As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
Pilate tries to set Jesus free. Often in Christian circles we try to treat Pilate like the cruelest, most corrupt man in the Bible. He handed Jesus over to be crucified! But there’s nothing in the Bible to indicate that he wasn’t a perfectly fair and reasonable man. In fact, in his ability to recognize the priests’ jealousy, and in his proclamation that Jesus has done nothing wrong, we see that he was probably a wise governor. But he was, after all, Roman. Roman rulers feared the crowd, and for good reason. So when the crowd rejects his offer free Jesus and demands His crucifixion instead, Pilate does it.
How many of us have done this before? I’m sure I have. I’m sure everyone has. We know in our gut that something is wrong, but in fear of the crowd we do it anyway. And this goes two ways. Sometimes in fear of the secular crowd we are led to sin, but it can just as easily be through fear of the Christian crowd. I mean, who wants to be the person to stand up at a very old-fashioned church and tell them that God still loves gay people? They’ll probably glare at you and refuse to talk to you for as long as you remain at that church. I certainly would have a hard time having the courage to do that!
But look at what happens when we follow the crowd. Because Pilate followed, Jesus was mocked, tortured, and given over for crucifixion. What evil can our own following lead to? God gave us a conscience, and He gives us wisdom and strength. We need to listen to them as though they are the difference between life and death. Because they just might be.