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Mar 11, 2018

Pilate: The Haunted One, #3 - I'm Innocent so What Do I have To Do with Jesus?

Passage: Matthew 27:22-26

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: Pilate: The Haunted One

Category: Pilate: The Haunted One

Keywords: authenticity, innocent, jesus, pilate, charles taylor


Pilate: The Haunted One, Part #3, “I’m Innocent.” By now Pilate doesn’t want anything more to do with Jesus. You can almost hear him pleading as he asks in Matthew 27:22, “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” His question haunts us all. What do I do with Jesus? More and more follow Pilate’s path and declare their own innocence. I will be true to myself and measure my life by what I want out of it. This age of authenticity convinces us that we are each to find our own way of living, and to simply accept or follow the teachings or grace of another would not be good. As Pilate declares his innocence though, it sounds hollow. He is NOT innocent because he is responsible for justice and he is not fulfilling that responsibility. And so when we declare we will be true to ourselves, we’re left wondering what that can really mean. And even if I do flourish on this earth the grass withers and the flower fades . . . The cross of Christ means no one is innocent, yet even you can be forgiven. What shall I do with Jesus is answered by receiving what Jesus has done for me. And that’s the starting point for an authentic life.


Matthew 27:22-26

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.










Okay, let’s say you have friends coming to Chicago

and you want them to experience

authentic Chicago.

So tell me what’s authentic to Chicago:

hot dog? yes?

how about with ketchup?


beef sandwich? yes?

at Arby’s?


Deep dish pizza? yes?

from Pizza Hut?


A lawn chair? what?

how about in front of your house

after you’ve shoveled a parking space? Dibs?



only if it’s Garrett’s Chicago mix?


Are you going to walk by the 875 N Michigan building

or the Hancock?

Are you going to ride the elevator up to the skydeck

at the Willis Tower? or the Sears Tower?


Are you going to the game at Comiskey

or The Cell or Guaranteed Rate Field?


We react to these things,

we have opinions and take sides,

because being authentic is important to us.


But here’s the thing

and the reason for me starting out

our look at this Bible story this way:

what makes for authenticity has changed in our day.

To be authentic used to mean

‘conforming to the original’:

to be true to the facts

or to an accepted norm or standard.

You were authentic if you

conformed to the truth

whether as an artist

or a scientist

or as a believer.


But to be authentic today is to be true to yourself.

‘. . . each one of us has his/her own way of realizing our humanity,

and it is important to find and live out one’s own,

over against surrendering to conformity

or any standard imposed on us from outside,

by society, or the previous generation,

or religious or political authority.’ – Charles Taylor


To be authentic today is NOT to conform.

The point of non-conformity is being true to yourself as opposed to whatever

others may want you to be true to.

For me to be authentic

I need to follow my desires, my wants,

and what I have decided makes my life flourish.

Do you get the difference?


Would an authentic Christian accept

the Apostles’ Creed as her own creed?

The old definition says of course,

orthodoxy matters.

Oprah would say that is stifling

and a denial of your own spiritual journey

which is authentically your own.


Do you look forward to Sunday School

and catechism classes because

there you learn the language and substance

of your faith,

or do you think those things get in the way

of you making your own faith?

See the difference?


Do you treat the Bible

as the revelation of the Triune God:

who God is

who we are in relation to God

our need for salvation

where we come from and

what we’re here for

and our destiny?

Or do you base what you think about God

more on your experiences,

your situation, and what you want out of life?

See the difference?


Parents and teachers, when kids, teens,

or young adults say worship in church is boring,

that’s code!

They’re really trying to say it’s not real to me,

it’s not true or genuine,

that’s what you have to talk about.

Worship and church are about forming us,

shaping and filling our habits and desires.

Here the Spirit is forming you

in the truth of Christ.


We react to that in a negative way because

the pressure is on each of us

to discover life on our own

and do life our own way.

Poet Al Purdy explains this

in his poem “On the Beach”

‘. . . am I a man

that I follow another man

as a sheep might follow -

a man in another man’s likeness?’

Church and worship say yes,

for Christ has the word of life.


All this is why faith in Jesus Christ is so difficult today.

We meet Pontius Pilate again

and it’s just after releasing Barabbas.

You can almost hear him begging, pleading

as he asks the crowd

of religious authorities and leaders:

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus

who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.


In this age of authenticity

when it looks like a betrayal for me

to follow another,

to accept a faith handed down to me,

to subscribe to an ancient creed,

to believe in Jesus, really,

meaning, to trust my life to him

in such a way that I would

deny myself, take up my cross and follow him . . .

In this age . . .

the pressure on us like Pilate

to not want to have anything to do with Jesus.

Love even tho I do not like

forgive instead of get even

be faithful even tho it cost me

that doesn’t sound like fun

or flourishing

or making the most of my life.


So what do I do with Jesus?

The story gives us some possible answers:

the crowd says, crucify him.

And that has certainly been done

throughout history,

Christ Jesus once for all on the cross,

but believers in every generation

have been persecuted

for declaring Jesus as Lord.

Overt persecution doesn’t happen in America

but dismissing Jesus and his church sure does.

Every day churches close.

Every day someone we know leaves the church.

The most popular faith today seems to be

the trendy statement:

I’m spiritual but not religious.

I’m true to myself.

I am more authentic than you

because I have made my own way.

The church is full of hypocrites,

but I’m spiritual.

I don’t need Jesus.


But yet here is this one

who witnesses declare is the Son of God.

Who had a grace and truth about him

that I so desire.

Who came to suffer,

and who promised that tho we will have trouble

we need not be afraid because he has overcome.

Who built his church and loves her

as his bride.

If I dismiss him, I wind up asking like the disciples

to whom do we go, for you have the words of life?


Pilate solves the question by declaring his innocence.

So that’s another way we human beings

deal with Jesus: we dismiss him declaring,

I’m good enough without him.

“. . . he took water and washed his hands

in front of the crowd.

“I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said.”


Jesus IS innocent,

but Pilate is too afraid to declare that.

Instead, it’s all about himself,

and he declares himself innocent.

That’s how I’ll deal with Jesus.

I’m innocent,

so I don’t have to deal with him.


And that too is what happens today,

even Christians do that.

Just ask yourself how much of your own prayer time

is focused on confession of sin?

When was the last time you as a parent admitted

and said you were sorry to one of your children

because you did wrong.

By the way – that is a most powerful lesson,

when mom and dad admit when they have sinned

to their children

showing that we don’t answer to ourselves but God.

Do you think about your life

as one of repentance:

of running from sin

or fighting against it

learning to love what God loves

and despise what God despises?


We understand this but I think we

have to admit that this is not

so central to the way we

experience and live out our faith.


Teens, when mom or dad points out

something wrong

what’s your first reaction?

To admit and look to reconcile,

or do you get defensive?


It seems like being defensive,

justifying ourselves,

declaring our innocence

is what’s programmed in us.


And if we who believe in Jesus,

who sing of the cross with thanksgiving,

who have prayed for mercy

in the words of Psalm 51,

if we’re not so mindful of sin,

you can be sure most are not.


Maybe we don’t say it like Pilate,

I’m innocent,

but we echo his declaration:

I’m not so bad,

it wasn’t my fault,

accept me for who I am,

I’m only human.


In last week’s This is Us episode:

Deja’s mom Shauna fails her and finally confesses it – I have failed my daughter.

I failed her and I keep failing her.

Beth, who has said as much before

doesn’t know what to say,

but then says, ‘No, no you didn’t.’

In this age of innocence

no one knows what to do with this,

what to say when the truth comes out

that NOT ONE OF US is innocent.

In an interview with one of the writers of the show about that scene, she said:

‘. . . people do the best they can . . .

they are always trying . . .’

Do you hear what she’s saying?

I am the measure of me.

There is no standard outside of my own effort.

‘. . . this is what she felt was right for her . . .’

If I’m not innocent,

I have done what I could,

and you should accept that.


I tell you all this so you are aware

this is the air we breathe,

this is the water we swim in,

this is becoming normal.

And if we are not grounded in the story of Jesus

we’ll accept this without even knowing we have.

And once we begin to think this way

then we’ll begin to live this way.

And as we see in the story,

when life is up to me

and I declare my own right and wrong

in the end someone gets crucified.


Walt Mueller –

Center for Parent and Youth Understanding –

Sees this one trend in how teenagers

are processing all this:

A distinctive trend in Instagram use

is that teens increasingly have

more than one account.

Teens will often have a “rinsta” –

a real Instagram account –

and a “finsta”:

a fake or second account.


Teens are responding to the pressures on them

to create and maintain

the picture-perfect online profile.

Finstas are often strategically used by teens

to relieve this pressure.

Teens commonly create finstas

as a space to show their silly or more vulnerable side with close friends, without being judged by others.

Some teens use finsta accounts

to privately enjoy interests

they feel others may judge them by,

or bully them about.

Teens may also use finstas

as a way of boosting their real Instagram accounts, for example using them to likes posts

or add flattering comments

so they look better to others.


I’m innocent.

Well, I know I’m not perfect,

but I sure want you to think I am.

So Pilate answers his question:

what shall I do with Jesus,

by saying I’m innocent.


As Pilate declares his innocence it sounds hollow.

He is NOT innocent because

he is responsible for justice

and he is not fulfilling that responsibility.

And so when we declare we will be true to ourselves, we’re left wondering what that can really mean.

And even if I do flourish on this earth

the grass withers and the flower fades;

what does it profit you to gain the whole world

yet lose your soul . . .


When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere,

is how Matthew puts it:

When Pilate saw that judging Jesus

or dismissing Jesus

or declaring his own innocence didn’t

do anything for his life,

he makes others deal with him instead.

 “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” Pilate said.

“It is your responsibility!”

Now listen –

25 All the people answered,

“His blood is on us and on our children!”


Then you deal with him, Pilate says.

And human beings do that today also.

Mom and dad go to church for me.

Teachers at school pray for me.

The pastor believes for me.

The elder and deacon do good for me.

They’ll deal with Jesus for me.


The crowd’s answer is full of pride.

Beyond declaring their innocence,

the crowd is declaring they are right to do this:

to crucify Jesus.

Just like our day.

We decide what’s right and wrong

and we decide based on

what is right and wrong for me.


In the end it is Pilate that hands Jesus over.

Pilate is guilty, not innocent.

In the end the crowd is guilty too,

to say to you and me,

we are guilty of Christ’s crucifixion.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

yes we were,

the passage haunts us

because this old story is our story.


When everyone’s true to one’s own self

someone gets crucified.

And their blood is on us;

we have not loved God or neighbor as we ought.


Did you notice in this story Jesus is absent.

Jesus never speaks in these verses.

Jesus never acts in this exchange

between Pilate and the crowd.

Where is Jesus here?

He’s out of sight, out of range of our hearing.

When we live this way

prideful justifying ourselves,

and maintaining our own innocence,

setting own standards,

going our own way,

doing whatever it takes to get what we want,

closed off,

we aren’t blessed by his presence.


The whole idea of discovering

and being true to yourself

can be rather exhausting.

And what if the self you are true to

is one that no one else wants to be with?

What if the self you become is

not beautiful and attractive?

What if, like Elsa in Frozen,

you “let it go,”

“turn away and slam the door,”

only to find yourself in a lonely ice palace

of your own making?


When neighbors and friends discover that

being “true to themselves”

only makes them great pretenders

who spend more time hiding themselves

from the world that judges and bullies,

are you ready to break in with good news

that life change isn’t a DIY project

but granted through grace by the cross.


The biblical view of the self is that we are broken, twisted, and sinful.

The self is something that needs redemption,

not expression.


The cross of Christ means no one is innocent,

yet even you can be forgiven.

What shall I do with Jesus

is answered by receiving

what Jesus has done for me.

Matthew highlights the irony

of the crowd’s statement:

let his blood be on us and our children,

it is a confession of sorts

even if it is done in pride,

but it is our only hope.

Let his blood be on us is both

our confession and our hope.

And that’s the starting point for an authentic life.

John Starke - The authentic self says,

This is me; you must accept me as I am.

The vulnerable self says, This is me;

take me and transform me.

The vulnerable self comes in the form

not merely of confession

but of repentance.

It looks not to self for power and affirmation,

but to divine help and deliverance.


It is good news to be judged by God.

Because God is merciful.

Facebook is not.

Instagram is not.

Society is not.


So here’s how to respond,

here’s our take away:

sometime today or this week,

go back and read this story again,

but read it imaginatively.

Place yourself within the story as you read it.

Imagine you are there with Pilate asking,

what shall I do with Jesus?

Stay there for a while and ask,

what have I done with Jesus?

Have I dismissed him?

Declared my innocence?

What have you washed your hands of?


Can you get to the point where you

sing and confess
I was there when they crucified my Lord?

Have I trusted him to form and shape me?

How? How will I?


Then wander through the crowd.

It’s made up of regular people

religious folk

those who talk about God,

you fit right in with them.

Are you crying out, crucify him?


Say the words,

Let his blood be on us and our children.

Say them admitting your pride,

how easy it is to assume

you set the terms for what’s right for you

and what’s wrong for you.

Say the words again,

and this time as confession,

before the beaten and bullied Christ,

who bears your sorrow,

Jesus, let your blood be on us,

as a sprinkling to cleanse us,

to forgive us,

to set us free for you and your glory.


In the story Jesus is absent.

In our lives it’s so easy to live that way.

But he is NOT absent,

he is present with Pilate and his accusers,

he is there when Barabbas is set free,

he is crucified for you and because of you.

He is the one who makes you true.