April 6, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing Him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’”
Judgment is rendered on Good Friday. Not guilty is the verdict. It is applied to Jesus. That is the decree from Pilate, the one who carries authority on that day. Throughout his treatment of Jesus’ case, the prefect comes to the same conclusion: “I find no guilt in Him.” It is an acquittal, the statement that a person on trial wants to hear: “Not guilty. No reason to punish, incarcerate, or condemn.”
And yet, the one who exonerates Jesus hands Him over to death: “Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered Him over to them to be crucified.” Handing over an innocent man to be crucified: that is an act of injustice. It is not right. Who does such a thing? An unjust man does. But the events in Jerusalem are much more than a human act of injustice, as Jesus discloses: “Pilate said to Him, You will not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over Me at all unless it had been given you from above.’”
What is happening in Jerusalem? Why is sentence pronounced against Jesus, though the judge declares, “I find no guilt in Him.”? An exchange is taking place; a substitution is being made. It is the fulfillment of all that the Lord had promised in days of old, as you have heard in the responses interspersed between the Scripture readings tonight: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Guilt—your guilt—is placed on Jesus. He is condemned for your sin—not by the human judge in Jerusalem, but from the One who carries authority from above. Guilt is placed on Jesus, so that you might have the innocence that He always possessed. That is the exchange, the substitution. Pilate sends out Jesus, saying: “Behold the Man!” The Father sees Him carrying the guilt of mankind. The divine condemnation for that sin is doled out against Him. It is the condemnation deserved by the first man, Adam, to the last man that shall ever walk this earth.
So Jesus dies, just as the Lord promised for those who break His commandments and incur His wrath. Not that Jesus broke them, but since He bore your iniquity. Jesus dies, suffering the judgment visited upon your unrighteousness: “They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief….”
And yet, there is divine promise of restoration, as the prophet declared: “When His soul makes an offering for sin, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” Jesus shall see what His offering achieves, what it attains for you: forgiveness, life, and salvation. He serves as substitute for you, receiving the Lord’s condemnation. But what is said about those who receive it? “Come, let us return to the Lord, for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live before Him.” Just as Jesus was torn and struck down for the sin of mankind, so He was healed and bound up. And as it was done to your Substitute, so it is also done to you.
Judgment is rendered on Good Friday. Not guilty is the verdict. It is applied to you. This is not the decree of a Roman prefect, but the decision of the Lord God Almighty. Throughout the treatment of your case, the Lord comes to the same conclusion about you: “I find no guilt.” It is an acquittal that you want to hear. But it comes because of the condemnation delivered against Jesus. The exchange, the substitution is made—innocence for guilt, guilt for innocence: “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
So the Lord God Almighty sends out the Crucified and Risen Jesus and says: “Behold the Man!” First see your guilt borne by Him and the condemnation visited upon Him. But then see His innocence that is made yours and hear the acquittal that is declared for you. See the result of that great exchange—resurrection and everlasting life—and ask for it to be yours: “Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession…. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
This is what Jesus has accomplished for you as your Substitute. It has been earned for you, made to be yours. Divine healing, binding, and raising are yours. Jesus declares it to be full and complete. He says: “It is finished!” And His Father, the Lord God Almighty, makes His declaration about you. The Just Judge renders His verdict on this day: “I find no guilt in them.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.