It was a battle of wills. On one side of the battle was Pontius Pilate. On the other side was the chief priests. Neither side had any thought of God in their battle of wills. Each side had only their own selfish motivations in mind.
Some five months before Good Friday, Pilate had erected several shields in Herod’s palace inscribed with the emperor’s name, Tiberias. The shields were intended to honor the emperor, whom the Romans regarded as a god. The chief priests protested that Pilate’s shields were offensive, as they elevated Tiberias above God in God’s holy city. When Pilate refused to remove the shields, the chief priests appealed to Tiberias himself. In a testy letter, Tiberias ordered Pilate to remove the shields and to respect Jewish customs.
With the memory of his recent encounter with the chief priests fresh in mind, Pilate may well have had a wicked smile on his face when he said to them, “I find no fault with this man, Jesus.”
The chief priests did not back down. They blackmailed Pilate, threatening that if he released Jesus, they would go back to Tiberias and ask Tiberias to dismiss Pilate as procurator. Remarkably, the chief priests argued to Pilate, “Anyone who claims to be a king is a threat to the emperor. We have no king but the emperor.” In their desperation to condemn Jesus and remove him as a threat to their authority, the chief priests abandoned one of the key principles of their faith: We have no king but God.
We may justly criticize the chief priests for acting, well, unpriestly. But we too may sometimes be tempted to sacrifice our faith to a battle of wills. If we get angry enough at someone, we may be tempted to act in ways that are, well, unpriestly. In those times when we get caught in a battle of wills, we should remember, “The only will that matters is God’s. God’s will be done. Not mine.”
Our Father, may your will be done, not ours. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.