24 Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.”
25 All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.”26 Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified (Matthew 27:24-26, Common English Bible).
Pilate had it wrong. He couldn’t have been more wrong. He didn’t want to execute Jesus. His wife told him not to do it. But, on the other hand, he had the leaders of the Jewish Council insisting that Jesus needed to die and threatening him with a bad report to the Emperor. To make matters even worse these leaders, the priests were stirring up the crowd to the point they were almost at the point of having a riot. It wasn’t a good situation.
In yesterday’s lesson, Pilate makes a move in this little chess game. For all practical purposes, it was Pilate’s last real move of the day. Tradition had him release one prisoner. He gambled. It was a calculated risk, but a risk none the less. It was also a gamble he lost. Normally he gave the Jews their choice of any prisoner. As a part of his gamble, Pilate took a notorious prisoner, an insurrectionist, a murder, a thief and a con man. Pilate paired this man Barabbas with Jesus. Pilate reasoned there was no way the Jews would let Barabbas, a man they feared, go just so they could execute Jesus who, may have annoyed the leaders, he had really done nothing wrong. Pilate played his hand and the leaders called his bluff.
That’s where we begin today. Pilate has had enough of all this. Jesus meant nothing to him, so quite literally, Pilate washed his hands of the Jesus matter. He chose to do nothing. He released Barabbas and turned Jesus over to be crucified.
“I have nothing to do with this man,” Pilate said (my paraphrase), “Let his blood be on your hands. It isn’t on mine.” With that, Pilate had finished his mental exercise of saving Jesus.
When the end of this debate came, Pilate didn’t see himself as part of the problem. He didn’t see himself as having any further responsibility. He was just looking for the fastest way possible to restore order.
For Pilate, really for the Romans of the period, life was cheap. Jesus really meant nothing to him. If Jesus was keeping the Jews stirred up, it wasn’t in Pilate’s best interest to ignore the situation. He couldn’t just let things remain in turmoil. The fastest, most expedient means was to send Jesus to the cross.
Of course, Pilate wouldn’t see it this way. He believed that by washing his hands of the situation and putting it back on the Jews would absolve him of any guilt. That is a line of thought that is shortsighted.
In truth, just as we are responsible for the death of Jesus due to our own sin, the same was true of Pilate. By not saving a man he believed to innocent, he rejects Christ and allows an innocent man to die. Pilate’s decision is arguably the worst decision in history. When Pilate decided not to decided not to decide, he actually decided.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved