His Blood Be On Us!

Matthew 27:22-26

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Matthew 27:24-26  When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person.  You see to it.”  And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”  Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  As soon as you look at our text for this day you see that it outlines what could be billed as the first ever Peoples’ Choice Awards.  And the nominees are: Jesus Christ and Barabbas.

Now, Barabbas was a criminal who was in prison for leading a rebellion, or “insurrection,” as they called it.  And, just for good measure, Barabbas had also committed murder during this rebellion.  There were obviously plenty of witnesses to Barabbas’ crimes, so his case was plain.

Jesus, on the other hand, had committed no crime worthy of the death penalty; He was standing trial for things He never did.  He did not cause riots, He did not blaspheme (which is to tell lies about God), and although He said He was the King of the Jews, that in itself was the truth.  There were no legal or proper grounds for putting Jesus to death – no reasons at all – except for the peoples’ out-of-control screaming and mob rule.  Jesus was the truth-teller.  He was the good guy.  He was the great teacher.  He had a large following.  He should be exonerated.  Therefore, the decision regarding the People’s Choice Awards should be a slam dunk.

So there we have it.  These are our two contestants vying for the prize of becoming a free man.  And, according to the rules of the game, each year at this time it was the governor’s custom to release one prisoner.  The decision belonged to Pilate alone.  His was the job of announcing the People’s Choice.

What kind of help did Pilate receive in order to make his decision?  What influenced him?  What input did he have from the various sources?  In verse 11 of Mt. 27 Jesus verifies that, yes, He is the King of the Jews, just as Pilate said.  And then in vv. 12 & 13 Jesus says nothing in response to the many accusations made against Him by the chief priests and elders.  Truly an amazing contestant.  So far, so good for Jesus.

Pilate then sought input from the people as to which of the two men, Barabbas or Jesus, he should release to them.  But before he got the results of that poll, this happened in verse 19: When [Pilate] was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”

But before Pilate had much of a chance to think that over, St. Matthew informs us of the overwhelming political and social pressure put on the governor by the chief priests and elders to free Barabbas and execute Jesus.  These guys had the people so stirred up that they were literally screaming at the top of their lungs for Jesus to be crucified.  It was mob rule at its very best – or, should we say, its very worst.

V. 24: When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” Seeking to extract himself from any and all blame for what was about to happen, Pilate washed his hands of the matter and instead put the responsibility for Jesus’ demise on the people.

But despite all his protests that Jesus was innocent and putting the blame on the Jews, Pilate remained guilty.  What was true then is still true today: that a judge who is to decide between right and wrong cannot permit the wrong to prevail and then wash his hands in innocence.  Yes, in some cases a judge may indeed be helpless to prevent a wrong despite strenuous efforts to bring justice.

But this was not the case for Pilate; he had the whole Roman command and power to back up his declaration of Jesus’ innocence.  Instead, his handwashing was nothing more than the pitiful gesture of a feeble man trying to rid himself of a guilt which, to this day, is held against him; for the words of the Creed, “suffered under Pontius Pilate,” will forever stand as an indictment against him for permitting the suffering of an innocent man.

Finally, this was the peoples’ choice – the peoples’ response to Pilate’s words as recorded in v. 25: And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children!”  In the very words of the verse, ALL the people were willing to take upon themselves all the responsibility and guilt for Jesus’ death which, of course, did not exonerate Pilate.  Not for one second did the people believe they were shedding innocent blood in spite of Pilate’s statements to the contrary.  The peoples’ choice had been made and allowed to stand.  They wanted Barabbas the murderer to go free and they wanted Jesus the perfect God/Man to die.

And die He would.   And His blood would indeed be on them and on their children just as they said.  As was stated before, anyone who does not defend the innocence of Jesus stands condemned, and more so if they cause others to believe the same way.

And this is where we come into the picture, if we haven’t already seen ourselves in it.  We also are in that crowd which screamed for Jesus’ death.  For, along with everyone else, we by our sins and natural depravity caused Jesus to go to the cross and suffer the cruelest death known to man.  As Jesus hung on the cross with the weight of the world’s sins upon Him, we also stand condemned for putting Him there.

And yes, as little as we want to say it, we must cry out, “His blood be on us and on our children!”  We must say it for two reasons.  The first reason is this: it was and is our sin which helped put Jesus to death, and that is a fact no one can deny.  But the second and arguably more important reason we must cry out those words is that unless the blood of Jesus IS on us, we have no hope.

For inasmuch as we must take responsibility for our sins, we are all the more reminded that Jesus’ death on the cross was meant not for our eternal damnation, but for our eternal salvation and forgiveness.  His cruel suffering and death, not matter how horrible it seems, was in fact the full-bore payment for all our sins; He did it for you.  And when the Spirit of God brings that fact home to us, we by faith can grab hold of Christ’s death and resurrection as truly Good News.  That is where having the blood of Christ on us makes us not stained forever with sin, but cleansed and washed pure and dazzling white because His blood is on us.

His blood was on us and on our children at Baptism when water was applied in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  His blood is put on us and on our children in Holy Absolution when, in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ the called and ordained servant of the Word delivers forgives for all your sins in that same holy name.  His blood is on us and on our children whenever the Gospel is preached.

And His blood is on us – yes His blood is IN us – and in our children when the Lord Jesus places His sinless body and blood into our sinful bodies in His Supper for the forgiveness of all our sins.

Yes!  Let His blood be on us and on our children…in all the ways that Jesus wants to be on and in us.  And let us go forth into this Holy Week receiving Jesus more and more until we celebrate His resurrection next Sunday and, finally, in the life of the world to come.

 

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.