Pilate was in a jam. In his heart, he saw Jesus as innocent. With his internal gyroscope, he tried to balance out all the competing pressures on him. He wanted to please his Roman superiors, including the Emperor in Rome. He wanted to be sensitive to the legitimate followers of Jesus, who seemed to be a reasonably benign and certainly non-incendiary group of people. He wanted to be fair to his own conscience. And he wanted to at least acknowledge his wife's warning, recorded by Matthew. She had said, "'Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him'" (Matthew 27:19).
It is at this point that we see the basic weakness in the personality of Pilate. Matthew tells us, "So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves'" (Matthew 27:24).
Then comes the historical record of Mark, who writes: "So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified" (Mark 15:15).
You know what followed. We have seen the ghastly reenactment of it created by Mel Gibson.
Here was a crowd pleaser, a man who wanted to defend his own position, power, prestige and popularity. He was so certain of Jesus' innocence, he felt he had to wash his hands of any guilt pertaining to the shedding of innocent blood. At the same time, he allowed Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be delivered for a whipping and crucifixion. His motivation is summarized in the words "wishing to satisfy the crowd." Translated into modern parlance, that means "desiring to please the crowd."
I imagine, somewhere in a remote corner of hell, the tragic picture of Pontius Pilate, some 2,000 years later, still trying to wash his hands of the blood of that innocent man.
Are you a crowd pleaser? Is pleasing others the most important thing in your life?
Do you find yourself in situations in which you know what is right to do but you don't do it. You know what is right to say, but you don't say it because of peer pressure?
A young soldier says, "I want to live the Christian life, but I can't afford to because of the pressures of my buddies."
A friend of mine with a drinking problem looked me straight in the eye and said, "I don't want to drink, but I can't run the risk of losing my friends, no longer getting invited to the parties I want to attend."
A teenager, aware of the dangers in premarital sex and experimentation with drugs, told me, "But everybody's doing it! I'll be totally out of it if I don't."