Early in the morning the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole Council, immediately held a consultation; and binding Jesus, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He *answered him, “It is as you say.” The chief priests began to accuse Him harshly. Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!” But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.
Now at the feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. The man named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection. The crowd went up and began asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead. Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
“Were You There?” is an old negro spiritual that no one really knows who wrote it. It is from the time before slavery is abolished and so its writer in lost to history. It shows up in a book of hymns in 1899 and from then on it has been an American favorite and has shown up in multiple places and traditions. It is upon the main themes of this hymn that this particular sermon series is based. It is ultimately hymn of feeling and remembrance. It mirrors much of what we do when it comes to the Easter season which is to remember the work of Christ.
The line this week is ‘Crucified my Lord’ and in truth the first two verses deal with the crucifixion and I chose the actually moment that the condemnation of ‘crucify him’ came to Christ. It came from the crowd. Now many condemn Pilate for allowing the condemning of an innocent man but there are a few things to consider: 1) Pilate only sees Jesus as a man and not the Christ. He is dealing with a human being that has been condemned to death by the Jews but need him to give permission to give the death penalty. We live with 20/20 hindsight, but Pilate did not see Jesus as the Christ but only saw an innocent man that the Jews wanted to kill because they were jealous of him. 2) Pilate is caught between two of his mandates from the emperor. ‘Keep the Peace’ and ‘Dispense Justice’ To dispense justice to Jesus would have meant a riot that would resulted in multiple deaths at te hands of the Italian cohort and Roman legionaries. If he keeps the peace, an innocent man dies. What decision would anyone make in such a case? The life of one verses the life of many. 3) The issue of Barabbas shows a great picture of a man condemned and certain that he would never see anything beyond that day. To his surprise he is released and let loose as Jesus takes his place.
All of these things illustrate what Christ has done. He takes the condemnation, he takes the blame, he, the one, dies for many and he takes the place of the guilty. When we sing ‘Were you there when they Crucified My Lord?”, we are called to remember these things and take them to heart.