Online Calvary Worship – Midweek Lenten Service – March 25, 2020
Sermon for Midweek Lenten Service 3/25 & 4/1 - “What they said when Jesus went to Calvary”
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Hymns: 151, 158, 558
Grace be unto you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Matthew 27:17–25 (NKJV)
17 Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.
19 While he 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.”
20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They said, “Barabbas!”
22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”
23 Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”
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.” 25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Whose blood covers our sins from God’s wrath,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Most Precious Blood –
During the Sundays in Lent at Calvary, we have been meditating on a series of ‘Remarkable Events’ that took place during Holy Week. In fact, in these nine verses alone we find three of them.
The first is a dream. While her husband was on the judgment seat waiting for the assembled mob to decide his job for him, Pilate’s wife sent word that he should have nothing to do with the condemnation of ‘that just man’ because she had suffered many things in a dream because of Him.
The second is a choice. Pontius Pilate thought that he had rigged the trial by offering to release Barabbas or Jesus. In the ‘court of human opinion’ there was only one choice. One man was a convicted rebel and murderer, the other had been declared innocent of all charges. It was truly remarkable that the mob chose Barabbas over Jesus.
The third is a show. Pontius Pilate saw that he couldn’t manipulate the crowd and he was afraid of fomenting rebellion in the packed capital city, so He gave them what they wanted. He tried to ‘wash his hands’ of the whole matter. He washed his hands before the people but it didn’t wash anything away.
During our Midweek Lenten worship, we’ve been looking at ‘What they said when Jesus went to Calvary.’ We have, thus far, heard from Jesus Disciples, “Lord, you don’t think it is I, do you?” We’ve heard the declaration of the Jewish Sanhedrin, “He is worthy of death!” We’ve heard Simon Peter lie, “I do not know the man.” We’ve heard Pontius Pilate ask the wrong question, “What is Truth?”
This evening as we sit in our homes we hear again from Pontius Pilate and from the assembled mob. We listen as Pilate makes a final attempt to shirk his responsibility and the assembled mob gleefully accepts responsibility for shedding the blood of Jesus of Nazareth.
Let us begin with prayer.
Lord God, heavenly Father, I have sinned against You. I may try to hide my sin, but your eyes see. I try to laugh away my guilt, but I know that it is eternally serious. My sin stokes your righteous anger. Help me see my sin, understand the seriousness of it and sorrow over it. Then comfort my heart with the truth that you sent your Son to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Amen.
If you’ve ever watched Perry Mason or Matlock or some other television program offering a courtroom scene, then you are probably familiar with some of the language of the court.
When a lawyer doesn’t like an inference of guilt or the direction a line of questioning, He will appeal to the presiding judge, “Your honor, I object!”
Consequently, the Judge must decide whether or not to censure the questioning lawyer and strike the question from the record or dismiss the objection with a curt, “Sustained!”
Finally, whether Judge or Jury are tasked with rendering a verdict, there is familiar language: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, have you reached a verdict?” “Yes, your honor. We find the defendant…”
What does the jury find the defendant? Either “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”.
The Governor and Judge Pontius Pilate had already rendered a verdict on more than one occasion in the case of the people vs. Jesus of Nazareth (John 18:38, 19:4,6 Luke 23:4). He had declared Jesus to be ‘not guilty.’
“I find no fault in this man.”
But every time Pilate declared it; the crowd grew more agitated. So, even though he had declared Jesus innocent, Pontius Pilate handed Him the death sentence. Pilate’s final verdict concerning Jesus of Nazareth was not a verdict of guilt or innocence. Pilate gave sentence (Luke 23:24):
“…that it should be as they requested.”
The truth is that the only verdict that Pontius Pilate offered was on his own behalf...
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…”
Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the whole case. It’s difficult to say where the object lesson or expression originated, we all understand it. Pilate didn’t wash his hands as a matter of personal hygiene. Whether an act or blatant hypocrisy, Pontius Pilate was symbolically washing the guilt and blood of Jesus from his hands. He was sending an innocent man to Calvary and he knew it.
So, Pilate declared himself innocent of Jesus’ Blood. Nice try, Pilate, it doesn’t work that way. No man can serve as his own judge because when it comes to ourselves, we can’t be unbiased, we aren’t reliable judges and our verdicts are rarely, if ever, just.
It’s not our job…but when did that ever stop us?
Everyday countless human beings do the same thing. We look at our sinful lives and then minimize. We think that we aren’t at fault and the charges won’t stick because ‘we are only human’ and ‘we didn’t mean it.’ We delude ourselves into thinking that we have in some way ‘measured up’ to God’s commands. We think we compare rather favorably when we place ourselves alongside other sinners – someone like a Barabbas – a rebel and a murderer.
We do the same thing that Pilate tried to do! We may try to declare ourselves innocent, but it’s foolish. The only righteous course of action is to confess our sins, to throw ourselves on the mercy of God in Christ and find forgiveness in His shed blood.
He, after all is the only one who ever measured up. He is the only just man, the only innocent one.
Pontius Pilate had one more parting shot for the threatening and insistent mob:
“You see to it.”
The responsibility for rendering a verdict rested securely on Pontius Pilate’s shoulders. If he had had a business card, it might have read, “Pontius Pilate, Governor and Duly appointed Judge.” Still, on Good Friday Pilate tried repeatedly to shirk that responsibility. Then with still drying hands, he tried to transfer the guilt of his verdict to the mob.
The responsibility for this man’s death is yours…I don’t want it…you see to it.
It wasn’t the first time those words were spoken carelessly that morning. When Judas Iscariot saw what his betrayal meant for Jesus, he felt bad about it. He tried to slough off his guilt by returning the 30 pieces of silver. He tried to undo what he had done. The chief priests, the men called to impart peace and comfort, to point to the bloody sacrifices and to God’s mercy and promise to atone, said to Judas (Matthew 27:4):
“What is that to us? You see to it!”
Now…before you climb the steps to the judgment seat to render your verdict against Pilate and the Chief Priests …remember you aren’t the judge. God is the judge of human hearts and minds.
Frightening if you think about it, isn’t it? It is because we are just as good at shirking our God given responsibilities, aren’t we? The LORD would have us discipline our children, to correct them when they do wrong and commend them when they do right…but have we ever shirked that responsibility, saying, “Well, I’m big enough not to make it personal.” I’m sure every grandparent is quick to correct their grandchildren too, right? Well, you know your heart …be honest.
The truth is that my sin isn’t anyone else’s fault…and neither is yours. We may try and explain it away, but it’s about as useful as trying to wash away guilt by washing your hands. Temptation to sin may come from outside us, but the desire to go skipping down the trail to sin comes from within our own rotten hearts.
The Holy Spirit in the Epistle of James enters evidence against us when he declares (James 1:14-15):
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
What is there for us to say? One thing: God be merciful to me, a sinner!
Yes, and God has been merciful to sinners in Jesus Christ!
Now we might expect a rational group of people to reject the offer of Pontius Pilate. Oh, no, sir…it’s your responsibility! Then again, we might expect them to mock Pilate’s weakness.
But mobs aren’t usually rational or thoughtful.
25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
It wasn’t just that a few of them accepted the offer…or even simply the loudest. The Spirit of God reveals that all of the people answered Pilate’s offer to take the responsibility for Jesus’ murder. They didn’t mumble, “If that’s what it takes, OK!” They casually accepted the responsibility as if to say, “Put on our account, we are good for it.”
Should we be surprised? In our own day few value human life; abortion on demand is proof of that. Still today, some people just aren’t afraid of the consequence of sin, of having to face God’s Judgment. People act and live as though sin is as natural as breathing and as harmful as a puppy. So many have been deceived by Satan (Romans 6:23a):
“For the wages of sin is death…”
God help us that we neither minimize or dismiss the seriousness of sin. God grant us his grace that we instead flee from temptation to Christ and His Cross.
The mob thought they could handle it, shoulder the sin, the guilt and the consequences. But less than a year later some of them weren’t so sure. When the Apostles proclaimed Jesus’ death and resurrection, the assembled leaders called them into court again and said (Acts 5:28):
“Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
There are terrible consequences to sin…none more terrible than impenitence and rejecting Christ. There were consequences for the Jews of that day (cf. Matthew 23:32-36) because they rejected Jesus and missed the day of their visitation (Luke 19:44).
Sin, guilt and its consequences are too heavy for you to carry…don’t even try. You can’t bear your own sin, guilt; don’t try and take responsibility for the sins of your children or anyone else. Instead, God help us to be responsible parents and godly examples who humbly confess sins and leave them at the Cross.
There is only one person appointed to bear sin, to carry sin, to take it away. John the Baptist once pointed him out on the bank of the Jordan River and Pontius Pilate had Him and our debt nailed to a Roman Cross. It is because of Jesus’ willing sacrifice and glorious resurrection that we can face the day and the future fearlessly, for (1 John 1:7, 9):
“…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin…if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Glory be to Jesus, Who in bitter pains
Poured for me the life-blood From His sacred veins!
Grace and life eternal In that blood I find;
Blest be His compassion, Infinitely kind!
Lift we, then, our voices, Swell the mighty flood,
Louder still and louder Praise the precious blood!