Read John 18:33-40.
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king, to this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:36-37).
Pilate just had to meet Jesus. He would much rather not do so, but there was no way around. The moment finally came when he had to stand face to face with the Savior of the world and either condemn or release Him. This was undoubtedly the most serious event in the life of this Roman procurator.
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Every person who has been instructed in the Word of God, and whom the Holy Spirit has thus touched, is bound to take sides for or against Christ. Like Pilate, many are not able to take a clear-cut stand for or against the Savior. They struggle along between two opposites, and find peace neither in the world nor with God.
These are the most miserable people on earth. In the company of sinners they feel God’s judgment over them; yet they do not feel at home among Christians. They are at a loss either way. They neither go wholly over to Christ’s side, nor do they dare to reject Him completely.
Why is it so difficult to take a stand for Christ? We believe Him to be good and that He has our welfare at heart; should it be so difficult to choose such a one?
Yes, it is, when that good one is Jesus.
Why precisely when it is He?
It is because His Kingdom is not of this world. He claims us for another world and a new life. He requires that we unite ourselves with Him alone. This is the last thing we earthbound human beings want to do.
Who would have failed to respond if Jesus had cried, “Come unto me all ye who desire money; I will give you as much as you want. Come all ye forgotten and neglected ones, and I will give you honor and power. Come ye who seek entertainment and amusement; this I will provide without money and without price.” There would have been a mad scramble to be first. People will stand in line long hours, sometimes all night, for an opportunity of being entertained for a couple of hours. But Jesus does not promise to give these things; consequently people conclude that there is no joy or satisfaction in His company.
Who can be more warped than a human being? Today we live, and tomorrow we may be gone; this world cannot offer us a shred of comfort in the hour of death. Yet we love this world so much that we dismiss Him who alone can sustain us as we pass through the valley of shadows.
A young lady had been moved mightily by the Spirit of God at church one Sunday evening. Upon reaching home, and still in great stress, she confided these things to her mother; she thereupon urged her daughter to give her heart to the Lord. But the girl had a date for a dance the following Sunday night, and promised that she would become a Christian after that date. At the dance a week later she fell in a swoon and was brought home in an unconscious condition. She regained consciousness just long enough to speak these despairing words, “Eight days too late.” Thus she died.
Many have chosen as she did, because the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world. They have lost everything. Shall this be your fate? Shall your one precious life be lost?
Death may come to the Cotter’s hut,
Kings heed his behest;
In vain we try to shut the door
‘Gainst this unwelcome guest.
Jesus knocks in love so gently,
Closed remains the door;
Turning, He leaves you sadly
Death will leave you nevermore.
What help has the world to offer you then, you who reject Christ?
One would think that since it is such a difficult thing to take a stand for Christ, it must be an easy matter to get rid of Him. Such is not the case, however. Every time we try to get away from Jesus we are disturbed as Pilate was; a voice within tells that it will prove to be our everlasting misfortune to get away from Christ. We can never quite rid ourselves of that thought. We know that it is best for us to continue as Christians. We know that if we leave Him we are headed for a lost eternity. So in spite of temptations to leave our Lord we are strongly constrained to remain with Him. We cannot quite get away from Him, nor rid ourselves of His presence.
It is true that it is a costly affair to follow Jesus. The path in His steps is not a smooth and easy one. But it is also true that it costs to depart from Jesus.
The longing soul cries out from its prison for Jesus. Even in the depths of his sin the sinner is compelled to listen to that plaintive cry from the soul. The sinner must face Jesus. The words that Paul heard on the Damascus road, “It is hard for thee to kick against the goads,” meet many a person today also when he tries to get away from Jesus. The goad is lodged in the heart; every time we kick, the goad hurts us.
Why in your sins do you tarry,
A stranger to God remain?
The world doth deceive the unwary.
Come to your Savior again.
Then no goad shall prod you; your peace shall be like a river, and your righteousness as the mighty waves of the sea.
Pilate’s great mistake was that he counseled with the enemies of Jesus. Every time that he was at the point of releasing Jesus he sought their advice rather than to follow his own convictions. Three times he faced the Savior, was gripped by Him, and was ready to dismiss the charges against Him. But each time he conferred with Christ’s enemies, and with each time his fear of man increased. Finally he compromised on his convictions.
The same thing happens today. Young people glance questioningly in the direction of their friends; the wife wonders if her husband will be pleased if she becomes a Christian; and the business man fears the disapproval of his business associates. Finally the desire to be saved yields to cowardice, and the fear of man treads with an iron heel upon the soul that longs for Jesus.
“Release unto us Barabbas!” This is the cry of the godless mob that wishes to live as it pleases. “We have a law, and according to that law He must die.” This demand rises in the hearts of those who have been overpowered by sin and who seem to enjoy their liberty apart from God. “Release Jesus, and you are no longer the friend of Caesar.” Thus was Pilate bound by the fear of man. By an irrevocable law this same thing happens to all who begin to walk upon this road.
There will come a time when you for the last time will face Jesus and have an opportunity to choose life. The next move will be His. He will judge you according to your works of refusing His salvation.
For Christ’s sake and your own, depart from this dangerous path. Be warned by Pilate’s example, and give Christ the power in your life. Place yourself on the side of your Savior, and heed not the taunts of the godless throng. Then He will deal with you in grace, and you shall find life eternal.
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Two prisoners stand before you today as before Pilate of old. They are Jesus and Barabbas. You are to condemn the one and release the other; the one who is released will be the ruler of your life. This responsibility rests upon all of you who have not made a choice between these two.
The Bible pictures Jesus as one who went about doing good. He healed the diseases of the people and restored sinners from degradation to respectability. He was a friend of the downtrodden. He did not condemn the poor unfortunate woman who was caught in adultery; in kindness He asked her to sin no more. The robber at His side on the cross received a promise of Paradise that day.
Page after page could be written about Him, and every word would picture Him as the best of all good people who have lived on earth. Thousands have praised Him, and countless numbers have faced death gladly for His sake.
I should also like to be among those who praise Him. I sought peace in the world, but found none. I sought as unsuccessfully to find peace by doing good work. I prayed and wept to no avail. Many years of my youth were spent thus. But then one day I found Jesus. It was on a beautiful spring day in one of the valleys of western Norway that I for the first time saw Him as my Savior. Peace came into my soul, and the fear of judgment vanished. Since that day life has changed for me in many ways, but He has always been my friend. He has forgiven me my sin and healed my wounds; He has wiped away the tears from my eyes. What I have found impossible to tell anyone else in the world I could tell Him. When others misunderstood me He could understand. All my joy has had its source in Him.
It is my firm conviction that without His presence my life would have been bleak indeed; but with Him I have had joy for this life and a promise of joy for that which is to come.
I’ve found a friend, oh, such a friend!
He loved me ere I knew Him;
He drew me with the cords of love,
And thus He bound me to Him.
And round my heart still closely twine
Those ties which naught can sever,
For I am Him, and He is mine,
Forever and forever.
Christians from every land would give this same testimony. Their one complaint would be that words are so inexpressibly poor in praising His name; all would so sincerely have praised Him better.
What about you who have not become a follower of Him? Has He ever failed you? Perhaps you are one of the many who have called upon Him in an hour of desperate need and have received help from Him. But aftenvards you blasphemed as before.
The same Jesus who stood before Pilate now stands face to face with you. Will you judge Him and turn Him away? Or will you make Him your king? It is your turn to answer now.
But who was Barabbas? He is that mighty power in the world which lures and lies, promises and plunders.
He met Eve in the garden and robbed her of all the joy she had and should have passed on to the race. David met this robber on the housetop, and he stole the peace from David’s heart and household. The prodigal son followed the counsel of this tempter and lost his home, inheritance and reputation; he starved and suffered among the swine and licentious people.
That robber also had me in his clutches; every time I followed his advice I felt a growing emptiness in my soul. I spent many a sleepless night promising myself that I would not be led astray again. But I had no power to carry out my resolutions. I sank further and further into sin and powerlessness. To this day I bear in my soul the marks of those sins; I would gladly give a great deal to be rid of the memory of those days, but shall have to carry them with me to my dying day.
You, too, will rue the day you yield to this tempter. Let me urge you with all that is in me to choose Christ instead of Barabbas. Then you will also experience with all Christians that it is blessed to serve the Lord.
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