I don’t like reading the account of Jesus’ death. I find it difficult to take every time I read it. Perhaps that’s a good thing. If I could breeze through the crucifixion of Christ, I don’t believe I would have the right to call myself by his name.
I don’t believe there was a person Jesus came across that did not have, at the very least, the opportunity to change. Even knowing his death was near, Jesus’ ministry was still active. Following his betrayal by Judas, Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate—the Roman leader in Jerusalem at the time.
Pilate was a hard and cruel man. Luke 13:1 speaks of how Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. Strike one against Jesus—he was from Galilee. Pilate also had symbols that would offend the Jews imprinted on the coins he sent into circulation. Strike two—Jesus was a Jew. When he found out that Jesus was from Galilee, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod as Galilee was under his jurisdiction. Pilate and Herod were enemies. Strike three. Pilate’s tenure in Jerusalem ended when he was called back to Rome after massacring a group of Samaritans. He was just plain mean. There was nothing in this situation that would benefit Jesus.
Herod could find no fault in Jesus so he sent him back to Pilate. Again, Pilate could not find Jesus guilty of any crime that would merit punishment by death. To try to appease the people, he offered to have Jesus flogged. But that wasn’t enough for the crowd. Three times Pilate told the crowd there was no reason to sentence Jesus to death. Three. That number sounds familiar…
…poetical for the moment when something is finished, completed, and perfected.
(N. Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 1950, p. 384, n. 4)
After denying the crowd’s request three times (someone else had recently denied something three times… [Luke 22:54-62]), Pilate gave in. By waiting as long as he did to sentence Jesus, he went against his own track record. I’m sure that those who brought Jesus to him thought it would be an easy task to convince Pilate to kill a Jew from Galilee.
Having spent just hours in Jesus’ presence, it could be concluded that Pilate was changed. Not only did he go against his own history of violence and cruelty, but he befriended his enemy, Herod.
For the rest of his life, I wonder how much Pilate was haunted by his actions against Jesus that day. Did he think about it often or did he try to wipe it from his memory? Was there any remorse? Did he ever understand the role he played in the greatest plan of all time? Did he know that his command to have Jesus killed would work to finish, complete, and perfect salvation for all?
If God could use even the hardest man to accomplish His will, surely there is hope for the rest of us.
Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 3-5, Luke 23:1-26