Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.’ Then they all shouted out together, ‘Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!’ (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’ A third time he said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.’ But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.
Throughout history, people have made bad decisions because they seemed the easy, obvious decision to make at first glance. Alexander Graham Bell once took an invention of his along to Western Union to try and sell it to them, something called the telephone! The man he was meeting told him in no uncertain terms that he would not be investing because ‘what use could his company make of an electronic toy’. We look back on these decisions and laugh in years to come but, how often do we look for the easy answers?
We are all guilty of it, it might be something simple such as performing a bodge job around the home to ‘fix’ something that your spouse has informed you is broken, or it might be something more serious in which we find ourselves going along with the party line rather than sticking our necks out for something we know in our hearts to be right.
Pilate knew in his heart of hearts that Jesus should have been released, but the fickle crowd gathered outside, just a few days after welcoming him in an exuberant way into the city, were baying for his blood and instead of his release were calling for the release of an actual criminal. Neither Herod nor Pilate could find any fault in Jesus for which they could convict him, and yet, the pressure that was put onto Pilate, forced his hand, and ensured he went against his conscience to deliver the penalty.
All our decisions have consequences, we learn this when we are young, for the chairman of Western Union, he must have been kicking himself when the telephone went on to become so successful. For Pilate, the realisation of Jesus on the cross must have been devastating, knowing he found no fault in this man and yet because of his inaction – this man was there, hanging on a cross. Easy answers do not mean right answers, let us try to look for the right thing to do rather than the easiest.
Loving God, help us not to be content to coast through life looking for the easiest possible way to do things and not worrying about the consequences of our actions on others. Help us to stand up and be counted when we know things are not as you would want them to be and help us seek out justice for all of your children throughout the world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
The Rev’d Josh Thomas minister of Petersfield and Liss URC