Matthew 27: 18-26
April 9, 2017 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
18 Pilate knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests and elders had delivered Jesus up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”
Pilate’s wife has captured Christian imagination from the very beginning. Some have thought that her dream came from God – like the dreams of Pharoah or Nebuchadnezzar. If so then it was one more warning for Pilate. It was one more piece of evidence in a tall stack of evidence that Jesus was innocent and did not deserve to be executed. By refusing to heed her advice, Pilate was not just a fool, he was sinful.
But even so, there is something fundamentally wrong with her advice. For she says to Pilate: “Have nothing to do with that righteous man,” and she should have said, “Have everything to do with that righteous man, for He is the way, the truth, and the life.”
In fact Pilate wants to follow her advice but he doesn’t know how. He is trapped by his need to please the mob. He can’t get out of it. After they refuse his every negotiation, and choose Barabas over Jesus, He tries to distance himself from his act.
24 When Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
But, of course, he isn’t innocent. He doesn’t simply look the other way while the mob has its way with Jesus, which would be evil enough, but he knowingly sends an innocent man to His death. The response of the mob is one of the most profound moments in the Gospels.
25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Pilate had sort of good motives. He knew the crowd was evil. He didn’t want to give in to it. But his sort of good motives led him to self-righteousness. He claimed to be innocent and yet he was without virtue. In accord with his wife’s advice, he wanted nothing to with Jesus. Good motives not only do not make an action good, but neither are good motives faith.
The mob is evil. They intend evil. They flaunt their sin. They mock Divine Law. They do not say, “Let His Blood be on us and on our children” because they are convinced that Jesus is guilty and this is the right thing to do. They say it because they do not fear God. They don’t care if Jesus is innocent. They expect no repercussions from heaven. They have no fear of Hell. They are willing even to risk the lives of their children. And for what? The spectacle of Jesus being tortured and killed.
Certainly Pilate is the more sympathetic, if also more pathetic, character. Good motives don’t make and action good nor are they faith, but they are better than open evil.
Still, the statement of the mob, meant for evil, is a perfect Christian prayer. A Christian could never say with well-meaning Pilate: “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” We can’t say that because we aren’t innocent. He died for our sins because of our sins. Yet we can say with the wicked crowd, “Let His Blood be on us and on our children” because what they meant for evil, God used for good. And rather than His Blood damning us, like the blood of Abel, or His Blood vindicating us for killing Him since He was actually guilty, His Blood forgives us even though He was innocent and we were guilty. It marks us as His own so that the angel of death passes over. His Blood washes us clean, bestows His righteousness upon us, and declares us holy. His Blood creates a communion between Him and us.
Don’t turn away this Holy Week. Abraham saw the Lord’s Day, His exodus from this world, and rejoiced. Rejoice in His death because that is where He has loved you, how He has loved you. Let His Blood be upon us and our children so that we would receive the benefit of that death. Let us have more than good motives. Let us have faith in these words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” that we would be truly worthy and well-prepared. The Passion of Jesus Christ is not a tragedy. To say that it is His Passion, is to acknowledge that it is a love story, our story. Let His Blood be upon us and our children – not because we deserve it but because He desires to give it and in there is life and salvation.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.