Today's verse is Mark 15:15: "So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified." Under great pressure from the crowd to have Jesus killed and Barabbas released, Pilate finally did so. Even though he knew Jesus was innocent, Pilate pronounced the death sentence upon Jesus. He was pronounced guilty of high treason, claiming he was King of the Jews, claiming a position higher than that of King Caesar.
Before sending him to the cross, Pilate ordered Jesus to be scourged. It was a horrible kind of beating. The condemned prisoner was tied to a post. He was then beaten with a leather whip matted with pieces of metal and bone. Some ancient reports say there are as many as thirty-nine lashes. Each lash would tear through the skin, tissue and muscle, often exposing the bones and intestines of the prisoner. There are reported cases that often the scourging would kill the prisoner. The reasons the Roman soldiers did this to Jesus was the desire that he would die on the cross before sundown, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.
I wonder if with each lash tearing open his skin, Jesus quoted to himself the Messianic verse: "But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
The key phrase in our verse today upon which to mediate is, "So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd." He knew Jesus' innocence. He knew he was guiltless. He knew he hadn't done anything wrong. Yet he scourged Jesus and placed him on the cross for one basic reason: he wished to satisfy the crowd.
Bottom line: Pilate was fearful of losing his job. He was fearful of a Jewish insurrection. There had already been several during his reign as Roman governor. There were already suspicions from Rome whether he was fit for the job. The Jewish chief officials knew Pilate was under this duress. They knew his job performance in the eyes of Roman authorities and Caesar was in jeopardy. That's why the salted the crowd to cry out, "Give us Barabbas. Crucify Jesus!" They had Pilate in a vocational vice.
And he caved to the pressure. He gave in to popularity instead of principle so he could keep his job.
The question for all of us today is simple: do we do the same? Do we ever "crucify" Jesus? How? By doing the wrong thing...or caving on the wrong decision...or operating by the wrong principle simply to make a little more money...or to keep our job...or giving into peer pressure...because we want "to satisfy the crowd."
In other words, we make decisions based on popularity or peer pressure instead of principle. Our motive is selfish gain, not doing what is right.
Whenever we do so, we are no better than Pilate. We have given into the same inward forces that made him decide to scourge Jesus and nail him to the cross.
A great leader and person is one who makes decisions based on right principles and nothing else. These principles are not only discovered and known but indelibly written on the heart. When confronted with a decision, it's the right, known principle that leads to the right decision. Nothing else motivates the decision! It's more important to do what is right than have everyone like you. It's more important to do what is right than even keep your job.
Right decisions based on right principles is the core and heart of integrity.
It's what Pilate didn't have.
It's what I hope you and I have.