Matthew 27:11-26 (Lent Midweek 3—The Crucified King)
“The King Denied”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
March 26, 2014
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our text for is the Gospel lesson recorded in Matthew 27:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He gave no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. 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. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of Him today in a dream.” 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 Barrabas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to be crucified.
The lion might be the king of the jungle. The rooster might be the king of the farm, and the dolphin might be the king of the sea. But on one day in the Jewish calendar, the lowly goat was king.
It was a special day, an extraordinary day, the holiest of days, a day of days. Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement. It was that one day of the year when the high priest would go through the curtain into the Holy of Holies, that most sacred place of God’s presence on earth.
And that meant two male goats, the same age, would take center stage. Two goats stood before the high priest and the guilty sons of Israel. Lots would be drawn, and one would be the Lord’s goat. He’d be slaughtered as a sin offering for the people. The other one would be the scapegoat. He’d escape, but not before the high priest pressed his bloody hands down on his head, confessed all the sins of the Israelites, and then had him led away to the wilderness, to a land uninhabited, where he would be released and left alone.
What a picture of how God deals with your sin. What a picture of how God is gracious and merciful toward sinners. Through the death of a goat, God shows you and me how He atones for our sin. Then, through the scapegoat, He shows us what He does with our sin—He takes it away, never to be remembered, like a goat trotting out into no man’s land. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
But it’s one thing to be a picture or symbol of something, and it’s a whole other thing to be the reality. And Hebrews 10:4 puts it this way: “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” In the other words, the blood of goats gives you no cover on Judgment Day. The blood of goats means nothing is taken away, nothing is forgotten. All your goat-like sins would just remain on you and cry out for punishment and separation from God forever. It would mean that your stubborn goat-like refusal to drop your grudges will come back to bite you. It would mean that your stubborn goat-like insistence on being served, rather than serving others, and your lack of love will never be forgotten. Not all the blood of goats takes away your stubborn unbelief, your goat-like refusal to love and trust God above all things.
But today, you heard of another special day, an extraordinary day, the holiest of days, a day of days. The Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement. Good Friday. And sure enough, two male goats took center stage.
One was a real goat. His name was “Barabbas,” which means, “son of the Father.” But he wasn’t a son a Father could be proud of. He was in prison for rebellion, murder, and theft. The other “goat” was also a “Son of the Father.” But the other “goat” was no goat at all. He was a perfect Son, who brought nothing but delight and joy to His Father. He was the obedient Lamb of God. But there He was on Good Friday, dressed up like a goat, covered and bearing all your big, hairy sins.
Two goats before Pilate. Barabbas and Jesus. Man and Jesus. You and Jesus. But for God to get the blood that atones and takes away sin, one “goat” must take center stage. One “goat” must do both things—die for sins, and then remove them from God’s sight forever.
“Behold, Jesus, the goat of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” It all comes down to Jesus. That one “goat” who has the blood that makes our release from God’s judgment possible. Here’s the one “Goat” that the two goats of the Day of Atonement point to. The one Goat that the Lord selected to be slaughtered for sins He didn’t commit, and then carry them out of God’s sight forever, as He is forsaken by His Father, that sinners might be baptized, and received as God’s precious lambs.
Unlike us, He’s not difficult or stubborn when it comes to God’s commandments. He takes on flesh that He might fulfill God’s law for you, and willingly go for you the way the Father wants Him to go. Note how silent He is before Pilate in that cruel scene of injustice. Not one word of protest. Not one cry for help. Take great comfort in what He is communicating by His amazing silence—His focused determination to rescue you. Pilate mocks Him. The chief priests and elders accuse Him. But He gives no answer. Pilate’s wife speaks the truth. She calls Him a “righteous man.” But He doesn’t use a wife’s natural persuasiveness to convince Pilate of the truth of her words nor to release Him. And when the crowd shouts “Let Him be crucified!” and “His blood be on us and on our children!” He doesn’t take time to tell them that that’s exactly what He came to do. He just does it. For it was no longer time for teaching. His hour had come for Him to go forth bearing the sin of the world in order to triumph over it in the resurrection. Jesus had the blood that saves us, the blood into which we were baptized, the blood that we drink in the Holy Supper, and the blood that bespeaks us righteous.
Jesus is the faithful Son of the heavenly Father, whose faithfulness has been credited to you in the Gospel. He is no lowly goat; He is God’s royal Son, from God’s royal tribe, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Yet to release you from the bondage of sins and death, He became for you like a lowly goat, so that you might be exalted, and reign with Him forever.
A lion might show his kingly glory by roaring. The rooster might show his glory by strutting. The dolphin might show his glory by swimming. But the King of kings sent from heaven for us shows His glory by dying on a cross and rising again to forever be our Crucified King. Amen.