Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.
Pilate had seen a lot of things in his life. As a Roman governor, he had witnessed some serious atrocities and put away many notorious criminals. And, for the right price, he had even condemned innocent people to death. But this was something entirely new.
The man standing before him appeared so calm and dignified. Although dirty, disheveled and bruised, this man they called Jesus of Nazareth, almost looked like He was not of this world. He showed no trace of fear, guilt or shame; nor did He have a bold or defiant look in His eye. Instead, His eyes showed love and compassion—for him. In the presence of Jesus, Pilate felt like he was the one on trial.
News about the works and miracles Jesus performed had traveled all over the region. Even Pilate himself had heard about them in the palace. Jesus could cure the sick, feed thousands and even raise the dead. He was known to do so much good for His people. Why were they trying to kill Him?
“What accusation do you bring against this man?” Pilate asked the Jewish leaders. (These leaders, who refused to ceremonially defile themselves by entering the Gentile Praetorium on Passover, still found it OK to condemn an innocent man to death.)
They lied, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all of Judea. If He were not an evil-doer, we would not have delivered Him up to you” (Luke 23:5; John 18:30). That still didn’t satisfy the nagging feeling Pilate experienced that condemning this particular man to death would be the wrong thing to do. He was almost begging for an out.
Pilate was weak and vacillating. He didn’t want to risk losing his position in government and society. Giving in to their demands, he ordered Jesus to be crucified.
Even in the midst of all He was enduring, Jesus saw in Pilate someone with whom the Holy Spirit was striving. Pilate was having an internal, spiritual tug-of-war. There was still a window of hope for him to acknowledge the conviction he felt in his heart. Seeking to justify his position, Pilate tried several times to figure out just who this man was. Finally Jesus replied, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).
“Pilate had a desire to know the truth. His mind was confused. He eagerly grasped the words of the Saviour, and his heart stirred with a great longing to know what it really was, and how he could obtain it. ‘What is truth?’ he inquired. But he did not wait for an answer,” according to a book about Jesus’s life, The Desire of Ages, by Ellen G. White.
All of the key players in this part of the life of Christ were so close to the truth, but they were blinded by their own fear, pride, feelings of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. They didn’t know how far they had drifted from the only One who could save them from themselves. The religious leaders had stirred up the angry mob and continued to bury themselves and the Jewish nation as a whole with every word they uttered demanding His death. “His blood be on us and on our children,” they declared. “That awful cry ascended to the throne of God … the blood of the Son of God was upon their children, and their children’s children, a perpetual curse. Terribly it was realized in the destruction of Jerusalem. Terribly has it been manifested in the condition of the Jewish nation for [more than] eighteen hundred years—a branch severed from the vine, a dead fruitless branch, to be gathered up and burned,” the book continues.
Pilate was weak and vacillating. He didn’t want to risk losing his position in government and society. Giving in to their demands, he ordered Jesus to be crucified. Although he tried to literally and figuratively wash the blood of Jesus from his hands, he had already sealed his fate. Not long after the crucifixion, Pilate lost everything he had tried to hold on to and eventually ended his own life.
There is a well-known painting of Jesus standing at a door and knocking. If you look closely, you would see that the doorknob is only on the inside of the house. We control whether or not He can come in. He is not going to kick the door down and barge inside. Instead, He stands there full of love and compassion, patiently waiting while we attempt to hide the filth and dirtiness of our lives.
The Holy Spirit strives with us; prompting us to step over the obstacles, push away the barriers and open the door to our hearts. The King of kings and Lord of lords wants to come in and save us from ourselves. What is holding you back?
DEBRA MCKINNEY BANKS is the communication assistant for the Atlantic Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and writes from western Massachusetts.
ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), the most translated female author in history and recently named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.
Can You Hear Me?
Yes, action speaks louder than words. Who you are is defined less by what you say and more by what you do. Jesus said a lot of things that many church people can rattle off on command. The question is: Was it what He did or who He was that validated what He said? I believe it’s both. His true character and resolve appeared in His journey to the cross. He said a lot without uttering many words. His question to us is: Can you hear Me?
Sometimes we forget that Jesus was a Jew, born and raised. Can you imagine growing up in a religion, your parents being in the religion, only to have the religious people turn on you? Maybe you’ve had this experience. I’m praying healing over you as I write these words. We at Message would love to hear your testimony. Share with us via social media using #messagemag.
Just a surface reading of this raises some questions. Why would Jewish leaders think that if they led the Romans to kill Jesus, it would not implicate them? Were they really prioritizing their own ceremonial cleanliness over the life of someone else? Does this resonate with you? If so, tell us how on social media using #messagemag.
Pilate gets pulled into this controversy by virtue of his position. I’m always intrigued by how people encounter Jesus. I love when I see stories of people running into God in the most unexpected ways. In this case, Pilate is just doing his job, and God is thrown on his doorstep.
Have you ever seen or heard of someone running into God in a place you wouldn’t expect? Share with us here at Message using #messagemag.
Why do we conclude that when we choose to follow Jesus, things will get easier? I think there is a disservice done when people think that following God is easy. If it was hard on Jesus, it will be hard on us. Do you notice these verses say this encounter had to happen to “fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death He was going to die?” What does this say to you about Jesus? Share using #messagemag on social media.
I recently used Lyft to go to a concert with some friends. When the driver arrived and greeted us, I noticed his demeanor and his accent. “You’re from New York,” I said. “I wasn’t mean was I?” he replied. “No,” I told him. “It was just the way you carried yourself.” Jesus carried Himself as if He was from a different place, and it was obvious in front of Pilate. Take time to reflect as to what your actions say about your place of origin, especially under pressure. Do you act like this world or another world is your home?
John sets out his premise clearly in the verses that begin his gospel (John 1:1). He believes Jesus is the Word. He also believes Jesus when He says, “I am the Truth.” For John to write that Jesus says, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me,” is significant. John’s not talking about a set of beliefs as truth but rather about a person. I believe Jesus wants us to “listen” to His actions. Does Jesus return evil for evil? Does He defend Himself in the face of false accusations? What are we hearing when we look at the life of Jesus as he stands before Pilate?
Pilate came to an interesting set of conclusions. First, Jesus was a king. Second, His accusers had no legitimate basis for charges. Do we believe that same thing? Have we had a stressful encounter with Jesus when we were able to ask the hard questions and get the tough answers? I submit to you that if we look at the actions of Jesus, we will hear more than ever came out of his mouth. He asks, “Can you hear me?”
Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.