Sermon Ash Wednesday 2020
Text: Matthew 27:11-26 – His blood be on us.
Having just returned home from a cruise on the Princess cruise ship I have been watching with great interest and also relief what is happening in China with the Coronavirus and the passengers stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
When cruising there is great emphasis on hygiene to prevent spreading of disease particular gastric viruses.
When going to the dining rooms you are requested to both wash your hands and then also sanitise them.
But despite all these precautions we find that it still does not prevent you 100% from catching the virus.
Pilate today thinks that by washing his hands that he is ridding himself of all guilt in handing Jesus over to be executed.
But the reality is that the symbolic act does not remove his guilt.
Pilate knows that this is something he should not be doing.
He looked for every opportunity to have Jesus released.
He thought that for sure that if he offered the choice to release Jesus or a murderer that for sure they’d choose Jesus.
But no, they choose the murderer Barabbas.
Even Pilate’s wife knew it was wrong and tried to warn her husband – don’t have anything to do with that innocent man for I have suffered a great deal in a dream because of him.
So Pilate again pleaded with the people – “why – what crime has he committed”.
Pilate thinks he can get away with it by handing Jesus over to them and washing his hands of the matter.
But it won’t.
He reminds me of Judas who after he had betrayed Jesus and realised his wrongdoing thought he could just throw the money back at the Pharisees and that would be it.
But it doesn’t do anything to relieve his guilt and he takes his own life.
Maybe you’ve discovered that also;
That you’ve been living with a guilty conscience and have tried many ways to relieve yourself from the pain but there still lingers that heaviness of guilt weighing you down for Satan to accuse you with.
That’s how King David felt about the weight of his sin he was carrying.
He discovered that the weight wasn’t removed by trying to wash his hands clean but by confessing his sin to God and having him remove it.
It reminds me of the time Jesus healed the paralytic lowered through the roof.
He forgives his sin and the Pharisees complain – who can forgive but God alone?
So often God reveals the truth through irony.
In Psalm 32 he wrote - Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
And, again, ironically, although though not intended, in our bible reading we have God’s message to us about how we can be relieved from the guilt of our sin.
After he has washed his hands, Pilate hands Jesus over to the people and says – I am innocent of this man’s blood – it is your responsibility.
To which the people say – “His blood is on us and on our children”.
Although not intended that way the people have revealed God’s work of removing sin and guilt from our lives – His blood is on us and on our children”.
Tonight we begin our Lenten season again.
A season of reflection on our sinfulness and God’s graciousness.
Tonight you will be offered to come and lay your sins bare and receive the mark of ashes as a sign of your guilt and repentance.
You will then be invited to come forward and receive the remedy for your guilt and sin – the blood of Jesus in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Here you continue the statement of the people – his blood is on us and on our children.
That’s where we seek and find our comfort.
On our journey to the cross this Lent we will follow Jesus again and hear of his passion – the suffering and sacrifice for us.
And again the irony will be that his suffering and death are the outcome of our sinfulness.
But his suffering and death will also be the source of healing of our sinfulness.
We can’t deal with our sin simply by washing our hands of any guilt we might have.
Sin, guilt and the devil are too powerful for that.
Only by the blood of Jesus can we find comfort and relief from the weight of our guilt and sin.
There can be great shame when we have to admit our sin and guilt.
Like Judas, Peter had a great shame for having denied Jesus 3 times.
When Jesus approaches him on the beach after his resurrection Peter falls on his knees and tells Jesus – go away from me for I am a sinful man.
When Jesus reinstates Peter as a disciple it took 3 goes for Peter to finally accept Jesus’ love and acceptance of him.
When you come forward, whether for the ashes or for holy communion – or both, bring all your sin and guilt with you.
Leave it here at the foot of the cross and let Jesus blood be on you.
You cannot wash your hands enough that will ever remove the guilt.
As King David discovered - Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Like Pilate and Judas there is nothing that can be done by human means to rid our guilt.
But Jesus blood on us washes away everything and creates a clean heart in us.
In these 40 days of Lent, reflect on what it is you want to bring to the cross this Easter and let Jesus blood be on you and wash away all your sin and guilt.