Good Friday 2021: 7 – Condemnation by Pilate

7 - Condemnation by Pilate

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” (Matthew 27:11-24)

Many of us picture Pilate as a villain because he condemned Jesus to death. But notice Pilate’s resistance; he looked for a way out. He saw that Jesus was innocent and wanted to set him free. However, he was contending with an angry mob, and wanted to keep the peace. He didn’t want to deal with an uprising; that would be political suicide. So, he allowed himself to be swayed by the crowd… to take the easy way out… to blame others for his actions. Pilate was willing for Jesus to suffer so that he didn’t have to. It was easier to make a public show of washing his hands of Jesus than it was to take a public stand to execute justice for Jesus. Easier to sacrifice Jesus than himself.

Perhaps as Pilate washed his hands to protect his power, Jesus was remembering the private, intimate moment the night before… when he wrapped a towel around his waist, took a basin of water in his hands, and knelt down before his friends… in the position of the lowest household servant… to wash their feet. “If you want to be great in the kingdom of God, become a servant to all.” Perhaps as the crowd cried, “Crucify him!”, Jesus looked down at his own feet… sweaty, dirty, from all of the walking from trial to trial through the night… and thought about the nails that would soon be driven through them.

In what ways have you been Pilate… going along with the crowd… taking the easy way out… blaming others for your action… choosing apathy over unpopular action… to sit it out rather than stand up for what is right and good? What, or whom, is it easier for you to wash your hands of… than to wash the feet of?