“Emmanuel’s Innocence” – Matthew 27:11-26

September 25th, 2016

Matthew 27:11-26 (see also: Mk 15:2-15; Lk 23:2-25; Jn 18:19-19:26)

“Emmanuel’s Innocence”

Call to Worship: Psalm 98

Aux. text: John 6:53-71


Service OrientationMatthew presents Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  The question Pilate asks the crowd is the ultimate question in life.  “What are you going to do with Jesus?”


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.— 2 Corinthians 5:21


Background Information:

  • (v. 11) Pilate was not a noble person. He had come from Spain, served under Germanicus in the wars on the Rhine, and had risen to his relatively minor post as governor of Judea through his marriage to Claudia Proculla, a granddaughter of the emperor Augustus.  The marriage was a smart career move but a moral disgrace.  Claudia’s mother, Julia, was notorious for her coarse immorality even in decadent Rome, and her daughter was like her.  Augustus would refer to them saying, “Would I were wifeless or had childless died.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 606)
  • (v. 13) The essence of these accusations by the chief priests and elders is recorded in Lk 23:1-5. The Jewish leaders had to fabricate new accusations against Jesus when they brought him before Pilate.  The charge of blasphemy would mean nothing to the Roman governor, so they accused Jesus of three other crimes: (1) encouraging the people not to pay their taxes to Rome; (2) claiming he was a king–“the King of the Jews”; and (3) causing riots all over the countryside.  Tax evasion, treason, and terrorism–all these would cause Pilate to be concerned.  These accusations were false, but the religious leaders were determined to have Jesus killed.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 546)
  • (v. 14) Sometimes the best witness to people surrounded by secular power is quiet confidence in a power much higher, much greater, much deeper. They may not understand it, but they do notice.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 547) 
  • (v. 14) Caiaphas had been exasperated by Jesus’ silence. Pilate was amazed.  The difference was that Pilate had no agenda.  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 410)
  • (v. 14) Luke recorded a middle phase in all of this action. When Pilate found that Jesus was from Galilee, he sent him off to Herod Antipas, who was also in town for the Passover.  But Herod only mocked Jesus and returned him to Pilate (Lk 23:6-12).  Later, Peter commented on how Jesus had handled these injustices (see 1 Pt 2:20-23).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 548)
  • (v. 16) As a “bandit” (lestes), Barabbas may have belonged to one of the rural bands. Social unrest was common, instigated in part by these guerillas.  The two criminals between whom Jesus was crucified are also called by this same term (see 27:38).  These bandits were popular with the common people because they preyed on the wealthy establishment of Israel and created havoc for the Roman government (similar to the twelfth-century Robin Hood, who robbed from the rich to give to the poor).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 873-4)
  • (v. 16) Some of the very oldest versions of the NT, for example the ancient Syriac and Armenian versions, call him Jesus Barabbas; and those two early interpreters of Scripture, Origen and Jerome, both knew of that reading, and felt it might be correct. It is a curious thing that twice Pilate refers to Jesus who is called Christ (vv 17 and 22), as if to distinguish him from some other Jesus.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 422)
  • (v. 16) It was ingenious of him to narrow the choice to one or other of the two, ignoring all other prisoners who might have had the benefit of the custom. But there is also, perhaps, a dash of sarcasm, and a hint of his having penetrated the priests’ motives, in his confining their choice to Jesus or Barabbas; for Barabbas was what they had charged Jesus with being,–a rebel; and, if they preferred him to Jesus, the hypocrisy of their suspicious loyalty would be patent.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-28, 313-4) 
  • (v. 16) The name “Barabbas” means “son of the father,” which was Jesus’ position with God. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 548)
  • (v. 16) Barabbas was a notorious murderer and insurrectionist. He was likely the leader of those two “robbers” (27:38)–the word Josephus uses for “freedom fighters” and the word we’d use for terrorists–crucified next to Jesus.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 846)
  • (v. 19) In antiquity dreams held greater authority than they do now, and in Matthew every dream mentioned is from God (think back to the warnings to Joseph and the magi in 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 842)
  • (v. 19) The Coptic Church claims she became a Christian and canonized her as a saint. I won’t go that far.  But I will go far enough to say that Matthew certainly emphasizes and thus strategically places–with the Gentile wise woman in chapter 27 who acknowledges the man Jesus as “righteous” (v. 19; cf. 3:15)–that this Jesus is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32a).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 843)
  • (v. 19) The Greek word that is translated “innocent” (Mt 27:19) is the same word that is translated as “righteous” in other places (see Mt 1:19; 10:41; 23:35; and 25:36, 46). It seems that while her husband has come to the conclusion that Jesus is innocent before the law, Pilate’s wife has reached the higher conviction that Jesus is righteous before God, a conviction that was soon to be echoed by the centurion at the cross (see Lk 23:47).  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 411)
  • (v. 19) It is possible that Pilate and his wife already had discussed Jesus many times that week. His triumphal entry was common knowledge, as were His healing miracles, including the recent raising of Lazarus just outside Jerusalem.  They knew of His daring and dramatic cleansing of the Temple and probably laughed over the consternation He caused the chief priests and the Temple merchants by that act.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 241)
  • (v. 20) It is possible, too, that the preparations made by the Sanhedrin members for the presentation before Pilate had included making sure that a sympathetic crowd was in attendance–the aorist verb “persuaded” could be read in a pluperfect sense: they “had persuaded” the crowd, which was therefore now in place and ready to respond vociferously. If it was known that this was the time for Pilate to announce the Passover amnesty, supporters of Barabbas may have made up much of the crowd.  At any rate, the final demand for Jesus’ execution will come not just from the Sanhedrin but from a representative group of the people of Jerusalem.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 1055)
  • (v. 22) This was a remarkable request–crucifixion was the Roman penalty for rebellion and abhorrent to the Jews. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 551)
  • (v. 24) This handwashing, performed as a gesture of innocence to show that one had nothing to do with a murder, was a Jewish custom, not a Roman one (Dt 21:6-9). So Pilate may have done this to show his utter contempt for the Jews and their demand for Jesus’ crucifixion.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 551)
  • (v. 24) There was another great irony too. When Pilate told the Jews, “It’s your responsibility,” he was saying precisely what they had said to Judas earlier: “What is that to us?  That’s your responsibility” (v. 4).  They had not escaped their guilt by passing it off on Judas, and neither could Pilate escape his guilt by passing it off on them.  They were all guilty.  And so are we!  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 610)
  • (v. 24) It was ironic, and doubtlessly intentional, that the governor chose a Jewish ritual to depict his renunciation of responsibility for Jesus’ fate. If the ruling elders of a city were not able to determine the identity of a murderer, the Mosaic law provided that they could publicly wash their hands, pray to God, and thereby absolve themselves of any guilt regarding their inability to render justice.  Using a modified form of that Jewish ceremony which he had heard of, Pilate proclaimed he was innocent of this innocent Man’s blood.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 243)
  • (v. 25) That declaration did not, of course, absolve Pilate of guilt, but it did proclaim for all time the people’s acknowledgment of their own guilt. They soon forgot that assumption of guilt, however, and not many months later the Sanhedrin self-righteously rebuked the apostles for holding them accountable for Christ’s blood (Acts 5:28).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 244)
  • (v. 25) The first disciples, and indeed the first believers in the early church, were Jews who became Christians. Yet this rejection, and acceptance of the guilt of Jesus’ death, signaled the end of the privileged status of the Jewish nation (see 21:43).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 552) 
  • (v. 25) The generation that chose Barabbas in AD 33 (or thereabouts) thirty-three years later followed other Barabbas-like rebels into war against Rome, and in doing so they dug their own graves, tore down their own temple, leveled their own city walls, and sacrificed their own children. It is also sad because too many Christians for too many generations used this self-curse as God’s eternal curse on the Jews.  In the fourth century Jerome wrote that “this imprecation upon the Jews continues until the present day.”  And from the medieval crusades to Nazi Germany Mt 27:25 was used like a satanic sword to advocate and justify the slaughter of millions of Jewish men, women, and children.  How awful when God’s merciful Word is used for murderous purposes!  The church is at its best when armed with love and pointing the finger of accusation inward.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 845)
  • (v.25) These people had the audacity to take full responsibility for the condemnation of the Savior, and also to put the responsibility on their children. Did they not know what they were saying?  Did they not believe they would be responsible for condemning an innocent man?  I cannot grasp how these people could willingly assume this responsibility and even place this guilt on their children.  Sadly, God heard them and did indeed require payment for the blood of Christ from them and their children, for, as we have seen, more than a million Jews died in Jerusalem when the city fell to the Romans in AD 70.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 793)
  • (v. 26) We see in this miserable man a living pattern of many a ruler of this world! How many there are who know well that their public acts are wrong, and yet have not the courage to act up to their knowledge.  They fear the people; they dread being laughed at:  they cannot bear being unpopular!  Like dead fish, they float with the tide.  Human praise is the idol before which they bow down, and to that idol they sacrifice conscience, inner peace and an immortal soul.

Whatever our position in life may be, let us seek to be guided by principle, and not by expediency.  Human praise is a poor, feeble, uncertain thing:  it is here today and gone tomorrow.  Let us strive to please God, and then we may care little who else is pleased; let us fear God, and then there is no one else of whom we need to be afraid.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 277)

  • (v. 26) He (Pilate) knows perfectly well that the Roman power has nothing to fear from this King, whose kingdom rested on His witness to the Truth. He knows perfectly well that unavowed motives of personal enmity lie at the bottom of the whole business.  In the words of our text he acquits Christ, and thereby condemns himself.  If Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent, he knew that he, as governor, was guilty of prostituting Roman justices, which was Rome’s best gift to her subject nations, and of giving up an innocent man to death, in order to save himself trouble and to conciliate a howling mob.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-28, 304-5)
  • Here again in Matthew’s passion narrative there is a contrast of characters and their character. Jesus turns the other cheek to his enemies; the crowd wants an innocent man brutally tortured and killed.  Jesus is silent; the crowd thunders their horrific verdict: “Let him be crucified!”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 844)


The question to be answered is . . . What are you going to do with Jesus?


Answer: As viewed by the world’s standards, Jesus has little to attract us to Himself.  It is only by believing what is revealed about Him that we would have any inclination to follow Jesus at all.  


Pilate tries to intimidate Jesus.  He says to Him, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”  Obviously the true answer to Pilate’s question was “No!”  Pilate had never met a prisoner who was less able to be intimidated than Jesus.  The fearlessness of Jesus was disconcerting.  Pilate assumed that such fearlessness must be rooted in the prisoner’s ignorance.  It must be, he thought, that Jesus simply did not realize who He was dealing with.  The reverse was the case.  Pilate did not realize whom he was dealing with. (R.C. Sproul; The Glory of Christ, 154)


The Word for the Day is . . . Innocent


What should we glean from 27:11-26 in Matthew’s Gospel?:

I-  Jesus is doing little or nothing to superficially endear Himself to Pilate, the religious leaders, the crowd or to us.  (Mt 27:11-26; see also: Isa 52:14-53:12; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16; 2 Cor 5:16; 1 Pt 2:22-24)


Charles H. Spurgeon, a great Baptist preacher, wrote about the similarity between the King and his kingdom more than a century ago.  He wrote that today “pure Christianity in its outward appearances is an equally unattractive object and wears upon its surface few royal tokens.  It is without form, or comeliness, and when men see it there is no beauty that they should desire it.”  Nominal Christianity is tolerantly approved by most men, but the pure gospel is scorned and rejected.  “The real Christ of today, among men, is unknown and unrecognized as much as he was among his own nation eighteen hundred years ago.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 611)


Faced with a clear choice, the people chose Barabbas, a revolutionary and murderer, over the Son of God.  Faced with the same choice today, people are still choosing “Barabbas.”  They would rather have the tangible force of human power than the salvation offered by the Son of God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 550)


The chief priests and the elders went among the crowd, inciting the people to call for the release of Barabbas.  Jesus may have been popular, but Barabbas’ active role in the fight against the Romans made him a hero.  In addition, the Jewish leaders’ characterization of Jesus as a blasphemer would cause Jews to turn against him.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 550)


Jesus’ silence had been prophesied in Scripture (Isa 53:7).  It would have been futile to answer, and the time had come to give his life to save the world.  His was the ultimate example of self-assurance and peace, which no ordinary criminal could imitate.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 547)


The fact that three crosses were prepared strongly suggests that Pilate had already ordered that preparations be made for the execution of the three rebels.  If so, Jesus the Messiah actually took the place of the rebel [Jesus] Barabbas because the people preferred the political rebel and nationalist hero to the Son of God.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 569)


As an outsider he was perhaps unaware (like some modern preachers!) of the difference in outlook between the pilgrim group arriving at the city and the local population with whom he was now confronted.  The choice between Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Barabbas would not be difficult for a Jerusalem crowd to make, both because a Galilean would not be their natural choice, and because the type of “Messiahship” represented by this Galilean, with his talk of loving enemies, had far less popular appeal than the direct action represented by Barabbas’ “insurrection” (Mk 15:7).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 1050)


II-  The overwhelming report of Pilate, the Centurion at the cross, the NT and the church has been:  Jesus is perfect; free from any sin, crime or wrong . . . innocent; the perfect example of what it means to be a righteous man, created in the image and likeness of God.  Thus uniquely qualified to bear our sin.  (Mt 27:19, 23-24; see also: Gn 1:26-28; Jn 19:5; Mt 5:17; Mk 15:14; Lk 23:4-5, 13-16, 22, 47; Jn 18:38; 19:4-6; Acts 3:14; 7:52; Rom 3:20-26; 8:29-30; 1 Cor 15:47-54; Phil 3:21; Heb 4:15; 1 Pt 2:20-24; 1 Jn 2:1, 24; 3:1-3, 7)


Jesus’ silence testifies mutely to his willingness (cf. 26:53) to suffer as “a ransom for many” (20:28).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 568)


For if the Son of God had not been free from all sin, we would have had no right to look for satisfaction from his death; and, on the other hand, if he had not become our surety, to endure the punishment which we had deserved, we would now have been involved in the condemnation of our sins.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVII, 289)


Heidelberg Catechism questions 13-19

Q12.  According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after:  how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

  1. God requires that his justice be satisfied (Ex 23:7; Rom 2:1-22). Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another (Isa 53:11; Rom 8:3-4).


Q13. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

  1. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Mat 6:12; Rom 2:4-5).


14Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

  1. No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of (Ez 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18). Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Ps 49:7-9; 130:3).


Q15. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

  1. One who is truly human (Rom 1:3; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:17) and truly righteous (Isa 53:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26), yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God (Isa 7:14; 9:6; Jer 23:6; Jn 1:1).


Q16. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

  1. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin (Rom 5:12, 15; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-16); but a sinner could never pay for others (Heb 7:26-27; 1 Pt 3:18).


Q17. Why must he also be true God?

  1. So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life (Isa 53; John 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21).


Q18. And who is this mediator—true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

  1. Our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 1:21-13; Lk 2:11; 1 Tm 2:5), who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God (1 Cor 1:30).


Q19. How do you come to know this?

  1. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gn 3:15); later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gn 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Mic 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb 1:1-2), and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (Lv 1-7; Jn 5:46; Heb 10:1-10); finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son (Rom 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17).


Although we do not know what became of Barabbas afterward, he is a fitting representative for each of us.  Like him, we are guilty.  Like him, we deserve to die.  But we are freed because Jesus died instead of us.  All of us who are baptized are now “sons of the Father” through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 2:26, 27).  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 413)


In the eyes of the Jews, that Jesus would be crucified would demonstrate that his life and message had been under God’s curse, for Dt 21:23 says, “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (NIV).  This is just what the Jewish religious leaders wanted.  If Jesus were to die, he would be crucified.  He would die the death of a rebel and slave, not the death of the king he claimed to be.  While the Crucifixion was meant to brand Jesus as cursed by God, for Christians, the Crucifixion pictures Jesus indeed taking God’s curse against sin upon himself and allowing his people to be set free from sin.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 551)


Had he done any evil against God?  No, he always did those things that pleased him.  Had he done any evil against the civil government?  No, as he did himself, so he taught others, to render to Caesar the things that were Caesar’s.  had he done any evil against the public peace?  No, he did not strive or cry, nor did his kingdom come with observation.  Had he done any evil to particular persons?  Whose ox had he taken, or whom had he defrauded?  No, so far from that, that he went about doing good.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 419)


Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent; King or not, he posed no threat to the Caesar or anyone else.  We can be quite sure that the Roman procurator had kept himself informed through his spies about the activities of this Jesus of Nazareth over the past few years.  A populist teacher from the backwoods of Galilee who opposed the Jewish religious establishment and went around doing good and preaching peace was no enemy of Rome.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 515)


Everything that happened here was according to “the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).  But although God worked supernaturally through the dream, Pilate’s wife may simply have been convinced of Jesus’ innocence in her own mind and had the dream as a result of that concern.  In any case, she was frightened for her husband and insisted that he have no part in Jesus’ condemnation or punishment.  In doing so, she added her attestation to Jesus’ perfection and innocence.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 241-2)


Had Jesus been guilty of any one of those allegations, Pilate would have known of it and would long since have arrested and executed Him.  As virtually every Jew and many Gentiles in Palestine well knew, however, Jesus was a man of peace and was in total submission to Roman political authority.  He willingly paid taxes and taught His followers to do likewise.  He even taught that if a soldier commanded a person to carry his gear for a mile, which by Roman law he was permitted to do, the person should carry it two miles (Mt 5:41).  Jesus not only did not rebel against the emperor but had publicly declared that citizens should “render” to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mt 22:21).  And when His admirers had wanted to make Him king by force He had disappeared from their midst (Jn 6:15).  The accusations against Jesus were such obvious lies that one wonders what sort of fool the Jewish leaders thought Pilate to be.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 235)


A person who said nothing in his own defense was unheard of and astounding.  But Jesus’ innocence was so obvious that it demanded no defense on His part.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 237)


Up to this point Pilate’s handling of the trial was fully commendable.  Matthew’s account is short, but looking at it carefully and linking it to the reports of the other Gospel writers, we realize that Pilate followed the four stages of a proper Roman trial without deviation: (1) the charge, (2) the evidence, (3) the defense, and (4) the verdict.  Pilate heard the charge, investigated the evidence, knew that the real reason behind the accusations was the Jewish leaders’ envy of Jesus (Mt 27:18), and spoke the verdict:  “I find no basis for a charge against him.”  Absolvo!  Non fecisse videtur!  John says that Pilate spoke those words three times (Jn 18:38; 19;4, 6).  But instead of doing what he should have done at that point, releasing Jesus or at least placing him under protective custody as a later Roman commander did with Paul when his life was threatened by this same judicial body (Acts 21:31-33; 23:12-24), the governor launched a pattern of irregular proceedings that led eventually to Jesus’ execution.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 608)


III-  What remains attractive to believers is the glory of Jesus and the transformation that takes place when Jesus’ perfect, substitutionary blood is by faith applied to our lives.  (Mt 27:25; see also: Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Jn 6:53-56; Acts 20:28; Rom 3:21-26; 5;9; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:25-27; 2 Cor 3:18; 5:17; Eph 1:7; 2:13; Col 1:20; Phil 3:8-10, 21; Heb ch 9; 10:1-4, 19-29; 13:11-12; 1 Pt 1:2, 18-21; 2:24; 3:18; 1 Jn 1:7; Rev 1:5; 5:9; 7:14; 12:11; 21:5; see Worship Point below)



For if we are desirous to profit aright by mediating on the death of Christ, we ought to begin with cherishing abhorrence of our sins, in proportion to the severity of the punishment which he endured.  This will cause us not only to feel displeasure and shame of ourselves, but to be penetrated with deep grief, and therefore to seek the medicine with becoming ardor, and at the same time to experience confusion and trembling.  For we must have hearts harder than stones, if we are not cut to the quick by the wounds of the Son of God, if we do not hate and detest our sins, for expiating which the Son of God endured so many torments.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVII, 290)


I like to imagine him each time muttering under his breath that classic line from Lady Macbeth, “Out, damned spot.”  “Washing hands does not cleanse the defiled soul.”  “All the water in the world cannot wash blood from a guilty person’s hands.”  “Only blood removes blood.”  Only Jesus’ innocent blood removes sin’s stain.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 844-5)


The phrase “his blood be on us and on our children” was an OT idiom (see 2 Sm 1:16; 3:28).  It meant that the people as a whole (the entire crowd, not just the leaders) willingly took responsibility for Jesus’ death.  This verse has been misused down through history to label the Jews as “Christ-killers,” but this crowd had no authority to pledge the nation in responsibility for Jesus’ death.  It was merely the attempt of an unruly mob to persuade Pilate to do what it wanted.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 552)


So Pilate, finding himself unable to restrain the commotion of the people, lays aside his authority as a judge, and yields to their furious outcry.  And though he had long attempted to hold out, still the necessity does not excuse him; for he ought rather to have submitted to any amount of suffering than to have swerved from his duty.  Nor is his guilt alleviated by the childish ceremony which he uses; for how could a few drops of water wash away the stain of a crime which no satisfaction of any kind could obliterate?  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVII, 287)


Worship Point:  Worship Jesus Christ the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world and justifies us before God (Jn 1:29, 36; Rom; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal; Phil 3:8-10 ), Who makes all things new (2 Cor 5:17; Rv 21:5), Who gives us peace with God (Rom 5:1; ), makes us children of God and thus co-heirs with Christ (Jn 1:10-13; Rom 8:14-17; Gal 3:26-4:7), and makes us perfect so we can enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven forever (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 3:1-2).


I believe that in Christ Jesus my sins have been fully and freely forgiven, and I am a new creation.  I have died with Christ to my old identity in Adam.  I have been raised with Christ to a new life.  I am seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  God has given to me the full righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I am joined with angels, archangels, and all the saints in heaven.  God is my Father, and if He is for me, who can be against me?  Because of who I am in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  In fact, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.  Christ Jesus is my life!  Everything in my life here on this earth is working out for good according to the purposes of God.  Christ Jesus Himself dwells within me.  I have been called according to the purposes of God.  These things I believe and confess, because God, my Father in heaven, says they are true.  Amen! (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 96)


Gospel Application:  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  (Rom 1:16-17; 10:4; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:8-9)


“The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation.  For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.  Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.   Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts prerogatives which belong to man alone.” (John R. W. Stott; The Cross of Christ, 160)


I was once told by an attorney that he could not accept the Christian faith because he didn’t believe in the idea of the innocent suffering for the guilty.  I responded by deliberately expressing sorrow that he would never have any close friends or a happy marriage.  He reacted that he wasn’t talking about marriage or friendships!  But I pointed out that since he was not perfect, he would make mistakes, and only if his spouse or his friends would suffer for his mistakes and continue to love and accept him would he be able to enjoy meaningful relationships.  For the first time he saw that the principle of the innocent suffering for the guilty is central to human relationships as well as to our relationship with God. (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 31)


Spiritual Challenge:  Believe the report on Jesus.  Allow his blood to be upon your life so He can make you new (2 Cor 5:17; Rv 21:5).  Or don’t believe in Jesus and continue to be lost (Isa 53:6; Jer 17:9; Lk ch 15; 19:10; Rom 3:9-20; 8:1-17; Gal 5:16-26) . . . forever.


True faith brings a spiritual and moral transformation and an inward witness that cannot be mistaken. These come when we stop believing in belief and start believing in the Lord Jesus Christ indeed.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 61)


The worth and value of our soul is measured by what we love.  If we love corrupt and wicked things we become corrupt and wicked.  But the person who loves God spiritually grows and matures until he becomes like the One he loves.  What a person loves is constantly on his mind.  And what we think about has a power to transform our soul.  We become like what we behold.    (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 39)


When Moses went to meet with God, nothing–not even a layer of cloth–was allowed to hinder his gaze upon God.

That passage gives us insight into two things:  the deep revelation of God, and the change it brings to those who experience it.  The greater the revelation, the greater the transformation.  Unveiled in his worship and given incredible access to the presence of God, Moses also became a changed worshiper who glowed with the glory of God.

The NT has amazing news for us that we, too, can be unveiled worshipers:  “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

God has invited us into an incredibly privileged place in worship.  In one sense, the Almighty need not reveal Himself to anyone.  He is a consuming fire, blazing with power and holiness.  And yet He burns with a heart of love for His people, longing to usher each one of us into deeper levels of glory.  It is there we are transformed ever more into His likeness.  As someone once put it, “Beholding is becoming.” (Matt Redman; The Unquenchable Worshiper, 62-3)


Consumer Christianity is now normative.  The consumer Christian is one who utilizes the grace of God for forgiveness and the services of the church for special occasions, but does not give his or her life and innermost thoughts, feelings, and intentions over to the kingdom of the heavens.  Such Christians are not inwardly transformed and not committed to it.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 342)


Heidelberg Catechism:

Q 60.     How are you right with God?



  1. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8 11). Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all of God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them (Rom 3:9-10), and even though I am still inclined towards all evil (Rom 7:23), nevertheless, without my deserving it at all (Ti 3:4-5), out of sheer grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8), God grants and credits to me the perfect salvation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ (Rom 4:3-5; Gn 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2), as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me (Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21).

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart (Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31).


Q61.  Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?



  1. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me.  Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God (1 Cor 1:30-31).  And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone (Rom 10:10; 1 Jn 5:10-12).


Q62.   Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?



  1. Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law (Rom 3:20; Col 3:10; Dt 27:26).  Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin (Isa 64:6).


So What?:  What are you going to do with Jesus?  (Mt 27:22; Acts 2:36-41)




What shall I do with Jesus?  Perhaps the whole reason for our human pilgrimage is that we may give answer.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 597)


Jesus is before you every bit as much as he was before Pilate in a physical form that day.  “Are you the King?”  You ask.  “Yes,” Jesus answers.  Is he right?  You have to face that claim.  If he is the King, say, “Yes, Jesus, I acknowledge who you are, and I want to become your subject today.”  Bow before him.  If you do not, you will bow before him in terror at the judgment.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 612)


I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a Great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:  or else a madman or something worse.   You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.  (C. S. Lewis;   Mere Christianity, 55-6)


Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions but God’s forgiveness awaits any who repent.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 877)


It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness that you are on the verge of understanding the gospel and becoming a Christian indeed.  When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink.  If you follow through, it will change everything:  how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, your sins, your virtue.  It’s called the new birth because it’s so radical.  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 78)


Despite the accusatory verbiage of that tragic night, it was not really Jesus who was on trial, but the rest of the world.  The Jewish religionists condemned themselves as they viciously demanded His crucifixion.  The fickle multitudes condemned themselves as they mindlessly went along with their leaders.  Herod condemned himself as he mocked the King of kings.  Pilate condemned himself as he willingly allowed an innocent man to be put to death, choosing the world above the Son of God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 244)


I love Wilburt Rees’ comment:  “I’d like to buy $3 worth of God, please.  Please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine…I want ecstasy, not transformation, I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth.” (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 69)


Many people have said to me:  “If you believe in Christ, that’s fine for you.  I respect your views.  However, I don’t feel the need for Jesus.”  Here is a clear case of the mind being darkened into foolishness.  I do not think any human being could ever make a more foolish statement.  There is nothing people need more than Jesus.  Every human being without Jesus is destined to face the full measure of the wrath of the Creator, and apart from Jesus and His saving work, they will have no plea.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 794-5)


Our pleasure and our duty, though opposite before,

Since we have seen His beauty, are joined to part no more

To see the Law by Christ fulfilled, and hear His pardon voice,

Transforms a slave into a child and duty into choice.       — John Newton







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