The Question of the Ages
Many questions, important and perplexing, arise to confront us each day; but there is no question of such vital importance as that of Pilate when he asked, "What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" Now it is altogether possible that you have been putting off making a definite answer to that question, but as you put it off into the future somewhere, you are simply saying, "Away with him, away with him." The church of Christ is anxious to help you in every possible way to answer that question now--not tomorrow, but today: for upon your answer to the question depends your eternal destiny. In order to answer any question intelligently, one must take time to reflect upon it, consider it, and weigh carefully all points involved.
Let us look for a few moments at this question of Pilate, "What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" The question was asked by the governor as Jesus stood before him, the day the Saviour was put to death. Looking at the events which led up to the question: We find Jesus had eaten the last passover with His disciples, after which He instituted His own memorial feast, the Lord's supper. From thence He went to the garden of Gethsemane, where, in prayer, He poured out His soul unto the Father, at which time He was strengthened by an angel for the ordeal before Him. From there He was: taken to Annas and Caiphas by the mob who came for him; and from thence to the Sanhedrin, where He was condemned to die.
From these groups Jesus was taken to Pilate who, finding no fault in Him, sent Him to Herod. Before Herod He spoke not, nor answered him a word. Herod mocked Him and sent Him back to Pilate. Before Pilate for the second time, He was further humiliated by being mocked, crowned with a crown of thorns, scourged and delivered up to be put to death. It was while He was before him that Pilate asked the question of our study, "What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" Pilate had offered to release unto them whom they would; they had asked for Barabas, a murderer and insurrectionist, to be granted them. This brought forth Pilate's question; since they had asked for Barabas, now what should he do with Jesus?
Consider first, the inclusiveness of the question:
1. It involves one's disposition of God, for the two, God and Christ, are inseparable. Jesus said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30); and He taught the disciples, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father also" (John 14: 9,10). And He said, as He sent out the apostles, "He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me" (John 14:20). But more, "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that rejecteth me rejecteth him that sent me" (Luke 10:16). Therefore, when one rejects Jesus Christ, he rejects God who sent Him.
2. The question includes one's disposal of the word and message of Jesus, for neither can these two be separated. There are some today who would accept Jesus but reject His word by refusing obedience to it. But the Holy Spirit declares, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14); and Jesus said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48).
3. The question would also include one's attitude toward the church, for it is His body; Christ and the church are one, taught Paul in Eph. 5:30-33. In the verses just prior to these the apostle discussed the relation of the wife to her husband, using the relation of the church to Christ by way of illustration He then said, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church." Hence, in accepting Jesus as Christ one thereby becomes a child of God. He pledges himself to abide BY and IN the word of Christ, and becomes "one" with Christ as a member of His body, the church. One's disposal of God, the word of God, and the church of God are all determined by his answer to the question, "What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ? "
Next, we ask, just who were involved by the question asked by Pilate, and what were the issues raised?
1. The Roman government was involved, for Pilate acted as the representative of that institution. The question involving the government would be one of justice, on the one hand or the whims of the people on the other.
The judgement was "innocent," but the verdict was "Crucify him!"
2. The Jewish religionists were likewise involved by the question: the issue with them being "traditions" on the one hand, or "truth" on the other. Their own desires and interpretations of what God should do for them, or God's provision for them in His Son Jesus Christ according to His wisdom, was the issue.
3. As respected the mob, it was a matter of accepting their benefactor and teacher who had so tenderly ministered unto them and taught them, or asking for and upholding a robber and a murderer.
4. But with Pilate himself, as an individual, what was involved? With him the issue was the conviction of his conscience on the one hand, which was the innocence of Jesus, or the favor and popularity of the masses on the other. These were the interested parties in Pilate's day, and the issues raised with each by the question to parallel groups today:
1. The government of this day, as the governments in Pilate's day, must decide on the question, "What shall they do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" The issue squarely put is, Shall the principles of honesty, integrity, justice, fairness to all as taught by Jesus Christ be respected by governments7 Shall governments exist for the protection of the right and punishment of the wicked, or shall corruption, greed, lust, deceit, bribery, and kindred wickednesses dominate? Shall justice reign or shall violence and weakness, in the words of our text, What shall governments of today do with Jesus?
2. The question confronts and involves the religionists today as it did in Pilate's time. Today the religionist issue is definitely fixed: it is either Christ or infidelity, the New Testament or modernism, righteousness of God as revealed in Christ or the traditions, errors and wisdom of men. Shall every man do that which is right in his own eyes, or shall Jesus Christ and the New Testament be the standard of authority? These are the issues involved in the question as it confronts the religionists today; what shall religion do with Jesus who is called Christ? This calls for a definite and uncompromising answer. Shall Jesus Christ be crucified today on a cross of tradition and prejudice or on a cross of modern religious philosophy; or shall men accept and follow Him as the Christ who possesses all authority in heaven and on earth?
3. As then, so today, the masses are involved by the question. With them it is Christ or Satan, the Sermon on the Mount or the gratification of the flesh as the chief aim in life. In social circles, in politics, in disputes between capital and labor the question of peace and righteousness must be decided by an answer to the question, "What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ?"
4. Finally, the individual is no less involved than was Pilate, it is not someone else, but it is you and me, "What shall I do with Jesus?" The issue is salvation or damnation, individual and personal obedience and service or rejection of Him and the principles He taught. No man can straddle the fence; each is on one side or the other. Jesus said, 'He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth" (Matt. 12:30). Here we have the issue as it presents itself today, clear and definite.
Let us now look at the verdict rendered by all, and the consequences, which came to all. The clamor of the mob was, "Crucify him, crucify him." Pilate's disposal of Him was to wash his hands of the affair, which of course he couldn't do after which he scourged Him and delivered Him to be put to death. The verdict of the Jewish religionists was, "His blood be upon-us, and upon our children." While the verdict of Judas was, "I have betrayed innocent blood," and that of the centurion, "Surely this was the Son of God."
The voice of the mob, urged on by the religious leaders of the day, prevailed. So scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns, Jesus was led away as a lamb to the slaughter to die for the sins of the world. As for the consequences, disaster came to all:
1. The Roman government fell, a victim of its own lusts and corruption. When it reversed the verdict from "innocent" to "crucify him," simply to gratify the whims of the governed, it sealed its doom. No nation governed by such policies can permanently endure. Can we look for anything different among governments today? When hard and fast principles of right are rejected for the whims of the governed, can a nation abide? To me this appears to be worth thinking about, and that seriously, in our own day.
2. Within a few years the Jewish religion passed into a memory. With the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A. D., the Jews were scattered, the Temple destroyed, and the individual identity of the Jews as to tribes vanished. The nation fell, a victim of its own prejudices.
3. What happened to the mob? They were slain in their beloved city by the same Roman government whose favor they courted, until the streets literally ran with the blood of the slain. They perished as a nation never to be revived. God's law of punishment for murder was death: it had always been so. The Jews committed the national crime of murder when they crucified Jesus, and invited the penalty of death upon themselves when they said, "His blood be on us and on our children," They died as a nation for a national crime.
4. And what of Pilate? According to history he was banished to Gaul where he met death by his own sword. The one who rejects Jesus Christ, who cries, "away with him," "crucify him," or washes his hands of Him, must pay, the price and the penalty of spiritual decay, till finally in hell he is shut off forever from the presence of God and all that is right and good.
Friend, the question is not dead, but it is the question of the hour, the question of the age. Pilate is dead, but "pilatism," the disposition to wash one's hands and say "free," continues. The religionists of that day are dead, but prejudice and traditions continue. The mob is dead, but ignorance abides with us. The question is yours; what shall your answer be? Your eternal destiny, and our national and universal future depends upon your answer, and of your neighbor and mine to the question, "What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" We beseech you to think seriously, and instead of your answer being with that of the enemies of Christ join Paul in asking, "Lord, what wilt thou have me do," or the man who cried, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief."
Truth Magazine VI: 4, pp. 16-18