It’s interesting to learn the origin of things, and this common, colloquial phrase is no exception. Regardless of our fervent desire, can such a symbolic act ever rid us of our responsibility or remove our guilt? “Let his blood be on us and on our children” they shouted at Pilate as this Roman officer grew even more conflicted. “But what evil has He done?” Pilate asked as they screamed; crucify him. There was no reasoning with this angry crowd. It was clear the religious leaders had succeeded in persuading them. Then the soldier brought Pilate an urgent message, “Don’t have anything to do with this innocent man” his wife implored. “I have suffered much in a dream concerning him.”
Returning to the unruly mass, he tried reasoning with them again. Crucify him they demanded. The procurator was in a tough spot. Freeing him was clearly the right choice, but the crowds and the religious leaders… well he didn’t want a riot on his hands. Apparently, it was easier to have his blood on them. Pilate released the murdering criminal Barabbas and sent Jesus to be crucified. They will forget about this poor Jew in a week, Pilate later told his wife. He was just one of many.
I wonder if you recognize yourself in this mirror of irresponsibility, as do I, in the light of such calloused indifference. When on a certain day, or place in time you told yourself what ever it took to silence the voice of your own conscience. When God’s inner most law of the heart directed a course of action you did not take and you discarded his conviction. Shaking off the voice of truth that pierced your conscience you embraced the dictate of your selfish will or satisfied your pride. The voice that served your purpose that day.
In Pilates story, as he wrestled with his own conscience and the clear distinction between right and wrong a serendipitous gift came. The message from his wife, confirming what he already knew to be true. If he had any doubt prior, this clarified everything. Funny how that happens. How in the midst of conflict, the right path becomes even more illuminated. But do we listen? As uncomfortable as his refusal to take the right path was, he perceived it as easier.
There in lies the deception.
In a vain attempt to rid himself of the grave consequence of his own actions and to make a symbolic, self-righteous statement Pilate poured water into a large bowl and washed his hands before the people. Coupled with his declaration of non-responsibility and his agreement to blame others for his decision he turned his back and walked away from what he knew was right. He turned his back and walked away from love as he let the Son of God be taken, turning a deaf ear to the voice of justice, to the appeal of truth. Most certainly justified his lying heart whispered.
The angry mob spit, cursed, beat and dragged the perfect one to the cruel cross as the religious leaders vacated to prepare the sacrificial lamb for the Passover. But it wasn’t Pilate’s problem. After all, he had washed his hands. On the same temple grounds, one lamb was swiftly, mercifully sacrificed in an attempt to re-instate man’s right standing with God, while the other suffered the most heinous death known to man.
I can only imagine the thoughts Pilate carried with him as he walked away. The lies he told himself to rationalize what he had done. The inner voice he quenched as his own heart and conscience convicted him. Jesus condemned to the cross, Pilate to the gravity of his own decision.
Does a detergent exist that could possibly have washed away the sin of Pilate that day? Truly rid the consequence of that action from his being? What ingredients would it take? What chemical compound could remove the seared guilt on Pilates psych, the one he would carry to his grave? The saturated blood from God’s son pooled on Pilates soul and wrote a decree of judgment on his heart. Not even the most cleverly devised lies told in the recesses of his own mind could erase the guilt.
There is only one miraculous agent that can remove the unbearable judgment and pain of grievous sin, that can restore and renew life. But this precious blood shed by Jesus on calvary is a gift that each one of us must personally and humbly embrace. Though shared freely it is of the greatest value and highest price and brings with it great power of transformation; healing those who are washed by it and testifying against those who reject it.