First Station: Jesus Is Condemned by Pilate
+ We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.
“Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, ‘You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him.’ Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him. But all together they shouted out, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.’ (Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder.) Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate addressed them a third time, ‘What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.’ With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voiced prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demands should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.” Luke 23:13-25
There’s nothing quite so rancorous as being unjustly accused and convicted of a crime you didn’t commit. I recall in elementary school sitting next to two boys who were cutting up in choir practice. The choir instructor saw their antics and called all three of us down before the entire choir. Somehow, I had gotten caught up in their crime, though my only offense was having the misfortune of sitting next to them. I couldn’t bear the humiliation, so I quite the choir. That was over forty years ago, was only the slightest of offenses on the part of the choir instructor, yet I still remember it clearly. I remember the injustice, the humiliation, and the idea that the other students and the instructor saw me as a bad child.
The natural reaction to being falsely accused is to demand justice and to right the wrong against our name and reputation. We feel and do have a moral responsibility to do so. Sometimes people are successful in battling a false accusation. Sadly, sometimes they aren’t, and the consequences can be devastating, including lost jobs, lost friendships and lost years of freedom. I can’t begin to imagine the horror of being falsely accused and wrongly convicted of a serious crime.
Jesus responded to the false accusations made against Him and to His wrongful conviction with silence and submission. Why? As the song goes, “He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set Him free.” Why didn’t He? It would have only been right. He was innocent. He had done nothing wrong. He didn’t deserve even the flogging Pilate wanted to give Him, much less a sentence of cruel death by crucifixion.
Jesus knew His suffering and death was unjust, but He also knew His suffering was not simply to address a supposed injustice He had committed. Rather, the injustice He suffered was to address our offense, our own sins against God. Jesus didn’t live a life for Himself. He was a Man completely for others. His life was lived for the sake of others, for our sake, not for His. The reason He came was not to live a life of personal fulfillment. Rather, it was to fulfill His Father’s will that we might be saved, that our sins might be conquered so that we might be reconciled with God. Because of our sins, we were alienated from God. We couldn’t heal or redeem ourselves. How can finite humans redeem an injustice to an infinite God? Jesus, who is God, could redeem that debt. Jesus became one with us because it was necessary that one of us offer a sacrifice of perfect obedience to counter the sin of Adam’s disobedience (Romans 5:19). The sacrifice Jesus offered, then, was His life lived in perfect obedience to the will of the Father, even unto death. It was that life of perfect obedience that led Jesus, inevitably, to the cross, not because the Father demanded His death, but because the world would not tolerate such a life.
“Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked: and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses” (Isaiah 53:11b-12).
Father, help us to not so much seek the favor of other people as to desire to live in obedience to Your will. When we suffer, especially unjustly, strengthen us to unite our suffering with that of Jesus, Your Son, who suffered unjustly that we might share in the glories of Your Kingdom. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.