“He could do nothing”

Last night in worship, we read through Matthew’s account of the Last Supper, Betrayal, Arrest, Trial, and Crucifixion of Jesus.

Matthew’s description (in chapter 27) of Pilate’s response to Jesus stayed with me:

So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’
Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, Pilate handed him over to be crucified.

I heard the liturgist read those words and thought, “nothing?” You’re the Roman governor of Judea and you can do nothing?”

In Matthew’s gospel, even Pilate’s wife warns him not to have anything to do with this trial.

Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.”

So he washes his hands and claims his innocence.



Wasn’t there something, anything, he could have done?

Couldn’t he have delayed the trial for a week or two until the crowd calmed down and got distracted by the next scandal?

Couldn’t he have commuted the “crucify him” charge to a lesser “rot in a Roman jail” charge?

To claim there was NOTHING he could have done just gets me all fired up.

Maybe doing nothing was the most expedient thing–it kept the crowd happy, it allowed him to wrap it up and get back to his regularly scheduled plans, who knows.

Maybe doing nothing was the easy thing.

I wish he would have just acknowledged–there are things i could do. I’m just not going to do them.


“Behold the Man” Antonio Ciseri http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eccehomo1.jpg

Because I realize I am, of course, Pilate.

How often do I say “I can do nothing” when I see of bloodshed across the world, or injustice in my own community?

People say it to me all the time. “An individual can’t solve the problems of the world”.

Well, who can?

Who else is there to work at it?

On this Good Friday, I’m going to ponder the blood that is on my hands.

At least the crowd acknowledged their complicity in the story:

Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’

I may try to wash my hands all the day long.

I may claim there is nothing I can do.

I may not know exactly what to do.

My prayer is that I will find something, anything, to do. Or else that I will at least have the courage to call out with the other voices in the crowd, “His blood be on me”.

Blessings to you as we wait, and pray, and prepare to approach the Tomb “after the Sabbath, as the first day of the new week is dawning”.