“I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Matthew 27:24)
Pilate said it.
Maybe you’ve said it, too.
It’s a natural thing to say. It was for Pilate.
He was a governor appointed to keep peace in the troubled Roman province of Judea. History remembers him as the ruler who presided over the trial of Jesus. As governor, he would have been responsible for issuing a just ruling over every case brought before him. One case seemed to give him fits.
The Jewish leaders presented him with Jesus of Nazareth. They accused him of many things, but to Pilate, none of their accusations seemed to ring true. Their testimony was contradictory. It dealt with the Jewish religion. And Jesus hadn’t broken any Roman laws. Ultimately, Pilate saw no grounds to convict him.
But the pressure of the Jews could be very great, especially at the time of their great feast, when messianic expectations against Rome were at their highest. As the newly appointed governor, Pilate could not afford a riot in his province.
So he thought of a way to release Jesus peacefully.
Each year at the feast the Roman governor would release a Jewish prisoner. If he gave them a choice between Jesus (an innocent man) and the notorious murderer Barabbas, they would surely wish Jesus to be released! But they chose Barabbas. So Pilate did the only politically expedient thing. He denied any responsibility for Jesus’ death.
That’s really what his words meant.
He knew who Jesus was and that he was undeserving of death. But he wouldn’t admit that he was responsible. As far as he was concerned, Jesus was innocent. Someone else would bear the guilt of Jesus’ death. Not Pilate. He was innocent of his blood.
Or so he thought.
And what about you?
Are you tempted to think that because you heard the story of Jesus in the church nursery that you are innocent? Or do you think that because you believe the right things and do the right things that you are not responsible for Jesus’ death? After all, it was the sin of the world that caused Jesus to die.
You see, we don’t usually take personal responsibility for his death. But we should.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:5)
It was our sin that put him there. And we need to be reminded of this–not because we need to be on a constant guilt-trip, but because we need to live by the mercy and grace he gave us in salvation. He died the death we deserved. This is the ultimate act of mercy on us. And he gave us a life we could never earn. This is the ultimate gift of grace.
“I am guilty of this man’s blood.”
Until we have said this we have not come to terms with what Jesus did because of us and for us on the cross. We’re guilty of death. We’re totally undeserving of life. That’s good news.