Jesus Changed the Prominent—not Pilate (Mark 15:1-47)
“Are You the King of the Jews?”
“You have said so.”
Pilate didn’t know how to handle this case. He had done this before—a thousand times since accepting this low-lying job of procurator of Judea…only the most rebellious province in all of the Empire! He had tried who-knows-how-many would-be revolutionaries. They all met the same fate—a gruesome death on one of those knotted beams of wood. And he was ready to do the same for this “king.” But…something was different about Him. He rarely, if ever, answered His accusers, though they got red in the face trying to prove He was guilty of death. Pilate rolled his eyes—although he did enjoy watching these annoying priests make fools of themselves. It was clear they only wanted Him dead over petty jealousy…and some obscure law he didn’t bother to read from their “holy book.” It was clear to him this Man was innocent. But how to get rid of these pesky priests?
It was then that the people reminded him of his yearly tradition at Passover—what a great idea! Releasing one prisoner to them—a perfect opportunity to get this whole mess off his hands. He summoned the crowd and gave them an option—Barabbas, a barbaric rebel, or this Jesus. He was surprised when the cry for Barabbas’s release was deafening. “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?”
Pilate was taken aback. Something in him urged him to deny the crowd their bloodlust. To not let these religious fools take advantage of him. But at the same time, he wanted to keep his job. He didn’t want the people to rebel against him and cause him that much more pain. Besides, what harm could the death of one innocent life cause?
“Have Him scourged,” he commanded, “Then…crucified.”
The envious priests got their way over the petty procurator. Jesus was beaten to a pulp, mocked with purple robe and crown of thorns. “Hail, King of the Jews!” they cried in between blows.
The Changemaker was left naked and unrecognizable…and alone. For all the good he’d done, no one showed Him much support. Where was Peter, his bombastic right-hand-man? Weeping in an alley. Where was the ruler whose daughter he had raised from the dead? Or Blind Bartimaeus? Or the leper? Or any of those he had healed? Nowhere to be found. Now, his only company were those who passed by, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! You who would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days—save yourself and come down from the Cross!”
Those envious priests came by as well. “He saved others—he cannot save himself! Let this ‘Christ, the King of Israel’ come down now from the cross that we may see and believe!”
Even those crucified alongside Him mocked Him. No pity. No mercy. Even from God Himself.
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?!”
And the Changemaker, who had brought life to so many, now let life go out of Him in His final breath.
“Truly, this man was the Son of God!”
Meanwhile, in another part of Jerusalem, one of those high religious clerics, named Joseph sat in his stately house and contemplated the kingdom. It had not come as he expected—yet this Jesus had to be the King! He could see it in His face as He was tried. Joseph was one of the members of the Sanhedrin, the high priest’s court who had condemned Jesus unanimously. Well, almost unanimously. For some reason, Joseph could not bring himself to condemn this innocent Man—no, more than a Man! The Son of God!
Rip! He looked across the street to the Temple he knew by heart. He heard a distinct tearing sound and knew what it was—the Temple veil had been torn to shreds. He heard priests yelling it as they ran across the courtyard. That was just what Joseph of Arimathea needed to hear.
He would do it. He would march in before Pilate, the pliable procurator.
“Excuse me, honorable procurator, but I would request the body of Jesus!”
Pilate looked up from his meal. “He’s dead already? Summon the centurion!”
The soldier, still contemplating the death of that honorable man, came before and confirmed the death of the “Son of God.” Pilate raised an eyebrow. This Man sure had an effect on people. After all, here was one of those envious priests asking for His body!
“Fine—take His body.”
Joseph took a linen shroud and wrapped the Changemaker in it. Then, he laid Him in a nearby tomb and sealed the entrance with a stone. There. The deed was done.
Or so he thought…
Imagine the shock on Joseph’s face when the women reported to them that the tomb was empty. Joseph must have been flabbergasted. “I buried Him myself! I wrapped Him up in the sheet—I sealed the tomb with a heavy stone!”
I’d like to imagine he went to the tomb and saw the emptiness himself. I would like to imagine he met Jesus in His resurrected body. I would like to imagine that Joseph became a fervent follower of Christ for the rest of his life.
That all seems pretty realistic. Joseph was an honorable man—respected on the Sanhedrin. Yet he also was a true believer, willing to risk reputation and his very life to secure Jesus’ body.
But a happy ending does not seem realistic for Pilate. A man so close to truth—and yet so far. A man who condemned God to death…though he knew he was innocent. A coward. A man seeking only his own comforts. Don’t let him be you. Give it all up—humble yourself and pursue the Changemaker, like Joseph did.
Perhaps, after all, the ultimate change made in this Gospel is not the demoniac of Gadara or the woman with the issue of blood or the blind man or Peter or Joseph…perhaps the greatest change in the history of the world was when the Changemaker changed from death back to life. Because it is that Resurrection that provides the power to change every other human life. The power to change your life.
So embrace it. Let the Changemaker change you. He has risen—let Him rise in your heart and bring you to heights you never thought possible.
Stop trying to change yourself. Start letting Him change you.
People don’t really change. Christ changes people. Amen.