Text: Matthew 27:11-26 - His blood be on us and on our children!
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus[b] Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”[d]All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified
24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood;[e] see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
It would seem that Pilate tried very hard to get Jesus freed.
He tried to reason with the people believing it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.
He tried to have Jesus released under a clemency provision that allowed him to release one prisoner at this time of year – but the people chose Barabbas instead.
He begins to panic when his wife pleads with him not to have anything to do with this innocent man because of a dream she had – even she knew he was innocent.
Finally Pilate succumbs to the demands of the people but exonerates himself allowing for Jesus to be put to death by crucifixion but symbolically washing his hands as a sign that he has nothing to do with it.
Is it that easy to excuse what he has done?
I’m going to allow you to put him to death, but I’m washing my hands of his death.
Isn’t that what we do sometimes when it comes to the things we do wrong?
We wash our hands of our guilt.
We might do that by making excuses – it wasn’t my fault, someone else started it, they deserved it, it was an accident, I was affected by drugs or alcohol.
Our legal system strives for more lenient sentences by finding some mitigating circumstances – it was his upbringing, he stole to feed his gambling addiction.
I always find it amazing that when reporting on a crime the police and media have to say the person “allegedly” committed the crime, even if there is clear video of the person doing it.
Finding an excuse for doing something wrong may entitle you to a more lenient sentence in criminal law – and may even get a person off a conviction.
Not getting caught may mean you don’t have to face the punishment or consequence of what you did wrong.
But there is something that “washing your hands” of doing wrong cannot do.
It cannot relieve a guilty conscience.
Many times we see someone confess to something they did years ago even though they got away with it because their guilt cannot let them forget it.
Or the sense of relief you sometimes hear from them as they feel the weight off their shoulders not having to run from their guilt any more.
In our bible reading, washing his hands of Jesus’ death won’t exonerate Pilate.
In fact we are reminded of it every time we confess our faith.
“He suffered under Pontius Pilate”.
In Judas we see the full extent of his guilt as he tried to buy his way out of his remorse by giving back the money by which he betrayed Jesus but ends up taking his own life.
But we do find comfort in our bible reading albeit the people had no idea what they were saying.
When Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified, the people cried out:
“His blood be on us and on our children!”
We can make excuses that may get us off the hook.
We may be able to keep some things secret in our life.
But our guilt can never be ignored.
And we must never underestimate the damage guilt can do.
It can cause physical and spiritual damage.
The physical damage it causes can create sleepless nights – depression – loneliness as we withdraw from friends and family – it can break down relationships.
The spiritual damage it can create is in our relationship with God.
Just look at Adam and Eve who tried to hide their guilt by hiding from God.
That’s what guilt can do.
If we know we’ve hurt someone, even if they don’t know it we will avoid them because every time we see them it reminds us of our guilt.
So too as we come into God’s presence we are reminded of our guilt and it turns us away.
King David, as he tried to hide his guilt and shame after committing adultery with Bathsheba and ordering her husband’s death, felt the full effect of his guilt in sin when he wrote Psalm 32:
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Not blessed is the one who does no wrong or who gets away with his sin.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
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.
All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.
God invites us to come to him – not to be punished but to be comforted through forgiveness from the blood of Christ shed for us.
And even though the people had not intended its meaning in such a way the saying is true for us in Jesus’ death:
“His blood be on us and on our children!
In this Lenten journey take time to reflect on your sin.
Read your Small Catechism and Luther’s explanation to the 10 Commandments which show us that we have not loved God with all our heart or our neighbour as ourselves despite our best attempts to believe we’ve done nothing wrong.
Even if you can totally justify why you acted in such a way, your guilt at some stage will return and convict your heart.
Your guilt is Satan’s greatest weapon.
God wants you to know the sweet comfort of his grace and mercy which does not just cover up sin, which is all our excuses do.
God’s grace and mercy wipes away our sin and guilt forever as God remembers our sin no more.
Admitting our sin is one of the hardest things we have to do but God invites you to come to the cross and let Christ’s blood be on you.