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What Do You Want 20: Big or Small?


Issue 417

Have you noticed that you can design a neat and tidy framework of understanding, and then life happens? You can read a set of great and wise principles for handling situations, then people arrive. You can make good moves to guarantee fine results, and then the job actually starts.

It is a strange fact of life and work that things just don’t go by the book, the manual or the plan. Our best laid expressions get totally disrupted by real events.

In the first century there lived a senior leader named Pontius Pilate. No one would have ever heard of him today if not for one day in his life when he was forced to make a decision. If that one day had not happened to him, he would be lost in the millions of history pages that no one will read. But for this one day.

Pilate’s failings are well documented, his vacillation, his weakness, his attempt to absolve himself from responsibility. Please do not, however, underestimate the complexity of his working day. He is faced with several lose-lose scenarios. He can upset his constituents, his family in Rome, his wife, his conscience- in one day and he, almost certainly, cannot find a win-win situation this day.

As the hollow trial of Jesus of Nazareth unfolds revealing its vacuous centre, Pilate eventually knows what he wants. We do not have to speculate, John tells us ‘Pilate tried to set Jesus free’. Pilate’s answer to the ‘what do you want?’ question would have been ‘I want to set Jesus free’.

If the day had done how Pilate wanted it, he would have also had Barabbas executed, the Jews placated, the crowds satisfied, his wife untroubled and his Roman masters content.

Before you write him off, is this not similar to some of your days? You formulate what you want to happen, but then those answerable to you are not happy with it, your partner or your spouse is troubled, your plan is not well received and your own conscience is off balance. Life happens.

In contrast to Pilate, the Chief Priests, here they are Caiaphas and Annas, also have an answer to the ‘what do you want?’ question. It was two words ‘crucify him’.

We know their motivation was to do with money and power, or more accurately, inappropriate money and corrupted power. We don’t know all Pilate’s motivation but it seemed to include self-preservation as well as career conservation.

Now you can see the dilemmas. Pilate wanted to do what was apparently right and set a man free, who he saw as innocent. The priests wanted to do the apparently wrong thing and crucify a man they saw as fraudulent.

What would you do? Would you have the courage to stand up to the priests and set the prisoner free? Would you let the threat to your financial powerbase cause you to seek the Nazarene’s demise? Would you stand in the crowd and let yourself be bribed into baying for blood? What would you want? In situations or dilemmas like this at work, what do you want?

Here is the surprise. They were all wrong. If Pilate had shown courage and set Jesus free – he would have made the wrong decision. The priests, whose bitter, threatened hearts drove them, were making choices out of wrong motivation. The crowds compromised bribe-driven shouts were pathetic, mob rule expressions.

On this day, no one saw the big picture, so all reverted to dysfunctional behaviour. The bottom line issue was ‘what did Jesus want?’ The truth is that he wanted to lay down his life. The chorus of stupidity, failure and corruption that surrounded him, originated in their ignorance of the big picture. As it will in your soul at work if you too ignore the bigger picture.

How could they have made decision that day which were true and honourable out of right motives? Why could they not see the bigger picture? The answer, I suggest, is that they did not listen to what Jesus wanted. They either did not hear or did not agree with his words. He, for three years, had been speaking about laying down his life. Those in power did not listen or did not agree.

It is hard, but not impossible, to see the bigger picture and then aligning both your motives and your decisions with it. The absolute key is to listen and to agree with the words of the Carpenter. He will show you the bigger picture – if you want to see.


John 19:1-16

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

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Series: What Do You Want
Module: 2
Daily Guide: No

Tags: complexity, dilemma, motivation, perspective, purpose, vision

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Geoff Shattock

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