TODAY’S READING: Matthew 27; Mark 15
Pilate, as the Roman governor of Judea, had the authority to execute when he saw best and in the past had no trouble mingling the blood of some Jews in their sacrifices. This man was no victim; he was powerful and capable of decisive acts. “Pilate deserves no sympathy for his dilemma in sentencing Jesus. As governor, he was authorized with plenary power by Rome, so his weakness and vacillation should not be mistaken for virtue. Josephus recounts Pilate’s effective and indeed ruthless use of that power on a number of occasions. By choosing the path of least resistance in Jesus’ case, Pilate was responsible for a monstrous evil: the release of a convicted assassin and the condemning of the righteous Son of God to torture and death.”
What’s your excuse for not actively working for Jesus and His plan to make disciples of all the nations? What is your path of least resistance, and is it in fact a monstrous evil? What forces do you pretend you must accommodate or cater to when all along you have the power of will to be fully engaged in God’s mission? The biblical record of Pilate serves not only to condemn him but to convict us. There are many ways we can excuse ourselves from standing with Jesus; we too wash our hands but not our consciences.
Flogging was used to weaken the accused so that they would die more expediently on the cross. We must never lose the physical brutality inflicted on Jesus, yet the Gospels tend to focus more on the emotional and spiritual pain. Matthew also intentionally mentions that the first person to share in Christ’s shame and pain was a Libyan, Simon of Cyrene (Matt. 27:32). Think of it! We are all called to take up our cross and follow Jesus; the first to do so was not a fellow Jew but a foreign North African. How sweet that memory, that service must be to Simon and all his sons as they even now surround the throne. No doubt Matthew included this detail to remind us of the scope of Calvary—every people, tribe, tongue, and nation redeemed by the blood.
Is it not remarkable that the last person to help Jesus before He was crucified was a Libyan and the first person to believe in Him after He was crucified was an Italian, or at least a Roman? Mark 15:38–39 records: “Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said: ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God!’” Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world was an event bookended by encounters with representatives from the nations. How beautiful is our missionary God and His missionary Bible!
The veil torn is a thunderous missionary declaration. No more is the Spirit confined to one place in one nation. Henceforth, the Spirit will be unleashed on the world and the Spirit will inhabit human moveable temples who take the gospel to all the nations of the earth.