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Lent Vespers on Wed. after Lent 5

Mark 15:1-15

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wed. after Judica
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Wed, Apr 1, 2020 

Saint Mark concludes the account of our Lordís trial before Pontius Pilate with these words: ďPilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.Ē Thus far the Reading.

There are different kinds of ministers.  I am a minister of the Gospel.  Men like Pilate are ministers of the government.  There are other kinds.  Something is in common with all ministers.  They all must make sure that they are not people pleasers.

People pleasers can be divided into two groups.  I will call them the positive group and negative group.  A positive people pleaser wants to make people happy or content.  A negative people pleaser aims to avoid making people angry or sad.  These two kinds of people pleasers are essentially the same; only slightly different in the particulars.

If a minister of the Gospel decides that his purpose is to keep people happy and/or avoid negative emotions, then that manís ministry is pretty much over.  He no longer aims to faithfully speak the Word of God in its truth and totality.  Instead, he strives to speak those parts that will not upset them.  He craves the approval of people.

Pilate appears to be in the negative group of people pleasers.  Before him is a Jewish crowd that is growing more hostile by the moment.  A riot is beginning to break out.  The ultimate motivation for Pilate is that he must keep the crowd from getting too angry.

He may have reasoned within himself: ďI am losing control.  It is my duty to protect the peace.  I know this Jesus is innocent, yet I cannot save Him without creating a situation that will likely see the deaths of many people.  Therefore it is my duty to calm the crowd by executing this innocent Man.Ē

We may sometimes reason ourselves into immoral behavior.  God forbid that should happen, and if it does, may He turn us quickly in repentance.

Doing evil cannot accomplish good.  That is easy to say.  But we may be faced with what we see as a choice between two evils, and we must decide which is the lesser one.  Yet there is always a way out.  We may simply lack the discernment to see the solution.

Christ our Lord was often faced by difficult tests from the Pharisees and scribes and priests.  Their tests might have baffled us.  We cannot answer one way and we cannot answer the other way.  What can we do?  Yet Christ always saw the correct way out of the test.

Could Pilate have avoided his difficult situation?  That is a question tangled in the mystery of Godís plan to redeem mankind.  One thing above all is certain: Christ was going to be crucified.  That was the firm resolve of God so that the sacred price of His Sonís Blood could be shed for our sins.  Eternal life for us required the Cross.  But Pilate could have refused to have anything to do with the hideous miscarriage of justice.  God would have found another way, and one manís conscience would have been relatively clear.

Yet not really, because, either way, Pilateís conscience would not be clear before God.  Pilate made a show of washing his hands to show that he was innocent, but he was not; not unless he saw more than Christís innocence.  If Pilate saw the absolute innocence of Godís Son in Christ, and saw that He was not dying in vain, but to pay the price for all men, THEN Pontius Pilate would have a clear conscience before God.

Or in the words of Saint Peter, whose Gospel Mark essentially is, ďBaptism, which corresponds to this [the Great Flood], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.Ē Thus, as the bestowal of Godís salvation in Jesus Christ, Baptism gives a good conscience before God.  A man who wants a clear conscience can go to the Font and find it.

But again, Pilate was not really interested in clearing his conscience.  He was interested in keeping the peace by pleasing the people.  His show of washing his hands was an empty gesture.

We, who have often put too much importance in peopleís opinions and feelings, need a clear conscience.  We have often put a thousand things before God, including but not limited to people, relationships, family, and on and on.

And there is the fear.  Today let us not forget the fear.  Like Pilate, we are easily frightened of what might happen.  What if the crowd riots?  What if Caesar hears that I did a poor job?  What if I lose my job?  What if I get a disease?  What if I give the disease to others?  What if, what if, what if . . .

Do not forget that Christ stands nearby.  He stood near Pilate, but Pilate did not know that He could look to Christ and see the Savior.  He did not understand that this beat-up, bloody Man held the entire world in His mighty hands at precisely the same time that He was bleeding at their hands.  He was going to death to secure everlasting salvation for all who believe in Him.  If Pilate had only looked at the Man and understood, how that would have changed the situation!  Not for Christ, whose path was firm and unwavering; but for Pilate all would be different because He would know that here was the One who loved Him enough to die.

Your Savior is near you.  He has already bled for you.  He has already made your salvation absolutely secure by His Passion.  Look to Him who holds you in His hand.  Is there cause for fear?  There are many things that can frighten you.  But you are safe, no matter what.  Godís Blood dripped down His flesh for you.  Hideous injustice was heaped upon Him so that gloriously immaculate innocence rests upon you.  Death came upon Him, death in its full terror and agony.  Therefore you are safe.  Come disease, come poverty, come the grave.  You are safe.

We who are redeemed set our hearts upon pleasing Him.  In doing this, we serve our neighbor, and He is pleased to receive our service as given to Him.  Thus we give much, not to please people, but to help them.  In this, our Lord is pleased.

In His Name alone.  Amen.

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