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Pilate's Dilemma

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
April 1, 2021 8:00 am

Pilate's Dilemma

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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If you have your Bibles with you, turn with me if you would to Luke chapter 23.

We're going to be looking at verses 13 through 25 this evening. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. I will therefore punish and release him. But they all cried out together, Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas, a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city, and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus. But they kept shouting, Crucify, crucify him.

A third time he said to them, Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him. But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they ask that he deliver Jesus over to their will.

Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, as we study tonight Pilate's dilemma, we ask that you help us to see why he caved in. Help us to understand why he capitulated to the crowd.

Pilate was concerned about his reputation and his career and his political position. He knew it was right, but he didn't have the guts to stand for truth. He gave in to those who pushed him and sent the Son of God to his death on the cross. Father, we know that Jesus' death on the cross was predestined and was assured to happen, but that in no way lessens Pilate's guilt or makes him a victim. He did what he did because he thought he had too much to lose.

He did what he did because he had no godly character and no true integrity. Lord, use Pilate's example tonight to convict us and shame us, if necessary, into standing before a lost culture and proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord. Use the Word of God to draw us close to the heart of Jesus, for it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus that we pray. Amen.

You may be seated. Pilate cannot get away from his problem. He has already questioned Jesus once and found that he was guilty of nothing but getting in the way of the religious leaders' ambitions.

But the religious leaders were absolutely adamant, and they said, Look what Jesus has been doing. He's caused nothing but trouble for the last three years. He's fighting against taxation. He calls himself a king. Yes, he deserves to be executed, and you have the responsibility, Pilate, of executing him. Pilate's wife came to him, got him off to the side, and she said, Have nothing to do with this just man, for I have had a dream about him.

And if you do anything to harm him, there will be dire consequences. Then Pilate heard that Herod Annabas was in town in Jerusalem. He got excited about that. He thought he could pass the buck. He thought he could put the responsibility on Herod. So he sent Jesus to Herod Annabas, and Herod Annabas questioned Jesus. And he examined Jesus, and he found him not guilty too. And the scripture says that Herod mocked Jesus and treated him with contempt and sent him right back to Pilate. I can imagine Pilate looking out the window and seeing the soldiers dragging Jesus back.

And I can imagine him being horribly mad, maybe kicking a chair across the room and just spitting on the floor and cursing, saying, What in the world is wrong with these people? I don't want to have to deal with their religious struggle. I don't want to have to deal with their religious politics. Most of all, I don't want to have to deal with Jesus. What should he have done? He should have exonerated Jesus. He should have said, Jesus, you are free to go. And maybe he should have charged the religious leaders with lying and perjury. Why did he do this?

He did this because he didn't want to have to deal with the fallout. He asked himself a question, and the question is this. What is Jesus going to cost me? Is that not the question that we all have to ask ourselves? What does it mean to follow Jesus?

What is it going to cost us? If we follow Jesus, there is a necessity for repentance, that we must turn from sin. And we know that if we do that, we might lose some friends. If we do that, we might get ourselves in all kinds of trouble. We might not get the promotion for work that we wanted. We might have to get out of immoral relationship.

We might have to give up the pleasure of pornography. How many times do you hear people saying, well, I think that all you have to do to be a Christian is just to believe in your head that Jesus died on the cross for sinners, and that he was raised from the dead. Shouldn't that be enough? Why should we have to fear God? Why should we have to surrender to his lordship? Why should we have to treasure Jesus? I shared with you a couple of years ago that there's a little passage in John Piper's book, Desiring God, that has always gripped my heart.

And I told you I was going to share it with you at least two times a year, so this is one of those times. And it's a passage that just is so poignantly true that it just helped shake me out of my lethargy. This is what Piper said. We are surrounded by unconverted people who think they do believe in Jesus. Drunks on the street say they believe.

Unmarried couples sleeping together say they believe. Elderly people who haven't sought worship or fellowship for 40 years say they believe. All kinds of lukewarm, world-loving church attenders say they believe. The world abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus. It does no good to tell these people to believe in the Lord Jesus.

The phrase is empty. My responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and the church is not to preserve and repeat cherished biblical sentences, but to pierce the heart with biblical truth. In my neighborhood, every drunk on the street believes in Jesus. Drug dealers believe in Jesus. Panhandlers who haven't been to church in 40 years believe in Jesus.

So I use different words to unpack what believe means. In recent years, I have asked, do you receive Jesus as your treasure? Not just Savior, everybody wants out of hell, but not to be with Jesus. Not just Lord, they might submit begrudgingly.

The key is, do you treasure him more than everything? Converts to Christ say with Paul, I count everything as lost because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. There's six points that I want to share with you tonight as we look at this passage. The first point is Pilate's dilemma.

Look with me at verses 13 through 15. Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, you brought me this man as one who is misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us.

Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. So there stands Jesus before Pilate a second time. Pilate thought he had seen Jesus for the last time, wasn't going to have to worry about it anymore, but that was not the case. For what did Herod do? Herod declared that Jesus was not guilty and sent him right back to Pilate.

But now this group has multiplied in numbers. When Pilate talked to the group before, it was primarily just religious rulers and chief priests, but now there's a plethora, a huge crowd of the common people that are there. Pilate shouts to this group, listen to me, I find no fault in Jesus. And Herod doesn't either. And Pilate could have said, I want you to know, Herod and me, we're not in cahoots. He said, in fact, we don't even like each other.

We've never been in agreement on anything until this. And Herod believes that Jesus is innocent and I believe that Jesus is innocent. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by Jesus.

But the problem is this. These wicked religious leaders want Jesus dead. Jesus is limiting their influence. He is hurting their pocketbook. He is costing them money. And how do they think they're going to get away with this? How can they manipulate Pilate?

They think they can manipulate him through intimidation. And so what they're going to do is they're going to scream out to everybody, to all of Rome, that Pilate is an enemy of Caesar because he's siding up with this man who claims to be king. That takes us to point two and that is Pilate's compromise.

Look at verse 16. I will therefore punish and release him. The punishment that Pilate is suggesting here is not as bad as scourging, but it was still extremely painful.

It was a beating that he was going to do. And so this is a compromise by Pilate. Pilate knows that Jesus is not guilty, but if beating Jesus would get these religious leaders off his back, then so be it. The angry mob could smell Pilate's compromise.

With every compromise that Pilate made, they could sense they were getting a little bit closer and a little bit closer to getting what they wanted, which was the death of Christ. Folks, as God's people, we can learn from this. We are called to be flexible. And on non-essential things, we are called to show mercy and grace. Some things are just a matter of preference. Some things are just a matter of opinion. And those things should not be a hill that we want to die on.

They're not that important. Paul said, I have become all things to all people so that I can win some. Now that's flexibility, but I want you to know it's not compromise. Pilate was not just being flexible. Pilate was compromising. He is violating his conscience in order to appease men. Pilate should have manned up and said, Jesus is not guilty, and I will not send him to the cross. I'm freeing him. I'm letting him go. You don't like it, and if you harass him, then you'll be the one that will be put in prison. That's what he should have done.

But for expedient sake, to save face and to appease people, he stepped on his conscience, and in doing so, destroyed his soul. I was over at Bruce Brown's church a few weeks ago when I was on vacation. And Bruce shared an illustration that he gave me permission to use that I thought was just perfect to describe what's going on with Pilate. Bruce said that back in the early 1950s, there was a baseball game going on between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies. And a guy named Granny Hammer got up to bat for the Phillies, hit a ball into left field. He ran to first base, and then he thought, well, maybe I can stretch this single into a double. And so he took off to second base.

The left fielder got the ball, threw it to Pee Wee Reese, the second baseman, and Granny Hammer comes sliding in, and Pee Wee Reese puts the tag on him. The umpire, whose name was Beenz Reardon, said, Safe! But instead of doing the safe sign like this, he threw up his hand in the outside. He said, Safe! But he threw up his hand in the outside.

Granny Hammer was still down on the ground. He looked up and said, Well, what is it? Am I safe, or am I out? And then Beenz Reardon looked back at him and said, Well, there are only three people here in this stadium that heard me say safe. And there's 50,000 people in this stadium that saw me give the out sign. So he said, Guess what? You're out.

You are out. Brothers and sisters, that's exactly what Pilate did. He compromised what he knew to be right in order to get approval from the religious crowd.

As I said, he stepped on his conscience, and in so doing, destroyed his soul. Book of Revelation breaks up the population of this earth into two groups. We would usually say Christians and non-Christians, or believers and unbelievers, the Book of Revelation refers to them as overcomers and earth dwellers. The overcomers are the Christians who will not compromise their faith. They are Christians who have this characteristic of boldness in their life.

They are Christians who know and believe that Jesus is the pearl of great price. He's the treasure in the field. And they say, We love him. We treasure Jesus. We serve him. We honor him. We obey him. We stand for him no matter what.

And come hell or high water, we will not compromise. Where does that come from? Let me tell you where it comes from. It comes from grace.

Amazing, wonderful, marvelous grace. Pilate's compromise made a statement. The statement that he was making to the world was this.

He was saying, I'm an earth dweller. That's what I am. All I care about is me. All I'm concerned about is getting the needs of my flesh met. I can't treasure Jesus because I think that the only thing that matters is what's going on in my life right now.

Point three is the fickleness of the human heart. Look at verses 18 through 19. They all cried out together, Away with this man, and released to us Barabbas, a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Every time Pontius Pilate suggested a way to deal with this problem, the crowds just shouted him down. And then all of a sudden something hit him.

He said, Wait a minute. This is Passover season. And the governor always has an opportunity at Passover season to release one of the Jewish prisoners. It was a gesture of kindness to the Jews.

It was also symbolic of what happened at that first Passover when the Jewish people were set free from their bondage to Egypt. And he said, Man, this is great. He said, There's a possibility that I can move in and kind of do something for Jesus here. He said, Maybe these Jewish people have a little semblance at least of being right and knowing what's wrong. And maybe they will understand what they're doing. He hoped that they would cry out for the innocent Jesus to be released.

Then that problem would be totally settled, but they would have none of that. Pilate brings Jesus forth, and Jesus stands before that whole crowd. He's just been beaten by the temple guard, so his face is swollen, his eyes are almost shut. He stands there, and Pilate steps back, and the Gospel of John says that Pilate looks at him and points his finger at him and says, Behold your king!

What would you have me to do? Shall I release to you Jesus of Nazareth? And the people shouted, No! No! Away with him! We have no king but Jesus!

Crucify him and release to us Barabbas! You can picture the faces of this crowd, the people in the crowd. They're contorted with anger and resentment and bitterness.

And there's all this vile venom and rage that's coming from their mouths that's slipping out of their lips. Why in the world did they hate Jesus so bad? Why would they be so angry? You know, in a crowd that big, all these common people, don't you know that there were some people there that Jesus had healed? Maybe some blind people that Jesus had given sight to. Maybe some deaf people that Jesus had given them their hearing. Maybe some lame people that Jesus had given them mobility and the ability to walk. Maybe there were some people there that had been demon possessed, and Jesus had delivered them from those demons. How many people there had heard Jesus preach?

I wonder if they'd heard Jesus preach the story of the prodigal son. And here's this young man who walks away from his family to go out to the far country, just to live in depravity, and do what he wants to do. And while he was out there, the Lord broke him. And he comes under deep conviction, and the scripture says he came to himself. And he goes back to his father, and his father's there at the gate, waiting for him to come back. And when he sees him coming, he runs to his son, he picks him up and he hugs him, tackles him in the road, and invites him back into the family. And I wonder how many people had heard that story and said to themselves, that's who I am.

I'm the prodigal son, and that's how the Father might treat me and what hope it must have given them. I wonder how many Samaritans might have been in that crowd and remembered the story of the good Samaritan that Jesus told, and just felt that joy go through their heart as they remembered that story. Now you would think that these people, these people who had experienced Jesus' touch, some of them healed, some of them delivered, all of them at least having heard a little bit of the blessings of Jesus' teaching, you would have thought that they would have stood up for him. But no, they turned their backs on Jesus.

They once felt love and respect for him, but all of a sudden they just derided him and cursed him and said, just go ahead and crucify him. Could that really happen? Yes. Oh yes, it could happen. And it did. It happened with Judas Iscariot. It happened with Demas.

And let me tell you what else. It's happening in America. It's happening in America right now. How many young people do you know in America right now who were raised in the church, they grew up in the church, and they heard the Word of God, and they were in fellowship with God's people, and they felt the presence of the Lord, and they had a wonderful childhood, and they grew up to teenagers, and all of a sudden they got ready to go to college. And they went off to college, and when they did, they had an atheistic professor that looked them right in the eye and condemned them and laughed at them for their faith and for their morality. This professor says, you don't really believe this fable about Jesus dying on a cross for people's sins, do you? You don't really believe that Jesus could have resurrected from the dead. You don't really think that we need to fear God, do you? You don't really believe in an eternal judgment. You can't believe in that.

And how many times do these college professors look into the eyes of our young people and say, what are you waiting on, young people? This is the time to be enjoying your sexuality. This is the time to experiment. You don't need to restrain yourself.

You're grown up now. Enjoy as many partners as you can. Experiment with homosexuality. Don't worry about disease. Don't worry about unwanted babies. Don't worry about guilt.

Don't worry about damaged relationship. Virginity is highly overrated. We have penicillin for diseases. We have abortion for unwanted babies. We have antidepressants for guilt. We have psychologists for damaged relationships. So have at it.

If it feels good, do it. Throw off those oppressive chains of Christianity and just go out and do what you want to do. And young people by the thousands. Who once prayed the prayer? Who once quoted the creeds?

Who once sat under solid preaching get up and they walk away from the faith and essentially in their heart they're saying crucify Jesus and release to us Barabbas. I remember several years ago I was talking to a young couple when they had just gotten married and when they were teenagers they made a commitment that they were going to stay sexually pure. And they did. And they were married.

And when they were married they didn't have all that baggage to bring into their marriage with them. And I asked them, I said do you feel cheated? Do you feel like Jesus just kind of stole something away from you and ruined your fun? And they said oh no. And as I talked to them I realized that what they had was a gift from God. A gift from God that those atheistic professors had absolutely no idea what it was about. The human heart is fickle people.

It was fickle in Jesus' day and it's fickle today. So they cried out to Pilate crucify him. Crucify Jesus and release to us Barabbas. Barabbas was an insurrectionist. He was a terrorist. He belonged to a group called the Sakari. The Sakari were a group of underground terrorists that carried around a real sharp razor sharp curved knife.

They kept it up under their garment. When they saw a big crowd they saw a soldier kind of off by himself in that crowd. They would sneak over to him go up behind him slit his throat and then they'd sneak off slither off through the crowd.

Nobody had any idea who did it. Those were the great enemies of the Roman soldiers and the Roman government. They were the ones that the Roman soldiers really feared. They were murderers and they were absolutely treasonous. They terrorized with no conscience whatsoever. And what are the Jewish people doing here? They are crying out crucify Jesus and release to us Barabbas this insurrectionist.

How wicked is that? Let me share a good verse with you from Proverbs chapter 17 verse 15. He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the just both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord. How often do you see that happen today? When people justify what wicked people are doing and say, hey, that's okay.

No, it's not okay. And it's an abomination before God for people to say so. There's a great irony here.

Listen to how David Gooding explains it. He said the situation was beginning to become crazy. Here were priests demanding the execution of Jesus on the ground that he was attempting to overthrow the political authorities. Yet these very priests would not themselves bow to the political authorities and what is more they were calling for the release of a known political activist who in a recent civil disturbance in the city had committed murder. Alright, point four is Pilate's conscience.

Look at verses 20 through 21. Pilate addressed them once more desiring to release Jesus but they kept shouting, crucify, crucify him. Pilate's conscience is still bothering him.

The words of his wife are still ringing in his ear. Have nothing to do with this just man for I've had a dream about him and if you do anything to harm this man there will be dire consequences. Pilate knows about this guy Barabbas. He knows that he's an insurrectionist. He knows that he has killed many Roman soldiers and now he's thinking am I going to have to release him? It'd be kind of like Jack the Ripper finally getting thrown in prison and somebody said let's go ahead and let him out.

Maybe he'll be okay. He knows better than that. So Pilate looks out over this big group and he says to them, he says guys what's the matter with you?

What's wrong with you? You want me to kill an innocent man and then to release a man that you know is guilty? He says where's the justice in that? Yet the crowd gets even louder. Crucify him. Crucify him.

What is that? That's a mob mentality. That's what's going on here. You get a mob riled up and common sense goes right out the window. Emotions rule the day. A mob mentality will strike fear into the heart and fear will silence the conscience. In Proverbs chapter 29 verse 25 the scripture says that the fear of man is a snare.

The word snare means a ring a hook in the nose and they used to take rings and they would put them in the nose of a little piglet so that when he got big they could handle him and they could control the pig and they would have that little ring in the pig's nose and the farmer would get a stick that's got a hook on the end of it and he would stick it in the ring and then he could take that pig anywhere he wanted to go and take that pig and do a thing about it because he could not fight back. All he had to do was to be jerked around and pulled by that. Folks the fear of man will silence the conscience. The fifth point is shocked by depravity. Look at verses 22-23 A third time he said to them, Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him. But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified and their voices prevailed.

Over in the Gospel of Matthew we are told that Pilate asked for a basin of water. They bring it to him. He reaches down his hands into it and he washes his hands off and he says, I am innocent of the blood of this man.

See to it yourself. And then the Jews cried out and they said, Let his blood be on us and on our children. Can you believe that?

Man, you talk about just begging for God to judge you. That's what they were doing. I remember back when I was a senior in high school. After school was over for that year we just graduated. A bunch of us went to the beach and we stayed at a little campground. And we were in that campground. One afternoon we decided to all go swimming. We went out into the water and when we did a lightning storm, a thunder storm came up.

Lightning was just all over. And so the lifeguard said, Come on. Get out of the water. Get out of the water.

We came out of the water and there's a guy that was in that same campground and that guy had been drinking heavily the whole time we were there. And he came walking out. Then he turned around and he walked right back into the water. It got about waist deep. And he looked up to heaven and he held up his hands and said, God if you're up there strike me with lightning.

Show these people once and for all that you're really God. Then he dropped his hands down. He waited for about two minutes. Then he started to laugh and he said, There's your God.

And he walked on on in. I was not a Christian at that time. But I can remember thinking to myself, Man if I was God I'd have zapped him with a lightning bolt.

I'd have fried him like a piece of sausage right out there in that water. Fifteen years later I saw this guy at a pastors conference. And I looked over there and it took me a while to remember who he was and then I walked over and I saw his pastors tag, name tag and I said, That's him.

That's him. And so I went over to him. I introduced myself to him.

He didn't remember me from Adam. And I said, Are you a pastor? And he said, Yep. And he told me where he was pastoring. We talked for a little bit. And I said, I hate to bring this up.

But I just wonder are you the guy fifteen years ago that was standing out in the water in Myrtle Beach in the middle of a lightning storm and you were challenging God to strike you with a lightning bolt? And he looked at me. His face turned white. He said, You remember that? I said, I'll never forget it. And he said, Yeah, that was me. He said, Let me tell you what happened to me. He said, About a month after that I was in a car wreck and I was knocked unconscious. He said, I was in a coma for about three weeks. And he said, It was a terrible thing.

And finally I came out of that coma. And he said, When I did, I realized that if I had died I'd be in hell. And he said, I had a good friend of mine that was a Christian that came by right after that.

And he sat down beside my bed. He took his Bible out and he shared the Gospel with me. And he said, I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior. And he said, Jesus just changed my entire life. And not long after that he called me to preach.

He said, Doug, he said, You know, he said, Sometimes I go to sleep at night and I'll dream about that stupid thing that I did and I'll wake up in a cold sweat. He said, I can't believe that Jesus saved me. He said, When I sing raising grace, he said, Man, I believe it.

I believe it. Well, I want you to know that these people, what they did before Pilate was much worse than what that young man did. And fifty days after this, on the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up on Jerusalem Square and Peter preached a powerful Gospel message. Three thousand people were saved.

You know what? Some of those three thousand people that were saved were people that stood there before Pilate that day and cried out, Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Fifty days later in Jerusalem Square, they're crying out to Jesus, Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

And you know what? Jesus did. And Jesus saved them.

Point six is whose will? Look at verse twenty-four through twenty-five. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

The Scripture says here that Pilate delivered Jesus over to their will. And that was true. That's what they wanted.

That's what they will. They wanted Jesus dead. They wanted Jesus out of their lives. And so they were all excited about it.

We got our way. But we must never forget, folks, that first and foremost it was the will of God. In Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, he spoke of this very thing in verse twenty-three of Acts chapter two. He said this, Him, being delivered by the determinant counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. The wicked religious leaders thought that they were calling the shots.

Oh, but oh no. This was the preordained plan of Almighty God. Reminds me of the story of Joseph. Joseph had become the prime minister of Egypt. The Lord had done this in order that Joseph might save the Jewish people from starvation. And Joseph's brothers came to him and they were upset. They knew they had done horrible before Joseph.

And they apologized to him. And they said, please forgive us for throwing you in the pit and selling you into slavery. And Joseph said to them, you meant this for evil but God meant this for good. Folks, Satan meant the cross for evil but God meant it for good. First Corinthians chapter two and verse nine, the scripture says this, it says if the princes of this world had known what they were doing, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. Two wheels that we read about in Acts two twenty-three.

I want to share with you what Philip said about this and we'll close with this. Peter said to the Jews, you with the help of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But he also said this man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge.

This strikes just the right balance. Jesus was put to death by real human beings, an unholy alliance of Jews and Gentiles. Ultimately this was Satan's idea because he was the one who entered Judas before his betrayal. Nevertheless it was all part of God's preordained plan.

Isaiah foretold this in his ancient prophecy. It was the will of the Lord to crush him. When the people said crucify him, they were confirming a divine decree as if God himself were saying crucify him. Long before it was the will of the people for Jesus to die on the cross, it was the will of the Father and the Son for our salvation. That eternal plan does not exonerate these people. They were still guilty before God for the infinite injustice of murdering his son.

But it proves that God knew what he was doing and he always does. Amen? Amen. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we were reminded tonight that the fear of man is a snare.

It's like a hook in the nose. And when that happens, Satan leads us around like a pig. Dear God, give us a love so deep for Jesus that we would fear nothing but God. Father, help us to stand solidly on Paul's words in Romans 8 when he said, For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is within Christ Jesus our Lord. Father, tonight we celebrate the Gospel by partaking of the Lord's Supper. You promised that we would experience your presence in a special and unique way in the Supper. As we celebrate, please manifest your presence to us and make the Gospel burn in our hearts for it's in Jesus' precious and holy name we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-09 19:48:55 / 2023-12-09 20:03:26 / 15

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