Pontius Pilate is known for the part that he played in condemning Jesus to death. When Jesus stood before him, he asked the famous question, “What is truth?” But it seems that it was more of a statement than a question. It was as though the governor was disillusioned; as though he had sought ultimate truth and hadn’t found it. Yet, the irony was that the embodiment of Truth stood before him. If we sincerely seek after the truth, God will bring it to us.
The Bible portrays Pilate as a reluctant judge. He attempted to declare a mistrial, saying that the charges against Jesus were groundless. On top of this, his wife told him that Jesus was innocent and that she had suffered many things in a dream because of Him.
But the prosecution was adamant. He tried to appease their wrath with a whip, and then by appealing to the crowd. Who did they want released at the Passover, Jesus or Barabbas? They wanted the criminal released and the innocent Man crucified. When Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, the king had sent Him back. His nightmare wouldn’t go away.
It was the day after Thanksgiving, 2017, just after a family dinner. I was with my youngest grandchild doing her a big favor. Her pet guinea pig needed her nails trimmed. A week earlier, my daughter had sent us a very funny video showing the frustration they had when trying to trim the reluctant animal’s nails. It was a chaotic scene as my oldest granddaughter tried vainly to hold the wriggling animal, while my youngest panicked because she thought that she was hurting her precious pet.
I had stepped up to the plate. After seeing the video, I had purchased some special pet nail clippers that had a safety clip on the blades so that the nails couldn’t be cut too short. If they were cut too short, it could result in making the nails bleed. But that couldn’t happen with these clippers. I was there to show how the clipping should be done, and would consequently be the family hero.
My youngest and I went upstairs, sat on a couch, and then I gently took hold of the animal. The Psalmist says that God has placed the beasts of the field under our authority. I felt that reality. There was little resistance, and within about thirty seconds, she was on her little back, with her back feet nails trimmed.
The new clippers were amazing. The safety mechanism that stopped the nails from being trimmed more than a sixteenth of an inch gave me confidence. I was the skilled surgeon, being assisted by my young admiring nurse. Being a grandpa is so much fun.
The front legs, however, weren’t so easy to hold. They were shorter and the hairy-chinned little pig kept pulling them back into her hairy little body. I managed to snip one, and then another. It was working fine, especially with the safety clippers.
Suddenly, I had blood on my fingers! Huh? I couldn’t believe it. These were supposed to be safety clippers. This couldn’t be happening! While I called for swabs, my nurse was calling for help. Loudly. To my horror she was hollering something about her precious pet bleeding. “REALLY Bad!!!”
By now everyone within the radius of a hundred miles knew that the surgeon was losing his patient.
As I held a paper napkin on the pig’s foot, the paper turned red. Crimson red. It was like a nightmare. There’s something alarming about the color red. Especially when it’s blood.
Suddenly the area swarmed with other grandchildren as they watched me wiping blood off the couch, off my fingers, and off my pants. The napkin was now like a red flag waving the ghastly news that grandpa was killing this helpless animal. I kept folding the paper so that the blood couldn’t be seen, but it was a losing battle.
About five minutes later, as I sat on the couch, I felt very humbled. The flow had been stopped. It seemed that the only one who wasn’t upset was the guinea pig. No animal was harmed in the process, but I had aged forty years, something I couldn’t afford. The couch remained stained. So did my pants, and so did my reputation as the hero.
The next day I sent a text to my oldest granddaughter, saying that she had done a good job.
Pilate didn’t want his hands to be stained by the blood of an innocent Man. So, he washed them in water. It was of course just symbolic. It was his way of saying that Jesus was guiltless. And so was he.
Then he handed Jesus over to be slaughtered. That’s the ghastly word Scripture uses to describe what happened to the innocent Lamb of God.
Water may wash away dirt, but it couldn’t wash away Pilate’s betrayal of innocent blood. By handing him over to His cruel murderers, Pilate was guilty of the murder of this just Man. Yet the only thing that could absolve him of his crime, was the blood he was guilty of shedding. The blood of bulls and goats only temporarily washed away sin. The blood of Jesus does that permanently.
Like Pilate, millions have washed their hands of Jesus of Nazareth. They want nothing to do with this just Man, not because of His innocence, but because of their guilt. They love the darkness and hate the light. Like Pilate, they think that they can deal with sin in their own way.
May God have mercy on them. Their nightmare has yet to begin.