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There are two stories in the New Testament that occurred within twenty-four hours of each other, and they create an amazing contrast of two individuals, two life-styles, two attitudes, and two perspectives. About the only common denominator between these two stories is that they each involve a basin of water.

These two stories serve as models or examples of choices everyone must make, and the decisions we make will dictate the course of our lives. In reality, everyone is living out of and according to the principles of one of these two basins.

Pilate’s Basin of Water: Abandoned Responsibility

The story of Pontius Pilate is most fascinating. As the Roman Governor of Judea, he found himself thrust into a situation he could have never imagined. The religious elite of his country came to him, vehemently demanding the crucifixion of one they claimed to be a horrible criminal.

Two statements reveal Pilate’s perspective of the matter.

Matthew 27:18 (NLT) tells us that, “He (Pilate) knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.”

Pilate declared, “I find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38). Actually, in John’s Gospel, Pilate made this same statement three times to the religious leaders.

So what did Pilate do when he succumbed to political pressure and commissioned the execution of a man he knew to be innocent?
Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”
(Matt. 27:24 NLT)
To Pilate, the basin of water that he called for, and in which he washed his hands, represents abandoned responsibility. Pilate did what was convenient and politically expedient for himself instead of operating as a man of principle and ethics. He followed the path of fallen humanity and declared himself innocent. But we need to keep in mind the truth that Paul articulated: “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” (2 Cor. 10:18, NKJV)

Pilate certainly was not the first figure in human history who attempted to wash his hands in the basin of abandoned responsibility. Consider some of the others...

Instead of giving God a straightforward answer when asked if he’d eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam threw in some blame-shifting. “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it” (Gen. 3:12, NLT).

Having murdered his brother, Cain was asked by God about the whereabouts of Abel. Cain responded, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9, NKJV). Once again, we see abandoned responsibility.

Aaron tried to abandon responsibility after he had sculpted the golden calf. His almost hilarious response when confronted by Moses was, “‘Don’t get so upset, my lord,’ Aaron replied. ‘You yourself know how evil these people are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us... So I told them, ‘Whoever has gold jewelry, take it off.’ When they brought it to me, I simply threw it into the fire—and out came this calf!’”

Moses himself had tried to wash his hands in the basin of abandoned responsibility when he tried to dodge the call of God by saying he was not eloquent and that he was slow of speech.

Likewise, Gideon tried playing the “inferiority” card, and Sarah and Jeremiah tried copping out because of age issues. Sarah said she was too old and Jeremiah said he was too young. Though they all tried to evade responsibility, God did not accept their excuses and insisted that they embrace their assignments.

Jesus discussed the issue of people abandoning responsibility in the context of people who were invited to a great banquet. Instead of responding positively, “...they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come’” (Luke 14:18-20, NLT).

The verses that follow reveal the host’s anger at the excuses, and his determination for people to experience his generosity. He told his servant, “Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.” (Luke 14:23-24, NLT).

What is the lesson? God is yearning for us to respond to Him positively; to willingly and wholeheartedly accept His truth, His admonitions, and His challenges for our lives. If we follow Pilate’s example by washing our hands in the basin of abandoned responsibility and declaring ourselves innocent, we are deceiving ourselves and are missing out on God’s blessings.

Copyright © Tony Cooke Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission

Author Biography

Tony Cooke
Web site: Tony Cooke Ministries
Bible teacher and author Tony Cooke graduated from RHEMA Bible Training Center in 1980 and received degrees from North Central University (Bachelor's in Church Ministries) and Liberty University (Master's in Theological Studies/Church History). His ministerial background includes pastoral ministry, teaching in Bible schools, and directing a ministerial association. Tony's passion for teaching the Bible has taken him to more than thirty nations and nearly all fifty states. He is the author of a dozen books, of which, various titles have been translated and published in eight other languages. Tony and his wife, Lisa, reside in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and are the parents of two adult children.

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