1998-04-16 - Crime and Punishment
The Cross Series, Part 35
Luke 23:13-19 And Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, "You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. 15 "No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. 16 "I will therefore punish Him and release Him." 17 [Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.] 18 But they cried out all together, saying, "Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!" 19 (He was one who had been thrown into prison for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder.)
In fear of a riot in the city, Pilate has played his final trump card and been beaten. He had hoped to use his custom of releasing a convicted criminal from prison before the Passover to free Jesus. Many zealots ended up in prison, caught fighting the Roman occupation. Barabbas was possibly such a man. Pilate begins his address by explaining that he, and Herod, find Jesus guiltless of the crimes He is accused of by the Council. He finds no guilt and yet, to appease the people, the Procurator promises to punish Jesus. This is the first shadow of the cross. Jesus is guiltless and yet punished
Barabbas is actually guilty of the crime of which Jesus stands accused.
Mark 15:7 And the man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. (NAS)
Barabbas would consider himself a freedom fighter. He and his compatriots where trying to make Palestine such a problem to the Roman Army, they would get frustrated and leave. To the natives, they were soldiers. To the Romans, they were the enemy, criminals. Barabbas probably considered the man he had killed a casualty of war. But to the ruling Roman law, he was a murder worthy of death. Just as we were willfully separated from God, unrepentant sinners - not seeking redemption in any way. We did not consider ourselves guilty. We had to be shown that we were guilty. The Law condemned us, worthy of eternal, spiritual death.
Isa 64:6-7 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 7 And there is no one who calls on Thy name, who arouses himself to take hold of Thee; for Thou hast hidden Thy face from us, and hast delivered us into the power of our iniquities.
Jesus stands willingly in front of a crowd that calls for His death. His creation rails against Him not realizing that Jesus has spent eternity preparing for this moment. Jesus' would be protector, Pilate, is frustrated by the reaction of the people. The crowd will not answer his plaintiff question. He offers to punish and release Jesus in a final attempt to satisfy the mob. They will be satisfied with nothing less than Jesus' execution.
Matt 27:21-24 But the governor answered and said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." 22 Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let Him be crucified!" 23 And he said, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they kept shouting all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!" 24 And when Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves."
The power of darkness must have furiously bent every effort against Jesus in this hour. There is visible evidence in the illegal trial, the Council stirring up the mob and the paid witnesses. Jesus could have ended it all with a word and Pilate would have released Him. Or the Master could have used a word as He did in the Garden of Gethsemane and simply walked away from the terrible cup that was drawing closer.
Pilate does a very Jewish thing here. He calls for water and ceremonially washes his hands of the matter. He had rebuked Jesus earlier making it clear that he was not a Jew, but here he shows that he understands the mannerisms and customs very well. But it would take more than water to cleanse Pilate's guilt. It also takes more than the water of baptism to cleanse us Baptism itself has no power to cleanse, but is an outward sign of repentance and obedience. It is the repentance, the change of mind and submission of will, that breaks the power of sin over us. It is the sacrificial death of Jesus in our place that pays the debt we owe to God. It is the life of Jesus given to us that give our spiritual man, the new man, eternal life.
We are about to turn the last corner toward the cross where Jesus takes the punishment that was intended as justice for our crimes. Only accepting this finished work on our behalf has the power to save us from the punishment we so richly deserve. None of us is righteous and I will put myself at the front of that list. No amount of ceremonial washing - good works, giving of time and money to worthy causes, moral living - can bridge the gap that stands between us and the level of perfection required. Jesus offers us His righteous life in exchange for the ragged tatters of our own lives. In accepting His gift, we can stand before the Father in Jesus' righteousness and be acceptable in the sight of the Father's judgment.
Lord Jesus, we are about to look directly into the last portion of the path you walked to pay for our release from slavery to sin. Give is willing hearts as we review the events on the road You took to the cross. Give us Your insights and blessings as we go forward. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.