Leadership Series: Pontius Pilate – People Pleaser

Read St. John 18:28-40

When you are a leader, by nature, you want your name to be remembered for years, if not centuries to come; but you want your name to be remembered for the right reason.  You want to be remembered as George Washington or Winston Churchill are remembered, not so much as Napoleon or Nero are remembered.

In fact if you are a leader, you would rather not be remembered at all then to be remembered for something negative.  For history remembers some who otherwise did nothing of significance other than that they made a big mess out of one situation more so than does history remember leaders who did to many great things to remember.

And it is in that category that Pontius Pilate falls.  His time as a Roman governor would largely be forgotten because he did nothing of significance, except for the fact that he took one situation and made a huge mess out of it, and is now remembered for all time.

Like Herod Antipas, Pilate sees Jesus stand before him, he hears the charges levied against him, and he knows that Jesus is innocent.  Yet, he refuses to relent and release Jesus, but instead sentences Him to be crucified, thus immortalizing his name for eternity in a way that he probably never imagined that he would.

In that respect, Pilate may find himself well placed in a theme that is circulating the internet.  The picture shows an imperial storm-trooper leaning over a table with his head in his hands saying ‘Those really were the droids we were looking for.’  The reference being to Episode 4 where Obi Won uses a Jedi mind trick to tell the storm-troopers that the droids in the cruiser with him and Luke were not the droids they were seeking; when they really were.  That seemingly insignificant event saves the rebellion and ultimately dooms the Death Star and the entire empire.

One can only imagine Pilate standing in his palace on Easter afternoon, having heard that the man he sentenced to death had risen, and thinking to himself: ‘Maybe that really was the Son of God; and maybe His kingdom really was not of this world.’

Of course, on Friday, Pilate was more concerned with his own future.  Pilate knew that the crowd gathering was in the mood for rioting.  Pilate knew that if word got back to Rome that he could not handle the people of Judah, and that they were a threat to the empire at large; then he would be in big trouble; and he would be infamous in Rome as the governor who could not handle a small Jewish establishment.

Pilate’s goal is to protect his power, and he sees that the best way to do that is to please the crowds; to give them what they want, even if what they want is not the right thing to do.  Pilate knows that sometimes, you have to sacrifice someone who is innocent in order to protect his own power.

But in an effort not to become infamous in the Roman Empire during his earthly life, Pilate becomes infamous in Church history and world history for all time.

For the man who stands before Pilate is not just some innocent man, He is the Son of God who rules over the kingdom of the world, just as He rules the kingdom of the Church and the kingdom of heaven.

As ruler of the kingdom of the world, the Church and heaven, Jesus goal is not to be a people pleaser, rather He aims to be a God pleaser.  For Jesus has come to suffer death on the cross on our behalf to make us pleasing before God.

For when we are at peace with God, we have the assurance that our names, whether they are remembered for centuries, or are long forgotten, will be known by God for eternity as we stand before His throne and sing His unending praises.

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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