32524 What to do with him
"What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?"--Matt. 27:22.
Nineteen hundred years ago a star poised above a lowly manger in Bethlehem and above the moonlit hills of Judaea the angels heralded the beginning of the life of Jesus Christ upon this earth--He who came to teach us the religion of human kindness, brotherly love and salvation through repentance and faith in His shed blood.
No matter what He said or did, the Jews refused to acknowledge His claims as the Messiah. Their enmity finally culminated in the greatest tragedy that the brutality of man ever committed, or the eye of God ever witnessed--the murder of Jesus Christ under false testimony. Jealous of His popularity and rejecting His divinity, they resolved at all hazards to kill Him.
Not having the power of life and of death in their own hands, or tribunals, they renounced Him before Pilate, the Roman governor. To stir up his enmity, they said that He was an impostor, that He had stirred up sedition and that He was an enemy of the government.
Pilate examined these charges made against Him but, being unable to prove Him guilty of any offense worthy of death, proposed that they release Him. But the rabble shrieked and screamed: "No! Away with Him! Give us Barabbas!"
Next to Jesus, Pilate is the scene, and from his lips fall the words I have taken for my text. When they cried, "Barabbas!" he turned to them and said: 'Well, then, what will I do with Jesus which is called the Christ? I got rid of Barabbas at your suggestion, but I still have Jesus on my hands.'
Pilate was very near the line. He tried to reason with them. Then he arose from the throne, took Jesus by the hand, led Him out in front of them and asked, "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?"
So I lead Him out before this audience tonight and ask you the same question Pilate asked the crowd that surged around the throne that day.
Pilate was confronted, my friends, with difficulties. He had many things to encourage him. He had his wife's dream. The story of Mrs. Pilate is very briefly told in the Bible, in one verse of Scripture. It is no evidence of her worth and character as a woman that God condescended to reveal Himself in a dream to her. He revealed Himself in a dream to Pharaoh, to Nebuchadnezzar. Yet for all we know, Mrs. Pilate might have been a very reverent, devout woman, constantly on the alert to save her husband from the difficulties into which she knew his miserable, pliable temper would lead him. Somehow, while she slept, God worried her by a dream. What He revealed, I do not know. Presumably it was about Jesus and the part her husband was to play in this tragedy. (They couldn't put Him on the cross without the consent of Pilate.)
She sent a messenger to Pilate with the plea: 'Have thou nothing to do with this just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. Have nothing to do with him.'
So we have the personality of Jesus. Never had such a personality appeared before Pilate for sentence. There He stood in His calmness, in His purity, in His power--more beautiful than a dream of Pericles.
I am frank to tell you that if I were on a jury, the personality of the man would have a big drag with me--almost as much as what the man on the witness stand would say. If I were called upon to try a man like Bryan, or Roosevelt, I am frank to tell you that his personality would have a tremendous drag with your Uncle Fuller.
Pilate had the personality of Jesus. He had the miracles of Jesus. I do not know that Pilate had ever witnessed Christ's performing a miracle. I do not know that Pilate had ever seen a man or woman who had been a recipient of the power of Jesus. Positive am I that he knew about the miracles, for they were current conversation. There was no section of the country where he could not find somebody whom Jesus Christ had benefited, either by opening their eyes or curing their lameness.
So while certain things influenced Pilate for Jesus, other things discouraged him. And while God is trying to bring influence to bear toward making you a Christian, the Devil is bringing influence to bear toward keeping you away from Jesus.
So Pilate had these things to consider: first, what would the Jews say? The Jews were at this time under the control of the Romans, who were severe in their exactions; and Pilate was the very triple essence of severity. So harsh was he that some of the influential Jews had gone to Rome to intercede with Caesar to have Pilate recalled and a more kind and humane man placed over them in Jerusalem.
Pilate knew that these Jews had no use for Jesus. He also knew that if they heard that he had thrown his influence on the side of Jesus, it would only increase their enmity and their hatred and they would bring stronger influence to bear. Pilate figured: "These Jews up at Jerusalem have no use for Jesus. They say He is a fraud. If they hear that I say He is not a fraud, then they will have no use for me. But if they hear that I have denounced Him, I will win their friendship, they will withdraw their opposition and I will hold my job."
Pilate was willing to let that gang nail Jesus Christ to the cross in order to keep their friendship and hold his job. All over the land today there are people who are willing to do the same thing for a trifling reason. Pilate, my friends, asked himself: "What would the Jews say about it?"
But Pilate should not have yielded to their threats, but should have been willing to sacrifice his office and his life to avoid convicting Jesus Christ, an innocent Person. It was that Jewish hierarchy that threatened old Pilate as an officeholder.
Pilate was a stand-pat, free-lunch, pie-counter, pliable, plastic, lickspittle, rat-hole, tin-horn, weasel-eyed, cowardl, grafting politician of his day, pure and simple. Old Pilate was a direct product of the political system of Rome. He was a typical machine politician. And there is no more low-down scoundrel on earth than a mere typical machine politician.
So, "What will the Jews say?"
Listen, "What will Caesar say?" (Caesar's word was law.)
Pilate says: 'If Caesar at Rome hears that I have let Jesus go, and by that act admitted that I believe His claims are just, he won't stand for it; so off will come my head; I will surely lose my job. But if Caesar hears that I say this man Jesus is a fraud and that I let them put Him on the cross,, he will know that I am at my job, working for the interests of Rome. I will win Caesar's favor and keep my job.'
Oh, he was willing to sacrifice Jesus Christ to please old Caesar and to please the gang that had no use for Jesus Christ. I despise a man like that. But, hold on! I don't have to go back to old Pilate--I don't have to go out of this city to find people of the same low-down type as was old Pilate.
Pilate often heard of Jesus; no doubt he was prejudiced against Him, and was longing for the chance to pass sentence against Jesus. I have imagined the look of wonder that must have swept over the face of Pilate as Jesus was ushered into his presence. Pilate turned to Him and said: 'Art thou the Son of God?'
Jesus answered: 'I am.'
He was either the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; or He was a bastard, for He was born out of wedlock. He was either conceived by the Holy Ghost or He was an illegitimate offspring of a Jewish harlot.
Away with your damnable Unitarian theory that makes Jesus a bastard! My mother taught me that the Good Book didn't lie. And if Jesus Christ wasn't the Son of God, it does lie. My mother taught me that a good man didn't lie. And if Jesus Christ wasn't the Son of God, He was a liar, and all the teachings of the Bible are false.