Friday, April 15

Jesus was Declared Innocent

by Pastor Kristal Toews

On Good Friday Jesus was Declared Innocent.  Where Would You be in the Crowd? 


People not familiar with the Christian Faith may be puzzled that Christians celebrate the day their savior died and call it good. There are many factors which make it a good day, but the one emphasized by Luke in his gospel (Luke 22:66 – 23:56) is the fact that Jesus was declared innocent on Good Friday.   


Jesus was Declared Innocent.


Jesus was put on trial before Pontius Pilate (the Roman political leader) and before Herod Antipas (the Jewish political leader) and declared innocent by both. Pilate told the religious leaders who brought accusations  against Jesus, “I have examined him in your presence and have found no charge against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death” (Luke 23:14b-14).


Despite this verdict, Jesus was crucified. As he hung on the cross, Luke again highlighted his innocence. 


A criminal hanging next to Jesus declared… “this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41).  As Jesus committed his spirit to God and breathed his last breath, a nearby Roman soldier exclaimed, “Surely this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47).


Regardless of what others in the crowd said and thought on that day, Luke wanted the readers of his gospel to know that Jesus was innocent. In Jewish religious tradition, the only way to atone (compensate for) their sins and be restored to a right relationship with God was by offering a perfect, unblemished animal sacrifice (Leviticus 4:3, 22-23, 27-28).  By highlighting Jesus’ innocence, Luke emphasized that Jesus was a perfect, unblemished, innocent man who willingly sacrificed himself to atone for the rebellion of people so that they could be restored to a right relationship with God.


It is “good”, so good, that an innocent, spotless savior took upon himself the punishment for all of our rebellion so that we could be restored to God… yet people on the first Good Friday had divided opinions on Jesus, and so do people today.  


In Luke’s gospel account, the chief priests, rulers and the people shouted down Pilate three times, insisting that Jesus be crucified (Luke 23:13-23).  At the cross, “the people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One” (Luke 23:35).  Soldiers mocked him saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself” (Luke 23:37), and one of the criminals “hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39)! 


Across the divide of responses, others followed him to the cross mourning and weeping (Luke 23:27). After Jesus died, Joseph (a prominent religious leader) risked his life and reputation by asking Pilate for the right to bury his body (Luke 23:50-54).  A group of women followed Joseph to the tomb and went home to prepare spices and perfume to honor Jesus even in his death (Luke 23:55-56). 


Where would you be in the crowd? Would you be cheering and jeering if you were there on that day?  Or  has Jesus’ innocent goodness pierced your heart, so that you want nothing more than to honor him? 

Today, on Good Friday 2021, Christians will honor Jesus, our good savior. Where will you be in the crowd?