Midweek Lent 4: The Passion of our Lord, The Praetorium

Lesson: The Passion History of our Lord, drawn from the four Gospels
Hymns: LSB 423, 438, 890

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      The Lamb of God predicted it. In Matthew 17:22, Jesus said, “The Son of Man is going to betrayed into the hands of men.” And in Matthew 20:19, Jesus said, “The Son of Man… will be turned over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified.”

      Now it is happening, just as He said. Jesus is standing in the courtroom—on trial—accused—as a lawbreaker—as one who sinned gravely.

      Here are the charges against Him: “He’s broken the law. He’s unpatriotic. He turns loyal citizens against Caesar. He doesn’t pay His taxes. He claims to be a king. He’s riling up the people.”

      After hearing these crazy charges, who should really be on trial?

      Obviously, Jesus is not guilty of their slanderous charges. He did indeed pay His taxes and told others to do the same when He said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21).

      Yet the people are making Jesus out to be the criminal of criminals. They think he’s more horrible than the murderer Barrabas!

      The governor knows Jesus is innocent of these charges and Pilate repeatedly states our Lord’s innocence, saying, “See, I bring Him out to you that you may know that I find Him not guilty.”

      If Jesus is not guilty, as Pilate rightly says, then who is guilty?

      The answer is clear. All mankind. Jew and Gentile. Everyone is putting Jesus on trial because all are sinners.

      Since Pilate could not find guilt in Jesus, he decided to give the people a choice. Who should be released? Jesus or Barabbas?

      They instantly screamed, “Away with Jesus! Release to us Barabbas!”

      Pilate desired to release Jesus, so he asked them, “What shall I do to Jesus?” The people replied, “Away with Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

      When Pilate tried to reason with the people, saying, “Why? What wrong has He done?”, the people cried out all the more, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

      The soldiers mocked Jesus with the purple robe, crown of thorns, and staff. They looked at Him and said, “Hail King of the Jews!” They spit in His face and beat Him.

      In the end, the haters of Jesus claim to take full responsibility, saying, “His blood be on us and our children!” Pilate tries to claim innocence by washing his hands and saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood.”

      But Pilate is not innocent. The people’s decision is his decision. He went along with their demands. He is just as guilty as the crowd demanding our Lord’s death. For Jesus “was taken by lawless hands, [was] crucified, and put to death” (Acts 2:23).

      Our Lord’s trial is a trial of our guilt. All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 6:23). Like those who demanded our Lord’s crucifixion, you, too, are sinners. You are guilty of betrayal, denial, mockery, and sending Jesus to be crucified. Look at what Judas Iscariot did, the High Priest, the soldiers, Pilate, and even Peter! Put your name in their place. You are guilty.

      Peter said it well at Pentecost: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed” (Acts 2:22-23).

      The mercy and the glory of God is seen on Good Friday. How can this be? Jesus does it all for you—willingly—in love. Your salvation depends on Him serving as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 6:29). Your salvation depends on Him shedding His blood on your behalf. All of your guilt was laid on Him. He takes what is yours: your sin. He drinks the cup of wrath. He dies to set you free.

      “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus receives these wages when He becomes your sin.

      He becomes your sin so that you become His righteousness. He takes on your sin so that you are forgiven. He was declared guilty so that you are declared not guilty. He was damned so that you are saved.

      Because of our Lord’s payment, your sins are not counted against you. Instead, you are covered with the very righteousness of Christ, as it written in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This verse teaches what Dr. Martin Luther, the blessed Reformer, calls the blessed exchange. You could call it a sweet swap. For Jesus becomes your sin. You become His righteousness. He takes your sin. He gives you His righteousness.

      God even supplied us with an object lesson to show us how this works. Look at the blessed exchange Barabbas got. That’s also what happens to you. Barabbas was guilty of insurrection and murder. He should be put to death. Instead, he is set free. He is declared innocent. In his place, Jesus is sentenced to death.

      That’s what happens to all Christians. You deserve the wages of your sin, which is eternal death. But Christ received your wages and was crucified on the cross. And you receive the gift of God—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:23).

      All of this is certain because Jesus shed His innocent blood in your place. He fulfilled all that is written of Him by the prophets. He earned your salvation through the shedding of His blood.

      So this Sunday run as fast as you can to the Sacrament of the Altar. There Jesus gives you His body given into death for the forgiveness of your sin. He gives you His blood which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. In this, you are blessed forever. Amen. 

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen