Judica, The Fifth Sunday in Lent March 29, 1998
140, 156, 371, 372
Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Thus far our text.
In Christ Jesus, Whose love we again see flowing for sinners this Lenten season, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Blood is an amazing thing. If you’re an adult, you have around five or six quarts of it in your body. It performs so many beneficial functions for the body that some biologists actually consider it one of the organs of the body, like your heart or your lungs. Travelling down the 5,000 miles of blood vessels in the body, it carries food energy to the cells, and it carries waste products away. Red blood cells exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide, and white blood cells protect the body from infection. For a normal person, healthy blood is the fluid of life.
But blood can also be a curse. A good example is the hereditary disease of hemophilia. Hemophiliacs suffer from a lack, in the bloodstream, of the tiny platelets that help wounds to stop bleeding. Before the advent of modern transfusion techniques, there was every danger that a hemophiliac might actually bleed to death from something as simple as a nosebleed.
Blood can be a blessing—or a curse. Blood is the subject of our text for this morning. This is a very special kind of blood—the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It has the double potential of being either a very great curse, or an unbelievable blessing. Join me in considering the theme:
This morning we return, once again, to the scene outside Pilate’s courtroom on Good Friday morning. It was early, sometime after six a.m. Normally, this would be a cheerful time in Jerusalem, with shops just opening up and the morning sun peeping through. But on this particular morning, there were dark forces afoot. Jesus had been arrested the previous evening in the Garden of Gethsemane. They’d kept Him up all night, shuffling Him from the house of Annas to the court of Caiaphas, from one trial to another. Jesus had been questioned, and beaten, and made fun of, and questioned again. In a way, the Jewish leaders had gotten what they wanted: they’d wrung a “confession” out of Jesus. When the high priest asked Him if He was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus wearily answered, “Yes.” Caiaphas burst out, “Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is guilty of death.”
So the Jewish Council had sentenced Jesus to death. The problem was, of course, that they didn’t have the authority to carry out the sentence. Only the Roman governor could do that, and Pilate was showing some reluctance. Outside, in the governor’s courtyard, the Jewish leaders were exciting the mob against Jesus, making them more and more bloodthirsty as the minutes ticked by. Meanwhile—inside—Pilate kept trying to find out what it was that Jesus was supposed to have done. Again and again he came out to the crowd and said, “I find no fault in this Man.” But still they chanted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Finally, when it began to look like he might have a riot on his hands, Pilate gave them what they wanted. In a pitiful attempt to sidestep his responsibility for this crowning injustice, Pilate called for a basin and washed his hands. “I am innocent of the blood of this just man,” he said. “See ye to it.”
Pilate was very touchy about whose hands would bear the blood for the murder of this innocent Man. But the Jews weren’t—just the opposite! In their lust to see Jesus crucified, they quickly accepted the responsibility. With a glib and eager tongue, they pronounced the words of a terrible self-curse: Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.—And then they took Jesus to the cross.
In the madness and shuffle of that awful day, those words were no doubt quickly forgotten by the people who had said them. But God didn’t forget them. Forty years later that curse—spoken so easily!—came home to those Jews and their children. In 70 AD, the Romans leveled Jerusalem to the ground. Thousands of Jews were killed. One historian says that the slaughter continued until “blood ran like rivers in the streets.” The curse of Jesus’ blood, that they had so willingly called down on themselves, came back upon them—and it paid very grim dividends indeed!
“His blood be upon us.” For the Jews, it was a terrible curse, since they insisted on bearing the responsibility for Jesus’ death. You and I, too, bear some of that responsibility. No, we weren’t present in Pilate’s courtyard that day. No, it wasn’t our voices that screamed for Jesus’ blood—but it may as well have been! It was our sins, too, that drove Christ to the cross. It was our guilt, too, that rested on the Savior that day. Isaiah lays the responsibility for Jesus’ death squarely on our doorstep: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Is 53:6.
“His blood be on us.” You and I share the responsibility of those words. But we need not share the curse! For you and me, today, the Lord can turn those words into a wonderful blessing!
There is an interesting chemical solvent called nitromuriatic acid. It’s more commonly known as aqua regia—or “royal water.” The reason this liquid is called “royal water” is because it has the ability to do what almost no other chemical substance can do: it can dissolve gold. In the same way, the blood of Jesus Christ is a very special liquid, too. It has the unique ability to accomplish something that no human efforts can possibly do: Jesus’ blood can dissolve sin. No matter how many sins you’ve been guilty of, no matter what kind they are or how often you’ve committed them, the blood of Christ works to completely dissolve them. One of the best-loved and most often-memorized passages of Scripture is this one from the First Epistle of John: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” I Jn 1:7.
Thanks be to Jesus—He didn’t have to stand there in Pilate’s court and take the beatings and abuse—but He did. He didn’t have to endure the mockery and the screaming insults of the Jewish crowd—but He did. And He endured even more—He carried the cross on His bleeding back down the Via Dolorosa that day. The sinless Son of God allowed sinful men to pound nails through His hands and feet. The all-powerful Creator allowed His own creatures to crucify Him and put Him to death. All the while, paying the price of our sins. Paying and paying and paying—until not a single sin was left to be paid for. And the currency He paid with was His blood. Peter reminds us, “You know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” I Pet 1:18-19. His blood is the “aqua regia” of our souls. The blood that poured from His scourged back, the blood that seeped from under the crown of thorns on His head, the blood that flowed from the wounds in His hands and feet—this is what dissolves our sin. The bloody spectacle of Calvary is an awful sight, to be sure, but it’s a sight that we can’t help but rejoice in. Because there, in that blood, is where we see our salvation!
And now I ask you: should we not also say, “His blood be on us, and on our children”? Yes! As sinners, coming to our Savior for cleansing, that sentence can be uttered in a good way. Every day we can, in repentance, plead with God to let our Savior’s blood cover our sins, our weaknesses, our failures. And as often as we ask that favor, God will grant us the free forgiveness we seek. If you’re tempted to think that this blessing doesn’t apply in your case, take comfort in Jesus’ promise, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out!” Jn 6:37.
One of the most famous portrayals of human guilt ever written is the play “Macbeth,” by William Shakespeare. In the story, Lady Macbeth is guilty, with her husband, of murdering their king, Duncan. They get away with the murder cleanly, and no one suspects them. But Lady Macbeth’s conscience soon begins to terrify her. She constantly imagines that she sees blood on her hands. Even though she washes over and over again, the imagined bloodstains remain to haunt her. To this day, the guilt of sin remains one of the most perplexing and soul-destroying problems of the human mind. How ironic—and how wonderful!—it is that the cure God has given us for this problem—is blood.—But not ordinary blood; the blood that cures us from the sickness of sin is the holy, precious blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In a few moments, we’ll join the hymnist in rejoicing:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my Head!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.