Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Hymns of the Church – Low in the Grave He Lay, Jesus my Savior – 31 March 2015, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)
60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. 61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. 62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. (Matt 27:60-66)
So, the priests and Pharisees, rulers of the Jews (and unmitigated hypocrites), took the advice of the Roman Proconsul and made the Tomb as sure as they could make it. Unfortunately for them, and of supreme fortune for us, that was not sure enough! A Roman Watch was a Quaternion of Guards – there were four guards for each watch in the night (a period of three hours). These soldiers faced a dreadful death should they fall asleep on guard duty; however, they were very alert and determined not to pay that penalty! Seals of wax were placed on the corners of the stone covering the entrance to the tomb that were stamped with the Roman Imperial Seal to ensure that no one intruded on the Tomb. But these precautions were not enough. The power of man falls far short of the Almighty Power of God!
Today’s hymn is one that tells two sides of the same story – the sorrowful account of the burial Christ, followed by the glorious joy of His resurrection! Robert Lowry wrote both the lyrics and musical score for this timeless hymn of celebration. The tune itself is divided into a dirge followed by an anthem of majestic ecstasy. Lowry published the hymn first in 1875. It is a hymn of deep despair followed by exultant joy in all stanzas.
Low in the Grave He Lay
Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Vainly they watch His grave, Jesus my Savior;
Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!
Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior;
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
“Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Savior, Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!” No one had ever been more dead than our Lord after those early morning beatings with a cat-of-nine-tails – a whip made of leather thongs with pieces of sharp metal embedded in the tips for the purpose of ripping deep gashes in the flesh. The crown of thorns Jesus wore contributed to great loss of blood, and the incessant interrogation without sleep made His physical condition even less able to bear the cross later in the morning. He hung naked on that old, rugged cross for about six hours in the heat of the sun, and being ridiculed by all of His enemies who gloried in His predicament. After He had yield His soul up to the Father and died, the roman guard thrust a well- trained and practiced spear into His chest at the very point at which His heart would have been pierced. From that wound gushed forth blood (from the heart) and water (gathered in the thoracic cavity as a result of acute fatigue and stress). Jesus was laid in a borrowed Tomb (He only needed it for a short three days). There he lay, waiting for an event that had never before happened – a resurrection to eternal life from the dead! He thus opened the WAY for you and me, and all of the elect of God, to follow in that resurrection.
This first verse is full of gloom and sorrow, but observe the change of tenor in the Refrain whose music and wording inspires and lifts to new heights of joy.
“Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!” Jesus arose on the third day under the power and authority of His own Word! He triumphed over death, sin, and the Devil. He broke the bars of death and Hell, and set the captives free. He was victorious over that old Serpent of Eden, His heel having crushed that Serpents head. All that precedes the Resurrection of Christ would have been an empty cup except that Christ rose from the dead. That resurrection assures the same for all who believe and follow Him. We may all shout Hallelujah every morning – not just at Easter – for this mighty and blessed victory of Jesus!
“Vainly they watch His grave, Jesus my Savior; Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!” There is a universe of meaning in the term ‘vainly!’ Certainly, man’s works and labors are nothing. The power of man is less than that of an ant warring against an elephant. Vainly did Rome set her watches over against the Tomb of the Garden. Vainly did they make the tomb ‘sure’ by their meager and flimsy waxen seal. The Guards of the watch were powerless to intercede at the moment appointed for Christ to arise from that stone Tomb. Brilliant light broke forth from within as the huge stone covering the Tomb was rolled away as if it were made of feathers! The brawny Roman guards fainted in fear as the momentous event transpired! “2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” (Matt 28:2-4) Amazing that these brave soldiers would be terrified at the appearance of a man who had been dead for three days, isn’t it!
“Death cannot keep its Prey, Jesus my Savior; He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!” Death was finally and fatally defeated by the cross and resurrection. It has no power whatsoever over the Child of God. As the 23rd Psalm describes it, it is only a Shadow of Death. A shadow has no substance at all. Who His Own Self bare our sins in His Own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by Whose stripes ye were healed (I Pet 2:24) The devil, our Adversary and Accuser before God, lost his prosecutorial ability to convict us of our sins. As a matter of fact, we read that the Devil himself will be cast into the Lake of Fire before the White Throne Judgment takes place. 10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Rev 20:10-12)
So, Jesus, in a matter of three days, redeemed us of our sins, bore our penalty for us, died for us, descended into Hell, and set the captives free. On that third day, He set His own seal on the grave – not that no one could get out, but all who believed would not enter in to eternal death! That is the kind of Savior this hymn praises and adores.
Hopefully, this hymn will be sung in unsurpassed faith by millions around the world; and may those same souls prevail to the waters of Jordan Banks and cross over to glory just as made ready by our Lord.
Despair in the Judgment Seat
16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
Barabbas was, indeed, a notable prisoner – not notable for his philanthropy, but for his criminal and moral perversity. Yesterday, we examined two men of very different character – both denied Christ by their actions – Peter and Judas. But Peter denied out of weakness of courage; Judas, on the other hand, out of malice and premeditation. Peter repented with bitter tears, and Judas repented to other men, not God whom he had offended. To be precise, Judas repented to himself! It was “himself” that led to the egregious sin of betrayal to begin with. It is unlikely that self can undo the guilt that self has created. We discovered that we were like one, or the other, of these two men. We may, at times, have been Judas, and at other times, Peter. But what is important is the one you BECAME in Christ. Peter was not a rock, but a stone, chipped off that Great Rock which was Christ.
On this Tuesday of Holy Week, we continue to study about the incapacity of man to do justice and work righteousness in two personalities – Pontius Pilate and Barabbas! I will ask you at the conclusion of today’s devotion which of these two men best represents YOU!
The Roman governor began the day in darkness having been aroused from his bed sometime after midnight. He was not in a sociable mood to say the least. He had suffered many disputes with the constant nagging and petulance of the Jewish leaders. Now they awaken him in the early hours of the morning with yet another trifling complaint about a man of whom he had heard little, but of what he had heard, the man was simple a good man who never hurt a flea.
His wife had seemingly heard more of Jesus than Pilate. Her name was Claudia Procula, granddaughter of Augustus Caesar, according to the Gospel of Nicodemus – an apocryphal book that is not canonical, but may shed historical light on the period. Shortly after her husband had rushed to the Judgment Hall, Procula had a disturbing dream. Perhaps she overheard some detail of the reason for her husbands hurried departure, tried to sleep again, but was awakened by a prophetic dream. Being a good wife, and perhaps more spiritual than her husband, she rushed to have a message carried to Pilate just as he sat down on the Judgment Seat! “19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” But the reality of a host of cynical Jewish priests, elders, and a multitude gathered, had greater impact than a dream of his wife. After all, Pontius Pilate was a political official and not necessarily an honorable statesman. He played to the crowds and numbers that would keep peace with Caesar. And Pilate was, as well, a PRACTICAL man. Never let trifles – even if unjust – ruin a blossoming and handsome career.
Pilate already knew exactly what the Jewish rulers desired, but he thought he might assuage them in some little way from their evil intentions. 11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. 12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. 13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? 14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. Pilate marveled because he had never had a defendant come before him facing such horrendous circumstances who would not offer at least SOME word in defense. The silence of Christ in His own defense was in accord with the 700 year old prophecy of Isaiah: He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (Isaiah 53:7-8) It seems clear Pilate would have relished some word of justification from Christ that would have provided him an argument to release Jesus.
Pilate mulled over the situation. He needed more than simply the solution that would satisfy justice since these men were not before him to achieve justice, but murder! The solution must be a ‘political’ one. I am not sure if Pilate was Republican or Democrat, but he knew his politics nonetheless. Suddenly, a man’s name came to his mind that caused hope to grow from the shadows of the morning – Barabbas. Most often, the mention of Barabbas’ name evoked reprehension and disgust, but now it was a very sweet thought to Pilate. No one, Pilate surmised, would prefer Barabbas to be set free over the innocent Jesus! Aha! That would be Pilate’s solution to the dilemma – or so he thought!
15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. It is even now completely plain and clear Pilate knew Jesus was innocent and that jealousy and envy was the motivation for these Jewish leaders demanding His death. Pilate was feeling pretty good about his plan until the next shoe fell: 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. The mention of Barabbas as the man to be released sent chills up the back of Pilate.
In our modern day society, Pontius Pilate would be considered a better-than-average public official. He was a fair-minded fellow, but he lacked courage and conviction. He persisted in his attempt to release Jesus: 22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. I know that the mob before Pilate was boisterous, but Pilate had the Praetorian Guard upon which to call to settle the issue, but he failed of character and courage. 24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.”
1. Powerful governor of Judaea.
2. Was politically minded.
3. Tried to set Jesus free.
4. Finally, surrendered to injustice for the sake of polity.
5. Vainly attempted to wash his hands of the innocent blood of Jesus, but washing one’s hands is not sufficient to remove guilt of weakness of character.
1. Barabbas was a hardened criminal – a murderer and insurrectionist. 7 And there was one named Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, who had committed murder in the insurrection. (Mark 15:7)
2. Perhaps Barabbas was the most guilty fellow in Jerusalem, since you and I were not present at the time.
3. Barabbas was destined to die on the cross that had already been prepared, but which Jesus bore.
4. There was no just reason why Barabbas should have been set scot-free, and Jesus should be put to death being without a single sin. The VERDICT: Barabbas – GUILTY but set free! Christ – INNOCENT but CRUCIFIED in the stead of Barabbas, and you and me.
Now, my friends, which of these two men best represents YOU and ME? I would like to believe Pontius Pilate since he at least made some effort to set Jesus free; but I would be wrong. Jesus died in the place of Barabbas just as He died in the place of you and me. But, you declare, “I am not guilty of any sins approaching those of Barabbas!” Yes, you ARE! You are a murderer, and adulterer, a liar, and a thief! Yet, Jesus died in your place on the cross. Let me see if I can make a solid closing argument on your guilt and mine: 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10) The Ten Commandments are a seamless garment. Break one, the entire Law is broken.
Have a meaningful Holy Week, Mr. & Mrs. Barabbas!
Monday, March 30, 2015
And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night. (John 13:26-30)
It is my opinion that the saddest passage of the Gospel is this 30th verse of John 13, “He having received the sop went immediately out: and it was dark.” The Lord’s Supper had just been instituted and administered by our Lord to all – including Judas Iscariot. By woe unto those who receive the Lord’s Supper unworthily, and Judas had clearly done so. His great sin had begun long before this night. No, there were no points of vicissitude in the character of Judas – he was bad through and through. Our Lord knew him to be a devil when He chose him. (John 6:70-71) His commission of the most heinous sin of all time was in perfect conformity with his depraved nature. Implicit in the Gospel is the fact that he was a greedy fellow, and cared little for acts of humble contrition.
When Judas finally departed from Christ, he went out and it was dark – not just the passing darkness of nine nightwatches, but the eternal darkness of Hell. Judas never beheld another sunrise for he had committed suicide ere the dawn would break over the eastern skies of Jerusalem. How different was Nicodemus from Judas. Nicodemus came out of that midnight meeting with Christ into the brilliant day Light of the Gospel; but Judas, who had known Christ well, left the Light of the World into that eternally long night. By the way, Satan did not have to force his way into the heart of Judas. Judas left the door to his heart invitingly open to Satan! How sad that a single soul must spend an eternity in smothering darkness, but, tragically, there will be millions and billions who will not see light again once they close their eyes in this life, except the glowing embers of the fires of Hell.
It seems likely that Judas saw in Jesus an opportunity to advance a politically, and personally lucrative, agenda. This was entirely consistent with his record as a disciple. He was able to betray his Lord for silver, and then seal the deal with a kiss of treachery!
We open our Holy Week readings with the two culprits responsible for the acts of treachery and betrayal that led to the crucifixion of Jesus – the Sanhedrin, and Judas Iscariot – the man of perdition.
The Sanhedrin, headed by the High Priest, Caiaphas, vigorously prosecuted the trial and conviction of Jesus even though not a single shred of evidence of guilt was produced. The Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate declared his innocence repeatedly, yet was a political pawn easily intimidated by a vociferous minority of priests and lawyers, with the complicity of those crowds who had shouted “Hosanna” the same week at His entry into Jerusalem, now transformed into an unruly mob.
When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. (Matt 27:1-2)
You may remember that Caiaphas unwittingly spoke a solemn prophecy when pressed on how to handle the popular appeal of the Lord among the people of Jerusalem: 47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. 49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. (John 11:47-52) And Jesus did, indeed, die to save every citizen of that heavenly nation called the Kingdom of God!
Now we turn to a more searching look at Judas as revealed in the Holy Week text from Matthew 27. At the outset, we will note of the fact that Judas repented of his sin – though not in the way that could help him. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matt 27:3-5) Simple regret, or sorrow, over our actions is not the kind of repentance that will open a crack in heaven’s gate wide enough for us to slither through. Pharaoh, though repenting that he had not allowed the Children of Israel to go from Egypt before the death of his son, nevertheless abrogated his promise and pursued after them - and had his bones washed clean in the waters of the Red Sea. King Saul, too, sought counsel of the Lord’s prophet, but disregarded the counsel to his own ruin. David, a great sinner, however, repented with deep contrition, and was forgiven and spared.
There was another traitor on the night of the trial of Jesus. Do you remember who it was? It was the man, Peter, who denied Christ three times in the night. Yet Peter went out and wept bitterly tears of contrition. It was not a calculated and intentioned betrayal, but one made out of weakness of courage. But the betrayal of Judas was a considered and intentional betrayal. So what was amiss with his repentance? What are the facts?
1. Judas recognized that his betrayal led to the condemnation of Jesus.
2. He repented & confessed, but not to God – to the priests. Remember, a priest cannot grant absolution, only God has that authority.
3. He tried to make restitution, but that was too late. He was trying to repent by his own works. Like Cain, he tried to bring the wrong sacrifice from the wrong source.
4. Trying to justify himself through self-efforts, he was left to self to perish.
5. He returned the blood money! Though money can betray a best friend, money cannot buy an ounce of salvation.
6. Being his own savior and master of his fate, he died at the hands of that master by hanging himself. (much like the author of Invictus – Henley) There is no greater loss than the loss of one’s own soul. Certainly, thirty pieces of silver could never compensate for the loss of the soul of Judas. He was left with only terror and hopelessness than words could not express. He HATED himself enough to commit self-murder. His betrayal of Jesus into the hands of the enemy resulted in the betrayal of himself into the hands of the devil the very night of his reprobation.
Please observe, during your vigil of Holy Week, these two men – Peter and Judas. Neither Peter, nor Judas, was compelled to respond in the different manner in which they did respond to their sin. It is very likely that you and I fit into the mold of one, or the other, of these two men.
Coming to know Christ as your Lord and Savior (long after He already knew you to be); you have definitely been a Peter standing in the courtyard of the venal and profane who curse God, and slander the good Name of our Lord. Being in the minority, as the righteous of the Lord always are, we may have suffered the same moments of dread, doubt and fear as Peter. We may have acted as if we were not the Christian that we have professed to be. Later, in the solitude of our prayers, we felt, intensely, the sting of shame and contrition that denial of the Lord always evokes. When we have lacked courage to stand up against the slander lodged against a dear friend, how we dread to look that friend in the eye at the occasion of our next meeting! We are weak vessels, and our sins separate us, too, from our Lord. But the Lord knows our every weakness, and has paid dearly for every sin that we commit and repent of, or good deeds omitted, by His precious blood.
There is another whose bloodline is not of Christ, but of the Adversary. That sort is characterized fully by Judas. He was a devil from the first. His spirit never soared above the gutters and sewers of worldly want. The great master, Da Vinci, depicted him well in his painting, The Last Supper. Each disciple flanking Jesus has light reflecting from their faces. But Judas’ face is covered by a shadow portraying the coming darkness into which his soul shall sink. His right hand is clutching, greedily, the money bag. The salt shaker has been knocked over by the same hand holding the money bag which was an omen of damnation in the time of Da Vinci. One last prophetic clue is given in the original painting on the wall of the Santa Maria delle Gracie in Milan (often omitted in Walmart copies): Peter is holding a knife behind Judas’ back signifying his coming death; but the knife is pointing AWAY from Judas! Why? Because, though Judas would die that very night, he would not die at the hands of any man but his own. Judas was EVIL. His character of sin had been so habitual and pervasive that his conscience had been seared as with a hot iron. Though rain can be expected from afternoon clouds, Judas was a desert cloud that built up in the afternoon offering false promise, but gave not a drop of rain. The Holy Spirit never ceases to attempt communion with our consciences, but if we have blocked the spiritual channels by which He speaks, no communion takes place.
So, in the final analysis, we have Peter and Judas. Which of these two are you?
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Read the entire AOC Sunday Report RIGHT HERE and learn more about the most important week in the history of the world!
The Sunday next before Easter, commonly called
LMIGHTY and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
¶ This Collect is to be said every day, after the Collect appointed for the day, until Good Friday.
Is there a Barabbas here today? Is there anyone like Barabbas here today?
Certainly, there is! Let’s study the Word together to get an answer to this mystery. The Lesson today is too long to cover in one service, so I have selected a particular portion of the text to expound upon:
Let’s read from the Lectionary Text found in Gospel of Saint Matthew, Chapter 27:
11And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. 12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. 13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? 14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. 15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? 18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. 19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. 22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. 24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
In the preceding verses of the text, we learn that Christ has been betrayed for thirty pieces of silver by a disciple who pretended to be His friend.. This was prophesied of Christ some hundreds of years earlier:
And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. 11 And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD. 12 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD. (Zechariah 11:10-13)
Now, reading from the beginning of Chapter 27 of Saint Matthew:
1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: 2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. 3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. 6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. 7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. 8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. 9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 10 And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
So Jesus now is delivered to the secular power. Even the Roman governor was more just than the religious leaders of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Pilate pronounced Christ innocent twice, and never found any guilt in Him.
Pontius Pilate would have been considered a good man and just for his time. He would also be well received in government office of today. He actually sought justice, and was politically correct. He sought justice and knew it, but lacked the courage of his office in dispensing that justice.
11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.
Pilate opened the interview with an honest hope of finding truth.
12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
This is fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7-9
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
See how Pilate presses for some word of defense from the Lord:
13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
Pilate must have begun to suspect Christ was no common man by his conscious decision not to utter a single word in His defense:
14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
Pilate begins to believe that Christ is innocent, but he fears the Jews. What to do? Pilate begins to think like a politician. How can I do the right thing by satisfying everyone including these stubborn Jewish leaders?
15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
Barabbas was a murderer and a violent sinner. He was the worst of the prisoners of Rome. So Pilate would use this card to politically and discreetly ease his predicament. He would squirm out of his troubled presence without having to make an unpopular decision.
17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
The choice is always Barabbas or Christ. Will we save ourselves, or must Christ die for us. The death of Barabbas would have been justice, but the death of Christ would be an imputed justice. We deserve, like Barabbas, to die for our sins, but God has provided Himself a Lamb for the sacrifice. He died a substitutionary death in our place. Barabbas was spared death by Christ, so are you and I. (Gen 22:7-8)
18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.
See this last sentence? Pilate knew that Jesus had been accused by the Jewish religious leaders out of envy and not out of guilt. He judged correctly.
The example this text presents is this:
1. Making a correct judgment between right and wrong is important;
2. What counts is action upon that knowledge.
19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
Even Pilate’s wife knew that Jesus was innocent. Had she personally brought the message, this weak man may have feared her more than the Jews, but now he had these trouble-making Jews alone before him who could stir up political unrest unless Pilate granted their wishes. He feared the present Jews more than the absent wife. He was a politician. He would trade off his honor for a political advantage.
But Pilate could not escape the political reality of the moment.
20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
See how the religious leaders of the day deceived and manipulated the people to evil and to sin. The same happens today.
Pilate presses effeminately for justice:
21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.
His political scheme is not working. Instead of placating the wicked Jews, he should act on justice. But he is too weak to do that!
22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
My heart goes out to this pitifully weak man. He really tries, but he falls short.
He makes one last ditch attempt. He foolishly believes that these evil leaders might be swayed by the reminder of justice:
23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
Pilate now allows cowardice to overrule his sense of justice.
He now does what politicians are so adept at doing, he passes the responsibility for the coming evil to his tormenters.
24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
Do you blame Pilate? Would you have done better?
HAVE you done better?
We are Pilate, the Jewish leaders, and Barabbas wrapped up into one entity.
Like Judas, we have sold out our Lord for personal gain, pride, and sin. We claim to be His friend, yet we denounce Him through our witness among our friends who ridicule Godly values.
Our sins have made us like unto the Jewish leaders in that they have led to the necessity of His dying for us.
We are like Pilate in that we put up a good illusion of doing justice and righteousness, yet we fail to live up to the model, and we pass the responsibility for our failures to others.
We are, especially, Barabbas because we deserve death for our sins, but Christ has died in our stead and paid the penalty of death for us.
· For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
· For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Have we accepted Christ as our Redeemer? Or have we, like Pilate, denied truth and justice?
 As a leader Pilate failed. You can delegate authority, you cannot delegate responsibility. Pilate became the universal poster child for this concept. You cannot wash your hands of responsibility onto another. There is no scapegoat. He knew what was right and chose what was easy at the time. Like Judas his name be came a category title.