Day 35 (Monday) - Matthew 27:24-26

Artwork by Ben Ober

Artwork by Ben Ober

Crucified under Pontius Pilate. 

The Apostle’s Creed isn’t exactly fair when it says that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.  

As Pastor Aaron preached about yesterday, Pilate didn’t really care all that much which of the Jesuses would survive to see tomorrow. He just wanted everyone to be clear that whatever happened, it wasn’t his fault. 

Washing his hands in front of the crowd, he declares his innocence, like Lady MacBeth did when bloodguilt showed up again and again on her hands. But the stain was there for Pilate and no amount of scrubbing or denying would get it clean. 

Out, damned spot, out I say!

Pilate was in a tight spot, I'd say.  He had pressure from all sides, the chief priests, the officials, his soldiers, the Jews, his wife, even his own conscience.  So he tried to find a way to release Jesus.

He pulled out all the stops except for standing up to the angry mob.  Why risk his own career at worst or at best, the consequences of an angry crowd, for a man who had done nothing to deserve his favor? 

Pilate knew if it came down to it that to stand up for truth would mean sacrificing everything for Jesus, a man to whom he owed no favors, shared no loyalties, who didn’t deserve the risk.  Ironic, then. That's exactly what Jesus would do for Pilate.

Pilate tries to wash his hands of the matter, to recuse himself of responsibility.  Though for all the scrubbing and stressing and out- damned-spot-ing, Pilate can't seem to scrub out the truth.

He’s been warned by his wife.  He seems to at least suspect the truth, that the Jewish religious leaders simply want Jesus out of the picture for their own political gain.  But siding with Jesus isn’t worth the risk.

And two thousand years later, it will always be risky to choose Jesus.  Pilate chose not to accept the cost that releasing Jesus might bring to him personally.  At some point, all of us will have to make that choice. 

Sometimes choosing Jesus means we have to risk prestige, position, power.  It might mean that we have to risk facing a painful part of our past, to risk forgiving someone or asking forgiveness.  It might mean we have to risk grieving over what we lost or what we did.  It might mean we have to risk giving up that temporary rush of comfort or connection we feel through our addictions or the relationships that cause us to sin.  It might mean we have to risk giving up control over plans, projects, people.  It might mean risking our money or security to follow Christ.

The Jewish crowds in this scene seem fine with taking responsibility with the bloodguilt.  In fact, they even claim it for their children.  Mt. 27:25 has been used to justify all kinds of evil against Jews throughout the ages, even though that’s not what was intended with its inclusion here. There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that God would uniquely blame or punish the Jews for Jesus’ death.  In fact, quite the opposite! We are, all of us - Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free - guilty of shedding this blood, responsible for sin and all its consequences when we choose ourselves instead of the risk. 

The Apostle’s Creed wasn’t exactly fair to Pilate, but it wasn’t completely unfair either.  He was guilty, yes, with all of humanity.

Crucified under Pontius Pilate, and under you and me.

Pastor Brynn Harrington

Consider: 

How have you tried to justify yourself or “scrub away” the blots in your own life? What have you been apprehensive about risking for the sake of the gospel?

Pray:

Lift up those things that feel like big risks. Where in your life are you tempted to outsource or "punt" responsibility?  Ask the Lord for the courage to follow through.

Embody:

Today is the second day of Holy Week. For one of your meals today, consider eating radishes and fresh parsley lightly dipped in salt water. Drink only water. These foods together help symbolize the bitter taste of Christ’s passion. 

Pastor Aaron Engler


Endnotes: 

  1. Shakespeare, William, MacBeth.
  2. Gal. 3:18-21.