Bloodguilt

  • By Pastor Boffey
  • on Tuesday, November 3, 2015
(Matthew 27:24) When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. (Matthew 27:25) Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. When someone is declaring no responsibility or involvement in a matter, or abandoning something, he might say that he has washed his hands of it. Today's text is considered to be the source of that expression. Pilate's washing of his hands in innocency (c/w PSA 26:6; PSA 73:13) may have been a savvy political move, relieved his own conscience and made his wife happy (she had said, “...Have thou nothing to do with that just man...”, MAT 27:19), but he didn't impress God. Nor did the Jews' willingness to bear responsibility of bloodguilt (MAT 27:25) excuse him. God flatly blames Pilate as a conspirator with the Jews in Christ's death (ACT 4:26-28), which death was murder (ACT 7:52). God pleads with those who declare themselves innocent of the blood of the innocents that is on their hands: (JER 2:34) Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these. (JER 2:35) Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned. Pilate deemed that Roman law could not condemn an innocent man but could allow provincial law to do so. (NOTE: This is in principle little different than the current dangerous experiment of allowing Muslim enclaves in Western countries to enforce Islamic Sharia laws contrary to the general laws of those countries.) The Apostle Paul observed, “...that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully” (1TI 1:8). However, when just law is abused to destroy the innocent (the Jews answered Pilate, “...We have a law, and by our law he ought to die...” JOH 19:7), or when unjust law gives legal sanction to the destroying of the innocent (think “Roe v. Wade” or “Final Solution”), the words of the Psalmist are very relevant: (PSA 94:20) Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? (PSA 94:21) They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood. The powers that be are ordained of God (JOH 19:11; ROM 13:1) but God is not therefore obliged to countenance their mischief simply because they framed it by law. To the contrary, as the Psalmist went on to say, God “...shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the LORD our God shall cut them off” (PSA 94:23). God hates “...hands that shed innocent blood” (PRO 6:17). Pilate's washing of his hands in innocency was strangely similar to the duty that Moses commanded for the elders of the cities near where a man was found slain in the field, “...and it be not known who hath slain him” (DEU 21:1-9). The elders were to slay an innocent heifer under the supervision of the priests, wash their hands over it, declare their innocence, beg God's mercy and, “So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you...” (DEU 21:9). Multitudes might well have been saved from God's wrath by this process which, like the Law in general, spoke of Christ (JOH 5:39; ROM 10:4). Jesus Christ was both the slain innocent heifer and the murdered victim. By being murdered and also being made an innocent sacrifice, the guilt of sin was eternally removed from multitudes for whose sake He was crucified. He even pleaded on behalf of many who personally advanced His death: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (LUK 23:34). Thus, “...he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (ISA 53:12). It is curiously ironic that the innocent blood the Jews brought upon themselves and their children was for some of them the very blood that purchased their eternal salvation. As wicked and worthy of destruction as that generation was, there were among them “...children of the promise...counted for the seed” (ROM 9:1-8), a “...remnant according to the election of grace...” (ROM 11:1-8). For those elect in Israel who later repented and turned to Christ, the blood which they had called upon themselves even provided cleansing from bloodguilt which invited wrath (c/w DEU 19:11-13). In view of what all had consented to at Christ's arraignment, “...His blood be on us, and on our children” (MAT 27:25), the later words of Peter to Israel are very significant: (ACT 2:38) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (ACT 2:39) For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. (ACT 2:40) And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. (ACT 2:41) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. The guilt of blood was upon them but the gift of the blood was remission of sins. Sin being remitted, the guilt of blood was removed. Their repentance and baptism resulted in the gift of the Holy Ghost: a place in God's N.T. house, “...the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1TI 3:15), their former house (the temple) being left desolate (MAT 23:37-38), abandoned by God to its unholy overseers and the Roman armies which would destroy it. They would save themselves from the untoward generation (ACT 2:40) among whom they lived, “...an evil and adulterous generation...” (MAT 12:39), a “...faithless and perverse generation...” (MAT 17:17). They would be saved from its unbelief, saved from its corruption, saved from its misguided zealotry, saved from its fate: the blood of all the prophets, Jesus said, “...shall be required of this generation” (LUK 11:50-51), and that bloodguilt resulted in “...wrath to the uttermost” (1TH 2:14-16) in 66-70 A.D. The Christians, though, escaped that fate, having fled to the mountains at the first sign of Jerusalem being compassed with armies, according to Jesus' words (LUK 21:20-22). David once sought pardon for bloodguilt (PSA 51:14) and received it. The prophet told him, “...The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2SAM 12:13), but “...the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die” (2SAM 12:14). Contrast that with the gracious mercy of ACT 2:39-40 towards believers and their children. As with the slain innocent heifer, multitudes were saved from bloodguilt: thousands in Israel turned to Christ (ACT 2:41; ACT 4:4; ACT 21:20). These were saved, not by declaring, “...Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it” (DEU 21:7), but rather by admitting that they were guilty (ACT 2:36-37). Repentance is the right way to clean one's hands: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners...” (JAM 4:8).

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