In many ways the Roman governor Pilate is the most modern figure in the scenes that set the picture of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He just did not want to get involved. Pilate’s dilemma was that he had to make a decision about Jesus—a decision of which he tried to wash his hands. Evasion was the name of the game.
He did not want to make a decision that meant he would not be on the side of the majority. Hence his question, with its contemporary ring, “What shall I do with Jesus?” (Matthew 27:22)
This becomes a challenge facing every one of us. We cannot plead neutrality.
Our personal involvement in the death of Christ was recognized and acknowledged by the great painter Rembrandt in one of his finest paintings, The Three Crosses. It is a very dramatic scene of Calvary, and your attention is first drawn to the poignant figure of Christ hanging on the cross. Then, on the edge of the crowd, you catch sight of a figure almost hidden in the shadows. He is wearing clothes different from the Jewish spectators, clothes of a more modern age. This is the representation of the painter himself, for Rembrandt recognized that his sin had helped nail Jesus Christ upon that cruel cross.
A quite different painting of the crucifixion is that of the twentieth century painter Sutherland. It shows a stark modern cross as an instrument of torture. But there are no spectators. No curious crowd. No people at all. Why? Replied the painter when asked the question, “Because we are all spectators of the death of Christ. We are all involved.”
This awareness is universal, as in the challenge of the Negro spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
Yes, we are all confronted by the Savior on the cross. We all need to face the question, “What will you do with Jesus?”
The cross was not an incident in Christ’s life, but the very purpose of it, the chosen path of God. St. Paul expresses the truth in utter simplicity: “[He] gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
He hung on the cross for my sin. He took my place, paid my debt, bore my guilt, died the death that I deserved to die, that I might find eternal life. This is the heart of the gospel. This presents you with the crisis of decision-making. What will you do with Jesus?
Eva Burrows, The War Cry