If there is a particular sin in your life that you are really fighting, then you have a lot in common with one of the great villains of history – Pontius Pilate.
Did you know that Pilate didn’t want to crucify Jesus? No…really. It’s clear that the Roman Governor did just about as much as he could do in order to get out of going down in history as the man who crucified the Son of God.
And there is an important lesson in this for us…the tree of sin has deep roots, and many times, even when you know the right thing to do, and when, on top of that, you really want to do the right thing, you still fail. But if we can get to the root of our sin, and pull it up out of the soil of our hearts, then we can destroy sin’s power over us. And maybe Pilate can help us get to the root of why sin holds such sway over us.
Consider that the Governor had a lot of impetus to do the right thing. In Matthew chapter 27, we learn that he knew the whole trial of Jesus was a farce – he knew that he was dealing with an innocent man, that the Jewish hierarchy was simply envious. (vs. 18) And to boot, his wife had told him about waking up in a cold sweat from a dream about the prophet from Nazareth, and she warned her husband: “Have nothing to do with that righteous man…” (vs. 19) So Pilate knew the right thing to do was to set Jesus free.
And therefore he made a plan, a very thoughtful and intelligent plan that he reasoned was sure to succeed: he found a “notorious” murderer, a terrorist if you like, a man that everyone hated, the infamous Osama Barabbas, and he gave the crowd an option (“This will be easy,” Pilate thought. “Innocent Jesus will go free, my wife will sleep soundly, and I won’t have to bunk on the couch.”) But the clever and manipulative Jewish leaders managed to turn the crowd in favor of the terrorist. “Let Barabbas go!” the multitudes cried. And he did…
Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. Matthew 27:26 (ESV)
And over the next 2,000 years, millions upon millions of people would confess these words…
…born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead and was buried…
– The Apostles’ Creed
Now, what caused Pilate to do this terrible thing that would make his name reverberate through history as the greatest of villains, mind you, as we know, the greatest of villains who really did not want to do his villainy? Moreover, what is at the root when you and I do the foolish and sinful things that we do, even when we know that what we are doing is wrong, and even when we really, really do not want to do them?
The last few days I was in Minneapolis at the Bethlehem Baptist Pastor’s conference, a conference that I have attended almost every year for the last 13 or 14 years. And on Monday night, John Piper, the former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in the Twin Cities, gave a message on the root of sinning. You see, the root of Pilate’s sin…and yours and mine for that matter…can be seen in Romans 1:
…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions…Romans 1:25-26 (ESV)
From this, Piper said: “…the bottom of sin, the root of all sinning, is such a heart — a heart that prefers anything above God, a heart that does not treasure God over all other persons and all other things.”
And whenever that happens, whenever anything becomes more important to us than God, we are given over…to sin, and even when we really do not want to pursue the particular sin, the bent of our hearts holds sway.
So what is it that you are fighting today? Ask yourself, “What is it that I am preferring over God?” Go deep…and pull up sin by the roots.
And if you’ve got time, this will be well worth it…
For Monday, February 9: Matthew 28