April 5, 2012

Matthew 27:24-25 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”

This is certainly a dramatic, highly charged scene, and it is one that has been used, and is being used, to justify antisemitism even to this day. There are several things wrong with that. In the first place, Pilate washing his hands didn’t really relieve him of responsibility. In the second place, nowhere in the Bible does it speak of sins echoing past the fourth generation. In the third place, every one of the first Christians were Jews, so that nullifies antisemitism right from the start. Responsibility is sometimes a tricky thing. We have to remember that responsibility is inseparable from authority. Many people want authority without responsibility, but at least the crowd in Pilate’s courtyard understood that in demanding authority they were also accepting responsibility. Pilate is an interesting figure here. The historical record shows that he was not what we today would call a good man. But for all his faults, he knew an innocent man when he saw one. However, he was more afraid of the crowd, and what Rome would do to him if there was another riot, than he was of his wife or even his own conscience. As he saw it, he was willing to sacrifice Jesus for the sake of his career as a Roman administrator. History shows that didn’t work very well for him, and tradition says that he was haunted by what he did for the rest of his life. Even so, the expression of “washing your hands” of something remains to this day. It didn’t work for him, and it doesn’t work today! We are responsible for our actions, which means every human being alive is guilty before God. That’s why we need a Savior! It is ironic, even tragic, that there is no record that Pilate, who was instrumental in God’s plan of salvation, ever received that salvation for himself.

I am constantly confronted with the issue of responsibility, because avoidance of responsibility is so rampant. People can’t receive salvation unless they accept responsibility for their sins! That is a major barrier for people of most cultures, and certainly for Japanese. I am to speak the truth in love at all times, confronting people not only with their sin but with God’s love and grace that are more than adequate to deal with that sin. Likewise, I must accept responsibility for my own actions, and keep my repentance up to date. Excuses don’t cut it! Human free will is real, and no amount of psychological rationalization can change that.

Father, help me live as Your agent at all times, making no excuses but depending on Your mercy, grace and love. Help me be an example to others to draw them to You, helping them understand not only their own sin but Your provision, so that they may receive Your salvation for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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