So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
Pontius Pilate stood above the crowd. Jesus stood to his right. The criminal, Barabbas, was on the left. The Jewish leaders had whipped the crowd into a frenzy, with their shouts of “Crucify him!” aimed at Jesus instead of the murderous Barabbas. They had also intimidated Pilate by issuing thinly veiled threats that they would contact Caesar should the governor make the wrong decision.
Even so, the power to grant life or death was in Pilate’s hands. At any point, he could have freed Jesus. Instead, he played the political odds. He sent Jesus over to the King of Judea, Herod, to try and get someone else to make the difficult decision. He had Jesus brutally flogged in hopes that the beating would satisfy the religious leaders’ bloodlust. Finally, he set up the choice that he was certain the Passover crowd would get right. Free sweet, innocent Jesus, or let go the terrorist, Barrabas.
There was simply no avoiding it – Pilate had to take responsibility. But at the end, he didn’t even do that right. After allowing the crowd to make the decision, he took a bowl of water and washed his hands. On the outside, he declared to the crowd, the world and to all of history that he was innocent of Jesus’ death. But on the inside? Escaping guilt is a lot harder than simply running some water over your hands.
How do you do with responsibility? Do you let others make decisions for you, or do you keep yourself accountable for the things that happen in your life? Spiritually, the Lord wants us to make decisions that reflect His character and His presence in our life. Sometimes we’ll make the wrong choices, but when we do, we can’t simply take a bath or a shower, or do what Pilate did and wash our hands and expect that the guilt will go away. We also can’t point to other people and say that they made us do the wrong thing. Even if we convince others (or ourselves) that we’re not to blame, God knows the truth.
This week, focus on taking responsibility for the things in your life. Work especially hard to not shift the focus or the blame onto anyone else and pray that the Lord will give you wisdom and guidance to make choices that show that He is in control of your life.
Reflection copyright © 2017 Doug DeBolt
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.