Jesus Brought before Pilate
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
The Suicide of Judas
When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.’ After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.’
Pilate Questions Jesus
Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?’ But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Barabbas or Jesus?
Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’ Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 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 should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’
Reflection by Duke Yaguchi
Wow, there's enough in today's scripture for at least three devotions. Let me take a look at the suicide of Judas first. As we know, Judas is the one that betrayed Jesus by turning him over in the garden after the last supper. Now Judas is having second thoughts. He now understands the plan is to have Jesus executed. Judas wants to undo the agreement he made with the chief priests and elders. But they are dead set on eliminating Jesus as they see him as a rival and undermining the status quo.
Judas is trying to undo what he has done, but it is too late. Like a giant boulder being pushed over a cliff, once in freefall, there's no stopping it. What could have Judas done? It is my belief that there is always an alternative other than suicide. Even for Judas.
Imagine if he had sought Jesus out. If he had visited him in prison. If Judas had admitted to the betrayal and asked for forgiveness and guidance. What would Jesus' have done? I think Jesus would have forgiven Judas and used it as a motivational moment to preach forgiveness, love and peace. What would have Judas' reaction been? We'll never know. I believe Judas had a lot to offer the world as a repentant disciple of Jesus. Can we ask God for forgiveness? And if it is granted, what do we do with our broken yokes of guilt?
Next let's look at Pontius Pilate. He knew Jesus was innocent. He knew Barabbas was guilty of crimes that deserved punishment. He gave the people a clear choice. He thought for sure the people would free Jesus.
I'm guessing that Pilate and the chief priests had a cozy understanding that kept both parties in a mutually beneficial power-sharing relationship. If so, Pilate wouldn't want to undermine the religious authority that the chief priests held by freeing Jesus. So cleverly, Pilate calls on the will of the people to free Jesus. But it doesn't work. The people are easily swayed. They are swept up in the moment. Just as they were shouting in celebration as Jesus entered the city, they are now shouting for Jesus' crucifixion. Now Pilate is trapped. He can't go against both the chief priests and the people. He reluctantly agrees. The chief priests get their way. The people are duped. And Pilate reveals the weakness shown in trying not to take sides.
How often do we think we are being neutral by doing nothing or saying nothing, when in fact we are supporting the masses by stepping out of the way?
God, in today's scripture, there are a lot of players in the story. Who am I Lord? What do you want to do with me, Lord? In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.