Lent MW 0419- “Pontius Pilate.” Matthew 27:1-22,11-14

Lent MW 0419- “Pontius Pilate.” Matthew 27:1-22,11-14
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew the 27th Chapter.

“1When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. …
11Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.”

So far the reading.

Dear Fellow Redeemed of Jesus,

What shall we make of Pontius Pilate? How shall we remember him as we recount the trial and crucifixion of our Lord? Historians and commentators fall into two camps. One camp describes Pilate as fumbling official. The other camp describes Pilate as a calculating pragmatist. Scripture describes Pilate as the fulfillment of Jesus words spoken to the disciples on numerous occasions. Jesus would be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests and teachers of the Law to be condemned. From their hands Jesus would be turned over to the hands of Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. Pilate represents the hands of the Gentiles.

Pilate is not unfamiliar with Jesus. Pilate has been governor of Palestine for some time. He has heard of this man stirring the population with his powerful preaching and with his miracles. He has heard of the large crowds which Jesus drew to himself. Yet, he has not heard of any insurrection or rebellion attributed to this Jesus. Now Pilate has opportunity to see Jesus in the flesh and to speak with him. Perhaps not in the manner he would have expected, but now in the face of accusation and condemnation from Jesus’ own nation. Nonetheless, Pilate questions Jesus.

Pilate does due diligence. He is responsible for the well-being of the Roman province of Palestine. He is to see that justice is upheld, petitions by the citizens are given due attention, crimes are investigated and perpetrators are duly punished.

Pilate is now faced with a decision of what to do with Jesus. The line of questioning begins with the charges brought against Jesus. Pilate must first determine the validity of those charges. Did Jesus do what was said of him? Was Jesus truly what was said of Him? Does Jesus deserve the punishment demanded by his nation?

Pilate is in for a long hard slog. He soon recognizes the innocence of Jesus. One indication is the silence to which Jesus holds. It is not a premeditated silence that flows from defiance. For Jesus does respond to the questions asked of him by Pilate. “Are you king of the Jews?” To which Jesus responds, “You have said so.” Yet, to the accusations brought by the chief priests and elders, Jesus gives no answer. To this silence Pilate is greatly amazed. Pilate responds to Jesus’ silence with a question, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”

At first glance you may think that Pilate is merciful and giving Jesus opportunity to defend himself. However, Pilate is beginning to waver and falter at the direction this investigation is going. The look which Jesus gives convicts Pilate of his responsibility in these proceedings. The chief priest and elders are running up charges against Jesus. It is Pilate’s responsibility to duly investigate these new charges. Pilate is to question both accuser and accused. Jesus chooses not to do Pilate’s work. Pilate reveals his own cowardice and pragmatism.
There is something we must learn in this as well. Both Pilate and the chief priests and elders have the same problem. They fail to recognize who Jesus is. The charge that Jesus is a king is not unwarranted. For Jesus is a king. Moreover, Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. But the charge against Jesus is designed to ignore Jesus’ true kingship and use the title as a means of destruction. The chief priests ignore Jesus’ kingship and Pilate does not comprehend Jesus’ kingship.

Is there anything changed today? The Kingship of Jesus is not readily acknowledged nor properly proclaimed. Truly, Jesus is still on trial before the world today. The world rejects the need to repent of sin. More than that the world rejects any mention of sin.

Life is rapidly becoming a matter of choice. Babies in the womb forfeit their lives to the hands of mothers and doctors who seek convenience. Those who promote such thinking couch words in appeals to emotion and euphemisms rather than truth. Babies in the womb are referred to as product of conception. They are deemed unviable because they have no ability to reason. They are being judged non-people so ending their life has no moral consequence.

Laws are being proposed and passed to end the lives of both the child still in the womb and of those who are deemed to be a burden to themselves or to society. The state of Oregon recently expanded its Death with Dignity Law to withhold life-sustaining procedures from patients deemed incapable, and who do not have anyone to make health decisions. The decision would be made by those who were providing health care.

These are but two examples of how degenerated we have become as a society. We are rapidly becoming like ancient Rome who left unwanted children to die of exposure on the roadside. We reject the God ordained priority to defend life. Like those who wrongly condemned Jesus, our society wrongly judges the value of people who do not fit society’s idea of worth.
Yet, we must give thanks to God for the mercy which comes from the injustice suffered by Jesus. The plan of God for the salvation of the world required the condemnation and death of Jesus. Pilate and Israel join together to offer the Lamb of God who is to take away the sin of the world. As God foretold through Isaiah:

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?” Isaiah 53:7,8

God does not delight in the death of the wicked, much less in the death of those deemed unworthy by society. Yet, God delights in the death of His Son, because this death brings forgiveness of sins and restores the value of life which God holds for all people. Where we shrink away from responsibility, God bears the responsibility for our sin. Jesus is the bearer of that responsibility. For St Paul writes, “For our sake He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”2 Cor. 5:21

Unlike Pontius Pilate, we have been led to look upon Jesus with eyes of faith. Pilate at one time asked Jesus “What is truth?” Pilate struggled with following truth. He did not look upon Jesus with eyes of faith. Rather Pilate found his security in compromise and pragmatism. We who are baptized into Jesus can fully answer Pilate’s question by saying Jesus is the Truth. Jesus is the Son of God who took on human flesh to redeem all people from sin and death. Therefore we plead God’s grace.

If the world my heart entices With the broad and easy road,
With seductive, sinful vices, Let me weigh the awful load
You were willing to endure. Help me flee all thoughts impure
And to master each temptation, Calm in prayer and meditation.