Theme: How to Stand Firm in a Crisis
In this week’s lessons we look at Pilate’s role in Jesus’ crucifixion, and learn about our need as Christians to take a stand when righteousness is at stake.
Scripture: Matthew 27:11-26
First of all, we have to be convinced that God is sovereign in human affairs. You’ll recall that not long after this when the early apostles were put on trial by this very Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus, they stood the test because they said that God is sovereign. They knew that God was sovereign in the crucifixion of Jesus, and that he had demonstrated it by the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, he who was sovereign in the affairs of the life of their Master was sovereign in their affairs, too. Since God is sovereign they could trust God for the working out of the details.
The second thing you need is to know the Scriptures. It’s one thing to know that God is sovereign and yet when you’re faced with a dilemma, particularly one that may be in a gray area, you don’t always know what to do. Many of the crises we face are black and white. We only gray them up, because that’s one thing sin does to us. It befuddles our thinking. But at other times the issues really are gray and it’s hard to know what to think. The only way we can see ourselves through those situations is by the Word of God.
One reason why our country is in so much trouble today is that people no longer know the Scriptures as they once did. One time they did. It was the undergirding of American culture. And people, even if they weren’t Christians, would operate to some extent on that basis. But we have lost that in our day, and if we’re to have any hope for the future it’s going to have to be by a biblically literate evangelical Christianity, a minority, to be sure, but, nevertheless, a powerful one as articulate minorities often are.
And then there’s this third thing. In order to stand and do the right thing in the crisis not only do you have to know that God is sovereign, not only do you have to know the Scriptures, but you have to be willing to sacrifice everything if that is what is required for the good. I fear for our country and for evangelical influence in our country on these levels. We no longer have real faith in the sovereignty of God. We do not know the Scriptures as we should. And thirdly is this lack of willingness to make serious sacrifices. Nobody has ever made any major difference in history, at any time in any way, who has not been willing to pay a price to make a difference. And often that has been extremely costly.
The particular difficulty in our time, you see, is that we don’t have that kind of courage anymore. People are not willing to pay a price for anything. They can’t imagine why I should sacrifice my wealth or my pleasure or my prestige or even the moments that I want to live for myself in order to serve someone in what we might call a little way in the name of Jesus Christ. And if we’re not willing to pay that kind of a price how are we going to pay a bigger price, such as the loss of a job, perhaps, in order to do the right thing?
Somebody who learned that lesson well was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. If you’ve read the Gulag Archipelago you may recall the place where Solzhenitsyn analyzes what he discovered in the prison system in Russia. He noticed that most prisoners caved in under the interrogation and often very easily and quickly. He also noticed that some could stand for a long time and triumphed eventually when the interrogators gave up. So he asked the question, “What is it that enables you to stand when all around you are giving way and are weak?” He says there’s only one thing and it’s this:
From the moment you go into prison you must put your cozy past firmly behind you. At its very threshold you must say to yourself, “My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die — now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.” Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogation will tremble.
That’s what Pilate was unwilling to do. That’s what many people all around us are unwilling to do, and that’s why we drip morally downhill. But those who stand and who are honored by God for their stand are those who are willing to pay the price. You say, “But I find it so hard. I want to get on so well with the world.” Yes, that’s what Pilate wanted to do. They said to Pilate, “If you let this man go you are not a friend of Caesar’s.” A friend of Caesar’s. That’s what Pilate wanted to be more than anything else. And so he condemned the Son of God because he wanted to be Caesar’s friend. But the irony of it was he wasn’t Caesar’s friend. Caesar barely knew who Pilate was. He was no friend at all. Yet before him stood the friend who sticks closer than a brother, and who had said to his disciples not long before this, “I no longer am going to call you servants. I’m going to call you my friends.”
What a bad choice that is—to choose the world and lose your soul. To choose the friendship of unrighteousness and lose the friendship of the Son of God. May God give us grace to pay the price and to stand.
What three things does Dr. Boice mention for how we are enabled to stand during times of great moral crises?
Why do you think Christians are lacking in courage to pay the price of sacrificing things for the name of Christ?
Application: What steps will you take, perhaps along with other Christians, to cultivate a greater dependence on God and his sovereignty, and to know the Bible even better?