Why Did Everyone in Luke 23:1-7 Want Someone Else to Make A Decision?: The Problem That Jesus Presented

Posted: May 19, 2015 in Gospel of Luke

Luke 23:1-7 — Have you ever avoided making a decision? Have you ever passed the buck to someone else so you wouldn’t have to make a decision? This passage kind of reminds me of the days when the kids were little and one or all of them would come ask me if they could do a particular thing and I would say, “It’s OK with me if it is OK with your mom.” The kids would then scurry off to see mom and ask the same question. Of course, they would get the same response from their mother and then would come back to me. This would go on for a couple of rotations before the kids figured out we were messing with them. Even though this was a game we would play with the kids, it does point out what is happening here. No one was willing to make a decision. Everyone wanted to pass the responsibility on to someone else. Pilate is no different in this scene.

Although it was a very real thing that since Rome had taken over Israel, it would not allow (as it did in all its conquered lands) the local government have the authority to administer capital punishment by death. This was done to ensure that no Roman citizen would ever be executed by a local government. It was convenient for the Sanhedrin. If they could convince Pilate to kill Jesus, they would get what they wanted but yet the same time they could blame Rome for killing Jesus and therefore avoid any public outcry against them for killing a popular prophet. It was a brilliant plan. But they had to convince Pilate that Jesus had committed a crime against Rome. For Rome, blasphemy against the God of the Jews was not a crime. They would have to couch Jesus’ crime in terms of sedition, rebellion, and a threat against Roman government. With the Roman empire, any threat to Caesar’s power or even to suggest that you were greater than Caesar was a crime. That’s what the Sanhedrin went with. Jesus was presented as a political threat to Rome by saying He was a king. If they could convince Pilate that Jesus was a threat to Rome, He would then be tried and executed for sedition. His blood would be then on Rome’s hands not theirs but yet they would be able to accomplish their goal of getting rid of Jesus. Passing the buck. Manipulation.

Jesus presents a problem for Pilate. Pilate was already on tenuous ground with Rome because of the constant unrest in Palestine. Rome had grown weary of Pilate’s agitation of the Jews. Pilate had once confiscated the Temple treasury and used the money to build a Roman aquaduct (equivalent to modern day water pipe systems). He brought Rome’s pagan images into the Holy City just to create a stir among the Jews and to show the Jews that it was Rome that was now in control of Jerusalem. Add to that he was ruthless in his administration of Roman justice and in enforcement of the Roman tax code. Under his rule of Judea, Jerusalem was becoming an ever-increasing powder keg of revolutionary thought and acts. Now, the entire Sanhedrin (not just a few of its leaders but all of them) bring Jesus to Pilate. For Pilate, to see this must mean that a wrong political move here for him could result in political turmoil and more rioting and more blood spilled and the need for more Roman troops. Something Rome was growing more tired of by the year when it came to the problem of Jerusalem. However, after interviewing Jesus, he clearly saw that this man was no threat to Rome and a man who had never presented problems to Rome in the past. What to do? When Pilate finds out that Jesus was from Galilee, he had his out. He could pass the buck for this sticky political situation to Herod Antipas, the king appointed by Rome over the district that included Galilee. Passing the buck. Not making a decision. For Pilate that would accomplish his goals. He wanted to keep Judea under control and prevent it from blowing up. He could get rid of the Jesus problem by making it a Galilean problem and let one their own (though a puppet of Rome) have the responsibility of getting rid of Jesus. This was a Jewish problem to him anyway. He did not want to deal with it at all. Pass the buck.

What exactly does this passage teach us for our lives today? I think that it teaches us that sometimes we must stand up for what is right. We must speak up and be heard. We must stand up for Jesus. We must be his church. We must stand up against injustice here at home and abroad. It is so much easier to pass the responsibility for tough decisions to someone else. It is often easier to ignore a problem that stand up and say this is wrong and I will not let it happen on my watch. Will we stand up for Jesus when it counts? Or will we quietly ignore things that are clearly against Scripture. Will we pass the buck? Will not aid fellow Christians being persecuted around the world because it is too hard. Surely someone will do it? Will we not support our local church financially because surely someone else will do it? Will we not stoop to help someone in need because surely someone else will do it? Will we do nothing to stop sex trafficking in our country and around the world because surely someone else will do it? Will we not lift a finger to help our fellow Christians in Iraq as they are murdered, raped, and starved to death, because surely someone else will do it? That is what we learn from this passage. We learn that Jesus presents us a problem just as for Pilate. Jesus is standing there saying to you and me. You have to choose. You are either with me or against me. You cannot be lukewarm toward me. You cannot be with me up until the point of discomfort and then jump off the wagon. You cannot pass the buck. Jesus says make a choice.

Accept me and all that it entails. Accept me and carry my message. Accept me and put personal cares aside. Accept me and love others more than yourself. Accept me and be willing to die in my name. Accept me and be willing to go wherever I call you. Accept me and be willing to make a real difference in the world. Accept me and care for the least of these. Are you willing? Jesus stands before you. You must make a decision. You can’t pass the buck. We all must decide about this Jesus!

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