John 19: 10 – 11 (NCV) Pilate said, “You refuse to speak to me? Don’t you know I have power to set you free and power to have you crucified?” Jesus answered, “The only power you have over me is the power given to you by God. The man who turned me in to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
Today, I thought I’d spend some time talking about standing up for what you believe in…even when it’s not popular or even safe to do so. I am going to be referencing the Gospels of Luke and John throughout today’s post. I’m starting off in John 18. It’s that very same night that Peter has declared he would NEVER deny Jesus. Judas has already set Jesus up for his own gain by leading Jewish authorities right to him in the Garden of Gethsemane. The guards bound Jesus and led him to the house of Annas, the High Priest. Just as Peter had always done, he follows Jesus.
As Jesus goes into the house to be questioned, Peter is faced with a question of his own, “Hey! Aren’t you one of his followers?”
In this split second, Peter has a big decision to make. “No, I’m not!” (John 18:17)
What? Can you believe what you just read here? I betcha he wanted to get those words back huh? But Christ said that it would happen. But this wouldn’t be his only chance, he will be asked two more times and both times he will say the exact same thing… “No, I’m not!” Whoa!
Jesus already knew Peter would utter these words; not just once, but all three times and yet he still used Peter in a mighty way. Have you ever imagined what was going through Peter’s mind each time he denied Christ? I have tried so many times to picture myself at the scene. Peter is warming his hands by the fire just like others in the courtyard. The girl approaches Peter and asks her question. Immediately after his response I try to imagine the expression on Peter’s face. I wonder if he’s shaking his head in disbelief. I can almost hear Peter’s thoughts “I can’t believe I just said that!”
Have you ever wondered why Peter denied Christ in the first place? We know from reading the Bible it was going to happen. Jesus predicted it. But as you read through the Bible for the first time or perhaps learned about Jesus and his disciples did you ever consider Peter would be the one to deny him? Peter had been the first to identify him as the Messiah. He was on Jesus’ inner circle. I sure wouldn’t have guessed it would be Peter denying him.
What about you? How do you respond when someone questions your faith? Do you stand up for Jesus when asked or do you tend to shrink back into the crowd for fear of what the crowd may say or do? These questions lead me to another point…public pressure. Jesus was innocent of the charges they had brought against him. Pilate knew that. At the end of John chapter 18 (John 18:38-40), we see Pilate trying to figure out why Jesus was even before him.
“I find nothing wrong against this man. But it is your (the Jews) custom that I free one prisoner at Passover. “Do you want me to free the King of Jews?”
Pilate throws the ball back in the Jews court and the Jews stood their ground.
“No! Let Barabbas go.”
So there you have it. Pilate gave the Jews the opportunity to do the right thing, but they choose another path. He (Pilate) ordered the guards to take Jesus away to be flogged.
Pilate dances around the public pressure issue. “I’ve told you, I find nothing against him.” Jesus is brought out barely recognizable. The hair is ripped out of his scalp and beard. His back is has been pulverized as a result of the flogging.
“Crucify him!” the crowd chants.
“Crucify him yourself!” Pilate responds “I have found nothing against him.” (John 19:4) This is the third time Pilate would offer the Jews this statement.
“He should die because he says he is the son of God” the Jews shout.
Fear washes over Pilate and he returns to the palace. He approaches Jesus and says “Don’t you know I have the power to set you free or to crucify you?” (John 19:10) At this point Pilate is just trying to understand why Jesus just doesn’t say something… anything to plead his case. But Jesus knew the source of His power “The only power you have over me is the power given to you by God.”
Again, Pilate returns to the Jews trying to convince them to let Jesus go, but the crowd was relentless “Crucify him!” They continued to chant. Finally Pilate gave into the pressure. It had to happen this way. Jesus had to drink the cup his Father had given him.
What do you think was going through Pilate’s head at this point? He has just sent an innocent man to die. He could have freed him; but instead he gave into peer pressure.
What about you. How do you respond when you know in your heart something is right? Do you stand up or do you give in?