15 May 2019

Hi there, it’s Wednesday 15th May and today we’re looking at Mark 15:1-15. We’re continuing our journey through the Easter story.


We now reach the point where the religious leaders have had enough of Jesus and they’re escalating things quickly. They want to get rid of Jesus, permanently. The only way to do this properly though is to get the local Roman magistrate onside. What follows is well known, with it being recorded in all 4 Gospels. We’ll read verses 12-15 of Mark’s account now.

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

There is much we could say about Pilate. Much could be made from the accounts that we have of the fateful night when he condemned Jesus to death. What seems to be clear though is that he is stuck between a Jesus that he can find no fault in and a crowd that appear to want Him dead. He does also appear to agonise over this decision. After all, a flogging is barbaric enough, crucifixion was the ultimate punishment and deterrent that the Romans had and so wasn’t a fate to be given lightly. These things would have been at the forefront of Pilate’s mind.

However there was another huge consideration that we perhaps don’t see the scale of here. This was hugely a political decision as well. Pilate was ruling over a troublesome province. There had been Jewish revolts in the not too distant past. Any interaction with the religious rulers of the area was likely to have the undercurrent of power games. Is he just doing their bidding? Can he hold out on something they want to gain a little leverage? Whatever is going through his head, Pilate is faced with a political choice. In the end Jesus almost makes the decision for him. Jesus makes the claim that He is King of the Jews. Claims of a religious nature mean little to Pilate, but as soon as someone claims to be king? Well that is a claim that cannot go unanswered. Pilate must react to protect the sovereignty of the Roman Emperor.

What is this passage about Pilate saying to us today? We live in a political world. We elect people to lead our council, our nation, and very soon we’ll vote to elect people to represent us in the European Parliament. We live in a society where we are free to have our own political beliefs. Opinions about how society should operate. We can vote. We can write to our MPs. We can take part in petitions and protests. Much like Pilate, we each face political decisions.

The question for us today is what part does our faith play in politics? We’re not asking cheesy questions here, like who would Jesus vote for? We can’t know that for sure. In the same way, we probably shouldn’t vote for someone just because they happen to tick ‘Christian’ on their census form. Simple questions like this can come out with unhelpful answers, as we see in the political situation in the US. Rather, as Christians we believe that God shapes our worldview, particularly, the way that we look at others. Like Pilate, we stand before a Jesus who claims to be sovereign. That means that we are never faced with a choice between Jesus and politics, but rather our faith in Jesus informs every part of our life.

There will never be perfect candidates or manifestos; we’ll always have to exercise our judgement and weigh up a load of factors before we put a cross on a ballot paper. However that’s not an excuse to remove our faith from the equation. What we can do is ask questions like how can we see the world restored to more like God wants it to be? How can we best steward the planet as God tasked humanity in Genesis? How can we love our neighbours as we love ourselves? What causes bring about Godly ends? How does our faith impact our politics?


Father we pray for the politicians that lead our country, what a tough job they have. We pray that you would guide each choice we make, especially the political ones that we have talked of today. Thank you, God, that you are ultimately sovereign. Amen.

READING: Mark 15:1-15

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.

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate.

‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to get Pilate to release Barabbas instead.

‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them.

‘Crucify him!’ they shouted.

‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.