At first these words that Jesus spoke to Pilate seem very strange. Jesus tells Pilate that his role in His crucifixion is not as bad as that of Caiaphas. “Caiaphas,” Jesus tells Pilate, “is the greater sinner, even though you have made the final decision in this matter.” This really is an unexpected judgement on the Judean Governor.
On the surface it seems that Pilate was the one that was most culpable for Jesus’ death. After all, it was Pilate who passed the sentence. It was Pilate who chose the means of execution – the cross. He even tried to wash his hands of the whole thing. But, the Lord Jesus seems to be saying that there comes a certain point in wickedness when things are beyond the control of man. The seed that has been planted will surely sprout and grow into a tree. So here, standing before Jesus, Pilate found himself standing under that tree. He was now heir of the sinful decisions of those who had gone before him. No longer was it possible for Pilate to put a stop to this national sin. It would have taken a miracle to put a halt to the murder of Jesus.
No doubt, there was a time in the beginning when the outcome could have been arrested, but that was exactly the opposite of what happened. It was plotted, planted and fostered by Caiaphas. That’s why, according to Jesus, he was guilty of the greater sin.
What a thought this is for us to consider today. So many times the final, fatal act is that which is the least culpable. If a man were to allow his passion to become a habit and thus overtake his ability to reason, he could commit a horrible crime. Yet, his final hour may not be as much to blame as his morning hour. It may be that he became the helpless, hopeless puppet whose strings are pulled by his previous decision.
Jesus is teaching us that our critical decisions are made mainly in the morning. Thus, this is the time that bears the responsibility – the greater sin. It is in the beginnings that we find great hope or terrible fear. It is the streams that run with either refreshment or death into the citadel of our life. The evil that is done at dawn often brings the blackest cloud of the day.
Make sure that your mornings are given to praise Him, for it is your mornings that belong only to you. When the sun rises, and the day progresses, you will no longer be the master of your day – Caiaphas will now be Pilate. So, be careful about your first, initial acts – your beginnings. As the day passes, a simple temptation to which you yielded, may become something beyond your power to turn back. Be careful of your beginnings!
It would seem that Caiaphas did less to harm Christ than Pilate, but his was the greater sin because it was his decision which set the whole thing in motion. Men often focus on what is harvested in autumn, but God says the greater sin is often the seed sown in the spring. Men look at the outcome of evil and say, “This the end result of the wickedness of man,” but God says, “No, his greater sin took place in his first decision.”
My friend, the little things of this world are often the big things of Heaven. Beware of the little things, the little foxes. Tend to the little gardens, and water the tiny flowers. Tremble the first time that truth is broken. Beware when covetous begins to rise within you. Move away from that first mean impulse. Don’t allow that first impure thought to go unchallenged. Don’t suffer someone to mock solemn things. These things are your morning temptations – those which belong to Caiaphas. It is in these little things that the battle for your life is one or lost.