Day 2: Jesus is Condemned

by Apr 11, 2022Devotional, Easter 2022, Journey of the Cross

Matthew 27:15-26 (ESV)

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”

Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”

Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

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.

 

When I returned to college for my sophomore year, an unsightly, stuffed plastic garbage bag greeted me outside my new dorm room. Startled and confused, I peered inside and found it contained forgotten belongings I had loaned to one of my few close friends from freshman year. The bag, left at the door without a note or a word, deeply unsettled me, but I should not have been surprised. Weeks earlier, I had received a biting letter from this friend outlining all the ways I had failed her that summer. The letter and bag conveyed one thing: utter rejection. More rejections followed that year – the Homecoming committee I didn’t make, the summer job I couldn’t keep, the young man I admired who chose someone else – but none were as painful as the one from a friend I had tried so hard to love well.

Surely, the sting of rejection burns our hearts like little else. It cuts straight to the soul, spurring a torrent of lies: I am unloved. I am unacceptable. I am unchosen. From the junior high cafeteria to the corporate boardroom, rejection is a common element to the human experience. Yet, few rejections wound as deeply as those from the people we love the most and expect to love us in return.

Surprisingly, paradoxically, the grace that rescues us from the pain of rejection –the only balm that soothes and heals its deep scars – comes through a divinely appointed rejection. Isaiah prophesied of Jesus, “He was despised and rejected,” and we see this most vividly in the moment of Jesus’ condemnation.

As Jesus stood before Pilate, He faced rejection from the very people He had come to save. Pilate, convinced of Jesus’ innocence – “I find no guilt in Him”–gave the Jewish leaders and crowd a choice: In honor of the Passover, he could release Jesus or the criminal Barabbas. The Jews chose Barabbas, and so God’s Chosen People rejected His Chosen One.

When Jesus’ friends heard this, they likely experienced the bitter agony of seeing a loved one rejected and suffering greatly for it. They did not yet know that Jesus’ gut-wrenching rejection ultimately meant their–and our–holy acceptance. Isaiah also wrote, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Perhaps, at His condemnation, Jesus bore for us the grief and sorrow of our most intimate, painful rejections. Through His rejection, we are beautifully, redemptively, eternally chosen.

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