Dear friends in Christ, dear believers in Christ, may the suffering of Christ be your strength, and your comfort. With His stripes we are healed. Those stripes were for you, for your salvation, for your assurance that heaven is meant for you. Jesus didn’t go through these horrible trials, the false accusations, the beatings, the whippings, as if it was some chance miscarriage of justice, as if it was some coincidence of unfortunate events. It was all planned, and it was all planned for you, prepared from the foundation of the world. To the end that a place would be prepared for you and me in heaven. To do that, Jesus went to the cross. And even before the cross, He endured many things.
May we not take the Passion of Christ lightly. May we not overlook the things that might make us feel uncomfortable. Because, didn’t Jesus go through every detail of it, for your assurance, that you have a perfect, sinless substitute before God? He endured everything needful for your salvation.
Many times Christ answered nothing, insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. Why wouldn’t an innocent man stand up for Himself, defend Himself? Because it was all for you and me, to take upon Himself our sin, our guilt, to free us from it, to deliver us from sin and death, and everything that stood in between us and God.
In the midst of many false accusations, and many unreliable and false voices, the voice of Christ stands out among them all, as one voice upon which we can always rely. “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.” How reliable His voice is. How comforting and assuring. He says, no man will pluck you out of His hand, meaning He will keep you and guide you by His voice, unto eternal life.
Yet, how unreliable, all the other voices are in tonight’s passion History. The people who were supposed to know right from wrong, and did know - the religious leaders - how unreliable they turned out to be. They could have pointed Judas to the words of forgiveness in Scripture when he realized his great sin. That was their job. But they were too busy carrying out the plan to get rid of Christ.
And last week we heard Peter’s voice, denying that he even knew Christ. Before that we heard Judas’s voice, conspiring against his own Lord and friend, with the religious leaders.
Tonight we hear Pilate’s voice. Will he finally be someone reliable? When Jesus said He was the King of truth, Pilate responded, “What is truth?” As if he didn’t know. He knew Jesus was innocent. He even so said, not once or twice, or even 5 or 6 times – almost 10 times, he said so. He found no fault in Jesus. (We heard some of those statements tonight, but next Wednesday we’ll hear the majority, where he proclaims Jesus to be a Just Person). Yet in the end, it is Pilate’s voice that instructed his soldiers to crucify an innocent man.
But he definitely looked out for himself, washing his hands of it, and saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.”
Yet the voice of Christ, stands out as one upon which we can rely: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.” His voice gives life and forgiveness to all who hear it and believe it. “He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” That’s you and me, children of God. By His Grace, we gather together to hear His voice, His Word. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.”
His voice is reliable. His Word is dependable, trustworthy, unwavering. His compassion, His love, His forgiveness toward us, is equally unbreakable.
What a contrast, when comparing the words and actions of the others surrounding Him.
It’s not that the religious leaders didn’t know right from wrong. They couldn’t stand the thought of putting Judas’ silver back into the treasury. “It’s not lawful …because it is the price of blood.” Interesting choice of words. It’s not lawful.
They couldn’t stand the thought of going into the judgment hall with Pilate, a Gentile. It’s not lawful, they thought. When Pilate said he wanted them to judge Jesus, they said again, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” They knew what their laws and traditions were, and how to follow them. They knew right from wrong. Yet, what about what the law in the 5th commandment? Thou shalt not kill. Meaning thou shalt not hurt, nor harm thy neighbor. And the 8th, Thou shalt not bear false witness.
Yet, somehow, they justified lying, and then taking a human life?
How unreliable their own reasoning was.
How unreliable our own reason or strength, or feelings, can be. That’s not where we put our trust, and our faith.
Christ, and His Word, is the rock-solid foundation, upon which we can always rely. It’s not like we’ve never behaved like Pilate, attempting to justify our sin. Or like Peter, who denied. Or like the false witnesses who lied. All it takes is one time. “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Our comfort, our strength, our hope, is not based upon our own reliability.
Our faith is based upon the words, the voice, of Jesus Christ. To this end was I born – to bear witness unto the truth. He says clearly the truth shall make you free. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
By taking upon Himself the accusations we deserved, He frees us from them, from all sin, and death. His words give us life, and salvation.
By His grace, we take His words to heart. We rely on them.
His voice assures us that He has connected His forgiveness to the waters of our Baptism. His voice assures us that it is His true body and blood that we receive in the Lord’s Supper, given and shed for us for the remission of all our sins. His voice assures us that all things needful for our salvation is complete. His voice assures us that He will keep us in that one true and saving faith. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” Amen.