The Irony of Self Sacrifice
A continuation of our study in the Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again 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 shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
So often some of the most heinous things in history have resulted from politics as usual. People looking to get ahead in life and not caring about the consequences of their actions. In our passage today we see Pilate a low level servant of the Roman Empire trying to quell the unrest that has been burgeoning throughout Palestine, and now he has this “Insignificant” issue to deal with, that is more of a nuisance than anything else. It’s a religious matter, but the Romans held court over these type of disagreements too. Pilate couldn’t care less about this peasant from Galilee, but the people did, and they were causing a ruckus, so he had to act. Knowing that the man from Galilee was innocent, he tried to use a political move by trading Him for a real criminal, but that wasn’t going to work, so in order to keep peace and get a gold star for a job well done, he became party to the biggest injustice the world has ever known. Sure he tried to “Wipe his hands” of this mess, but that’s just political posturing. We are just as guilty when we don’t do what we know the right thing is to do. So what did he do, he compromised his own values for doing what he thought would please the masses. The result is a brutal mockery of our savior. He took on their hateful mockery on behalf of me.
- Why is this trial such a mockery?
- Why are we a lot like Pilate?
- Why did the soldiers, who didn’t really know Jesus do such horrible things to Him?
- How hard is it to do the right thing, when we know the consequences in our own life will be detrimental?