Anyone know what sound a frog makes? Yes, ribbit. Did you know that word ribbit was made popular through the TV show Gilligan's’ Island? Anyone ever use the phrase, “sorry about that”? Did you know it became a popular phrase because of the TV show Get Smart? Anyone know where the phrase Cowabunga comes from? It’s from the show, Howdy Doody, as a faux Indian language.
It’s a strange realization of just how much we incorporate TV, movies, and social media into our lives. You know it really doesn’t matter anymore if you live in Los Angles, or rural Oklahoma, with media, you can be influenced to talk the same, act the same, even think the same.
I don’t know about you, but growing up I had a few times when I would say something and one of my parents would look at me and say, “When’d you start saying that?” To which I would just shrug my shoulders, “I don’t know.”
TV, movies, and now social media can shape us in ways, that we don’t even realize when it’s doing it.
That’s where we come to the Gospel of Mark chapter 15 verse 1 today. A place where we can see how the world around a person can effect who that person is.
As we jump into Mark chapter 15 verse 1, we need to know only one thing. Jesus had upset enough religious leaders, that they decided to arrest and kill him.
For the roughly three years of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus had a lot of encounters with the Jewish religious leadership. In all the cases that we have, Jesus responded in a way that challenge and, sometimes, even humiliated those leaders. Not only did Jesus challenge their authority and knowledge of the Scriptures, he also challenged their whole way of viewing God. Claiming to be God himself, Jesus forced them into a situation where the leaders either had to take drastic action to kill him, or submit to him as their God.
Which brings us to where we are in the text. Jesus has forced the religious leaders into a corner, and now they’re making their choice. And as we read last week, they’ve arrested Jesus and are now putting him through illegitimate trials.
Let’s begin reading in verse 1 of chapter 15, in the Gospel of Mark.
1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2 “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.
14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
In the other Gospels accounts of the trial process, we also see the trials that the Jewish leadership puts Jesus through. We see the back and forth of Pilate and Herod, as they decide who has jurisdiction over Jesus. But as Mark is writing from Peter’s perspective, we get right into the final trial of Jesus.
And it’s in this trial that we meet Pilate. Now he is a man that is of interest.
From historical notes, what we know of Pilate is very little. What we do know is that, he was an equestrian knight from the clan of Samnite; an Italian group that fought against and with the Romans for centuries, and who lived in the souther mountainous area of Italy. On behalf of the Prefect of the Roman Emperor’s house, Pilate was made Perfect and Governor over the Judaea area.
Yet, Pilate had disdain for the Jews, provoking them on several occasions that ended in riots. Pilate would send images of the Emperor into the cities as an act of worship. He would mint coins that had pagan images, so as to offend the Jews. And when uprisings occurred because of his actions, he swiftly squashed it.
But then something happened that was out of the control of Pilate. In about 31AD, the man that got Pilate his post, was arrested and executed for treason against the Emperor. For years, Pilate was able to do as he sought fit, because he had someone at the side of the Emperor easing any problems that the ruler might have with his governor. But now, that security was taken from Pilate, and his position had become vulnerable.
So when Jesus was brought to Pilate, the governor now had a problem on his hands. In the past, Pilate probably wouldn’t have batted an eye at the religious leader’s request. He would have let Jesus go and be done with it. But now, Pilate had to tread more lightly.
In fact, we can see this inner turmoil in Pilate’s decision making process through the Gospels. In Luke’s account we see the back and forth of Pilate sending Jesus to Herod, and by doing so, ducking the responsibility (Luke 23:7).
In Matthew’s account we see that Pilate’s wife adds to the turmoil by telling her husband to have nothing to do with Jesus (Matthew 27:19).
But it’s in John’s Gospel that the internal turmoil is voiced by Pilate. Listen to this exchange between the two men (John 18:33-38a).
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate…
As Pilate struggles with the decision, trying to find a way out of this situation, he falls back into his philosophical teachings. The Greek philosopher Plato once asked the question, “What is truth.” And now in the midst of the turmoil of what to do, Pilate asks the same question of Jesus.
Here’s a man caught in a situation and doesn’t know what to do. The world around him has shaped him. He was brought through the ranks by his military knowledge. He was appointed to his position because of friend in the Emperor’s court. Pilate had himself provoked the Jews on many occasions. But then his ace in the hole, his protection against the Emperor’s disdain, was no longer there, and Pilate’s very life was now in jeopardy. And the Jews knew it, so they bring Pilate a situation that sends Pilate into a crisis. And he’s struggling with what to do, even asking a deep philosophical question, what is the truth?
Yet through it all, truth is standing right in front of him. Jesus, the truth that the world needs, stand before Pilate, but Pilate cannot see it, because the crisis and circumstances around him are too great.
So what does Pilate do? He releases a murder, and sends an innocent man to his death.
There are several things we can take away from Pilate’s situation, but the one that I believe God is leading us towards today, is this: We, just like Pilate, too often allow the world around us to dictate what we should do.
Pilate allowed his job, his position, his self preservation to dictate what he needed up doing. Even though Pilate knew he was sending an innocent man to his death, what was that to Pilate’s own self-preservation? What was Jesus’ life, compared to the position that Pilate held? Sure, this innocent man Jesus would die, but Pilate would go on as governor, as the judge over other people. Maybe Pilate was able to justify it to himself. “Sure one innocent man may die, but I’ll be able to save many more.”
But the turmoil remained, “What is the truth?” And then the decision carried out, the innocent to death, while the convicted go free.
Yes, this was the plan of God, that the Son would be sent to earth, to live a perfect life, die an unjustified death, and then raise to new life, so that anyone who puts their trust in Jesus as their Savior would be brought out of death’s and sins clutches to be with God forever.
But the fact remains, that Pilate allowed the world to dictate his actions for him, and we too often do the same. We allow are family to be more of an influence that Jesus. We take the advice of TV personalities, and politicians over that of God’s word. We invest our time and money for the betterment of lives in this world, rather than for souls in eternity. Our language, our habits, our thoughts, and the list goes on, are all being affected by the world around us, and yet God is calling us to truth. He is calling us to his truth, that we would be people of his Word. Having it cut into us, that we would be transformed by it.
Transformed in how we respond to our family, neighbors and friends. Transformed in how we take advice, seeking out godly people to direct us. Transformed in how we use the resources God has given us, whether that be time, possessions, or finances. The easy way is to allow the world to dictate how we think and act; yet God has called us to his path. The harder, yet more rewarding way.
And even though we may mess up, as Pilate did, as we continue to seek God and his glory, the Holy Spirit works everything for the good.
This brings us to our challenge for the week. What in our lives is being dictated by the world and not by God? Are we harboring anger and un-forgiveness because of something a friend, co-worker, family member, or neighbor did to us? The world wants us to continue in un-forgiveness, because it’s the easy way, but God calls us to forgiveness, his way.
Are we seeking the advice of astrological charts, TV personalities, self-help books? The world wants us to continue seeking advice from these sources because it takes us from the truth the Creator has set down, and God wants us to seek him in these things.
Are we seeking to create for ourselves a legacy in this world, through our time, possessions, and finances? Even though God says it will all be wiped away? God wants us to use our resources to further his kingdom, and leave a legacy of harvested souls.
The challenge is to seek God in one area of your life that is currently being influenced by the world, and to ask him to transform it. To have the Holy Spirit take, what the world wants to use for it’s glory, and to transform for God’s glory.
So that we can be the people God called us and saved us to be. A people that does not let the world shape us, but through us, God will shape the world. And we can answer Pilate’s questions of “What is truth?” with Jesus.
Now may we be shaped as God sees fit, and not by the world. Amen