If anyone knew what it was like to be between a rock and a hard place, it was Pontius Pilate. That’s putting it mildly. He was between The Rock and a hard place. Whether he sided with Jesus or with the crowd, he was in a fix either way. In his heart, he knew the right thing to do. But the right thing is seldom the easiest thing. As for Pontius Pilate, his back was so far against a wall that a gnat couldn’t have found wiggle room.
Pilate must choose
The crowd refused to back down. They demanded that Jesus be crucified. The Gospel of John states that, “Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” (John 19:12)
Had the crowd not pressured him, Pilate would have released Jesus in a heartbeat. He believed in his innocence. But this wasn’t a matter of whether Pilate believed in Jesus or not. This was a question of loyalty – a question best answered under pressure. The odds were slim for Pilate. Standing up for Jesus meant standing against the majority. It also meant standing against his superior. This was something he wasn’t prepared to do – regardless of his convictions.
Jesus not only calls us to believe in Him, He commands us to follow Him as well. He also made it clear that following Him wouldn’t be a cakewalk. The broad road is much easier, but you won’t like where it leads. As for those who would follow Jesus, the way is narrow. And to travel it, we must pick up our cross.
As difficult as the road may be, this is where the abundant life is realized. Somehow, someway, the journey seems to fashion us more and more into the likeness of Christ. Perhaps you’ve been told differently. You may have even been told that your life will radically change if you simply believe in Jesus. Well, so far that hasn’t proved true for the demons. Nor is it true for you or me.
Jennifer Hudson Before and After
Have you seen her lately? She has definitely changed! Not just changed, but radically changed! There is no denying it. The Jennifer Hudson that appeared on American Idol is not the same Jennifer Hudson we see on those Weight Watcher commercials. I can only conclude that Weight Watchers works! But as much as I believe in it, I have yet to shed one pound. You see, if I expect even an ounce of change, not only must I believe in Weight Watchers, I must also follow it.
Simply believing in Jesus doesn’t guaranty a changed life. Following Him is what gets us results. Day by day He perfects us as we remain on His trail. And this is where our loyalty is tested. The broad road is a much more popular. Those who travel it insist that you join them. They’ll make it very easy for you!
That’s what Pilate was up against: choose the broad way or the narrow way; Follow Jesus or go with the crowd. Sadly, Pilate took the path of resistance. He took the low road because he feared man more than God. That’s always how it is. Unless you have healthy fear of God, you’ll be ruled by the fear of man. You’ll worry about what they think, or what they will say, or what they might do, just as we see with Pilate. Because he feared the crowd, he ultimately gave in to them.
“When Pilate therefore heard that saying [“If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend.] he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” (John 19:13-14)
Although Pilate wouldn’t stand with Jesus, he didn’t want responsibility for nailing him to a cross either. Therefore, he played it safe. Not a good idea. Playing it safe with God is risky business. That’s what makes religion such a slippery slope. It can make you feel safe when you’re not. You see, no one will criticize you for being religious. Just don’t go overboard and you’ll be okay. Show up on the church pavement occasionally. Light a candle or two. Recite The Lord’s Prayer from time to time. Play it safe with Jesus… And also with those who oppose him.
Honestly, I don’t recommend that route. We’re deceived to think we can safely play games with God. It won’t be long before we’ll have to make a decision. Pilate did.
“But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15)
At least Jesus’ accusers took a stand, which shows more courage than not taking a stand at all. To the church of Laodicea Jesus said:
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)
Say you’re for Him or say you’re against Him. Choose a side, but don’t play nauseating games. Committing to Christ is like committing to marriage. We stop fooling around. We’re to be faithful. We put our whole heart into it. Playing it safe isn’t an option. Sadly, Pilate thought he could. Although he knew better, he gave the crowd exactly what they wanted.
“Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away.” (John 19:16)
Without question, Pilate was between the Rock and a hard place. He looked for an easy out. He took the path of least resistance and surrendered to the crowd. Don’t follow him. It’s not safe. Follow Jesus. The journey is much more fulfilling and the destination is a whole lot brighter.
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Calvary Chapel of Austin Church
1601 Pecan St., Pflugerville, TX 78660