17 April 2011

Matthew 27:11-54

"So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.'" (v. 24)


Our journey through Holy Week begins as we read about Jesus' appearance before the governor, Pilate.

This comes in a sequence of events that demonstrates how human beings manipulate both each other and the course of events. Chief priests, elders, statesmen, Caiaphas the high priest and even Jesus' closest friends all act in ways that culminate in the final events of Jesus' life. In this chapter, Matthew firstly shows the consequence of misplaced power politics, as Judas decides to take his own life. Before Pilate, and in a shocking parallel, Jesus willing gives the power of life and death to another - and to a Gentile (non-Jew).

Jesus is paraded as the 'King of the Jews' (verse 11), which suggests that Jesus was some form of rebellious leader. Jesus is someone to whom the state and the religious authorities were to fear and wanted to control. The cheers from the crowds became the charge with which Jesus was eventually crucified. In contrast, Barabbas, the man for whom the crowds cheer and eventually release, was a notorious and rebellious leader.

In the face of this charge, however, Jesus remains surprisingly silent. The silence of the Godhead is something that we will return to on Saturday.

Pilate washes his hands - a symbolic and yet powerful gesture. This is not the compulsions of a Lady Macbeth character, trying to rid oneself of guilt and tarnish. It is a gesture of a leader absolving himself of responsibility before declaring judgement. It is a symbol of distance from the process, rather than responsibility for it.

At the close of this passage, Jesus has been tried, test, mocked, abused, and crucified. With Jesus' final breath, the world became a very dark place indeed.

To Ponder

Where have you 'washed your hands' of responsibility?

Why might you have called for Barabbas' freedom rather than Jesus'?

Why do you think Jesus had to die like this? How would you have preferred God to have acted?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling (1)

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency ( - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".