“I am innocent….” Matthew 27:24
THE question: “Who killed Jesus?” often arrives during the Good Friday or Easter season, with the ensuing finger-pointing.
Usually, the forger is first pointed at the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day-Caiaphas especially. For three years, they had chafed under Jesus’ presence among them. They were annoyed, angered, and infuriated with just about everything He said or did. When, in compassion, He healed the sick on the Sabbath, they accused Him of breaking the law. When, in reaching out to “sinners,” He dined with them, they called Him a glutton, a wine-bibber, and a friend of sinners. And when He rebuked their hypocrisy and self-righteousness, calling them white-washed tombs-clean on the outside but full of rotting carcasses- of course they were furious (Matthew 23:27).
Who are the Guilty?
The common people heard Him gladly, however, for He taught them with authority and not as the Scribes (Mark 7:29). He also healed their sick, fed large multitudes (5,000 on one occasion, and 4,000 on another), using only a few loaves of bread and fewer fish. They saw Him as a prophet. Yet, later they called for His crucifixion (Matthew 27:22).
- The chief priests viewed Him with envy. And when He raised Lazarus from the dead, that miracle was, for them, “the last straw.” They decided that Jesus had to die. Said they: “If we let Him alone, all the people will believe in Him and the Romans will come and take away both our place and the nation” (John 11:48). Thus, at this Passover, Caiaphas, the High Priest, putting a religious complexion on their dark designs, said: “It is expedient that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:14). Ironically, those words, prompted by hatred and envy, were actually prophetic; for Jesus was ordained to die a substitutionary death; yet, not for the Jews only, but for the whole world.
- When Judas the next to be accused-came forward with his offer to betray his Master for a price, he was ready with the blood money (30 pieces of silver) to seal the transaction.
- The finger next points to Pilate, the then governor of Jerusalem and representative of the Roman Head of State. He was the only person with the authority to pass the death sentence in that jurisdiction. Thus, the chief priests dispatched their temple guards to arrest Jesus and to bring Him to them for trial; for claiming to be the Son of God, hence guilty of blasphemy. Thus, they handed Him over to Pilate for trial, and demanded the death sentence. But Pilate, after examining the Accused, reached this verdict: “I find no fault in Him” (John 19:4-6). Oddly, however, after this verdict, he handed down this sentence: “I will, therefore, chastise Him and release Him.”
Jesus was therefore beaten beyond recognition. He was bruised, battered, buffeted, slapped, and spat upon; pierced with thorns, mocked and jeered. Yet, all this was not enough for those insisting on His death.
“If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend,” the crowd cried, when Pilate wanted to let Him go (John 19:12). Pilate then passed the death sentence, saying: “Take Him and crucify Him,” adding: “I find no fault in Him.”
He had acted against his conscience for self-protection, and sought to absolve himself from his guilt. Thus he called for a basin of water, washed his hands, and declared, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Man” (Matthew 27:4). But was He?
- Then, the soldiers: They actually drove the nails in Jesus’ hands and feet. They hoisted Him up and rammed the cross into the hole provided. What pains our Lord must have suffered? But those soldiers were only doing their duty. Were they innocent?
- And what about us-more than 2,000 years and almost as many miles distant from that crucifixion scene? Are we also innocent of Jesus’ death? Think of the sins that were in evidence at Christ’s crucifixion: the envy and hatred that the religious leaders displayed. What about Judas’ love of money, to which 1 Timothy 6:10 refers as “the root of all evil?” And what of the lying, the hypocrisy, and hatred that are in our own hearts, which were also evident in the hearts of all those who were a part of the crucifixion scene?
Think too of Pilate–the stifling of his conscience, which allowed him to do whatever was necessary to save himself-even murder, rather than doing the right thing, when his own security seemed threatened? Are we innocent of these sins?
It is evident, therefore, that Jesus died “for our sins” just as much as He was killed because of them. Romans 3:23 declares, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Also the Bible declares that God’s laws apply to all-that all are under the law so that, “every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). Therefore, no one can truly claim (as Pilate falsely did) “I am innocent.” “Since He died for all, then we were all dead.”
A Change of Status
Ephesians 2:1, however, makes reference to those who were once dead in trespasses and in sins. By using the past tense regarding some, indicates that something had happened to change their status: from being once dead to now being alive through the death of Christ. He paid for their sins, and by His resurrection gave them spiritual life when they trusted in Him as their Saviour. Thus we read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not by your own merit, it is the gift of God-not according to works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Thus, Christ’s death was God’s method of paying our penalty of death for our sins. Therefore, despite all the players of the crucifixion scene, whom we could accuse of putting Jesus to death, it was ultimately God who gave His Son to die on our behalf: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Indeed, we are all guilty of Jesus’ death, because our sins necessitated it. Yet, each of us may either retain our guilt, or receive remission of sins. We receive remission of sins by accepting Christ’s death on our behalf. We retain our guilt by rejecting Christ’s death or simply remaining indifferent to His death, as if it never happened; but this will not be without consequence. Here is what the Bible has to say about that:
He who rejected Moses’ law died without mercy on the testimony of two or three
witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment do you suppose will be thought worthy
who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the
covenant … a common thing, and has insulted the Spirit of Grace? Hebrews 10:28-29
What better time to pray the following prayer for remission of sins than at this time when we commemorate His resurrection? For He died for our sin and rose again for our justification.
Suggested prayer: Lord Jesus I admit that You died on account of my sin. I thank You for dying on the Cross for me so that I may receive forgiveness of sins. I now confess my sin and put my trust in You as my Saviour. I accept Your death on my behalf and invite You into my life as my Lord to live for You. Amen.
–J. M. Neverson