Pilate went outside again and said to the people, “I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!” (John 19:4-5)
Relate: Do you know something I used to see a lot of at Christmas but almost never see anymore? I remember hanging it up on the tree, over the windows, pretty much everywhere. Of course it didn’t stay there. Pieces of it broke off and ended up in the couch. Other pieces found their way into the lining of presents, it managed to get into the heating system, it would cling to those eighties sweaters we occasionally resurrect for ugly sweater parties, the stuff would go everywhere. Tinsel. The bane of mothers everywhere who got stuck cleaning it up all the way into early February. The fact that this silver, cheap, stringy bunch of ugliness went out of fashion is a win for parents everywhere. But at the time, you could never have too much tinsel.
The reason this came to mind was because as I was reading this portion of scripture in its context, my thought was that the Jews wanted too much of a bad thing. On this occasion they were a bloodthirsty lot. Those Jealous of Jesus’ popularity and fame had finally gotten the upper hand and they wanted to play it for all its worth. Maybe the others in the crowd were disillusioned that Jesus had done nothing towards kicking out the Romans since entering Jerusalem in triumph just a few days prior. Maybe those up this early in the morning had been out drinking and partying all night and simply wanted to see a bloody spectacle. Maybe most in the crowd had no idea what was really going on and were just repeating the cheers and the cries of those hired by the Pharisees. Whatever the reason, the blood was thoroughly good and boiling and seeing the flesh hanging off the beaten Jesus like ribbons… like tinsel, was not enough. They wanted an execution.
React: It is easy to read the text and look at this most beautiful and sad of stories and comment with condescension of the fickleness of the Jews where were praising Christ one day and crucifying Him the next. It is easy to shake our head and point our fingers at Pilate who knew Jesus was innocent and tried every trick in the book except exercising the authority given him by God and by Rome to simply let Him go. It is easy to see why even otherwise good men like Martin Luther could read John as justification and confirmation of their antisemitism. But would we really have done any better? Would I?
How many times have I been fickle in friendship because of one chance misspoken word or moment of disillusionment? How quickly have I turned on someone simply because they did not meet my unrealistic expectations? How often, like Pilate, have I wiggled and squirmed when the pressure to not do the right thing has me under its sway? How often have I been stuck in a pattern of thought, a bad habit, a repeated sin that I know is wrong. I know that I know it, but still I cannot seem to stop. I know better… even as on a spiritual level I am holding the whip that is tearing off the skin of my Savior’s back like falling tinsel. I am guilty.
Forgive me. How often do I look down on others for doing the very things I struggle with myself? How often am I quick to accuse others in hopes that they will not notice my own faults. I desperately need to divert others attention so they, and even I, will not notice how guilty I am. Forgive me. There is too much of a bad thing… there is far too much sin in my life. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me that I might reflect Your love instead of condemning others.