‘For the third time he (Pilate) demanded, ‘Why? What crime has he committed? I have found no reason to sentence him to death. So, I will have him flogged, then I will release him’. But the mob shouted louder and louder, demanding that Jesus be crucified’ (Luke 23:22,23)
It’s interesting how one word in English can transmit so much meaning. ‘Almost’ is one of these words.
I’ll never forget the finals of a swimming event in the 2012 Olympics. The young man who came third was beaming from ear to ear with delight as the bronze medal was placed around neck. Not so the athlete who came in second. He had been crying profusely because his medal was only silver. He had almost won the gold. But almost wasn’t good enough. His disappointment was watched by all the world.
We’ve all experienced ‘an almost’ in our lives at some time or another. For example, the time we almost passed our driving test but braked too suddenly at the end. Or the time when we thought we would pass an important exam, almost getting the desired grade, but not quite.
‘Almost’ can carry with it a sense of failure, frustration, disappointment or regret. Goals are not achieved. Dreams are not realised. In extreme cases, tragedy, sadness and loss ensues.
In Acts 26, we read about the Apostle Paul speaking passionately to Festus, King Agrippa and Bernice, Agrippa’s sister. Paul pours his heart into explaining the gospel to these three high ranking individuals. Famously, at one point, King Agrippa says to Paul, “You almost persuaded me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:28). Sadly, it was only ‘almost’. I wonder if King Agrippa ever did place his trust fully in Christ.
However, perhaps the most tragic ‘almost’ comes hours before Jesus is crucified. As one writer has put it:
“Pilate almost performed what would have been history’s greatest act of mercy. He almost pardoned the Prince of Peace. Almost. He had the power. He had the choice. He wore the signet ring. But other voices prevailed’.*
As a result of Pilate’s ‘almost’, Jesus was crucified.
When I was a young Christian, we were encouraged to pray publicly in meetings. Our leaders knew the benefit this would be to us spiritually, but many of us found it a daunting task to begin with. I well remember the nights, as we turned to prayer, that I sat on the edge of the bench, willing myself to stand and pray. Sometimes I made it to my feet and rejoiced in the sense of God that would meet me in that act of obedience, but alas, other times, I almost made it- almost, but not quite. The feeling was not so pleasant then.
Some almosts are final; there is no going back. Pilate made his decision, and he did not go back. However, other almosts need not be the final word. Thankfully, for me, there came a day, where I was able to stand to my feet and pray publicly rather than almost getting there.
Is there an ‘almost’ in your life today? If so, take heart: ‘almost’ today can be ‘achieved’ tomorrow.
*On Calvary’s Hill, Max Lucado
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