Playing Games

In desperate times, people try to play games with God. “Lord, if you [fill in the blank], I will [fill in the blank].” Pharaoh did this several times when faced with the plagues of the Exodus. Politicians are great game players.

Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, was presented with a terrible choice. The Jews brought Jesus to him for judgment. They wanted him dead, but Pilate either knew he was innocent or wanted to irritate the Jewish leaders. Or, he might have wanted to please his wife. Matthew gives us this insight:

[Pilate] knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered [Jesus] up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” (Matthew 27:18 – 19)

I’ve counted five games Pilate played on that fateful day. First, he tried to use the legal gambit:

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:15 – 17)

That didn’t work. The crowd chose Barabbas, so Pilate’s next trick was “Pass the Buck.”

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. (Luke 23:6 – 8)

Another game Pilate played was “Please the Crowd.” Pilate agreed to punish Jesus. (He had him flogged, John 19:1) But that didn’t please the crowd either, so next Pilate appealed for pity:

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” (John 19:1 – 5)

That didn’t work either. Pilate’s last gambit has become an idiom in English. He literally washed his hands of it all:

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:24 – 25)

I am tired of people playing games. I’ve been watching Senate hearings, and it makes me even sicker. Why can’t people have the courage to do the right thing? Remember cowards will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8)! It’s time to stop playing games with God and everyone else. Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:37).

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