Then Pilate called in the high priests, rulers, and the others and said, "You brought this man to me as a disturber of the peace. I examined him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge. And neither did Herod, for he has sent him back here with a clean bill of health. It's clear that he's done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."
At that, the crowd went wild: "Kill him! Give us Barabbas!" (Barabbas had been thrown in prison for starting a riot in the city and for murder.) Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go, and so spoke out again.
But they kept shouting back, "Crucify! Crucify him!"
He tried a third time. "But for what crime? I've found nothing in him deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."
But they kept at it, a shouting mob, demanding that he be crucified. And finally they shouted him down. Pilate caved in and gave them what they wanted. He released the man thrown in prison for rioting and murder, and gave them Jesus to do whatever they wanted.
This is part of the story that is so hard to read and think about. I find myself again asking, “Where do I see myself in this story?” What role would I have played in the great tragedy of injustice that took place here? Because, there is no doubt about it, this was unjust. Jesus did not deserve the punishment he received. He was found blameless. Yet, the shouting mob demanded him convicted.
The innocent found guilty.
The guilty set free.
Where is the justice?
I hope I wouldn’t be in the crowd shouting for injustice. Yet, there’s a good chance that I would be. In all honesty, I would probably have been with what I assume the disciples were doing in that moment, standing there in silence not wanting to face the same fate.
I don’t really know which is worse. Actively asking for injustice to be done or silently watching it happen.
You have to wonder, why? Why would the shouting mob demand Jesus’ conviction and not the conviction of Barabbas? We learn from Matthew’s gospel that it was the religious elite that convinced the crowd that Jesus was to be convicted. Why?
I think at the end of the day it comes down to whose authority was being undermined by Jesus. Pilate could see that Jesus was no threat to Rome. He was no violent insurrectionist (unlike Barabbas). But, the religious elite saw in him and knew him to be one who would undermine their power and their authority. His teaching was challenging the religious power structures in such a way that they needed him gone.
What is absolutely wild about this whole thing is that it was going exactly to plan.
Whenever I read this story I imagine Jesus making eye contact with the chief priest and dropping the Obi-Wan Kenobi line from Star Wars when he was fighting Darth Vader, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Ultimately, I think what I walk away with from this story is that somehow God is at work behind the scenes making all things right.
The beauty of the gospel is that God takes what we do, even the ugly and the evil, and redeems it for the good and the beautiful.
Bono, one of my favorite poet/songwriters wrote,
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
It's the name for a girl
It's also a thought that
Changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness
She's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She's got the time to talk
She travels outside
Of karma, karma
She travels outside
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty
She carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace finds beauty
Grace finds goodness in everything
May you find grace today. May you live grace today. May our eyes see the beauty in ugly things.
During the month of July I am taking time to recharge my spiritual tanks. So, I will not be publishing daily. I may do some, but there will be days when it won’t happen. I will return to daily writing in August. In August we will also see the return of Doubt on Tap, The Simple Theologian Podcast, and Beyond Sunday School. During this break, The #LoveWell Podcast will be released every Monday with interviews of people who love well.