Our introduction to today’s reading: “Jesus is delivered to be crucified”. Pilate had a decision to make. In reviewing the charges against Jesus, Pilate states: “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” How conflicted he must have been? He finds no guilt in him but he feels the pressure of the crowd. The crowd clearly wants and believes he should be crucified. When I last wrote on this verse, I used the terminology “crowdsourcing”. While not a perfect definition for this situation, it relays the message that the crowd came together and decided Jesus’ fate. Pilate kept trying to get Jesus to open up, to talk to him, to say something he could use to free Jesus, but all that he said was “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” Not much to go on to free this man people believe is disobeying the law. Pilate tried a few times but without success and finally gave us, releasing him to the crowd.
What if the story had been different? What if Jesus had confided in Pilate? What if they had a conversation and came to a conclusion on what to do next? What if Pilate let Jesus go? It is hard to contemplate because we know the rest of the story. Jesus is then given over the crowd, already wearing a purple robe, a crown of thorns and multiple wounds from being flogged. The events of this day are traumatic. We continue reading about Jesus bearing his own cross on the way to the Place of the Skull. We read about the Crucifixion along with two others. This chapter is not written from Jesus’ perspective, but from Pilates and others. The next turn of events: 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” He goes against the crowd with what he believes and still showing he does not feel Jesus was guilty.
The story continues as we know it today with the dividing of his garments and casting lots for his tunic. The scene presents vivid images of the drama as it unfolds with a large crowd, watching Jesus die on the cross. The Death of Jesus as it is written:
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
His side is then pierced and he is buried. Before we continue to the next chapter and read about his resurrection, let us ponder again what would have happened if Pilate had released Jesus? At this time of Thanksgiving, let us give thanks that Jesus died on the cross for us!