So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
(Matthew 27:24-26 ESV)
Historical records outside the Bible show us that Pontius Pilate was on thin ice with the Roman government by the time Jesus was brought to him by the Jewish leaders seeking His execution. Pilate had been governor of Israel for less than five years but had made multiple politically-charged decisions that lead the Jews to riot and to complain to Caesar about how Pilate treated them. On at least one occasion Pilate had been reprimanded by Caesar. The last thing Pilate needed was more trouble.
So even though he knew Jesus was innocent [Matthew 27:18; John 18:38] and that the Jewish leaders had manipulated the crowd and had riled them up, Pilate released Barabbas and had Jesus scourged in preparation for being crucified.
The process for scourging began by tying the victim’s hands above his head with his feet dangling off the ground. His bare back was then whipped repeatedly with a multi-tailed whip. Each tail was made of leather and was embedded with sharp pieces of bone or metal. The victim was whipped until the skin on his back was removed. In the process muscles would be torn, and vital organs (such as the kidneys) were exposed and slashed.
Many died from the scourging itself. They were the lucky ones. Those who survived went on to be crucified where the scourging injuries increased their pain on the cross. We’ll learn about that in a few days.
Rather than doing the thing he knew was right, Pilate gave the people what they wanted because he was more concerned about his own political future than he was about their spiritual future. Just like Pilate, our leaders today make similar decisions for similar reasons.
Our leaders make decisions based solely on what will benefit them in the short-term instead of what will benefit the people in the long-term (i.e. eternity). Rather than leading people towards God, our leaders give people the very things that will lead them away from Him so they can get elected (e.g. abortion, same-sex marriage).
Pilate disclaimed any responsibility for Jesus’ death but that didn’t absolve Him. Notice that the people naively took full responsibility. They were disappointed in Jesus and were glad to get their revenge on Him. They thought they were the victors and that their decision to crucify Jesus would have no consequences.
People today do the same thing. They think they are defeating Jesus with their hostile and often vulgar comments about Him. They think they are getting the last laugh. But they won’t be laughing when they die and stand in judgment before the very one they mistreated.
The truth is none of us are innocent of Jesus’ blood. It was our sin that caused Jesus to be scourged. It was our sin that led Him to be crucified.
No one can wash their hands of Him as if He matters not in their life. His blood is on all of us. It either cleanses us of our sin or it convicts us of it.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.