Today’s Reading: Luke 23:13-43 (additional reading: Psalm 97:1-98:9 & Proverbs 14:7-8)
A poet once wrote, “Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, `It might have been.’” If that is true, then one of the most tragic words in human language must be the word “almost.”
“Almost” speaks of aborted opportunities & missed chances. And I’m sure that as long as this world exists, “almosts” will dot the pages of human history. “I almost climbed the mountain.” “We almost reached our goal.” “I almost closed the deal.” “We almost got there in time.” We’ve all had those “almost” experiences, haven’t we?
I suppose that the most infamous “almoster” in history would have to be Pilate because he almost released Jesus. He almost lowered the gavel & said, “Not guilty.” He almost said, “I dismiss all the charges because this man is innocent.” He almost set Him free.
What a change that would have made in our perception of Pilate. Why, we might be calling him “St. Pilate” today. He almost did it, you see. But he didn’t. Yet he could have, and that is his tragedy. He had the authority to do it. He wore the signet ring that said he had the power to do it. All he had to do was speak the word decisively, and Jesus would have been set free. And he did it, almost.
Verse 23 says, “But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that He be crucified, & their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand.” He listened to their voices.
We’ve heard the voices, too, haven’t we, voices saying, “Go on ahead & do it. No one will ever know!” or “Just one little drink won’t hurt.” Satan beckons us into paths we should not go.
But Pilate didn’t have to listen to those voices. There were other voices he could have listened to. He could have listened to his wife who sent a note that said, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of Him” [Matthew 27:19]. He could have listened to her voice. And he almost did.
He could have listened to his own voice. Pilate was no dummy. He knew what was going on. Pilate is not the only one who has played the game of “almost.” Some of us have played that game, too. “Preacher, I almost made the decision today.” “I almost took the invitation of Christ seriously.” “I almost said, `Here I am, Lord, use me.’”
But the Bible very clearly teaches us that there are no “almosts” with God. There is no “almost” heaven, no “almost” place where we can go. It is either heaven or hell. And Pilate’s tragedy could be our tragedy too.