The Innocent is sentenced so that the guilty can go free

Ds J Bruintjes
Lukas 23:1 - 25
Goeie Vrydag
Preek Inhoud: 

Jesus provokes reaction in people. He did then, and he does now. People are not neutral about Jesus. There is something about his exclusive claims, about his power, about his claim to authority, that makes us uncomfortable. It was the claim that he was ultimately crucified for.

If Jesus is wrong, after all, he should simply be dismissed and regarded like all of history's other false prophets. But there is something about him which brings the best and the worst out in people. This is true today, and it was true then. You see the religious leaders and the political leaders had seen other false prophets come and go, and there was nothing special about them, but there is something about the man in the story today that brings out a visceral response.

The political powers that be where powerless to stop his death. Every one of Rome political leaders who were so used to having their way were unmasked as powerless to stop Gods plans. His friends abandoned him. At the end of the day there is only one who is the true and faithful witness in the story. The religious elite hated him. He had stripped off the hypocritical mask and show he church in his day to be what it was: a whitewashed tomb. Having a aura of godliness but lacking its power. The crowds do what crowds do, they yelled as with one voice, Crucify him.

The Righteous for the Unrighteous. The innocent for the condemned. The pure for the impure. The clean for the filthy. Heavens best for hells worst. Jesus for me. This is the story of Luke. This is the story of the incarnation. This is the story of our salvation.

The worst of criminals is released in exchange for perfection.. The events are so human, yet there is something about reading the story that makes you realize the man around whom all this revolves is in full control and is anything but simply human. Here we have the Lord of all laying down his life for all. The conquering Lion becoming the suffering servant, the lamb without blemish given for the sins of the world.

We read, “The whole company of them arose and brought Him before Pilate.” The whole company. This was the religious elite as a whole. The ones who were called to shepherd Israel – were bringing the lamb to the slaughter. With lies. False accusations. The father of lies was busy on that fatal morning, and his children were following his lead, “We found this man to be misleading our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”  They want to convince the world that an innocent man was wicked and had to die a criminal. These people knew Pilate wanted one thing: Power. And if that was under threat, he would do what they wanted.,

 It is a master class in deception, manipulation and lies. They say, “We found this man misleading our nations.” He was never misleading the nation; they were already perverse. They say he had “forbidden people to give tribute,” when he had in fact commanded taxes to be paid. They say that he called himself ‘Christ, a king.” And indeed, it was for this truth that Jesus would die.

Basically they are saying, “Pilate, if you want to stay in power, you need to get rid of this man.” And it was not like Pilate was a good man. In fact, Philo, the ancient Jewish scholar from Alexandria, described Pilate: “His corruption, his acts of insolence, his rapine, his habit of insulting people, his cruelty, his continual murders of people untried and un-condemned, and his never-ending gratuitous and most grievous inhumanity.”

Pilate and Jesus could not be more opposite. Both represented power. But the one that seemed powerful from a worldly perspective was made to be powerless, and the powerless was given all power. This is the way of the cross. The last become first. The first last. Pilate tried to stay in power through injustice and condemning the innocent. Jesus would receive power and authority by remaining innocent while being condemned.

Pilate who was as shrewd as a snake saw right through what the Jews were doing. And he could see that this man was not a danger to his power. He probably does not look very kingly at this point after being blindfolded mocked and struck. Pilate asks him, “Are you the king of the Jews. The word “you” is emphatic, almost as if to say, YOU!? The king of the Jews.”  His answer?  “You have said so.”

 Jesus never answers directly. On trial for his very life, the expected response of Jesus would have been either eloquent self-defense or proclamations of messianic mission, but once again Jesus upended things by choosing a third way. He refused to give them the rope they sought to hang him. Jesus forced them to own their own actions. He was fulfilling ancient prophecy, “Like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgement he was taken away (Is 53:7b-8a)

Pilate, however, sees what the religious leaders refuse to see – the one standing there is the only innocent one. He goes outside to the chief priest and the crowds and saying, “I find no guilt in this man.” There is blood and guilt and is all around, but here is man that is declared innocent by a very evil man.

But the crowd at hearing this verdict grows more urgent. More worked up. Sin, darkness, and the powers of this present evil age cannot stand holiness. Natural human beings cannot stand his presence. This man had to die, and innocence was not going to stand in the way.

And remember this was not some gang, or a mob, it was the chief priest the elders, and the government. The cross reveals the systems of the world to be corrupt - serving power, and oppression instead of justice and truth. In condemning Jesus, it was condemning itself. Showing that they never cared for righteousness to begin with.  Pilate the chief priest and all the rest are exposing their power for what it is, built on a foundation of lies, and corruption. They are not interested in truth. They are not interested in innocent. They are interested in protecting their own.  

More and more we see the revelation of the absolute depravity of humanity. And the absolute shining innocence and righteousness of Jesus.

The people respond with the accusation that “Jesus is stirring up insurrection all over the place, from Galilea to Jerusalem.” On hearing the word, “Galilea” Pilate jumps on the opportunity to pass the buck and send him to another jurisdiction. You can almost see him sitting down to a nice breakfast that morning thinking of how he dodged that one, little did he know God was not done using him, and that it would be his name forever inscribed in the church’s creeds….crucified under Pontus Pilate.

Dear church, when confronted with Jesus – You can try to avoid him, you can try to hide from him, you can condemn him and hate him, but at the end of the day you will not be able to avoid him. As he stood before the judges of this earth and spoke not a word, so all those who do not believe in him will also stand before him one day without a word to defend themselves. WE cannot avoid Jesus. You will face him. Either do it now – bringing your sin to be judged in him, or on the last day bringing your sin to be judged by him.

When Jesus came to Herod he could see the excitement on his face. Herod had been wanting to see Jesus for some time. He had heard so much, especially about those miracles, and he wanted to see one for himself. So, Herod tried questioning him for a time not to get to the truth, but to get to a miracle.

But the silence of Jesus reigns. As a lamb before his shearers is dumb so he did not open his mouth. He who answered blind beggars when they cried for mercy is silent to a prince who only seeks to gratify his own irreverent curiosity. Behold the sinless spotless lamb of God tonight who takes away the sins of the world.

While this is all happening, the chief priest and scribes can’t stop vehemently accusing him. Not just accusing. But accusing with hate – vitriol hate. You can see the rage in the faces. You can see the utter contempt for him. This is the contempt that of the world that knows only power, influence, money, and fame, and knows nothing of the way of the lamb – the way of meekness. The way of holiness.

Even Herod’s excitement is turned to contempt as they mocked and scorn him. And then we read in verse 12, “And Herod and Pilate became friends with other that very day, for before this they have been at enmity with each other.” If there is anything that will unite the enemies of God, it is the lordship of Christ: “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather against the Lord and against his Anointed One” (Psalm.2:1-2) Indeed ancient prophecies were being fulfilled.  Herod becomes Pilates friend, as together they condemn the innocent.

 Pilate could maybe see them coming at the breakfast table. Thinking of ways in which he could get out of this. Pilate again gathers the court on this morning and tells them, “you brought me “this man” as one who is misleading the people.” Notice Pilate never calls him by name. He calls him contemptuously, “this man.”

Nevertheless, Notice the complete innocence which he declares. It’s remarkable, especially considering whose lips it was coming from. “I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us, Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.” You notice that “Not guilty of ANY CHARGES.” Neither did Herod. NOTHING deserving death. If ever a man was innocent, it was he!

You wonder why Pilate even thinks he needs to punish Jesus. Doubtless because those in politics tend to be people pleasers.

But his crowd was not so easily please! “Away with this man!” They cry!  Can you hear them call? Away with this man! Here stands your savior and your God! The Priest and the Sacrifice. The prophet and the word. The just king, and the one on whom justice is meted out. Stricken and smitten by God, and afflicted. About to be crushed, pierced (Isaiah 53:4b-5). He is the son of God, - God incarnate – standing before the religious and political rulers of his age, and they cry away with this man.

“Give us Barabbas!” they cry! Anyone but Jesus! A murderer and rioter – but not Jesus. Do you see the depth of depravity! And these are those who call themselves the righteous in Israel. O and It is so easy to stand from a distance. But what is taking place here is the story of humanity. Everyone against God. Sin opposed to holiness. Darkness which cannot stand the light.

He is the lamb who was to be slain for the sins of the world. The righteous for the unrighteous. He had to die the death Barabbas deserved. The death I deserved the death you deserved. This fatal day as we look back, we can see this man proclaimed innocent three time in the span of just seven verses (v. 15-22)

All the while, Jesus is in full control. Pilate is losing all control. This man who thought he had mapped out his own destiny, was subject to God predestined plan.

  He tries addressing them again, desiring to release Jesus – but at this point in a frenzy keep shouting “CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!” Here is the depth of sin! Get rid of God! Get rid of authority! All do what is right in their own eyes.

Pilate a dictator –was helpless. The will of God was to be done. Isaiah makes clear it was his will. “Yet it was the Lords will to crush hi (Is 53:1a) ASsays Peter in the first recorded sermon after the resurrection, “Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23a).”

And yet they were not innocent. No not one of them, they all feel short of the glory of God. For Peter Goes on ,”you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless man (acts 2:23b).” They showed humanity for what it was. Evil. Wicked. Rebellious. Full of lies. Deceit. Murder. Lawless.

The powers of darkness are gathering. They are closing in on the Lord of Glory. As he waits to empty them of all their power, as he takes the sting of death upon himself. One last time Pilate says, “What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” Again notice the comprehensiveness of the innocence! What evil has he done! And yet in the  light of this declaration the emotion gets hotter, the voices louder, the anger more visceral!

Pilate finally admits himself to be powerless in light of the will of the crowd and ultimately the will of God, and delivers Jesus to them, so that Barabbas might be delivered.

The text says he, “decides to grant their request, releasing Barabbas for whom they asked, and delivers Jesus over to their will.” They ask for Barabbas. The irony Is great. He decides to grant their request, as if he was really in power. And then the irony also of a criminal being released.

Why? Because at the end of the day we have more in common with him then Jesus. That’s us! We are the prisoner. We are the murderer. We are the rebellious one. Except we have not just taken part in a rebellion against Rome, but against the king of the kingdom of heaven. It is for rebels that Jesus came. It was for enemies that he died. So that through his death we might be reconciled to him.

It is interesting that it says, ‘he delivered Jesus over to their will.” What was their will – to crucify Jesus Christ – their messiah! To commit treason against God. But in that treasonous act would flow the blood that would ultimately deliver countless. It was not their will but at the end of the day, it was the will of God. Father Son and Holy Spirit so that in Christ we might be reconciled. So that we might be set free. So that we might have life! AS Peter preaches, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

And why? So that at the end of the day the gospel might be extended to hell-bound sinners, ““Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” This gospel goes to you today! Turn to him and be saved.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior's blood
Died He for me, who caused His pain
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my Lord, should die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my Lord, should die for me?