Mark 15:6 Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. 7 Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8 So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. 9 Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Pilate is stuck between a rock and a hard place. V.10 tells us he realized Jesus had not done anything to deserve death, but was a victim of jealousy by the chief priests. Justice would dictate Jesus be set free. But then there were the crowds who had been stirred up to demand Jesus’ death (v.11). And as often happens even today, expediency trumped justice. Pilate chose what he viewed as the lesser of two evils, sacrificing Jesus to keep the peace.
We’re in the middle of awful riots breaking out across the country in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. It’s so sad because what began as peaceful demonstrations crying out for justice for the Floyd family (which I completely support) have devolved into general hooliganism and destruction of property – property often belonging to the very members of the African-American community rioters claim to support. It’s a terrible irony.
I can imagine being a police chief or other civil official deciding how best to respond to the situation. On one hand there is the responsibility to restore order when some rioters appear to be bent on violence and destruction of property. On the other is the awareness that restoring calm may require the use of force, which could get ugly. The optics would be terrible and could inflame further violence. What to do?
I’m grateful I’m not one of those who has to make these kinds of decisions. However, as a Christian I am called to do battle in the heavenly realm through prayer. Make no mistake, the problems we’re seeing unfold have spiritual roots. It’s as the apostle Paul wrote 2,000 years ago in his letter to the church at Ephesus:
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Heavenly Father it’s so difficult to watch awful events unfold and to feel powerless. But you have given all believers weapons of the Spirit with which we can pull down strongholds. Empower us to do battle in the heavenly realm, binding spirits of violence and death in Jesus’ name. By your mighty hand bring peace to our broken world. For we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.