Mark 15:15 – Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (NIV)
Years ago, I spent a lot of time ministering to a handful of people who had addiction problems. Because of my alcoholic past, I became a crusader for each of them, and felt that only I could save them from ruin. I personally burdened myself with their responsibilities, and they gladly gave them to me. I thought that if I could show them Christ's unconditional love and be there for them every moment, day or night, then they would happily respond by cleaning up their lives and become good church members. My strategy was to please them at whatever cost; my goal was to save them from self-destruction.
They became my obsession, and I almost lost my family, my friends, and my faith. In my desire to save this chosen handful, I forgot that I had responsibilities of my own. I would go out searching the pubs late at night for each of these people, leaving my wife and two daughters isolated and vulnerable at the manse. I would postpone meetings and cancel house calls to deal with unexpected emergencies from my chosen lost causes. I neglected the people who loved me truly, and it was only when my best friend was killed in a car accident, that I realized how foolish, naive, and vain I had become. I was a hopeless people pleaser, instead of a helpful parish pastor. I was a heedless, holy fool, instead of a husband, father, and friend.
Pilate makes the same mistake here. He does the expediently political thing of pleasing the people, rather than choosing to do what is right and just. He releases a god-forsaken murderer and crucifies God's faithful messenger. Pilate knows what the right thing to do is, but he rejects it. Christ is crucified and the crowd is pacified. The peacekeeper executes the peacemaker, and all is well in the world.
It takes courage and faith to resist the temptation to please people, and to do instead what is right and just. Let us take time to review our own lifestyle choices and daily decisions by asking ourselves this question: Am I always trying to please other people, or am I constantly seeking to please God?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You never fell into the trap of being a people-pleaser. There were many times in Your life when You could have taken an easy path, when You could have chosen to please the crowds and appease the authorities by doing what they wanted. Instead, You courageously chose to please God, which, in the end, cost You Your precious life. Help us, Lord, to please You more than we please ourselves. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.