As I continue to look at God’s Word with leadership lenses, I couldn’t help but realize that in the story I read this morning (Matthew 27) where Jesus is falsely accused and sentenced to death, that God placed two leaders side-by-side for a study in contrast.
– Pilate: the cowardly leader
– Jesus: the silent but courageous leader
As Pilate began to question Jesus, knowing this ordeal could end in Jesus’ death, Pilate was shocked that Jesus didn’t speak against the accusations. Jesus wasn’t consumed with self-preservation as Pilate was:
Matthew 27:12-14 (New Living Translation)
“But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. ‘Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?’ Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.'”
Two leaders with two very different motivations. Pilate was fully engaged in self-preservation mode. He was going to protect himself at all costs, even if it meant violating his conscience.
Yet, Jesus remained confident because His highest priority was not self-preservation. He was intent on carrying out the Father’s will – doing the right thing. If it meant that He would have great harm brought upon Him as a result, then so be it.
Only the most uninformed would try to excuse Pilate for shirking his leadership responsibilities. The text clearly tells us that Pilate accurately assessed what was taking place. He knew that Jesus had done no wrong:
Matthew 27:18 (New Living Translation)
“(He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)”
So, Pilate was the positional leader in this situation. Folks had come to him for his council. He knew that an innocent man stood before him. Yet, since his mind was fully locked into self-preservation mode, he was about to do the cowardly thing, violate his conscience, and send an innocent man to his death.
Pilate would have reasoned: “Even though he is innocent, it is better for Jesus to die than for me to lose my job and be reprimanded by Rome!”
Rather than use his position of leadership to speak decisively against an injustice, he showed his cowardice and looked for a way out.
If you’ll notice in these next verses, he was shirking his leadership responsibilities. Rather than standing courageous to resist a groundswell of injustice, he continued to entrust the final decision to the people. He was a coward indeed!
“Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. So the governor asked again, ‘Which of these two do you want me to release to you?'”
“The crowd shouted back, ‘Barabbas!'”
“Pilate responded, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?'”
“They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!'”
“‘Why?’ Pilate demanded. ‘What crime has he committed?'”
“But the mob roared even louder, ‘Crucify him!'”
“Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!'”
Can you believe those last few words! “The responsibility is yours!”?
Pilate was a coward. He cared more about himself than justice. He cared more about his position of authority than what that position of authority stood for. So, he cowardly shirked his responsibilities and allowed a grave injustice to take place! But, at least he got to keep his job.
So, let’s quickly bring this home: what kind of leader are you? As a parent, a boss, a pastor, a student who can influence your peers, etc., are you a leader who is courageous and stands for truth and justice even though it may cause you harm? Or, are you gripped by the motivation of self-preservation that debilitates you and keeps you from doing the right thing?
Refuse to be like cowardly Pilate! Stand for truth and justice! Trust God with the rest.