Pilate’s Compromise

A New York family bought a ranch out West where they intended to raise cattle. Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name. “Well,” said the would-be cattleman, “I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy-Q, one son liked the Flying-W, and the other … More

In this passage, Pilate declares Jesus innocent three times, yet subjects Him to a terrible beating (18:38-19:1).  His actions speak louder than his words. He was a weak-willed man who hoped to find a happy compromise. Pilate asks the question, “What is truth” (v. 38)? However, he turns away from the one who is “The Truth” without waiting for an answer.  Satisfied that Jesus is not a political threat to the Roman authorities, he declares that Christ is innocent. If Jesus was innocent then Pilate should have set Him free. Instead, he began a series of compromising moves to avoid dealing with a difficult circumstance.  We still see this happening in churches today as the sins of immorality, etc. are swept  under the rug instead of being scripturally dealt with.

Since Herod had found no reason to put Jesus to death Pilate decided to confront the Jewish leaders and seek to release Him. He summoned the chief priests and rulers and told them he had found no guilt in Jesus and that he was going to release Him. To make it easier for the Jews to accept this he offered to bargain with them. Barabbas was a robber (v. 40), a notorious prisoner (Matt. 27:16), an insurrectionist and a murderer (Luke 23:19). Since it was customary to release a prisoner at the time of Passover, Pilate attempts to place the responsibility of Christ’s destiny in the hands of the Jews. He could release either Jesus or Barabbas. Knowing that Jesus was popular with the people he thought they would prefer Jesus to Barabbas so he gave them a choice (vv. 39-40).

Incredible as it seems, the crowd asked for Barabbas. This only shows how a crowd that is manipulated by persuasive leaders can start to think with its feelings rather than logically. In an atmosphere of patriotic fervor, it loses itself and starts to think with its feeling instead of it brains. National feelings increased during Passover, and a vote for Barabbas was a vote against Rome.



I must never confuse sentimentality with true spiritual emotion. It is one thing to shed tears in a church service, and quite something else to be willing to sacrifice and serve the Lord.

John 18:38-40 (English Standard Version)

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