People reject Jesus for all kinds of different reasons. Some of them are deeply emotional and personal reasons, and some of them are thought through and deliberate. Things were no different when Jesus walked the streets of Judea, and in these courtroom scenes in Mark, we learn why the religious leaders and why the political leader of the day rejected Jesus.
The Sanhedrin were desperate to find something to use against Jesus that would send him to his death. They were so desperate they broke all their normal rules for trial and accusation, concocted false witnesses and searched for any testimony that would condemn Jesus. They finally landed on a misrepresentation of Jesus’ own words, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another not made with hands” (14:58). The religious leaders looked for and found a religious reason to reject Jesus.
It might sound odd to put it this way, but people often reject Jesus for religious reasons. The threat Jesus posed to them was to their tightly-packaged and self-styled religion. It is true they were trying to be devout followers of God, but their legalism had become their idol and their means of controlling the people. Jesus openly, and sometimes violently, rejected the legalism of the Pharisees. He even did it before crowds of people, changing their loyalties from the scribes and Pharisees to himself. Jesus freed the people from the religious leaders’ monopoly of religious practice.
What is important is that when the Sanhedrin were confronted with the truth, they clung instead to what they wanted to be true. This is a powerful force in the human heart. To be confronted with the truth of Jesus Christ means I need to change. It means I need to come to the realization I am no longer in control, and I am no longer my own lord and master. On the other hand, if I get to set the religious rules and realities, I am much more comfortable. Paul tells us that people will reject the truth because what is false suits their own pleasures (2 Timothy 4:3).
Pilate, on the other hand, was not a religious man. He was a political creature who worked his way up the ladder of power, and eventually took his own life when he has his position stripped from him. What is important for our discussion here, is that he was convinced of Jesus’ innocence. Three times in Mark 15 Pilate presses the crowd and Sanhedrin to make sure they want to condemn Jesus to death. The record of Pilate in the other Gospels makes it even clearer that he knew Jesus to be innocent—his wife even had a dream warning him not to have anything to do with Jesus’ conviction. So what caused him to send an innocent man to a tortuous death? Mark 15:15 provides the answer, “So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd…delivered him to be crucified.”
Pilate, face-to-face with the truth, picked the false path because it was politically and culturally expedient; it pleased and placated the crowd. He chose the path of least social resistance. This is another powerful force in the human heart. It is easier for us to pick our own ease and comfort and the accolades of others over the truth of Jesus Christ. But when we do, there is a high price to pay. When my own desires, ease and comfort are king, I will be willing to bend and compromise everywhere else. Pilate went so far as to send Jesus to his death. I will compromise on all my commitments, including friends, family, career, and even God.
But if I chose Christ, against what is easy religiously and culturally, I gain the whole world. When I lose my soul to him, I get it back. When I accept the truth of Jesus Christ, it sets me free.