Lord, draw us to You, and let Your righteousness and truth preserve us. Amen.
Text: John 19:12–16
From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” So he delivered Him to them to be cruciﬁed. So they took Jesus and led Him away.
Pilate in the end sold his soul for Caesar’s friendship. Before this he had swung back and forth, drawn by the Lord and drawn by hell. Now he comes to a dead halt at the line that leads straight down to the lake of eternal ﬁre and brimstone. Fear of the Jews’ raging accusation and Caesar’s displeasure over many offenses he was guilty of, and of which Satan now reminded him, overcomes any feeling of justice and truth in his soul.
But Pilate should teach us that whoever fears men instead of the Lord has made a disastrous choice. What did the unfortunate man gain by giving in to the Jews? His conscience, before this burdened by many sins, now became ten times worse, and Caesar’s favor was ﬂeeting. Not long after this Pilate was summoned before the judgment seat of cruel Caligula, who deported him to Gaul, where he soon went the way of Judas.
It was a terrible deal like Esau’s that Pilate made, as a warning to all lukewarm, timid Christians. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jam 4:4). O that all who want to please both God and the world might understand, in time, where their path leads them! If only they might consider that they are brothers of Pilate! They are more afraid of offending their worldly friends than of offending Jesus and losing Him. They are ashamed of His shame and turn away from the way of His cross. They still want to belong to His people, but they will not confess His name, and they will not follow the footsteps of His suffering. Honor, power, and respect in the world are more precious to them than their soul’s salvation in the Lord and faithfulness to the truth. Yes, many sell their conscience for one simple pleasure or a puny, paltry, passing gain.
O you Christians who love the Lord and hold your soul dear, beware of the favor of men, and do not depart a hairbreadth from the way of a good conscience. Glory-seeking and favor of men will still always be lurking right behind you, but by the Spirit of Him who testiﬁed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, you shall always be able to watch and tread them under foot.
Grant us this grace, merciful, faithful God, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
If the world my heart entices
On the broad and easy road,
And doth by its gay devices
Silence ev’ry thought of God,
When the heavy load I see
Which, dear Lord, was laid on Thee,
I can still each wild emotion,
Calm and blest in my devotion.
Lord, whate’er may pain or grieve me,
Thy dear wounds can make me whole;
When my heart sinks, they revive me,
Life pours in upon my soul:
May Thy comfort render sweet
Every bitter cup I meet;
Thou who by Thy death and passion
Hast procured my soul’s salvation.
Heerman: O what precious balm and healing L 15:3-4 ELH 293:3-4 tr. R. Massie;
tune: Der am Kreuz