October 17

Text: Matthew 27:15-17

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the multitude any one prisoner whom they wanted.  And they were holding at that time a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. When therefore they were gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?"  (NASB)

Appeasement!  Appeasement is the attempt to produce “peace” by quieting adversaries down through offering a minor concession to avoid a potentially bigger problem.  Sometimes appeasement works; sometimes it does not.  When the core of the situation was emotion and the values of principles were lost, appeasement was worth trying.

In the past Pilate found appeasement to be an effective tool in cooling hotheaded Jewish radicals down on the significant holy day of Passover.  After all, a concession was better than an insurrection.  In the Passover situation the radicals felt like they won when in fact little changed.  Pilate thought that perhaps this emotional situation with Jesus could be defused by the simple act of appeasement.

Pilate offered to release either the prisoner Barabbas or the man Jesus they brought to him.  What Pilate was doing is not evident in the Matthew text.  Either Barabbas was extremely popular with the people, or he was extremely feared by the people.  Whatever the situation with Barabbas was, Pilate seemed confident the people would select Jesus the Christ for release.  The people would be appeased, a potentially ugly situation would become quiet, and he would no longer be in the middle of an impossible, ridiculous situation.  Everyone would feel he won, disaster would be averted, and an unscathed Pilate would remain in control.  It was a great plan—it just did not work!  The problem was not the emotional people.  The problem was the determined, scheming Jewish leadership.

More people today remember Pilate for a lack of courage than remember his attempts to rescue Jesus.  Pilate truly found himself in a “no win” situation!  No matter what he did, unpleasant consequences occurred!  Doing something or nothing produced disaster!  There was no way out!

What do you do when no one notices you tried?

Suggestion for reflection: What is courage in a “no way out” situation?  (Read Hebrews 11:32-40.)

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