, otherwise it might come back to bite him.

People do that with Jesus all the time. They try to cover their bases by making sure that they do all the good they can when the have the opportunity. While that’s noble, it’s certainly not a requirement for eternal life. John 3:16 makes it clear that believing in Jesus is the only “requirement” for eternal life.

Salvation through Christ really is that simple but most people don’t hear that. When they finally do hear it put that plainly, they are shocked at the simplicity.

Is it possible they don’t hear it that plainly because there’s a lot of “noise” in our own faith? That noise can take the form of strong political views and unwavering moral stances. We need to strike a balance between changing society through the political process and changing society through belief in Jesus.

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One Heartbeat Away

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. John 19:17-18

There were three men who were crucified that day but the one in the middle is central to all of history. At least one of the others are also in heaven, as we say, by the skin of his teeth.

You will find there are those who make a “death bed confession.” Of course we all know that we’re not guaranteed another breath, but some decide to wait until the very last moment to repent, having lived a wild and unrestrained life prior to that. Then when they are close to death, they desperately want to get things right with God. They get it; they truly get it and regret all the pain they caused others and themselves.

The reality, though, is that people you see walking around are closer to death than they think they are. I’m not at all trying to be morbid, just trying to put it all into perspective. For instance, a close friend of mine passed away about 18 months ago before his 49th birthday. No one had a clue he was this close to death but after he finished playing basketball with some friends, he had a massive heart attack. Most people who knew him was in shock. I still am.

Scripture tells us we need to be ready to give an account for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15). The people you and I meet today are still one heartbeat away from eternity.

So are we.

How should that change the way we think and act? Should it?

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A Clear Conscience

Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. John 19:10-16

Jesus now turned the heat up on Pilate. Someone who is bold enough to proclaim innocence and complete control of a chaotic situation he subjects himself to is (1) crazy, (2) overconfident, or (3) someone you might want to listen to. Knit together his wife and her dream, Jesus’ conversation about him being a king, and now this bold statement, and he has Pilate’s undivided attention.

But at this point, it’s next to impossible for Pilate to get out of the mess he put himself into. He gives it one last shot and in the end he just blew off the Son of God. He wanted nothing more to do with him, but again as legend has it, Pilate washed his hands obsessively the rest of his life, trying to wipe the blood stains from his conscience.

How about your conscience today? Is it cleared, completely wiped clean? Now is a great time to do just that.

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Faulty Thinking

Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. John 19:4-9

It looks like Pilate wants to do the right thing in this situation, but not really. He knows what the right thing is but refuses to do it. He’s stalling, perhaps hoping the Jewish leaders will have a change of heart. He doesn’t seem like he’s in control here.

Have you ever known what the right thing was but did otherwise? Of course you have; we all have. Our reasons and excuses for not doing the right things are as varied as the number of people not doing them.

It really only boils down to a few reasons (there are others too):

  • Peer pressure.
  • Consequences of our truthful actions.
  • Afraid it might offend.
  • Just want to do what we want to do – rebellion.
  • It’s too hard.

Then, we often try to convince ourselves we did the right thing when all along we knew it wasn’t the right thing.

Sometimes (and completely apart from salvation) we just have to ask God to save us from ourselves!

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And Worse

The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. John 19:2-3

This is the second in a series of senseless acts of cruelty by those who physically crucified Christ. It was a big joke to them. By now those soldiers are very well aware just who they were ridiculing, and are paying the price for that act as well as for their other sins.

You will find people who think Jesus was merely a great historical figure and nothing more than a Buddha or Mohammad or a Hindu god. They will mock and ridicule you for your belief. Their fate is not yet sealed because there is always hope for the lost. It’s easy to become upset and even lose composure during those times, but remember even the most perfect person in the world was mocked…and worse.

Is it still difficult? Absolutely.

But Jesus even addresses this in Matthew 10:18-20: “and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19″But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20″For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

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