Harboring Pilate: A Lenten Devotional

It’s easy to want to wash our hands of the one who washed his hands of Jesus. It is much harder to admit that a potential Pilate lives within each of us.

Pilate’s People-Pleasing

As fifth governor of the province of the Roman province of Judaea, Pontius Pilate lived in the tensions of appeasing very disparate crowds. He was given rule over what Rome considered to be the unruly Jewish people. Some were scrupulous, refusing to bow the knee to the Emperor. Some were zealous in the vein of Judas Maccabees who had led a revolt under the Seleucid Empire. Some assimilated into the Roman culture, wanting comfort and peace. What a mixed bag Pilate had been apportioned. His job was to appease the Jewish people enough to keep the Pax Romana while not also pleasing the powers that had propped up his precarious power.

It’s no wonder he was a people-pleaser who vacillated with the whims of the crowd and pandered to the people. In the gospel accounts, we find glimpses of goodness and see flickers of faith in him. He sensed the innocence of Jesus and tried to push the uncomfortable decision regarding his fate back into the Jewish court systems (John 18: 28-32). He had a private conversation with the accused in his headquarters, away from the rumbling of the crowds. A master of posturing, he shuffled around answering the questions that prodded his conscience (John 18:33-38).

However, when push came to shove, he went against his conscience and sided with the sentiments of the people to protect his power, position, and platform. Declaring with words the guiltlessness of Jesus three times and seeking to find a way to release him, his actions betrayed him nonetheless (John 18:39-40; John 19:4-6; John 19:12).

Our People-Pleasing

Before we wash our hands of the one who washed his hands of the innocent blood of Jesus, we should take the time to inspect our own idol-ridden hearts (Matthew 27:24-26).

Have we not waffled between two different crowds, shading the sentiments of our consciences like chameleons? Have we not relied on crowd-sourcing and peer approval rather than the source of all life and the approval of the One who approved us at so great a cost? Have we not pandered to people, fearing their censure more than the censure of the One who created all people? Have we not made other men and current standards our measuring rods rather than the standards of the Scripture?

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when t hey measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding (2 Corinthians 10:12).

It is far too easy to trade the invisible audience of One for the audible, tangible audiences before we which we find ourselves judged daily. When we shuffle around the loud, dominant opinions and ideological landmines all around us, we follow Pilate’s delicate dance of people-pleasing. When we care more that we appear judicial than that we obey the commands of the Lord, we show our inner Pilates.

The Perfect God-Pleaser

There is but One who never collapsed under the pressure of the opinions of man (John 2:23-25). There is but One who withstood the pressure of the Enemy to trade eternal approval for earthly approval (Mark 4: 1-11). The One who deserved the loud approval of the Father was deafened by the excruciating silence of God as He endured the cross. The One of whom Pilate washed his hands offers His precious blood to wash us of our people-pleasing.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18).

May Pilate’s failure invite us into the pleasure of the Father secured for us by Christ.

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