Friday – The Darkness Falls….
Matthew 27: 11-26 (NLT Version)
11Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. “Are you the king of the Jews?” the governor asked him. Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
12But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. 13“Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. 14But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.
15Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd – anyone they wanted. 16This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you – Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18(He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.)
19Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.”
20Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. 21So the governor asked again, “Which of these two do you want me to release to you?” The crowd shouted back, “Barabbas!”22Pilate responded, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 23“Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”
24Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”
25And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death – we and our children!” 26Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
Just 5 days ago, we celebrated Palm Sunday. Today is Good Friday, the bleakest moment in the Gospels.
From the perspective of 2017, the first Easter crowds seem incredibly fickle. They welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but less than a week later they were calling for him to be crucified! Perhaps Jesus no longer served their agenda! People had been happy to join the ‘happy throng’ when there was ‘merry-making’, but now that things were getting tough, their numbers were quickly dropping away.
The disciples seem completely clueless about what is going on in spite of all the related prophecies in their Scriptures and Jesus’ repeated attempts to help them understand! They had thought that Jesus would be their Messiah; they had thought that he would forcibly deliver his people from all oppression. By this time, they were wondering how any of that could possibly happen – now that it all looked so bleak…now that the darkness was falling.
Pilate, the Roman governor finds Jesus innocent of any crimes, but nonetheless, he gives the crowd the option of releasing Jesus or a guilty criminal, Barabbas. The crowd choose Barabbas to go free thereby sealing Jesus’ fate. An innocent man would die in place of a guilty man. This pointed to the greater truth that Jesus would die instead of and on behalf of guilty humanity.
The religious leaders in this story behaved despicably; Pilate, the Roman governor acted in a ‘spineless’ way. By ‘washing his hands’ of the whole affair, he effectively said ‘I don’t agree with this course of action but neither am I going to do anything to stop it.’ Not one of the key characters comes out of this story as having behaved well, except for Jesus. But it’s for all people, including fickle, clueless, despicable, spineless people that Jesus died.
The wondrous thing is that Jesus’ love for them, and us, was so utterly overwhelming that he was prepared to submit to the greatest injustice ever known!
Not one of us deserves God’s love, but God loves us anyway. Not one of us deserves that Christ should die for us, but he died for us anyway. What a love, what a cost – we stand forgiven at the cross!