Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 28, 2013
1 And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. 2 And Pilate asked him, Are you the King of the Jews? And he answered him, You have said so. 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you. 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. 6 Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. 7 And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. 8 And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. 9 And he answered them, saying, Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews? 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews? 13 And they cried out again, Crucify him. 14 And Pilate said to them, Why, what evil has he done? But they shouted all the more, Crucify him. 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
-- Mark 15:1-15, ESV
Who was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Could anyone have stopped it? Did anyone really care?
The Old Testament prophets, particularly Isaiah, tell us that God Himself was responsible for the death of the Messiah (ref. Isaiah 53:10). Though God can do anything that pleases Him, it pleased Him to cause the crucifixion of His Son. He would never have stopped it, for His holiness demanded a sacrifice for sin and sinners. All of this is because of His supreme care.
The New Testament gives us a list of suspects. Annas, Caiaphas, and other members of the priestly and religious ruling class all conspired to have Jesus arrested and executed. They cared deeply about their own personal and political power and they were afraid that Jesus was raining on their parade. So, because they did not care enough about faith and following the Lord Jesus Christ, they gave a green light that never turned red to the killing of Jesus.
In the Gospels we learn that Jesus’ own followers played a hand in turning Him over by betraying and denying Him on His way to the death sentence. Judas’ suicide and Peter’s tearful remorse showed obvious emotions, but neither one turned back to try to stop Christ from going to the cross.
Our earliest Christian creeds, The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, seem to point the finger at one man -- Pontius Pilate. Pilate, along with everybody else, certainly bears responsibility. But Pilate, and nobody else, was the one man who could have stopped the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He did not. Because of all people, Pilate was the man who did not care.
Pilate did not care about God’s people.
Except for a few fleeting references by Luke and one mention by the Apostle Paul, Pilate does not appear on the stage of Holy Scripture until the very day of Jesus’ death. We know from the Bible and history that Pilate was the Roman Governor of Palestine, the region encompassing the southern half of Israel and the surrounding region. The Romans ruled their empire by giving limited autonomy to “subject territories” while placing an iron fist over them in the form of family nobility (like the Herod clan who governed Galilee) or political appointees (like Pontius Pilate who governed Judea).
Even though Pilate governed them for a decade, neither the Old Covenant people of Israel nor the fledgling New Covenant church meant anything to him. He did not care about them, to the point of disliking them. By the time he met Jesus, Pilate had a proven track record of this disdain and dislike, even to the point of previous executions (ref. Luke 13:1). Pilate just did not care about God’s people.
People historically and in modern times do not seem to care about God’s people. The Jews have suffered from antisemitism and persecution from their inception as God’s people until long after the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. The church of Jesus Christ has suffered mild to severe persecution for the entirety of our two-thousand year run. Most people in our society today look upon the church, God’s people, as entirely irrelevant, which may be the greatest insult of all. Most people, like Pilate, just do not care about God’s people.
If you are one of God’s people, however, God’s care more than makes up for the lack of care among the people. And, if you are one of the people that doesn’t care about God’s people, God cares and takes notice of that, too, so beware.
Pilate did not care about God’s Son.
On the morning of the crucifixion, people whom Pilate did not care about brought to him a man he would not care about, either. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. He had been convicted in a religious kangaroo court of blasphemy, which called for capital punishment in their law. But Rome reserved the right of capital punishment for itself, overruling local jurisdiction in this matter of life and death. The charge formulated by the Sanhedrin and brought before the Roman governor was sedition, rebellion, high treason, against one who claimed to be the ultimate king of the Jews. The Jews knew this would get Jesus killed. Pilate just did not care, at least not much.
At first Pilate mocked Jesus, asking sarcastically if He was indeed the king of the Jews. Jesus answered yes, knowing full well the consequences. Pilate gave Jesus an opportunity to speak and defend Himself. Jesus declined, knowing full well the consequences. Then Pilate, disliking the accusers more than the accused, tried mildly to set Jesus free. He tried the “Passover Pardon,” but the people chose a murderer named Barabbas instead of Jesus. He tried the “scourge,” a method of beating up someone until they were barely alive, as a sadistic but sympathetic means of providing enough punishment to satisfy the people and let Jesus go. But the people smelled blood and called for more. After three feeble swings, Pilate struck out and sold out Jesus to the will of the people calling for His death. Pilate “delivered Him to be crucified” because at the end of the day, he really did not care about God’s Son.
Though Mark does not care to mention it, Pilate tried to wash his hands, literally, of the condemnation and crucifixion of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. But as our great creeds teach us, Pilate was the trigger man and will forever bear the guilt of the killing and crucifixion of the Jewish Messiah, the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. And you know who else will be held forever guilty? Not just unrepentant murders and adulterers and liars and thieves, but anyone and everyone who like Pontius Pilate is too mild or moderate or simply does not care about the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pilate did not care about God’s plan of salvation.
Pilate had no idea he was fulfilling prophecy. Pilate had no idea that Jesus was a voluntary prisoner, a lamb who willingly laid down His life for His sheep. Pilate had no idea that the greatest story in the world was unfolding right before his shifty eyes and guilty hands. Pilate had no idea that the greatest double imputation in human history, Christ’s righteousness for us and our sins upon Him, was about to take place. Pilate looked truth and love and grace and mercy and salvation right in the face. But, he did not care.
Pilate knew that the people handing Jesus over to him were envious and evil. Pilate knew that Jesus Christ Himself had done no wrong. But Pilate ultimately refused to do anything about it, to call the guilty out on the carpet, to exonerate the innocent, to apply justice or mercy. By not doing anything about it he hoped to escape culpability from it.
But let this be know about Pilate and all people. God will not only condemn to death those unrepentant and unbelieving people who persecuted His people, preached false gospels, and patently attacked the word of God. God will condemn just as justly those who ignore Him as well. Saying you didn’t know, or you didn’t care one way or the other, will not cut it with God on the day of judgment. And Pilate serves in time and eternity as a supreme example of the danger in just not caring about God.
Pilate did not care.
So, why should we care about him? Pilate was a little man with a little place in history. He enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame midway through his ten year tenure as Governor of Palestine. And where is he now? Pilate is in the only place you can go where even God will not care about you any more.
Do not be the man, the woman, the boy, the girl who does not care about Jesus. Do not let your family, friends, and loved ones live in apathy about the gospel of Jesus Christ, not without your prayers, your witness, and your invitation to meet with God and God’s people. Let us not let our world of eight billion people, most of whom do not care about Jesus, go on without our prayers and missionary support. Do not be among the ones who do not care about the Lord Jesus Christ.