So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” ~~John 19:16b-22 (ESV)As my husband read these words, I thought back to the passage we read yesterday, in which Pilate shows an evident belief in Jesus, but allows political pressure to determine his ultimate course of action. Yes, I understand that God orchestrated everything perfectly so that Jesus would die for our sins; Jesus told Pilate point-blank that He ultimately controlled the situation (John 18:36), so please don't misconstrue my point. While God certainly took advantage of Pilate's cowardliness, His sovereign control in no way excuses that cowardliness.
Pilate had some measure of faith, as evidenced by his repeated attempts to acquit Jesus. That faith, however, crumbled under the weight of his tenuous relationship with Rome. He didn't need his superiors to hear that he'd permitted Jesus to rival Caesar....and the Jewish leaders had indeed threatened to level that charge against him if he failed to authorize Jesus' crucifixion.
Whatever faith Pilate may have had in the Lord couldn't conquer his self-interest. From this example of counterfeit faith, I conclude that genuine faith chooses the Lord, regardless of personal cost. The Lord actually said that very thing.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. ~~Matthew 16:24-25 (ESV)When professing Christians habitually elevate their own desires, reputations and ambitions over loving and serving Christ, they pretty much behave as Pilate did. I know (believe me!) that putting the Lord ahead of self often frightens even the most devoted Christian. Our old nature constantly kicks and screams, resisting His requirement of death to self. Yet following Christ demands nothing less.
Pilate's empty faith proclaimed (and actually with a small degree of boldness) Jesus as King, but his actions proved that his faith lacked authenticity. His false belief challenges me to live a life that truly puts the Lord first, even if doing so costs me my very life. The challenge, though decidedly unattractive, thrusts itself on everyone who claims to be a Christian. How we respond makes the conditions of our hearts abundantly clear.