Welcome to Episode #73 of the Sunday Scripture Podcast!
Today we continue the Season of Lent. It lasts for 40 days just before Easter Sunday. In those 40 days we read difficult texts, because they tell the story of the journey Jesus was on to redeem all of creation.
There are several ways to choose texts in this season, and we have chosen to read Adam Hamilton’s book, 24 Hours that Changed the World.
Last week, Jesus was before the Jewish Elders of the Sanhedrin and they wanted him to admit he believed he was the son of God. He did and no one in that circle admitted to believing him. They then had momentum to take Jesus before the Roman officials.
Today, Jesus is before the chief Roman official in the region, the governor Pontius Pilate. Pilate’s chief tasks in the region are to keep the occupied people settled and to collect the necessary taxes to be sent home. He likely could care less, but the Elders forced his hand in our text for today.
Our scripture reading is Matthew 27: 11-26...
Matthew 27:11-26 Common English Bible (CEB)
11 Jesus was brought before the governor. The governor said, “Are you the king of the Jews?”Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.” 12 But he didn’t answer when the chief priests and elders accused him. 13 Then Pilate said, “Don’t you hear the testimony they bring against you?” 14 But he didn’t answer, not even a single word. So the governor was greatly amazed.
15 It was customary during the festival for the governor to release to the crowd one prisoner, whomever they might choose. 16 At that time there was a well-known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. 17 When the crowd had come together, Pilate asked them, “Whom would you like me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 He knew that the leaders of the people had handed him over because of jealousy.
19 While he was serving as judge, his wife sent this message to him, “Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him.”
20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus. 21 The governor said, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
“Barabbas,” they replied.
22 Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
They all said, “Crucify him!”
23 But he said, “Why? What wrong has he done?”
They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”
24 Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.”
25 All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified.
Three Points of Discussion
Quote #1 - The Antonia Fortress was both the governor’s residence and a military garrison in the heart of the city. It was adjacent to the Temple itself, and a Roman military presence so intimately tied to such a holy site both grieved and angered the Jewish people. On this chilly morning, though, the Sanhedrin was glad to have Pilate nearby to hear their case against Jesus. The Jewish authorities surely knew that Jesus had no intention of leading a rebellion against Rome; the only authority over which he expressed outrage was theirs as religious leaders. Still, their charges would either force Jesus to deny that he was the Messiah or, if he refused, force Pilate to put him to death for insurrection. Hamilton, Adam. 24 Hours That Changed the World, Expanded Large Print Edition (p. 63). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
Quote #2 - Jesus was offering himself as a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world. His death, Christians believe, was redemptive. It was purposeful. Jesus did not die a disillusioned prophet. He was not simply a great teacher put to death by the Romans. He chose to go to Jerusalem, anticipating and even predicting to his disciples his death. Christians believe that that death was the vehicle by which God saved the world. Isaiah painted the picture: Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5) . Hamilton, Adam. 24 Hours That Changed the World, Expanded Large Print Edition (p. 65). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
Quote #3 - Barabbas is intriguing both as a character in his own right and in his role in the death of Jesus. In Barabbas, we have an insurrectionist who led a revolt against the Romans; someone who apparently had murdered Roman collaborators, perhaps even Roman citizens; and a person who robbed others and presumably used their money for his cause. Pilate apparently thought the people would ask for Jesus, and he was all too happy to oblige; but they asked instead for Barabbas, and in the end it was Barabbas he released. Adam Hamilton goes on to surmise that Barabbas would be the first sinner for whom Jesus died. Hamilton, Adam. 24 Hours That Changed the World, Expanded Large Print Edition (p. 67). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
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