Sermon on April 15, 2022 (Good Friday)
Don’t forget to wash your hands! I don’t know how often this saying is used at home or used to be used.
The hands must be washed. We learned that. Handwashing is mandatory. That protects your health. And it doesn’t take long either.
Wash his hands in innocence,
this famous saying comes from Pontius Pilate, as we have just heard. The Roman governor of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, he is washed with all waters.
Trained in the difficult handling of power, he governs more badly than right with an unsteady hand, especially when he is supposed to settle the matter with Jesus. He can’t get it under control.
Admittedly, it’s also difficult for him, because he’s sitting between all the chairs on a wobbly throne.
He represents the Roman occupying power and can therefore be sure of his unpopularity with the people. He’s afraid they’ll report him in Rome. And he doesn’t really want to have anything to do with this King of the Jews, who has been accused of whatever.
Just no further image damage. Eyes shut and go for it. And so he becomes the plaything of those who want to get rid of Jesus.
He squirms at first because, as we read in Matthew, Pilate knew very well that they had only handed Jesus over to him out of envy.
In Luke we read that Pilate found no fault in him. He brings Jesus before the crowd and says, Look what a man. He is impressed by Jesus.
His wife warns him not to keep his hands off him, since he is righteous and because of Jesus she had slept badly and had bad dreams. And finally, as John writes, Pilate discusses truth with Jesus.
But what is truth?
The crowd wants to see Jesus hanging on the cross.
And when he finally feels how inevitably this demand hits him, and the crowd shouts: Crucify him! Then he puts on a good face to the bad game and reaches for the washbasin and demonstrates publicly that he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty on this matter and says:
I wash my hands in innocence.
I can not help it.
It’s not my fault what just happened.
It’s the people!
You wanted to crucify him!
It’s the soldiers!
You will do it!
It is the High Priest!
After all, he sent this strange king to me and demanded that I judge him.
Today we call it practical constraints, difficult circumstances, momentum of its own.
Nothing to do, no leeway. The powerless ruler cleverly wriggles out of the matter.
One hand washes the other – Pilate gives in – and the people calm down. And together they give Jesus the rest.
Pilate already felt it: He is the one who has everything in his hands.
He could have changed it. He would have had the power to do it.
Wash your hands like you can?
And why is he washing his hands when he’s innocent? What guilt does he want to wash away?
Pilate is responsible – and he knows it.
And isn’t that still the case today?
How often do we try to push away the responsibility for our actions. Guilt that we take upon ourselves, to talk down, to explain ourselves, to get absolution from others , to hide it, to repress it, to forget it.
Difficult circumstances. Others are to blame. Nothing to do. And we try to wash our hands of innocence.
Alone, our conscience tells us that this doesn’t work, our heart doesn’t get light and hands just don’t get clean no matter how often we wash them.
Then as now they face each other:
The one who washes his hands and yet is guilty of the blood of the other – and Jesus, innocent, who has done no harm to anyone, but who takes the guilt of the other – and that of all people – upon himself. It will cost his blood.
Thank God he goes this way to the end.
Can be mocked, tortured and crucified. Sheds his blood for us.
Only with him can we really become free!
The blood that Jesus shed for us washes us clean from all guilt.
Not water, but his blood.
He doesn’t downplay our guilt, he doesn’t shift it onto others, he carries it for us.
He does it for love.
And because he knows that’s the only way we can truly become clean and have a relationship with God.
We can lay our guilt on him.
When we confess our sins, God is shown to be faithful and righteous: He forgives our sins and cleanses us from every wrong we have committed. When we claim that we have not sinned, we make God a liar and do not give His word a place in our lives.
Through all times they face each other:
The Pilate in us, who wants to be washed clean, and Jesus, to whom we can confess our guilt, so that they are really forgiven and we are really washed clean.
He cleans up.
It enables a new relationship with God.
We can take advantage of that, consciously come to him with our guilt today on Good Friday, before we celebrate communion.
You confess to him and give to him
We can also keep in mind how much he loves us, that he went this way to the cross and died for us.
That’s why we can come before his throne boldly and don’t have to be afraid of his reaction, of what he thinks about us.
No, he loves us and is happy to forgive us!