Pilate.  Pilate.  You thought the man innocent.  Not guilty.  But you bowed to peer pressure.  Both you and Herod found him innocent.  Yet you couldn’t let him go.  You valued your life over his.  You even claimed a friend that day.  Herod, the man who was once your enemy became a friend.  For what?  Because you both agreed about this man?  You both found him innocent but couldn’t free him.  What kind of leader are you?

So you listened to the crowd.  You had the opportunity to free a man sentenced to death.  You could have released Jesus.  An innocent man.  Yet you released a murderer.  You released a man charged with insurrection.  A troublemaker.  A rioter.  Were you afraid of a riot if you let Jesus go free?  Do you always lead with double standards?  Were you afraid for your life that day?

Pilate.  You sat on the judgment seat.  The power was in your hands.  Even your wife knew you should free Jesus.  She had a nightmare.  She knew.  She begged you to let him go.  But you didn’t listen.  You were too concerned for yourself.  Coward.  Spineless.  Yourself a troublemaker.  You couldn’t stand up for an innocent man.  So you traded his life for that of a murderer.  Your claim to fame is the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

How does it feel to sentence an innocent man to death?  Oh.  You came to the right conclusion.  Both you and Herod.  Jesus was innocent.  No crime was committed.  Yet you bowed.  But you were the leader.  The governor.  You were the one with the power.  And you were afraid.  You had a choice.  Do the right thing or do the popular thing.  Yes.  We know what you chose.

Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?” Mark 15:12

You thought that washing your hands in a bowl of water would cleanse you from guilt.  There is not enough soap to wash away that guilt.  The only thing that would cleanse you was the man you put on that cross.  Sometimes the things we try to run from continue to haunt us long after the deed is done.  Sometimes you can’t run far enough or fast enough.  And it doesn’t matter if someone else says they’ll take the blame.  It was you who freed the wrong man.  You’re the one who has to live with that.

There are stories that tell how you had a history of executing prisoners before their trial.  You were violent.  Greedy.  Stubborn.  Cruel.  Yes.  That’s the way history paints you.  So killing another innocent man wasn’t new to you.  But this prisoner was different.  You knew this man was innocent.

I wonder, Pilate, if Jesus’ words had begun to sink in.  When you asked if he was king of the Jews, did you believe he was?  I can see how his words of truth would prick your heart and create the stirrings of belief.  You were frightened by his words.  I believe you knew that you were dealing with someone not of this world.

You had him flogged with a lead-tipped whip.  Then you ordered your men to put a crown of thorns on his head.  You dressed him in a purple robe.  Perhaps deep down you knew.  He really was King of the Jews.  But you couldn’t say it to the crowd.  Or you might have been the one on the cross.

Here’s the thing.  Pontius Pilate.  You couldn’t change your mind.  Your decision was part of God’s plan for his only Son.  Jesus was born to die on that cross. God knew there would be those warring against him.  You were placed in that role for this very part.  Oh.  Yours wasn’t a starring role.  But it was powerful.  It was shameful.  It was tragic.  But you did the job.  Your decision set Jesus up to be the Savior of the world.  He died for you, Pilate.


Slow Fade to Betrayal

Judas.  What were you thinking?  Or maybe you weren’t.

Your reputation is one of a thief.  You steal money.  And now you’ve stolen trust.  When you were given the task to manage the disciples’ money, did you agree because it would be easy access for you?    Did you think no one would notice?  Did you think the money was yours to spend at will?

Have you always been a troublemaker?  Have you always sought the easy way?  When Jesus asked you to join him.  To follow.  What made you say yes?  Did you seriously mean to say yes?  I bet you didn’t know what you were getting yourself into.  If you had known, would you have followed him?  Did you know his reputation?  And you still said yes.  You followed him.  You preached.  You spread the good news right alongside the other eleven.  And alongside Jesus.  You traveled with him.  You ate with him.  You knew him as a close friend.

Do you remember when Jesus gave you and the others the authority to heal every kind of disease and illness?  Do you remember when he gave you the power to cast out evil spirits?  And you did those things.  In His name.  He trusted you.  You had the same power that he had.  And look what you did.

What were you thinking?

Do you think Jesus didn’t know?  Don’t you remember the miracles he performed right in front of you?  He turned water to wine.  He healed the sick.  He brought a dead man back to life.  He paid his taxes with a coin that a fish coughed up.  So don’t you think he knew that you were taking money?  Don’t you think he was aware of your faults?  Oh.  He was aware.  But Jesus kept you around anyway.  Jesus had to know you were taking money.  Jesus had to know that you were looking out for yourself.  Jesus had to know that you weren’t all in. Jesus also knew that you needed him.

Two days before Passover, you had heard Jesus warn that he was going to die.  He probably had told you that the religious leaders were looking for him.  They wanted to kill him.   Again.  If he knew that.  If he knew he was going to die in a few days, don’t you think he knew you were going to betray him?  Don’t you think he knew that Satan was going to take root in you and set him on the path of death?  Don’t you think he knew?  But he invited you to that last supper anyway.  He ate with you that one last night.  He dipped his bread in the same cup that you used.  You were that close to him.

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?  Mark 8:36

But Judas.  Do you know when the slow fade started?  Do you know what caused you to start doubting?  To start second guessing?  To start thinking that perhaps you could work out a deal with the Pharisees and officers?  To betray Jesus?  When did that start happening?  Oh.  You had two days warning that Jesus was going to die.  He told you himself.  But you didn’t know when he was going to die.  You didn’t know that your act of betrayal would push him down the path of no return.  Did you?  Were you that hungry for money?  What were you really hungry for?  You love money.  Did you love Jesus?  Why did you stay with Jesus if your heart wasn’t in it?  When did you start to turn away?  Were you ever all in?

Did you plan ahead?  That betrayal was epic.  You betrayed Jesus with a kiss?  Really?  Is the kiss supposed to make the hurt all better?  He saw right through it.  He knew what you were doing.

Looking in from the outside, you might appear to have it all.  After all, you are one of the original twelve.  But something somewhere happened along the way.  Your priorities changed. Your allegiance changed. Your heart changed.

Were you not willing to give up everything to follow Christ?  Were you not completely sold out for him?

What was it?  Were the eleven surprised to learn that you were the traitor?  Were you the one they suspected when Jesus said one would betray him?

Oh.  Judas.  Did you know that your sin fulfilled God’s purpose for His only Son?  Did you know that your actions put Jesus’ trial and crucifixion in place?  Did you know that you made history?  Is that what you were hungry for?  Fame?  And fortune?  Did you think that 30 coins was enough to soothe your betrayal?  Obviously, it wasn’t.  You returned the money.  But blood money can’t be returned.   You were filled with guild, remorse, shame.

But look what that betrayal and money did to you.  It ruined you.  Did you not know that sin is a deadly enemy?  Did you not know that sin would ruin your life?  Did you not know that sin always looks prettier and flirtier until it’s done?  And then it’s too late.  There’s no going back.  You betrayed Jesus.  You took the money.  Then you slipped the rope around your neck and let go.  Was that the path you intended to take?  Oh.  It didn’t have to end this way.  Or did it?  Did you not know that Jesus was dying for you?


Not My Will

Imagine being Jesus.  Sitting there, eating his final meal with his twelve closest friends.  The men he chose.  The men he handpicked to help spread his story.  His brothers.  His confidants.  His disciples.  And he knew.  He knew that before the night was over, two of those men would turn against him.  Two of his handpicked men would put aside the past three years of hard work.  To save themselves.  Yet he let it happen.  He welcomed them to the table and ate with them.  Oh.  He warned them both.  One of you will betray me and turn me over to be arrested.  The other will deny knowing me.  And still he ate with them.  Still He loved them.  He let them make the decision.  He let them choose their path.

Just hours before Peter denied knowing Christ, he had helped John prepare the Last Supper.  The Passover meal.  Jesus had asked Peter to get the meal ready, knowing that a few hours later Peter would deny  him.  Judas went to that meal having set his betrayal in motion.  He had already turned himself over to Satan.  He had already arranged a deal to hand Jesus over to the authorities.  Jesus knew.  But he welcomed Judas all the same.  When he told Peter what he would do,  Peter vehemently argued that he would never deny knowing Jesus.  He said he would go to prison or die first.

The thing is.  Jesus knew his disciples’ decisions would lead him down a dark path of suffering.  He knew those decisions would help lead him to his death.  But he didn’t stop it.  He could have chosen to stop his suffering.  After all.  He is God’s son.  But he knew his life purpose was to suffer and die for everyone.  Including those two men.

Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.  Psalm 41:9

Just this week, I felt betrayed.  I felt abandoned.  I felt like I was treated unfairly.  Thrown to the wolves.  That’s how it felt.  And it stings.  It cuts to the core.  It leaves you reeling and wondering where to turn.  When trust is suddenly no longer within reach, what do you do?  But Jesus held steady.  He knew he would suffer.  He knew the path he was on.  He knew the road he was taking was not easy.  Yet he took it willingly.  He even died on that path.

Oh. Jesus prayed.  He asked God to remove the path of suffering from him.  He was in great agony over it.  But there was no other way.  He knew that.  He surrendered to his Father.  Your will.  Not mine.
Sure.  God could have spared me from this hurt.  But he didn’t.  I’ve been asking him to show me if I was where I belonged.  For the past two years, I have prayed that God would remove the people who didn’t belong.  I didn’t realize I was praying that prayer for myself.  That wasn’t my intent.  But God knew.  He allowed the situation to happen.  He’s giving me the opportunity to learn new lessons and gain new experiences from my loss.
Oh.  It hurts.  The path I’ve been given isn’t one of my choosing.  It’s a path I’ve been down before.  More than once.  I survived the journey before, and I will survive again.  But the path is uncertain.  I have no choice but to take this journey.
I’m all in.  No matter what lies ahead..