“Handed Over”

Matthew 27:1-26

Jesus gets handed over, goes back and forth, because no one wants to take responsibility. By the time Jesus is crucified we will have read the phrase, “handed over” twenty-two times. Everyone wants to be free of the guilt of killing Jesus. If you happen to have read Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” you would comprehend the reason why. Shakespeare had an uncanny insight of human behavior along with the ability to dramatize it for all of us to read and see. Because of His hunger for power Macbeth demonstrates the inability of humans to free themselves of guilt.  As we read through the story leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion you begin to realize there is no one who is innocent. Safe to say, none of us would have been, had we been there. A difficult pill to swallow. 

Today’s Scripture begins around seven a.m. and Jesus has been up all night and the only one He has revealed His fear to is His father, in the garden. All the chief priests and elders of the people have an official gathering, during the daylight, following the informal and illegal night session. They bound Him and beat Him and at this point handed Him over to Pontius Pilate, the governor 0ver Judea, because they did not have the authority to put Him to death themselves. But also, because Pilot was known to be ruthless, cruel, and generally insensitive to the moral feelings of others. If anyone would be willing to put Jesus to death, it would be Pilate. It is important to note that the accusation that Jesus had committed blasphemy was not on their list because Pilate could have cared less about their religious matters. 

So they brought Jesus to Pilate with these three false accusations: 

  1. Jesus was a revolutionary
  2. Jesus had incited the people to not pay their taxes
  3. Jesus claimed to be king in opposition to Caesar

In the meantime, the spy novel continues. Matthew fills us in on what was going on with Judas. Judas gets a bad rap, perhaps rightly so, but it is interesting to note the comparison that can be made between him and Peter. Both men were “taken over by the devil.” The difference being Peter turns to Jesus in repentance. Judas returns to the religious leaders in remorse. Judas knew exactly what he had done, verse 4

“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

He was more sorry for the result of his sin than for the sin itself. I deal with this confusion a lot with my sixth graders. There is a huge difference in 

  • Being sorry about sin 


  • Being sorry for sin.

The religious leaders’ reply demonstrates how they had handed over any guilt, they replied, 

“What is that to us?” “That’s your responsibility.”

Judas then throws the thirty pieces of silver into the temple, the Greek word used is the “inner sanctuary” where only the priests were allowed to go. It was his way of handing it back over to the priests. 

I am not so sure we should be too hard on Judas. He had been in the inner circle of those following Jesus. 

He had listened to Jesus talk about prayer and love from God and to all people. But, he had also been brought up in the synagogue. The place where God’s chosen leaders had taught him and told him they too were from God. The Kingdom Jesus had been preaching about did not look like it was going to happen. Maybe Judas thought by turning Jesus in it would push Jesus to actually “doing” something. Jesus gets arrested and seems to do nothing. It was not going as Judas thought. Jesus had told them to turn to God, but how? Judas returns to what he knew, the religious leaders, but found no one who would assist.  He also realized how wrong he had been. So wrong, for him there was no way out. He was hopeless, doomed, the only thing left was suicide. 

How many Christians live that way today? They go to church, they feel good about God, but when things get difficult, what do they do? 

Reach out to religious leaders who may or may not have time for them? When an emergency occurs we will do what we know, what we practice. That is why we have fire drills. When the fight or flight emoter kicks in, the prefrontal cortex stops working. You will remember only those things that are in your memory box, already. That is one of the reasons Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. That should be our first response, but if you don’t do it on a regular basis, you won’t do it in an emergency. 

The thirty pieces of silver came from the synagogue’s treasury but the priests have enough morality in them not to put it back. They know it is “blood money.” They come up with a plan to purchase property in town that can be used to bury strangers. The very people Jesus came to redeem, how ironic! It also fulfilled another Old Testament prophecy. 

Back to Jesus, who was standing before the governor for the second time. Matthew condenses the full account and writes only about the second appearance of Jesus before Pilate. The first appearance can be found in the Gospel According to Luke, where Jesus gets handed over to Herod. Jesus refused to say anything to Herod, so he handed Jesus back to Pilate. 

History has Pilate as ruthless and power hungry. Somehow we see another side of him as he was dealing with Jesus. At this point, Pontius Pilate was looking down at a beaten and bloody Jesus and the accusation he was given was that Jesus was claiming to be King of the Jews, threatening Caesar as a dangerous revolutionary. I suspect he felt no threat so his question could have come out sarcastically or ironically, 

“Are you the king of the Jews?” 

Jesus provided the same response as He had given to the high priest. No majestic defense, no instant miracle to save His own life. Pilate was amazed by this. With the accusations presented against Jesus Pilate would have expected some sort of fanatic or like previous prisoners who were falsely accused Jesus should be angry and mean. What was Pilate to do with this unusual gentle and humble man who seemed to have some majestic dignity?  

He’s convinced that Jesus was innocent. He could read through the lines and knew that the priests were envious of Jesus and had handed Jesus over to him. Pilate decided to hand Jesus over to the crowd. Just so happened there was a tradition, we call it clemency, our Presidents have pardoned criminals. Pilate did it during the Feast of Unleavened Bread; the governor was accustomed to releasing a prisoner of the people’s choice. This could be Pilate’s way out. 

He already had a notorious prisoner called Jesus Barabbas, who had committed numerous murders and was known as a revolutionary terrorist. Surely the crowd would choose this innocent man.

Did you catch the irony here? You can’t write a story better than this! Jesus Christ, the Son of God stands before the crowd with Jesus Barabbas, and the word Barabbas means “son of abba” or son of the father. When you compare the two, you couldn’t get any more opposite and Pilate knew it. 

  • Pilate recognized the strength and dignity of Jesus and knew there was no way He was a criminal or revolutionary.
  • He knew there had been no “just” cause brought against Jesus but that it was only envy of the religious leaders.
  • He saw in Jesus a man so at peace with His God that He did not need to answer a single accusation.
  • Luke records that Pilate states he could find no fault in Jesus. 

Then we have Pilate’s wife enter the scene. It’s early in the morning and she has been woken by a disturbing dream. She asks where her husband was and discovers he had been called away earlier to his business as governor, the religious leaders had sent over a prisoner for judgment. She immediately sends a messenger to her husband with the news of her dream, verse 19,

“Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

Okay, Pilate’s sitting in the judge’s seat and what does he do? He knows in his own mind Jesus was innocent, God sends a merciful message from his wife that he rejects. 

He doesn’t make a stand, instead he asks a mob to decide. What a wimp!

The religious leaders weren’t stupid. They knew exactly what would influence Pilate, not his own judgment of Jesus, not his wife, nothing they could say. The best way was through the opinion of the multitudes. They don’t just sit by and wait to see if it will happen. We read that the religious leaders were actually in the crowd instigating the choice. Mob mentality. One starts yelling something and pretty soon everyone joins in. Pilate asks which prisoner the crowd wants set free and they answer, 


Then Pilate asks the crowd what he should do with Jesus, who is called the Messiah. They answer, 

“Crucify Him!”

Pilate then asked, “Why, what evil has He done?”

The crowd must not have heard that question because they responded even louder with, 

“Crucify him!”

Irony abounds in this story. Crucifixion was a Roman practice and generally abhorred by the Jews. We don’t read that there were any people in the crowd silently sympathizing with Jesus, we read,

“They all answered,”

Check in time. Did you catch that statement? 

“They all answered,”

Stop for a minute and try to put yourself into this story. We have been reading about the ministry of Jesus and have come across many different types of people. Is there someone we have read about that you can relate to? Perhaps Mary, the mother of Jesus, or Peter, impetuous and ready to help. Maybe you can relate to John, someone who loves Jesus so much, or Martha, willing to do whatever Jesus needs done. You can bet they too were in this crowd. I can’t imagine they joined the yelling of “Crucify Him.” I can imagine Mary Magdalene, powerless, in tears, holding the shoulders of Mary the mother of Jesus and praying for Jesus to do something. I’ve seen this occur at the bedside of a dying child. There are times when we just don’t understand.

There are also times when we are like the mob. We choose Barabbas’ of a different sort, perhaps its pride, the comforts of life, money, lust, prestige, whatever we choose instead of Jesus to fill our lives and our souls. 

Pilate does his best but the crowd starts to become unruly and rather than have an uproar that he can’t handle Pilate took water, washed his hands before the multitude, and said,

 “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility!”

thinking he was clear of the whole ordeal. Not so. He had the power to stop it right then and there and he didn’t. Saying, “I find no fault in this man,” wasn’t enough. Looking for a clever solution to use the prisoner release tradition didn’t work. Washing his hands was ridiculous! He could not escape his responsibility. 

Echoing through the creeds of the Christian church we recite, 

“Crucified under Pontius Pilate.”

Jesus was handed over to the mob, what was their response? 

All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

They were clueless. They had no understanding of what they were saying. 

“Forgive them for they know not what they do.” 

The blame for Jesus’ crucifixion gets handed over to the people, us. 

Ironically it is the blood of Christ that frees us from blame, guilt, shame, and all of our sin. 

Let’s pray.