Holy Week waits in relative silence on Saturday. The tomb has been sealed, the guards stand watch, the disciples likely hide in confusion, fear, and devastation. And the Savior lies lifeless, having surrendered all to save his people from their sins.
How would you process the horrors of the last couple of days in the quiet, disturbing shadow of the cross? The disciples had to have a thousand painful questions. How could he be the long-awaited King if he was just killed? Is there something we could have done to stop it? If they tortured and slaughtered him like that, what will they do to us? It was all playing back through their minds while they waited on Saturday.
We too still hear the dark, sobering echoes of Thursday and Friday. But we wait with expectation for tomorrow — for the empty grave and risen King. Filled with hope, we can look back into the crowd that crucified Jesus and see our old selves, and then forward, in preparation for Easter, rejoicing in the transformation that’s taken place in us because of his sacrifice. We’ve been covered by the blood that confounded those first followers.
The Pro-Choice Pilate
One of the echoes sounds from Matthew 27. Jesus has just been betrayed, arrested, tried, and handed over to the governor to be executed. Matthew writes,
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. (Matthew 27:15–18)
Pilate has the power to release one criminal from death row. Before him is Barabbas, a notorious villain and convicted murderer, and Jesus.
Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:20–26)
The Crowd’s Suicidal Cry
It’s envy and hatred and ignorance. How could they be so deceived and manipulated and corrupt to give the Son of God over to death and spare a known murderer? Pilate knew that what they were demanding was wrong, that Jesus was innocent. He wanted no part or role in his execution. But these people, filled with unbelief, with rebellious hearts, with envious rage against their own Messiah, cried, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” “Pilate, if you won’t kill him, let his blood be on us!”
Let his blood be on us? Let the blood of God himself be on you? Let the blood of the eternal living and creating Word be on you? Their unbelief and their jealousy — their sin — led them to the ultimate act of defiance and rejection of God. They crucified his Son, the Promised One — the Son he had sent to save them from centuries of unfaithfulness. Let his blood be on us!
The Sin That Nailed Him There
This is sin, to reject Jesus, to declare he is nothing but a delusional or deceitful man. And this was the condition of our heart, when filled with unbelief, we rejected God, his Son, and his sacrifice. We have screamed, “Crucify him!” with our unfaithfulness and disobedience. We have said with the crowd, “He is not our King!” “He is not our Messiah!” “Let his blood be on us!”
But God, being rich in mercy and being patient with us, his chosen people, “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of [this crucified] Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). And being alive by faith in him, we cling to the cross on which our Savior died. It is by his precious blood that we are forgiven and freed from sin and its consequences.
Same Cross, New Cry
So, now, we say with an entirely different meaning, let his blood be on us, not defiantly as the crowds that crucified him, but desperately — with gratitude and hope and adoration — as those who depend wholly on his sacrifice. Jesus, let your blood be on us. Let it cover us. Let the blood that flows from your head, your hands, your feet wash over us and cleanse us from all of our iniquity.
We proclaim Jesus’s death. We rejoice in his death, not because we believe he was a fraud or a lunatic, but because it is by his death, by his wounds, by his blood that we are healed.
This is the seventh post in Desiring God’s 2014 Holy Week series “The Final Days of Jesus,” inspired by the new book of the same title by Justin Taylor and Andreas Kostenberger. Holy Week illustrations provided in partnership with Crossway Books and Adam Greene. Previously in the series: