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" (Matthew 27:24).
There's something so innocent about Christmas, isn't there?
Other than Herod, there aren't a lot of bad guys in the story. How easily we picture a sweet pastoral scene, domestic barn animals hovering in the flickering lamplight around the latest newborn, their lipid eyes doleful but curious within the sanctuary of the barn.
A low level of sound, like the regular bleeping of a fetal monitor — shufflings, sighs, murmurings, an infant's squalling bleats — lends credibility to our mental picture, while the punctuation of an occasional moo prevents us from nodding off. Peace, goodwill and joy are the prevailing sentiments. Innocent.
Fast forward some 33 years (make that about three months on the church calendar) to Good Friday. How easy it is for us, like Pilate, to absolve ourselves of responsibility for Jesus' death. Innocent. Or at least we'd so like to pronounce ourselves. Oh, we thrill to the sentiment of vicarious guilt. The minor chords of "Were You There?" may send shivers up and down our spines. But deep down we cherish the dream that we, unlike the fickle 11, would have hung in there for our Lord.
Imaginatively transport yourself to the night preceding Jesus' death. Who are you and what — realistically — would your reaction have been?
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers