Choose Your Persuader

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, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him 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.’ Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ And he said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’

“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!’ Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.” Matthew 27:15-26

Religious leaders persuaded crowds, who with lusty shouts and hollow reasoning persuaded Pilate. Their voices drowned out Pilate’s wife, and the importance of her sole verbal warning. Fear of a riot and disdain for confrontation choked his own conviction of what was just. Pilate was a sad leader who, at the coercion of a crowd of emotion and voices, elevated one notorious prisoner at the expense of an innocent. He made an irreversible choice in the pressure of a moment to avoid what he deemed a worse end, and even washed his hands to pretend he didn’t know better.

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In our everyday priorities, to whom do we listen, and with what results? It’s important to be aware of different viewpoints, to hear and understand how other people think, and the motivation for their behavior. But what are we allowing to persuade us, to determine our decisions and what we do? How aware are we of the power of the media, or a celebrity, or a ‘thought-leader’ of any school, or the editorial staff of any publication, to sway public opinion and shape our own beliefs? Since when does a tweet, or an academically-credentialled speech, weigh more than the truth? Whose word molds our convictions– the crowd’s, or the Lord’s?

Am I more persuaded by the passion and tempo of argument, or its facts? When others steer astray from truth and calm, what will I do to maintain peace and reason, to elevate the vocabulary and conversation? How well am I expressing value for individuals, while being willing to turn away from the crowd when it stands against my God?

Father, keep me steady in the midst of vocal turmoil, and grant spiritual discernment for the present time. Persuade my mind and heart by Your glorious truth.

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