History remembers great heroes, but history also remembers the big cowards. For example, J. Bruce Ismay was the managing director of White Star Cruise lines. In 1912, he boarded their newest vessel, the Titanic. All know the fateful story of this ship.
Since Ismay was the highest-ranking White Star official to survive the sinking, he was vilified. Some claimed he left behind women and children as he jumped onto a lifeboat. Other eyewitnesses mentioned he was the one pushing the captain to increase the speed of the Titanic to arrive in New York ahead of schedule.
Following the sinking, Ismay became the talk of society. So much disdain existed for him that the town of Ismay, Texas, “decided to change the name of their community to something – anything – less [humiliating].”
The accounts of his actions are now debated. Did he really demonstrate that level of cowardice or not? Regardless, history remembers him as a coward.
On Sunday, we will cover the trial of Jesus as we begin our Easter series. The last hours of Jesus separate the cowards from the Hero of the story. Palm Sunday starts Passion Week, the last seven days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The “Palm” reference comes from Matthew 21, where people cut branches and laid them before Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. This moment is often called “The Triumphal Entry.”
Fast-forward to the last hours of Jesus. In the span of just one week, the people move from calling Jesus “King” to yelling, “Crucify Him.” It’s a dramatic turn of events, but we all know how fickle people can be. Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested by a mob, deserted by His disciples, denied by Peter, and now He stands trial. Everything sinks—quickly.
When Jesus stands before Pilate in John 18 and 19, He testifies to the Truth. Pilate cares nothing for truth and wants out of the situation. He’s a coward. Pilate and the Jews do not have a good relationship. Constant conflict follows Pilate, and the Roman Empire tells him to get things under control or he will be replaced.
Rather than do the right thing, Pilate capitulates—sending Jesus to the cross. Cowards are more concerned about saving their necks than saving their souls. Pilate has two choices. He can do what is right and let Jesus go but lose power. Doing so will save his soul. Or Pilate can do what is wrong and crucify Jesus. Doing so will allow him to save his neck and retain power.
When pressed, we’ll always default to our necks. Apart from the Holy Spirit, we’ll neglect our souls. You may try all sorts of things to get Jesus out of your head, off your heart, and even out of your soul. But like Pilate, you have a choice: kill Jesus or accept Him.