Wanting to Satisfy the Crowd (v. 15)
We must be careful how quickly we vilify Pilate. His sin may only be larger because of a difference his opportunity from ours, not a difference in his heart from ours. Place yourself in his shoes. The man tried. He listened to Jesus. Pilate was fair-minded with Jesus – he found no fault. He offered a lopsided alternative to swing the scales in the direction of justice. The people just would not be satisfied.
There was pressure beyond the “public opinion polls.” Social disturbances could result in his being removed from office by the Romans. He was catching it from below and above, politically speaking. This was not mere insecurity.
Reflection: The goal here is not to say, “We are just as bad as Pilate;” which is true. The goal is to see the fierce context into which obedience and faith call us. As we will see in the next heading, temptation requires overcoming these kinds of situations. It calls for a wisdom that is beyond our ingenuity (do you have a “neat” answer for Pilate?). Let us never forget our utter dependence upon God and our perfect model in Christ for living our the truth we have in Scripture.
Tempted in Every Way – Mocking (v. 20, 31)
When Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was tempted in every way we are, but managed to live without sin it refers in part to this passage. Jesus faced the derision of those he came to save. Those he was preparing to die for were presently mocking him.
Who hasn’t said, “I do and I do and this is the thanks I get!” or “Do you even notice all that I do to make your life easier/better?” In these moments we even begin to question that fairness of God. Why doesn’t God do something about this? Doesn’t God see what is going on?
This reflection does not necessarily mean that you just need to suck it up and keep giving. I don’t know the circumstances of your sacrifice. It is meant to help you see that you are not alone. Often it is the sense of isolation in these struggles that cause us to hyper-personalize our situation and respond with greater anger, despair, or self-pity. Allow this passage to give you companionship in your sacrifice so you can think more clearly about what is most wise and God-honoring in your circumstance.
Using the Psalms Like Jesus
Jesus teaches us (and not just saves us) in his death. In his greatest moment of agony (physical, spiritual, emotional, mental) he reached to the psalms to bring meaning to the suffering beyond understanding.
In the midst of suffering we may be too quick to quote Romans 8:28, not recognizing that God through Paul introduced that great truth with Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
We Jesus did not know what to pray (even as all things were being worked for the good of those who love him) he turned to Psalm 22 for the Spirit’s help in his weakness. He found words that were as deep and personal as his suffering. Those words were placed there by his Father (and ours).
Here are some suggestions for using the Psalms during times of intense suffering. These suggestions pertain primarily to reading the Psalms pre-suffering, so that they are a more useful resources for you mid-suffering.
- Read the Psalms regularly. It is much harder to turn to what you have not read.
- Write words in the margin (i.e., rejection, betrayal, despair) that capture the experiences of the psalmist. This will help you find relevant psalms more quickly during your suffering.
- Let you imagination consider the context of the psalmist. Pay attention to when and how the psalmist mentions God and what God is doing when he is mentioned.
- Write your own version of a given psalm. Try to capture the same meaning and imagery in circumstances familiar to you. Train yourself to think psalm-like before the emotional crisis.
- Talk about the Psalms (Eph 5:19). It will be hard to be convincing to yourself (even with the help of the Holy Spirit) if you are not at least comfortable talking about the Psalms with others during neutral times.
I pray the time taken to implement these suggestions will serve you well the next time you are in a circumstance when Romans 8:28 (and 26) is a passage you are wrestling with.
Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.