Apr 9, 2017 – The Need for the Blood of Jesus
Among the unique things from Matthew’s account of the passion of Christ is, it’s Pilate, the priests and the people that together proclaim the need for the blood – the death – of Jesus. They all clamor for His death. But not as we do; not as an affirmation of the God of heaven keeping His promise to take away the sin of the world through His Messiah.
No, they each and together make it clear that this man Jesus is to die. For them, He needs to be dead and gone. That’s important to remember on this day of praise and passion. Without that fact, without their testimony to the fact of the need for Jesus’ death, we have no earthly reason to be here in church. If Jesus didn’t in fact die– we have no hope of life.
You know the saying, ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste’. But when it comes to a mob mindset perhaps that idea should be rethought. In fact, a mob mentality is one of those things that weakens a person’s mind and to draws them into doing something they wouldn’t otherwise do on their own.
But we have to face the facts that in the gospel reading we are faced with the mob crying not just for Jesus to die, but that His blood be on… them. That’s a huge thing for them to say. They want His blood, they want the life of Jesus to be taken and they will gladly take the responsibility for putting Him to death.
They were literally crying out to be guilty of the death of Jesus Christ. They knew what calling for His blood to be on them meant when they said these words. Some Old Testament passages they would’ve known make this clear, like Leviticus 17:11 that says For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. And verse14 says – because the life of every creature is its blood.
The idea of being accountable for the blood – for the life – of another person, was well understood and there was no uncertainty in what the crowd, stirred-up by the leaders, was calling for. They were telling Pilate, ‘We will be accountable. Put on us and on our children the guilt for taking the life, for taking the blood, of Jesus’.
That’s what that phrase, let His blood be on us and on our children, means. They’re saying that they will swear on the life of their offspring that they take responsibility for putting Jesus to death. Consider the irony of that statement; they are willing to sacrifice their children’s future of standing before God as guilty of the death of the only Child of God Himself And yet such a sacrifice by the mob would only bring death to their children, whereas the sacrifice of God’s Child brings life to all. But today the mob speaks, and the mob demands and the mob is satisfied… by Pilate.
But first, Pilate makes them another offer. He offers up a ‘notorious prisoner’, Barabbas, in Jesus place so he can set Jesus free. That was his custom at the feast. After all Pilate, has judged this Man innocent. And Pilate, in this gospel account, has been hounded by his wife to have nothing to do with, as she said, that innocent man. Pilate had to go home after facing the crowd and face his wife. But rather than listen to her, he gives in to the mob.
And yet Pilate has the gall to try and proclaim his own innocence regarding Jesus when he washes his hands in front of the crowd. Like I said, he has to go home and face his wife. This way he can tell her that he washed his hands of the guilt of Jesus’ death when giving in to the crowd… but by-jiminy, dear, they knew I didn’t like what they wanted because I agree with you sweetheart, he was innocent so that’s why I washed my hands… Hogwash. He simply refused to do what his own conscience told him was right to do.
I am no different than Pilate. And neither are you. You are no different than that crowd. And neither am I. We all want Jesus gone. We all want Jesus dead.
And we all get what we want. The proof of Jesus being dead comes from, among other sources, a little-known man from Arimathea, named Joseph. Joseph is described as a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin and he’s able to address Pilate personally. Interesting that Joseph has the courage to go to Pilate.
After all we’re told that Joseph dissented from condemning Jesus and yet he goes to the man who allowed the Sanhedrin and other leaders to manipulate him into allowing Jesus to be killed. At any rate, Joseph goes and asks for the body of Jesus because Pilate is still the one with the power to dispose of the bodies on Roman crosses. By Joseph asking this, he relives Pilate and the Jews of a difficult situation – what with the Sabbath day beginning at 6 pm, sunset. To have dead bodies hanging on crosses after that was not something that was tolerated.
So, everyone has gotten what they want – Jesus is dead. He’s dead according to Pilate and a member of Sanhedrin. And also, according to the rulers of the Jews, the Pharisees. Vs 63 says, “the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while He was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’”
Interesting that the word they used about Jesus here is most often translated, ‘deceiver’. And to have the Pharisees use that word to speak of Jesus when it’s they themselves who deceived the people is bitter irony. Also in that same bitter cup is the fact that they speak to Pilate, who ordered Jesus’ execution, though he’d declared Jesus to be innocent. Again, a great and bitter irony on a day filled with bitterness and sorrow.
But by their coming to Pilate and securing a guard to put on the tomb, the Pharisees are testifying to the fact the Jesus is indeed dead and now buried. They had people watching everything that happened with Jesus all along just so that they could be certain … He was gone. And this request makes it clear that they’re satisfied that, at last, Jesus is dead.
Everybody has now gotten what they wanted. Pilate is through with this particularly troublesome Jew; the crowd has done their part and even more by demanding that they take the blame for the death; which pleases both Pilate and the Jewish leaders as it supposedly, takes them off the hook for getting exactly what they wanted since this backwater preacher named Jesus came along and began upsetting everything. With His teachings, His miracles – healing the sick, deaf, blind, lame and even raising Lazarus – Jesus has been nothing but a thorn in everyone’s side. Now at last everyone is happy! Because Jesus is dead.
Never let anyone try and tell you otherwise. Never let any of the theories that ‘Jesus just swooned on the cross’ carry weight with you. Never let those who deny that Jesus lived and died convince you of such lies. We have the testimony of too many people who hated Jesus standing against such deceit.
But… but their testimony is not the end of the story as we know. … because … We do boast in the death of Jesus Christ. Remember Leviticus 17, it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
The sacrifices of the Old Testament were done to teach us that very truth. To teach us that we cannot make atonement for ourselves. That another must die to pay for our sin. That the blood is what testifies to the life taken to pay for sin.
That is what the crowd asked for to be upon them isn’t it? The blood of Jesus is what they and we cry for and that’s what Jesus gives us. It’s His blood that He gives us, which we need for atonement of our sins and the sins of the world.
A motorist was arrested for speeding while driving through town. The judge told him that he had the option of paying for his ticket with cash or by giving a pint of blood at the local blood bank. The motorist chose the blood bank. When he brought the receipt for the blood to the judge, the judge stamped his ticket “Paid with blood,” and was released. We, who by God’s grace are children of God, also have had our debt marked ‘paid with blood’ – the blood of Jesus – which, as Leviticus teaches us, “blood… makes atonement for one’s life.”
People sometimes ask, is it fair that Jesus had to die for others? No, of course it isn’t fair, but it is just. It is right. Blood is what’s needed to pay for sin. Innocent blood. And that is what we have in Jesus. We have the innocent blood of Jesus Christ who we know, and have testimony to the fact that He, died. And so, He paid our debt with His blood. That is what this Sunday of the atonement teaches us.
And next week, next week we get to rejoice in the resurrection of Christ over death, which is our guarantee of freedom. Next week we will, with full hearts and voices shout aloud the victory of Christ that is ours.
But for now, we will remember that we, with the crowd, called for Jesus blood to be upon us. We will remember that our sin put Jesus to death. We will do that knowing that, for the sake of His love for us, He willingly died so that we may know that full atonement has been made for us. In this we give humble and hearty thanks. In the name of the crucified Jesus. Amen.
Sermon #883 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
The Holy Gospel: Passion of Our Lord Matthew 27:11- 66
P Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked Him,
C “Are You the King of the Jews?”
P Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He gave no answer. Then Pilate said to Him,
C “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?”
P But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. 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,
C “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Christ?”
P For he knew 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,
C “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?”
P And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them,
C “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
P “Let Him be crucified!”
C “Why, what evil has He done?”
P 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,
C “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
P 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. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head and put a reed in His right hand. And kneeling before Him, they mocked Him, saying,
C “Hail, King of the Jews!”
P As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry His cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered Him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when He tasted it, He would not drink it. (The congregation stands at the direction of the Pastor.) And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over Him there. And over His head they put the charge against Him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one of the left. And those who passed by derided Him, wagging their heads and saying:
C “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
P So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him, saying,
C “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him. For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
P Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said,
C “This Man is calling Elijah.”
P And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to Him to drink. But the others said,
C “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.”
P And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.
(A moment of silence)
P And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with Him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said,
C “Truly this was the Son of God!”
P There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while He was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples go and steal Him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”
C “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.”
P So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.