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All the people will discern

Now the chief priests and the elders convinced the crowds that they might call for the Son-of-the-father [Bar-Abbas] and might destroy away Jesus. The governor answering said to them, “Which of the two do you wish me to release away to you?” And they said, “The Son-of-the-father.” Pilate stated to them, “Then what may I do to Jesus the one called Christ?” They all stated, “Crucify him.” And he disclosed, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted exceedingly, stating, “Crucify him.” So, when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing but rather that a riot was coming into being, taking water he washed his hands in opposition to the crowd, stating, “I am innocent of this man’s blood: you yourselves will discern.” Then all the people, answering, said, “His blood over us and over our children.” Then he released away to them the Son-of-the-father, and having scourged Jesus, gave him over to be crucified. Matthew 27: 20-26
Every day several incidents of ‘anti-Semitism’ are reported around the globe The UK Labour Party is, at present, under siege from accusations in that regard. And perhaps the main event in history which appears to have given rise to this continuing ‘-ism’ is the incident recorded in bold above.

Matthew, its writer, was in fact Jewish himself. He had earlier been a tax-farmer for the Roman authorities. He wrote his biography of Jesus because he was an eye-witness of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of this man. He wrote in Greek and existing manuscripts agree his exact words.

Should what he actually wrote allow any of us to be ‘anti-Semitic’ towards others? Let’s try to discover who, in the above record, is, to us, guilty.

‘Nothing is more personal than guilt.’ (Donald Macleod, University theology professor, 1940-) 

First, the chief priests and elders? They organized the crowd and persuaded them to ask for the release to them of a false (and violent) ‘son-of-the-father’. They did this for their own good reasons – good for them and, they decided, good for others.

Second, the crowds? They went along with the religious, political and other leaders. They did this for their own good reasons – good for them and, they decided, good for others. It was good for all to go along with the authorities.

Third, the governor? It’s not so much that he, under pressure, released Barabbas but that he gave over Jesus called ‘Christ’ (meaning ‘anointed one’ - Hebrew, ‘Messiah’) despite having disclosed earlier that he knew he had done no evil whatsoever. He did this for his own good reasons – good for him and, he decided, good for others to give them what they wanted.

Is it the same today? Many Western political leaders strongly support ‘multi-faith’ under which Jesus may be recognized only as one of many in whom the public may have ‘faith’. Any voice which points to the uniqueness of Jesus the Messiah must be quietened down so as to keep the peace. For Western crowds, the most important thing is social stability which enables us to improve our standards of living. For the individual - ‘governor’ of my own destiny – I may not stand for Jesus; 'I do it my way'.

Towards whom, then, should anybody, today, be ‘anti-’ in the light of Matthew’s report? To all? The fact is that - for my own good, masked by magnifying doing good to others – I’m like all three above.

But the most intriguing thing of all is in Matthew’s recorded words of Pilate (“You yourselves will discern”) and in the words of all the people (“His blood over [Greek - epi - above] us and over [Greek - epi - above] our children”).

Maybe Pilate thought he was saying that the people would discern that he, Pilate, was innocent in sentencing Jesus. But in fact, unwittingly, he was saying to all the people (including me, a reader of Mathew’s biography) that they would later discern - see clearly - when Jesus, three days later, would be raised from the dead. All will see that heavenly endorsement of him. Not all will admit it.

 ‘This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.’ (Jesus to Nicodemus – quoted in John’s biography)
And the last words of all the people“His blood over us and over our children.” Like Pilate’s unwitting words, these crowd words are, amazingly, the truth for each and every human being. He died so as to be able to forgive his greatest enemies. The blood of Jesus Christ rejected will indeed be over the rejector for ill. The blood of Jesus Christ received will, wonderfully, be over the recipient – for good. All the people, answering Pilate’s “You yourselves will discern”, said so.  So do I.

Sinner Syvret

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