Matthew 27:11-26; Pilate

Apparently the strategy for Pilate’s trial was to present Jesus as a wannabe king. This is a loose and inaccurate description of a messiah, I suppose, but it certainly does not fit Jesus. But when in Rome …

Throughout this account Pilate is skeptical. He can see through the subterfuge and understands that these leaders just don’t like Jesus because he could upset their status quo. He is no threat to Rome.

For Jesus’ part, he kind of admits to being the messiah, but is cagy about it. His answer is definitely more like yes than no. But he refuses to answer the charges of the council. If he had aspirations to be king he would fight for his life. But he doesn’t. Since Gethsemane he is resigned to death.

Who is responsible for the death of Jesus?

Pilate

Obviously Pilate did not want to condemn Jesus. He saw through the council’s thin charges. His wife warned him to steer clear of Jesus, which reminds us of the dreams of the Magi way back at the beginning of Matthew. He offers to release Jesus and condemn another criminal. He wants to avoid guilt, although he cannot do so. The Coptic church has canonized Pilate and his wife, but I think that is a mistake.

The Chief Priests and Elders

They arrest Jesus away from the crowds. They condemn him in the night, away from the crowds. They strategize about how to get Pilate to condemn him. They incite the crowds—probably in terms of anti-Roman nationalism—to compel Pilate to condemn him.

The Jewish People

Here I am referring to the crowd referenced in this story. They are easily manipulated by the council leaders. They accept guilt.

Need for Great Care

Matthew 27:25 has been the source of great sin and great evil. Whole systems of anti-Semitism are built on this verse. Or, actually, and incorrect interpretations of this verse.

First, the crowd was manipulated by the leaders. Second, the part about “and on our children” does not accept guilt on future generations. It is simply an amplifier of intensity to let Pilate know they are serious. Third, this is only a small segment of the Jewish people. Most of them had no idea who Jesus was or what was going on.

What Matthew is telling us is that the Jewish people in general did not accept Jesus as the messiah. He is telling his church that this is the reason the mission moved on to the gentiles, while not ignoring the Jews. The Jews are still the people of God. Ask Paul about that.

Anti-Semitism is a grave sin against God and his people. It takes many forms and it has tried to wipe them from the face of the earth. The Christian church is responsible for much of the carnage. Anti-Semitism in any form is distinctly un-Christian.

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