The moment of Gabbatha

John 19 v10-13

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).

To the Romans Gabbatha was where ‘jupiter’ (the king of the gods) judged on all matters of state and religion.

To the Jews it is where God judged or where He permitted Gentiles, like Pilate, to judge people, v11 “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above”

It literally means ‘heap’ or ‘haughtiness’.

It was a mosaic pavement where the Bema (judgment) seat was placed. One day Pilate would stand before the judgment seat of Christ but on this day Jesus is before him.

He’s the Governor, in control, the main character and in charge of the events. By his word people lost their life or kept it. Pilate’s Gabbatha was indeed his throne. But his Gabbatha had an Achilles’ heel and the Jewish leaders knew it.

“We have to be very careful with this decision. If you decide to do what you are suggesting (for me it was the right decision) then you will lose the vote of the people, they will not go with you and it will end up worse for you. If you do what I am suggesting (for me it was a cover-up decision) I think you will see I am proven right, it is all a case of damage limitation.” That moment still remains a regretful obedient scene in my memory.

When judgment is couched in ‘what do people think of me’ then it is weak judgment.

When leadership decisions are slowed down because of fear of what might be said or how people may react then wisdom is often lost. Consideration for people’s welfare is not the same as bowing to a hidden fear, that of pleasing, in order to keep your position. The Achilles’ heel of Pilate was not so much the people, but a person, Caesar. Pilate was not in favour with him and knew that if it got back that he had released someone who was standing in front of him claiming Caesar’s title then questions would be asked. The Jewish leaders played him and Pilate fell into their trap.

Be very careful the next time you sit in the seat of judgment. It is a high place and the danger is that of pride. But it is also a place where the desire to please can be crippling and you end up making the wrong decision. Sometimes it is simply best not to sit there but of course there are times when we have to. The fear of man always proves to be a snare.


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