A beach was littered with starfish washed up by the surf then abandoned there as the water receded. A young man walked the shore, picking up starfish as he went and tossing them back into the ocean. An older man appeared and said to him, “With so many, what possible difference can you make by tossing a few back in the water?”
The young man reached down and picked up another starfish and as he threw it, he said, “It makes a difference to this one.”
Today’s devotional writer asks a similar question. He points out that during the trial of Jesus before Pilate, Pilate left it up to the crowd what to do with Jesus, thinking that because Jesus was so popular that they would set Him free. But they did not; not one person voted for Christ.
None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:8)
What was the “this” that they didn’t understand? This passage in 1 Corinthians says it is the mystery that had been hidden but was now revealed by the Holy Spirit to those who love God. Obviously Pilate did not love God, but neither did the people shouting “Crucify Him” for they didn’t get it.
But were there no others? Where were the people who did love God? Were they standing on the other side of the street thinking, “My voice will never be heard in that crowd” and so remained silent? Were they thinking this didn’t involve them? Or that rescuing Jesus was not their responsibility? Or that their to-do list was more important? Maybe some of them were worshiping in the temple, or they had seen Jesus walk through a riotous crowd in the past so figured He would do the same this time?
Jesus had to die. We know that from the Scriptures that reveal that this was the plan of God. His holy Lamb would be sacrificed for our sin. He was the One who would redeem souls and secure eternal life for all who put their faith in Him. If the situation before Pilate proved nothing else, it proved the need for the human heart to be redeemed. Jesus was innocent, but the crowd wanted Him silenced and dead.
Today’s reading says that Jesus died an unnecessary death. I do not agree. Because of sin, because of the great love of God for sinners, He had to die. There were no people who cared enough for the spotless and pure Lamb of God to intervene and rescue Him, and that alone proves that His death for sin was needed. If no one can love the most loveable person ever born enough to speak up for Him, then surely human hearts are corrupted beyond hope and God’s intervention must happen.
These thoughts do point to another issue in my heart, the problem of “let someone else do it” and the excuse of “what difference can I make anyway?” As any city, ours is full of social problems, such as homeless people facing winter that can go to -40, children who are being abused, people without enough resources to eat properly, ill and elderly who languish alone without anyone to visit and cheer them, youth whose parents live in addictions leaving them to fend for themselves, and so on.
So easily I can be like those who claimed to love God but stood on the other side of the street when the important decisions were being made. So easily I can be like the man who said, “What difference can you make with so many” when God asks me to be like the other man who did what he could, one starfish at a time.