A blessed Holy Week to you, Church! I hope you have set aside some time to contemplate Christ’s journey to the cross this week. If you haven’t, keep reading!
Thanks to the focus of our Lenten sermon series about the last words Jesus spoke before he died on the cross, Pastor Nick and I have spent a lot of time in the last chapters of the gospels. I’ve re-read the passages with Jesus’ trial countless times this year and there is one thing that stands out to me each time: Jesus was innocent.
This stands out because it is said over and over.
In fact, you can see this for yourselves in the following texts:
Matthew 27:4 – Judas betrayed Jesus, but later he said he had betrayed innocent blood.
Matthew 27:19 – Pilate’s wife sent him a message saying Jesus was righteous.
Matthew 27:24 – Pilate washed his hands saying Jesus was innocent.
Luke 23:15 – Pilate sent Jesus to King Herod for a hearing. Later Pilate said Herod found nothing in Jesus worthy of death.
Luke 23:41 – One of the thieves crucified with Jesus acknowledged his own guilt but said Jesus had done nothing wrong.
Luke 23:47 – The centurion in charge of the crucifixion declared that Jesus was a righteous man.
It’s striking that though Pilate and Herod both had motivations to find Jesus guilty of something, even just to appease the outcry of their people, they could not find a reason to condemn him. Even a thief, with whom Jesus suffered along-side on the cross, knew Jesus was innocent. This obvious repetition helps us understand the importance of Jesus’ innocence to the authors of the gospel texts.
Why was this so important? I think there are several reasons, but a few come to mind.
1. Jesus died the death of a criminal. It would have felt shameful and perhaps even scandalous to pledge allegiance to someone who was crucified. The authors go out of their way to show that Jesus’ death was unjustifiable. This helps protect the reputations of those who still claimed Christ as Lord at the time of their writing.
2. This is important theologically. Many of us learned the Bible verse Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death…”. If Jesus had been sinful, he would have died for his own sins. He wouldn’t have been able to die for our sins.
3. Another reason this is important is Trinitarian. If indeed, Jesus is a member of the Godhead, it is important that he is known to be without sin. Since sin itself distances us from God it would make no sense for Godself to be sinful.
Well, there are books that have been written to this end, so I won’t elucidate further. I invite you into the wonderings of my heart and mind. What great a sacrifice our Lord Christ endured, knowing the cross lay ahead of him this week, knowing the injustice of it all. And yet, because of the abundance of love he has for each of us, he chose to give his life for our thriving in the here and the hereafter.
Glory to God! Amen.
With love and gratitude,