Guilty or Innocent?

            As I write we are in the middle of Holy Week– the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry before his death by Roman crucifixion.  Would you commit to a good spiritual exercise–to read from John’s Gospel chapters 11-21?  It is sobering to walk with Jesus through the difficult hours as he faced “the redeeming weekend” of God’s amazing grace in Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

            Governor Pontius Pilate, who oversaw the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, often gets a bad rap as the one who killed Jesus.  But as you read in chapters 18,19 Pilate, in pursuit of “truth and justice”, tried on four occasions to “declare him innocent” and release him.  But the “mob justice”, including false witnesses (Matt. 26:57ff), carried the day.  Finally Pilate succumbed to public pressure and Jesus was handed over to be crucified.

            Jesus, however, did not face the cross through an “accident of injustice.”  In John 12:27 Jesus said His heart was deeply troubled; He did not want to go through what lay ahead of Him, but He did say however He would submit to God’s redeeming and forgiving grace; it was “….for this very reason I came to this hour.”   In the act of His death, He took our sins, past, present, and future upon Himself for our redemption.

            The theological word is “propitiation”– Romans 3:25 KJV  “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,….”  Or as my favorite verse of the Bible, II Cor. 5:21 states very succinctly “God made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, so that we might become to righteousness of God.”  This is a wonderful reason to rejoice in the mercy of God’s grace.

            Some of you have stood before the court and have heard the declaration of guilt or innocence.  Those words hold a lot of weight.  How freeing to hear the words “not guilty”– your heart lifts in gratefulness because you stand before God forgiven and restored by His grace.  How much more eternally significantly to know the truth which sets you free.

            This Resurrection hope is summed up in the profound lyrics of a favorite hymn of mine-

I am not skilled to understand
What God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know at His right hand
  Stands One who is my Savior. 

I take Him at His word indeed:
“Christ died for sinners”–this I read;
For in my heart I find a need
  Of Him to be my Savior! 

That He should leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die,
You count it strange? So once did I
  Before I knew my Savior! 

And, oh, that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with His work contented be,
  As I with my dear Savior! 

Yes, living, dying, let me bring
My strength, my solace from this spring-
That He who lives to be my King
  Once died to be my Savior!

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